Black Lives Matter: The Electronic Music Industry Must ACT

Black Lives Matter Music Industry
Author : Marco Sgalbazzini
June, 01 2020

Black Lives Matter: The Electronic Music Industry Must ACT

BLACK LIVES MATTER. Music, including House and Techno, would not exist without black communities and artists. These are indisputable facts.

Denying this is not only a denial of our roots, but tantamount to racism.

It’s time. It’s time for music industry organizations and individuals to become purposefully active in joining and supporting the Black Lives Matter movement.

The murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis is but a tip of an iceberg that has long been submerged, ignored and allowed to float undisturbed through centuries of systematic racism and white-privilege driven agenda.

The bleak truth that we must confront is that the plague of racism was never eradicated from our society. If it seemed like racism “improved” in the last 2-3 decades, we now know it was just a façade called “white privilege.” Racists may have been somewhat silenced and suppressed but make no mistake: they’ve since been awakened, emboldened and protected by the Trump administration, its rhetoric and its policies. Two Barack Obama administrations did little to heal the wounds and to progress this country forward, possibly and inadvertently adding more fuel to the racist fire. The deeply rooted racist culture that was silenced during those 8 years finally saw its chance for revenge in November of 2016, resulting in the election of an openly-racist presidential candidate to the highest office in the country. Racism was at the core of Trump’s election campaign in 2016 and remains one of the key driving factors for his re-election to office later this year.

Too many mothers and fathers in African American communities all over the country must teach their children how to behave on the street so as not to arouse suspicion and not to be in turn the target of racial profiling, “mistakes” and killed by law enforcement. There are countless black joggers all over the country that have grown to accept that they cannot cover their heads with the hood of their sweatshirt or listen to music with headphones in case they ignore warnings from a white man. Failure to follow these unwritten rules, rules valid only for people of color, may put their lives in danger. Black mothers have much to fear when it comes to their children. American soil is saturated with the blood of black people: slavery, Jim Crow, the war on drugs and mass incarcerations, and police brutality have ensured that black people know pain, loss and oppression intimately, and incessantly. The blood of black people has been spilt on this land for centuries and continues to be spilt today.

As video footage of George Floyd’s last minutes of life made the rounds, many watched in shock and revulsion. We watched in horror as the 46-year old black man died pleading for air and the help of his dead mother, begging for his life as a Minneapolis police officer knelt on his neck during an arrest and three others watched. I must admit that, personally, I was not surprised to learn at the time that none of the officers involved with the murder had been charged yet, and that lack of surprise immediately struck me as horribly wrong. How did we as a society get to the point where we are shocked and appalled by the video of a gruesome murder, tears swelling up in our eyes, yet remain completely unsurprised that the murderer and his accomplices are getting away with it simply because they are white, or law enforcement?!

At the time of writing this piece only one of the four officers involved with George Floyd’s murder has been arrested. Charged with third-degree murder and manslaughter, Derek Chauvin is the officer whose knee was planted firmly on George Floyd’s neck for over 8 minutes, causing his death. That single arrest only came after protests began in Minneapolis and later spread throughout the country, driven by outrage and a loud outcry for change. Following almost a week of protests, over 4,000 protesters have been arrested, while three officers involved in George Floyd’s murder remain free.

I do not need to highlight the nature of the mostly peaceful protests, nor how evident in an overwhelming majority of situations it is law enforcement that is escalating peaceful protests into violent ones. Instead of being met with understanding and dialogue, all over the country protesters are met with police officers in riot gear eager to use their batons, tear gas, flash grenades and mace spray in retaliation. Instead of joining in the protest and kneeling with protesters and denouncing their racist fellow officers, police officers are once again underscoring how police brutality is an endemic problem across law enforcement across the country. I assure you that while I saw the few videos and photos of some police officers spending words of wisdom and solidarity with protesters, as well as kneeling with them, they are by far a minority amongst the overwhelming evidence that police brutality has continued to take center-stage in the protests against this exact example of abuse of power.

