Black Lives Matter: The Global Battle Against Racism

The stance of the GROOVE

On May 25, 2020, African-American George Floyd was tragically murdered in Minneapolis by the city's police in front of rolling cameras. Immediately afterwards, an unparalleled wave of protests broke out against the racism of the US police force, which quickly spread to major parts of the country and many countries across the world.

And rightly so. Today, 145 years ago, slavery was abolished in Texas—the last state in the US to do so. Nevertheless, people of color are still not on an equal footing with white people: they are constantly subject to racism in their everyday lives, have less lucrative jobs, and even have a significantly shorter life expectancy.

A white family is on average 10 (!) times more wealthy than a black family. Just how implicitly this chasm runs through all areas of life is highlighted by the coronavirus—for black people, the risk of dying from the virus is three times higher than for white people. 

The fact that the Black Lives Matter protest was also so widely adopted internationally demonstrates a solidarity which we as editors of GROOVE, a magazine for electronic music and club culture, affiliate ourselves with unconditionally. We are attempting to understand what the US's institutionalized racism does to its black victims and how racist violence occurs

Here it is particularly important for us not just to talk about the situation in the US but also the racism in Germany, which may usually end up being somewhat more subtle but is no less destructive. Racism is a challenge everywhere and is different in each society.

Racism in Europe is often shaped by the colonial history of the affected countries and by anti-Semitism. African-Americans had a different fate: they were forced to live as slaves on another continent and have suffered under the consequences of slavery to this day.

The Godfather of Soul: James Brown in GROOVE #9 from 1990 by Groove ArchivGROOVE Magazin Berlin

They do not let themselves be silenced: ever since the early 20th century African-Americans have heavily influenced global pop culture. Because of this, their struggle has also become a reference and template for all repressed minorities.

However, solidarity with the repressed population in the US should not lead to us overlooking or downplaying racism in our own country. For us as Germans, solidarity with George Floyd and other victims of police violence and racism in the US is just as important as remembering that people of color face comparable structural racism here in Germany.

The names of those who were murdered in the xenophobic terror attack in Hanau on February 19 of this year should be just as familiar to us as George Floyd (even if we don't know their last names for the purposes of victim protection). They are Ferhat U., Mercedes K., Sedat G., Gökhan G., Hamza K. Kaloyan V., Vili P., Said H. and Fatih S.

Techno futurism from Detroit: Kenny Larkin by Groove ArchiveGROOVE Magazin Berlin

What is the GROOVE's stance as a magazine for electronic music and club culture? What has techno got to do with racism? What has GROOVE got to do with Black Lives Matter? Without African-American music, without house from New York and Chicago, without techno from Detroit, without breakbeat from the United Kingdom, our magazine wouldn't exist.

Architect of the breakbeat continuum: A Guy Called Gerald by Groove ArchiveGROOVE Magazin Berlin

Marshall Jefferson, Juan Atkins, and A Guy Called Gerald have allowed us to experience a joy that they were often denied in their own lives. Black musicians were correspondingly present on the cover of GROOVE in the 1990s.

Eurodance singer Rozalla from Zimbabwe on GROOVE's Cover #12 from 1991 by Groove ArchiveGROOVE Magazin Berlin

Musicians including Carl Craig, Grooverider, Monette Evans, IG Culture, Dego, Massive Attack, Derrick, Carter, and even Euro dance artist Rozalla featured here awaited readers during this decade.

„The Wizard“: Jeff Mills in GROOVE #66 from 1997 by Kenji KuboGROOVE Magazin Berlin

Techno and house have been completely ignored by the US music industry. The European techno scene, on the other hand, puts them at the heart of their movement. 

Claude Young from Detroit and Heiko M/S/O/ from Frankfurt am Main by Groove ArchivGROOVE Magazin Berlin

The relationship between the musicians, who came from small, tightly woven communities, and the exploding scene in Europe, in which a huge network of clubs, raves, record stores, distributors, and magazines emerged in a short space of time, was simply not enough.

Claude Young from Detroit, Ata and Andrea Wünsche from Frankfurt am Main by Groove ArchivGROOVE Magazin Berlin

On the one hand, the enormous success of individual DJs caused upheaval in their communities of an often irreparable nature. On the other, only a few long-term connections were made that went beyond bookings.

