Students and community members gathered for the Detroit Techno and Resistance symposium in celebration of Black History Month on Sunday afternoon at the Rackham Amphitheatre.
The symposium featured a panel of prominent Detroit-based DJs, producers and activists who discussed the emergence of Detroit “techno” music and how they continue to use music in parallel with their activism.
The event was hosted by the Michigan Electronic Music Collective and WCBN, the University of Michigan’s student-run community radio station. The three panelists were DJ and producer “Mad” Mike Banks, DJ and producer Stacey “Hotwaxx” Hale and DJ Ron Johnson, known as DJ Jungle 313.
Business and LSA senior Jordan Stanton, co-president of Michigan Electronic Music Collective, or MEMCO, introduced the panelists and highlighted the importance of techno for the Detroit community.
“For the past two years, MEMCO has been hosting a growing annual Black History Month party at the club to call attention to the Black roots of techno house music,” Stanton said. “It’s one thing to hear the music, but it’s an entirely other thing to get the stories from some of the very people who cultivated and spread the music.”
Johnson moderated the panel and discussed the nonprofit he started in Detroit, Spin Inc., which provides music production education to youth in Detroit communities. He said the organization was born from a need to make music accessible to the city’s young adults in the absence of public school music programs.
“A lot of creativity was lost because of a lack of access,” Johnson said. “We wanted to give our children, our community, access to have that equipment that they may not be able to afford, and still be able to benefit and create music that can actually impact our community to impact other communities internationally.”
With the nonprofit, Johnson said he aims to help children in a way that is dynamic and builds creativity.
“We don’t look at music as a tool, just like water,” Johnson said. “Water is something that could quench your thirst but it can drown you if not used properly. Music should be looked at in the same context … music now is whitewashed or is dumbing down the community. Music should always be a tool to be able to be used as a vehicle for social commentary and expression, but expression and freedom of expression with responsibility to this community where it’s coming out of.”
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