I do not want to address the debate surrounding the looting and vandalism that has come with the protests. Black Americans have been criticized for years for protesting quietly, and they’re being criticized now for protesting loudly and forcefully. The bottom line is clear for all non-racists to see: racism will not go away with quiet protests, and racists will use any excuse to criticize and quell protests. They will turn any story to their advantage, to paint those tired of being oppressed as the oppressors.

What I want to focus on is us, the community that we at 6AM are a part of. What I want to focus on is our collective and individual responses.

As the entire world focuses on the events transpiring in the United States, the echoing silence from key groups and players in the electronic music industry has been deafening. ‪The roots of House Music and Techno are black and brown. They’re found deep in the disenfranchised minorities that bonded together, creating dance floor realities that gave them life and respite away from the horrible daily truths of the racism, homophobia, transphobia and social-economic inequalities that plagued America then and still plague America today.

As of the time of writing Resident Advisor has failed to adequately speak up on this subject, despite being one of the underground’s biggest “voices” and having financially benefited as a company from the struggle and artistry of black and brown electronic music artists. The same goes for other giant platforms in the electronic music world such as Mixmag, DJ Mag and Dancing Astronaut, all of whom have failed to take a definite stance and use their voice in the music industry to spread awareness and participate in the collective Black Lives Matter movement. Instead, they’ve continued with life as usual, tone-deaf and mostly uninvolved.

Some of the industry’s biggest names have also shown lack of empathy and involvement through most of the weekend, some of whom continued with live streams and social media-driven initiatives without a single mention of the events taking place in the United States — the country that gave birth to the music, community and industry they are known to be the leaders of today. While many are finally waking up to their responsibilities, posting messages of solidarity and support in the last twenty-four hours, their lack of action until this point must be called out.

If you want a clear example of how tone-deaf artists have been during these last few days, simply watch the following videos from two giants in their respective genres: David Guetta, one of EDM’s biggest acts, and Charlotte de Witte, one of techno’s most recognized names today.

 

 

Notable artists with huge platforms who have either remained completely silent or used their social media accounts to share unsettling tone-deaf posts include Nina Kraviz, Skrillex, Carl Cox, Nicky Romero, Don Diablo, Armin van Buuren, Amelie Lens, and countless others.

On the flip side, and this is what I want to concentrate on, there have been artists and organizations who have taken a more forceful and bold stance, and these are the examples we must focus on and highlight for others to follow.

In particular, Minneapolis artists DVS1 and Dustin Zahn have used their platform to speak up and educate their fellow artists and music fans on the Black Lives Matter movement and what is going on in their city, offering a more in-depth understanding of the situation and also suggesting ways people can help.

Zahn went a step further, taking it upon himself to call out the lack of action in our industry and did so in no uncertain terms.

DJ Pierre has also been vocal about Black Lives Matter, with several posts on his music page including this one.

 

Another leading voice in the electronic music community has been Boiler Room. They have been vocal about the Black Lives Matter movement, using their platform and music channel to raise awareness and educate their audience on the importance of speaking up and doing our part to end racism and police brutality.

Below is one example of many posts on the matter:

On a more grassroot and local level, it has been a real shame to read posts, comments and tweets from self-proclaimed “house and techno heads” who don’t understand one iota of the roots our movement was built on. Anyone who fails to associate the Black Lives Matter movement with the music movement of House and Techno has failed to understand the true essence of the scene they claim to be a part of.
There have been far too many comments asking for 6AM to not associate our music with politics and Black Lives Matter, but our music has always been intertwined with politics and social justice. We will not remain silent and will not stand by and do nothing.

There are enough reasons to be angry. To cry out for justice. To stand up and demand that what happened to George Floyd and countless other black men and women never happens again. We must protest and say “ENOUGH!”

As a community founded by our shared love for music, we must stand together in supporting the Black Lives Matter movement through action and participation. Racism and police discrimination must end, and we have an obligation to individually and collectively use our voices and means to ensure they do.