2 of 3MB: Juan Atkins and Moritz von Oswald by Groove ArchiveGROOVE Magazin Berlin

Collaborations like 3MB (3 Men in Berlin) between musicians from Detroit and Berlin remain the exception.

Danger Mouse in GROOVE #102 from 2006 by Groove ArchiveGROOVE Magazin Berlin

In the 2000s, the European scene uprooted itself and became white, middle-class, and often very unpolitical. This development is also reflected on the covers of our publication. As a result we had just four people of color on our cover in the 2000s: Flying Lotus, Theo Parrish, Danger Mouse, and Ibrahim Alfa.

Electronic meltdown of jazz: Flying Lotus in GROOVE #114 from 2008 by Estevan OriolGROOVE Magazin Berlin

Are we to blame? Partially: on the one side, as a magazine our role is to reflect the scene. We can't certify that artists are relevant when they're not. However, naturally we make a choice when it comes to bringing out the main points and pointing out shortcomings. We have not directly criticized the fact that techno now represents the mainstream more than minorities enough during this time.

MIA by Dominik GiglerGROOVE Magazin Berlin

In the 2000s and especially in the 2010s, ethnic diversity along with gender equality became a major topic in the scene.

Techno from Brasil: Renato Cohen & DJ Marky in GROOVE #80 from 2003 by Veronica Campos & Fabio MerguhaoGROOVE Magazin Berlin

Admittedly these demands have not yet been met, but event organizers nowadays still need to take it into consideration. At the same time, techno and electronic music have become a global phenomenon.

Arca on the cover of GROOVE #158 from 2016 by Wolfgang TillmansGROOVE Magazin Berlin

These developments have also had an effect on our covers. In the 2010s, more women than ever before were coming on the scene (even if this was still less than 50 percent), including artists from Asia (Peggy Gou), Africa (Portable), and South America (Arca) for the first time ever. Before then, techno that didn't come from North America or Europe in particular was practically unheard of.

Where do we stand today? How have Black Lives Matter activities influenced our work? On the one hand, the movement reminds us of our musical roots. How can we shape our relationship with African-American artists in such a way that we do not exploit them and their music?

In general we want to better ensure that we feature as many POC artists as possible who produce relevant electronic music. In addition, we want to directly address the topic of racism in the club scene more often.

Black people in Germany are victims of verbal and physical abuse. They do not have the same career opportunities and are disadvantaged in many life aspects, such as when looking for apartments. Before the wave of immigration towards Berlin in the 2000s and 2010s, electronic music in Germany was dominated by white people.

House from Hannover, Lower Saxony: Mousse T in GROOVE #46 from 1997 by Astrid GrosserGROOVE Magazin Berlin

However, a whole range of musicians with non-German roots influenced the scene, such as Cem and Can Oral, Ata, Ricardo Villalobos, Virginia, &ME, Len Faki, and Mousse T. In our last print edition, Faki reported that for him, growing up in Stuttgart with Turkish parents, the techno scene and others were so appealing because his background wasn't the focus.

We want to tell the stories of these musicians. We want to know what kind of repressive measures they were exposed to, how they fought against this, and how they made music and our scene what it is. Certainly we do not want to relativize their status as German musicians, but instead give them support in a racist environment.

Berlin is fashioned as one of the most open cities in the world. This especially rings true for white people and expats from other industrialized countries. But not for Berliners with Turkish, Arabic, or African roots—altogether about 10 percent of the population. They're often turned away at the doors of the city's clubs.

Chicago in London: Derrick Carter & Luke Solomun in GROOVE #78 from 2003 by Richard OkonGROOVE Magazin Berlin

We want to research how this aspect of structural racism occurs and how we can tackle it, in the hopes that one day our utopia of peace, love, and unity for all people regardless of skin color will become a reality.

New York house' masterminds: Masters at Work by Groove ArchivGROOVE Magazin Berlin

And perhaps through addressing racism we can deepen our relationship with African-American musicians, so that we can support them directly in their fight for equal rights and not just pay lip service to it.    

Credits: Story

Text: Alexis Waltz

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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