Local DJ Jonathan Lett has been a part of the Hall Neighborhood House community since 1985 when his aunt started working for us as a teacher. Over the years, he’s seen many different iterations of our programs, but one thing has stayed the same: “They help people, period.”
“I would come here as a kid,” he said. His childhood—like that of so many of his peers—was marked by violence and struggle. Hall gave him a safe place—and Hip Hop gave him an outlet. Through music, Jon found a way to deal with death, despair, and poverty—and when he purchased his first turn tables and mic at age 17, he found a path to his future.
As he grew up, music remained part of his story—and so did Hall Neighborhood House. “I worked here from 1999-2003—and then came back in 2006 and worked with the youth department.”
Jon is passionate about making a difference, and he’s been able to work with Hall to do just that. In 2019, he founded Hip Hop 1001, a music and mentorship program operating out of our very own state-of-the-art music studio.
“Mr. Dzurenda [Hall’s Executive Director] let us start at Hall,” he shared.
Hip Hop 1001, named after the address where Jon recorded his first song, is emblematic of the role we try to play in our community—working to make life better. We saw Jon’s passion for the work and the positive difference it could make for youth here on the East Side, and we worked with him to make it happen. Our goal as a community center is to see what our neighbors need and find a way to provide it—no matter what it is.
As Jon puts it, “Hall does everything.”
“They’ve been influential in my career,” he added. “I’ve been in the social services field for over 20 years, and Hall Neighborhood House has been a big part of that.” At this point, Jon is enmeshed in the Hall community. He knows where everything is and he’s experienced our story unfolding for decades!
His work at Hall also helped him get Hip Hop 1001 set up as his own nonprofit. The program, which is headquartered at Hall Neighborhood House’s on-site music studio, uses lessons from Hip Hop to mentor participants. They learn about the elements of Hip Hop, including rapping, DJing, music production, dance, and graphic design. Jon, who is the Executive Director of the program, and his team blend the arts with relationship building to help youth grow, develop, and pursue bold futures.
“Hall gives you a chance to grow,” he said.
Jon is also heavily involved across Hall programs. He has been instrumental in our Kings Kids basketball program—another program that uses fun (in this case, basketball) to mentor our youth—helping them get into the Fairfield County league.
He provides security, helps out at events, recruits staff from the community, hires people who are going through tough times, and DJs our annual holiday party. He organizes men’s basketball games on Sundays and always involves a preacher or a speaker to share wisdom with participants. He supervises our new Midnight Basketball program, provides entertainment, and helps with cleanup.
When he’s not at Hall, he works with young children with special needs from the Kennedy Collective, and he regularly brings kids to Hall to volunteer.
Put simply, Jon exemplifies what it means to be part of the Hall community—and his presence is felt across all of our programs and initiatives.
“I love helping people,” he said. “I got it from Hall to help people out. They serve everyone: children to seniors, adults, and youth. They’re a great community ally.”
When asked what word describes Hall, Jon didn’t hesitate. Family, he said. It all comes full circle for him. As a young man at Hall, he spent hours playing basketball and talking about music with his friends. And now, 20 years later, he’s doing that very same thing with another generation of kids, equipping them to put their own hearts back into their community—just like he does.