If you are not black you have a responsibility to educate yourself on your privilege and on the history of racism. It is your responsibility to do so. Ignorance is not an excuse and should have never been one. If this is an uncomfortable subject for you or your immediate reaction is to disassociate yourself from the plight of the black man, that is because centuries of white privilege have allowed you to do so. It’s time for you to recognize this and do something about it.

Our music IS anti-racist music.

Tomorrow, on Tuesday June 2nd, the music industry has organized “Black Out Tuesday” as a show of solidarity in the fight against racial justice and equality. The original message that circulated on Friday, asks for industry-wide participation in the “urgent step of action to provoke accountability and change.” Several global music organizations and artists have since announced their plans to join in the initiative and observe Tuesday, June 2 as “a day to disconnect from work and reconnect with our community.”

While I understand and even support the initiative if it means artists will finally stop posting tone-deaf tweets and Instagram posts, it would be far more effective for organizations and artists to speak up and become active with the Black Lives Matter movement, rather than to continue to remain quiet.

If you choose to remain quiet and not take action, it’s because you’re exercising your privilege to do so. Instead, we must use our privilege and our voices to demand accountability and reform.

We must take action, whether it’s in the form of protest and/or donations to Black Lives Matter and associated causes and groups. At 6AM we ask that all in our industry with a platform, large and small, participate in this movement.

Join us in donating to the Black Lives Matter movement through any of the following links:

– Donate directly to the Black Lives Matter movement here.

– George Floyd’s brother, Philonise Floyd, has started a GoFundMe to assist his family in their time of grief and need. Donate here.

– You can donate to 38 separate bail funds helping protesters through this link here.

– Support the National Police Accountability Project: This group, a project of the National Lawyers Guild, helps people find legal counsel. Donate here.

– The Minnesota Freedom Fund, a grassroots organization currently working with the National Lawyers Guild and the Legal Rights Center, will use donations to bail out arrested protestors in Minneapolis specifically and to supply those on the field. Support here.

Reclaim the Block, a grassroots organization based in Minneapolis, will use funds to address community needs. Send funds here.

Black Visions Collective, which is based in Minnesota, focuses its work on transformative justice in the state. Donate here.

Join us in signing the below petitions:

– Sign a petition: Civil rights group Color of Change launched a petition asking that all the officers involved in Floyd’s death are brought to justice. Find it here.

– Or another petition: The “Justice for George Floyd” petition on Change.org already has 10.7 million supporters and counting. That sends a big message. Sign it here.

What We Will Do

At 6AM we will not debate what the right thing to do is, we will simply do what we know is right in our hearts and will continue to do our part to better educate ourselves and to look for opportunities to educate others. We will use our privileged position to protest, to donate quietly and to support our music community purposefully with a unified message: Black Lives Matter.

I am personally and painfully aware that we need to do more to give space to black and brown artists at our events, and as a platform with a following we need to do more to highlight the issues of inequality and injustice in our society and community. We need to combat these issues head-on, without reservation.

I have said this before but it has always troubled me deeply that despite not being American (I emigrated from Italy) I am safer on American streets than many Americans simply because I am white. It’s an advantage and a privilege that I recognize. A privilege born out of centuries of systematic racism. This is a privilege that other members of 6AM share as non-black members of the community.

I came to the U.S. completely unaware of the racism that is still so rampant here. I had “American Dream” goggles on that painted a false concept that everyone was born equal and free, with limitless opportunities ahead of them. I was wrong. So wrong.

I know this privilege transcends to our role as event promoters. We are collectively aware of the roots of this scene and community, and part of recognizing these roots we have become aware that we are able to do what we do thanks to the hard work, suffering and trailblazing of many people of color before us.

We can never assume to know what it’s like to live in the shoes of a black person. We can never live your pain nor really understand what it is you are forced to live with simply because of the color of your skin.

What I do know is that as a white man there is never an excuse for not doing more. There are no words that can justify lack of action. And there is always more we can do, both individually and as a collective in the electronic music industry.

Let’s hold each other accountable and let’s do what must be done.

BLACK LIVES MATTER.

JUSTICE FOR GEORGE FLOYD.