Sequencer Tour Detroit was More than Accessible

Recently, I had to opportunity to support re:publica of Berlin, Germany at the Detroit leg of their Sequencer Tour, a European conference that aligns along the crossroads of art and tech. Their theme for 2019 is Access, or how art, tech, or creative environments can be made more accessible. This was their first time venturing into Detroit after touring throughout the United States in places like Los Angeles, New York, and as of this coming weekend, Portland, Oregon.

A call for submissions for talks and mini sessions went out over the summer and Detroiters and Berliners mingled through sections that featured experts on dark money exchanges, practicing art as an immigrant in today’s tense climate, and what we can look forward to regarding the music industry internationally. An elaborate staged poetry and dance collaboration was debuted by Jessica Care Moore and a follow up closing ceremonial drum performance by Bryce Detroit and Efe Bes finished the formal conference. A good deal of room was given to topics such as accessibility for the disabled, encryption online, environmental performance art, diversity and inclusion, as well as more commentary on the history of techno music.

Detroit is one of Berlin’s sister cities and Techno music was birthed out of the factory culture still prevalent in town. While Detroit is still very much a midwestern city in that strict curfews that can be traced back to the Jim Crow era are still on the books. A segment detailing how Detroit’s black artistic culture was deliberately curtailed to support both the local economy in the days of Henry Ford and to simultaneously limit African-American expression was especially enlightening. To this day, a law that forbids dancing in the middle of the night is still on the books. This was meant to limit the expansion of black entertainment venues in Paradise Valley and Black Bottom. Alternately, Berlin removed curfews in its entertainment district and deliberately supports a 24-hour economy allowing the arts and music sector to grow uninhibited. There are Berliners who commonly know more about Detroit arts culture than local residents.

Bryce Detroit and Efe Bes, Photo: Tash Moore

One of the highlights of the conference was the sheer wealth of melanin. Most of the speakers were black, indigenous, or people of color. The hosts were both a black man and woman. The organizers from both sides of the ocean were a mixed bunch and specific attention was paid to keeping the conference as diverse as possible. The organizers also hired a significant amount of local visual artists, sound technicians, background workers, and even cultivated volunteers who were largely black Detroiters, something that doesn’t happen often.

If you happen to be in Portland this coming weekend, checking out the free conference would be well worth your while. While I’m not sure how rich in skin tone it will be that far to the northwest, I’m sure they will make an effort to keep it as diverse and varied as possible. All in all, I’m sure Sequencer Tour 2020 will be even better.

In order for art to achieve maximum social impact, artists + government officials + corporations + non-profit organizations must work intelligently + collaboratively to envision + execute meaningful, accessible creative engagement opportunities that benefit ALL.
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Tash Moore is bicoastal Detroit booster, social entrepreneur and activist deeply passionate about promoting diversity & inclusion in all spheres. She currently spends her time between Detroit & DTLA.

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