GRIND MODE: Local DJs, community fill truck with donations for Light of Life

by Rob Taylor Jr.
Courier Staff Writer
This past Sunday afternoon, April 26, in the bottom part of Highland Park, you could see the rain falling, you could hear the old school music blasting…

You could hear the voice of Pittsburgh legendary DJ Nick Nice, flowing smoothly over tracks such as Parliament’s “Give up the Funk (we want the funk)” and Samuelle’s “So you like what you see…”

Then around 5:15 p.m., a City of Pittsburgh police cruiser drove into Highland Park and pulled onto the scene.

Officer Chelsey Washington stopped her cruiser. Fellow DJ “Brother Marlon” Martin, with a microphone in hand, asked the officer what was going on.

Officer Washington got out of the vehicle, and popped the trunk. Inside the trunk was a box filled with canned goods and other items. And with that, the party continued.

“I definitely wanted to come out and support,” Officer Washington, who’s part of the police force’s civil affairs team, told the New Pittsburgh Courier.

PITTSBURGH POLICE OFFICER CHELSEY WASHINGTON drops off a box of canned goods at the “Stop and Drop” event, April 26, in Highland Park. (Photo by Rob Taylor Jr.)

Dozens of vehicles drove to Highland Park to drop off food, clothes, toiletries, shoes, and even dress suits to the “Stop and Drop” event held from 3 to 6 p.m.

Nick Nice, who’s been a DJ in the city for more than 40 years, wanted to hold an event that would give back to his community in the face of the coronavirus pandemic. He and Grind Mode Management, which manages Nick Nice’s business affairs, worked out all the details to secure the shelter location at the park, complete with the DJ setup, speakers, tents, and generators. Grind Mode called Light of Life Rescue Mission, an organization based on the North Side that assists the homeless, and asked if they wanted to bring their truck to the park to house all the donations.

A no-brainer, said Light of Life senior operations manager Greg Heibert, though he admitted he’d never heard of Nick Nice before.

Seeing the truck, which came to the park empty, become filled with donations made a believer out of Heibert.

DJ NICK NICE, with Paul Ellis, the nephew of legendary playwright August Wilson. (Photo by Ashley Woodson)

“I didn’t realize the amount of impact and the following that he had,” Heibert told the Courier. “I’ll probably be listening to him a little bit more,” he added, with a smile.

Among those who brought donations were Damita Watt, first lady of New Grace Missionary Baptist Church in Homewood, and her daughter, Jazmene.

“I’m blessed because I’m still working, I still have an income, but there’s some people who don’t and we wanted to bless them with what we have, so we’re giving everything we’ve got, even in the rain,” Watt told the Courier. Those items included canned goods, peanut butter, and blue jeans.

Tonya Brown and Shelly Carlisle, both of Pittsburgh, said that “we all gotta stick together,” as they brought canned goods to the event.

Heibert said the truck full of donations would be taken to their donation center. From there, “other community organizations contact us, they come down, we prepare the food, and then they take it and distribute it around the city,” he said.

Light of Life normally provides housing and meals for some of the city’s homeless population, and has programs for women. But due to the pandemic, “a lot more people are looking for food, so we’re feeding a lot more people on the North Side,” Heibert said.

Cash donations were also accepted, and more than $1,000 was donated.

Emmai Alaquiva, a two-time Emmy Award winner and founder of Ya Momz House digital multimedia agency based in Pittsburgh, is credited with conceptualizing the name and other ideas for the event, and provided a media push for the event to be teased on social media and television stations such as KDKA-TV (2). All three local television stations sent a camera crew to cover the event, along with Brotha Ash Productions.

The event was also sponsored in part by the August Wilson House.


I wouldn’t be who I am without the love of the city and all the people supporting me, so why not give back? — DJ NICK NICE


For Nick Nice, a Pittsburgh institution who first appeared regularly on WAMO Radio in the early 1990s, giving back to the community is only right, after all the community has given to him, he said.

“It’s just something you need to do, period,” Nick Nice added, stopping the music so that all could hear his every word. “I wouldn’t be who I am without the love of the city and all the people supporting me, so why not give back? We’re blessed, we’re all struggling but we’re blessed. So to those that came through that are blessed, there’s going to be more blessings coming your way.


“You give back, trust me, it’s coming (back to you),” Nick Nice said, with fellow DJ Brother Marlon by his side, as other DJs such as Tee Jay looked on. “You ain’t gotta let people know what you do, you ain’t gotta pat yourself on the back, people will see what you’re doin’, they’ll recognize, they’ll hold it down, they will represent for you and they will love you, and that’s what I love about my city.”


FEATURED IMAGE AT TOP–LEGENDARY PITTSBURGH DJ NICK NICE, fourth from left, wanted to fill a truck with canned goods, toiletries and other items for those adversely affected by the coronavirus pandemic. With the help of his longtime friends, supporters and community members, the truck was filled during an outdoor event in Highland Park, April 26. (Photo by Rob Taylor Jr.)


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