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When Ashley Pittman was 14, her mother, Lynn Stoutamire, bought her a rudimentary Discover DJ turntable for Christmas. Not long after, Stoutamire came home to find both her daughter and their home stereo’s surround sound system missing. It turned out that enterprising Ashley was out on her first DJ gig, playing a friend’s after school birthday party.
Ten years later, Pittman, who goes by DJ Curley Sue, is still spinning records at area clubs, weddings, and corporate events. Last month, she decided to respond to the COVID-19 crisis with “Sunday Brunch” live streams from the kitchen of her family’s home in Upper Marlboro, Maryland.
“People are in their homes, and they feel like they may never get out,” says Pittman. “I’m really trying to bring people together and take their minds off the quarantine and the corona. Not that that is not important, but for the time being, when you are at home, I want you to really enjoy your family and friends and just be in your present moment.”
Pittman is videogenic and an engaging presence, her mixes are tight, and she’s got prodigious knowledge of music recorded and released before she was born. For three consecutive Sundays, she has live streamed mixes of old school jams—hip-hop, funk, and R&B with a sprinkling of Afrobeat and go-go—spreading musical love and stacking up viral views, all the while sharing the spotlight with her mom.
That’s because Stoutamire, who works during the week as an oral surgery nurse, spends her Sundays cooking. And whenever the DJ plays one of her jams, Stoutamire steps away from her kitchen counter to dance behind her daughter, waving spatulas, spoons, a bottle of Lysol—whatever she happens to be holding at that moment. And it’s clear from the salvo of real-time comments that Stoutamire, dubbed “Momma Sue” for the live streams, has captured hearts all over the DMV, and in Egypt, Germany, and Barbados, too. On a recent Sunday, the comments were heartfelt: “A mom supporting her child is everything. I love this,” and also funny: “Mom doing the HAPPY FEET,” and “Mama getting CRUNK!!!”
Stoutamire routinely makes requests during the Sunday Brunches, but the DJ responds the way daughters inevitably do when confronted by maternal entreaties: “I ignore them,” Pittman says cheerfully.
According to Pittman, the mother-daughter Sunday Brunches weren’t really planned. She was DJing for her sister’s brunch via Zoom when she decided to go live on Facebook. “My mom was in the kitchen cooking our regular dinner, and we were just jamming,” she says. “It was a Sunday afternoon of cooking, listening to music, and just having fun. People liked it because it was authentic, it was real, and it was family-oriented.”
Indeed, there’s something about these live stream sets with mom’s home cooking and family members occasionally wandering through the kitchen that feels like a kind of virtual comfort food for these awful times. “The kitchen is the place in the house where people usually meet and talk,” says Pittman. “It represents the heart of the home.”
She started her weekly Sunday Brunch live streams on March 22, and that first video now has more than 164,000 Facebook views. On subsequent Sundays, she was repeatedly shut down for copyright infringement by Facebook, and then Instagram. Last weekend, she streamed an Easter Sunday gospel hip-hop and R&B special, and successfully avoided social media’s copyright police while Stoutamire cooked chicken pot pie. The regular brunch returns this Sunday at 1 p.m., and Pittman will also play random pop up “Quarantine Club” mixes during the week.
Pittman, who graduated from Westlake High School in Waldorf, Maryland, before attending Bowie State University, has been DJing throughout high school and college, inspired mostly by DJ Jazzy Jeff, “the way he tells a story through his music is so irreplaceable,” she says, but also by MC Lyte and DJ Spinderella. Her sister came up with the moniker Curley Sue. “It’s cute, it’s catchy, and it really describes my fun personality,” says Pittman.
Her website offers themed mixes, currently a “Women’s Empowerment” set, “GoGo Classics,” and “HBCU Anthems,” which includes “Swag Surfin’” by Fast Life Yungstaz. “That is the most influential song in HBCUS,” she says. “When the beat drops, literally everyone will stop what they are doing and get in formation. We all put our arms together and there’s a particular dance we all do. It doesn’t matter if you know that person, hate that person, we all form a circle and start to do the dance. It represents unity. I have always loved how music brings people together.”
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