Expressions of Black joy at the 2018 Chosen Few DJs Picnic & Festival | Photo by Nelson Okunlola/The TRiiBE

On Saturday, while St. Sabina’s Father Michael Pfleger led scores of Black activists and Chicago top cop Eddie Johnson in an anti-violence protest that completely shut down the Dan Ryan expressway, a main thoroughfare between the South Side and downtown, thousands of Black bodies flocked to Jackson Park to make their own statement:

When given peaceful spaces to fully nurture our ingenuity, and the proper tools to build success with our natural talents, the possibilities for Black greatness are endless.

This year’s Chosen Few Picnic & Festival, an annual summertime mecca for House heads for the last 28 years, took on an afro futuristic theme, “Celebrate Wakanda.” Though a nod to Marvel/Disney’s 2018 superhero blockbuster, Black Panther, the picnic also served as a commune for Black freedom, expression and viability.

One woman showing the young folks how it's done | Gif by Nelson Okunlola/The TRiiBE
Grooving to the beat | Gif by Nelson Okunlola/The TRiiBE

Hosted by Sheila O. from Power 92’s Sunday night radio show, Afrozons Afrobeats, the picnic jumped off at 8 AM. But the crowd hit the first of many peaks around 1 PM when the Baltimore-groomed House music team, The Basement Boys, hit the stage. One of their star deejays, Karizma, spun his house remix of the Gospel classic, “Jesus Can Work It Out.” And, naturally, people couldn’t help but dance to the beat.

Sheila O. gave us a taste of her Wakanda, too. She performed a tribal dance as she introduced herself to the crowd. Throughout the day and evening, dancers in traditional African garb and body art performed on the stage while the deejays used the turntables to direct the crowd’s every movement like an orchestral conductor.

Karizma is all in during his House remix of "Jesus Can Work It Out" | Gif by Nelson Okunlola/The TRiiBE
Wakanda is alive and well at the 2018 Chosen Few Picnic & Festival | Gif by Nelson Okunlola/The TRiiBE

DJ Ralphi Rosario, a founding member of one of Chicago House’s most influential house radio deejays, The Hot Mix 5, sent the crowd into a shouting frenzy during his Euro-Latin house set.

Terisa Griffin, an Oak Park native, sang a House version of the V103 radio favorite, “Distant Lover,” her remake of Marvin Gaye’s 1973 dusty. Everyone sang along at the top of their lungs.

Traci Williams, 48, is a regular at the picnic. She grew up in the South Suburbs of Chicago, and went to Rich East High School with a couple of Chicago legends: Felix da Housecat, the man behind the acid track “Phantasy Girl;” and Victor Blackful, the latter half of WGCI’s former Bad Boy Radio hosts Mike Love & The Dizz.

“We all grew up together and we all graduated together. During that time, house music was just coming up and because of those two, I really got into it,” Williams explains.

Knee pads always make for a good time | Photo by Nelson Okunlola/The TRiiBE

Back in 1977, Wayne Williams formed the Chosen Few DJs crew with four other rising deejays on Chicago’s South Side – Jesse Saunders, brothers Tony and Andrew Hatchett and Alan King. They added Terry Hunter and Mike Dunn to the group in the 2000s.

In the 1990s, the Hatchett brothers started hosting a picnic for family and friends behind the Museum of Science and Industry. They’d barbecue and spin House tracks.

Over the years, their humble picnic grew into a playground for more than 50,000 house music fans to gather and vibe. Though the picnic has evolved into a music festival of sorts, it still stays true to its barbecue beginnings. Along the perimeter of the festival grounds, families and longtime friends threw down on the grills they brought to the picnic. True House heads, those who were teenagers during the birth of Chicago House in the 1980s, also brought their children to the picnic in hopes of passing down their love for the music genre.

Putting it down on the grill | Gif by Nelson Okunlola/The TRiiBE
Ultimate elation | Gif by Nelson Okunlola/The TRiiBE

As time cruised into the 8 PM hour, Chuck Roberts reminded the festgoers of an important sermon from Rhythm Controll’s 1987 signature house record, “My House.”

In the beginning there was Jack … and Jack had a groove
And from this groove came the grooves of all grooves.
And while one day viciously throwing down on his box,
Jack boldly declared ‘Let There Be House’ and House music was born”

Then, Saunders hopped behind the deejay booth to send the crowd into ultimate elation with the house music essentials: his 1984 definitive track “On and On,” Cajmere’s “Brighter Days” and “Percolator,” Dennis Ferrer’s “Hey, Hey,” Farley “Jackmaster” Funk’s “Love Can’t Turn Around,” Shaun Escoffery’s “Days Like This,” and everything in between.

Jesse Saunders crusing through hit after hit | Photo by Morgan Elise Johnson/The TRiiBE

For Williams, the Chosen Few picnic is a constant reminder that house music can be imitated and rebranded by deejays around the world, but no other place can hold a candle to the magic that was brewed on Chicago’s South Side.

“You have so many different types of house music now. You can go to all different parts of the world and if you say, ‘house music,’ they kind of know what you’re talking about. If you go to Japan, they have house music but it’s not going to be THIS house music,” Williams says.

“I’m very particular about my house music and who I’m gonna listen to and who I’m going to pay money for,” she continues. “That’s pretty much why I come here because I know I’m going to listen to good house music.”

House vibes | Gif by Nelson Okunlola/The TRiiBE
Can you feel it? | Gif by Nelson Okunlola/The TRiiBE
More Black joy | Photo by Morgan Elise Johnson/The TRiiBE