On June 22nd, the City of Boston will host its 5th annual Donna Summer Roller Disco Party. The day has very quickly become one of my favorite celebrations in the city (right behind Dorchester Day of course — June 3rd, don’t forget!). If City Hall does not hold this event every year, it will be a tragedy. Seriously. It is true magic, drawing out the most diverse representation of love and fun that I have ever witnessed in this city. Every creed of human beauty shows up, and they are ready to PARTY! Who wouldn’t want to belt out “Bad Girls” at the top of their lungs with a thousand sweaty strangers on a summer night. It’s a beautiful and fitting tribute to a local girl who made this gritty and unhip city sparkle, if only for a moment.
Growing up in the Codman Square neighborhood of Dorchester in the 90s (RIP Cajun Joe’s and Teddy’s), weekend mornings often involved sitting in the kitchen for hours getting my hair braided or straightened, listening to oldies 103.3 (the real WODS), and occasionally hearing my father name drop Donna Summer. Now it should be stated that my father did not know Donna Summer. It was my mother who was high school classmates with the then LaDonna Gaines (her momma named her LaDonna, she gonna call her LaDonna) at the Jeremiah E. Burke in Dorchester…or is that Roxbury? — you know, behind the bean pie spot. When “On the Radio” came on the radio, my mother, who was far too modest to exploit her non-relationship with the Queen of Disco, would sing or hum along for only a few chords before my father would bust in with some bullshit. But can you blame him?! This is “Hot Stuff” we’re talking about! “Dim all the Lights,” “ I Feel Love,” “ She Works Hard For the Money” (La)Donna Gaines Summer! Only when asked would my mother describe her as a shy girl with long skirts who often sang softly to herself in the school’s hallways. I never got the impression that they were particularly close, but I always appreciated the few degrees that separated us. After all, how many black girls from Boston were really making it like that? We might claim Jasmine Guy, but does she claim us?!
But that’s the thing about Donna; she felt like ours. Even when she was making confusing cameos on Family Matters, she was still OUR Aunt Oona from Altoona! Why was she in a fat suit that one time?! It can’t just be a device for another one of Steve’s stupid transforming machines — can it?! And since when does Steve have a fat loss transforming machine? Why hasn’t Carl used it?! On a separate note, were any of Steve’s inventions stable? It didn’t matter. We were just happy to see and hear this soulful, transcendent and timeless beauty giving “Black Boston” a good name (Ronnie, Bobby, Rickie and Mike – you had your chance!). Donna was a class act whose music still feels fresh all of these years later. While we may never understand the universe the Winslows belonged to, we can certainly appreciate that even in a world where a domestic terrorist like Steven Quincy Urkel can relentlessly sexually harass his neighbor for a decade, Donna Summer’s *cough cough* Aunt Oona’s “Last Dance” is still a fucking jam!
Oh, A few favs: