One of club music’s most vital voices on why the election of Donald Trump will not stop marginalised communities from fighting for their freedom
Within a few short years, Marea Stamper has earned a reputation as one of underground music’s most respected DJs. This is not just for her incredible club sets or the inventive leftfield house music that she produces as The Black Madonna, but also for her willingness to speak out on feminist, LGBTQ+, and racial justice issues. Her guiding philosophy has become an oft-quoted rallying cry for club music to rediscover its radical roots: “Dance music needs riot grrrls. Dance music needs Patti Smith. It needs DJ Sprinkles. Dance music needs some discomfort with its euphoria... Dance music does not need more of the status quo.” Though based in Chicago, Stamper grew up as an outsider in Kentucky and understands firsthand how being a part of the queer community can literally be life-saving – and when Donald Trump was elected President of the United States of America yesterday, she had flashbacks to her teenage years. Here, she talks about why America’s most marginalised will keep raving and fighting against Trump and everything he represents.
When I was little, my mom and I were really poor. She worked and went to school. We lived in Kentucky and often needed assistance. Sometimes it was from my grandparents and sometimes it was food stamps. Every week was a miracle. She never stopped fighting for me, even though I know how tired she must have been. She figured out how to get me into a good magnet school for the arts, but I was bullied a lot because I didn’t have the same clothes as other people or a nice car. It was pretty much me and her against everyone back then.
It’s funny how other people know you have “gender problems” before even you do. They used to call me “it” because I didn’t look or act like a boy or a girl. I lived every day in fear of not being the right thing or having the right clothes. I just wanted to own whatever it was that would make these people leave me alone. I can remember trying to sit down on the school bus and no one letting me take a seat next to them because they thought I was diseased. Something was wrong with me and they might “get it.”
I lived a whole world in my imagination. The walkman was the single most important invention in my whole life. It was like an insulin pump that you wear to keep you alive. If the batteries died, my interior world of music died. My mother, my father and later my stepfather were three of the very few people that loved me just like I was and supported me. Later on, as I made more friends, I found people like me. I found other gender anarchists. I met feminists. My gay boyfriends and I snuck into afterhours clubs and then raves. These secret worlds were momentary passes to freedom and safety. Some of you may be too young to remember how important even queer dive bars were, but I can remember moments of freedom so delicious, when someone would take a quarter and put on Deee-Lite or “Little Bird” by Annie Lennox on the jukebox and we could dance and be ourselves for a brief moment before the spell was broken and we had to go back out into normal Kentucky life.
“Some of you may be too young to remember how important even queer dive bars were, but I can remember moments of freedom... (where) we could dance and be ourselves for a brief moment before the spell was broken” – The Black Madonna
I also am old enough to remember my friends in middle and high school being forced into gay conversion therapy. One friend in particular was discovered with his boyfriend. He was 15 at most. And I remember him telling us that it was ok. They had a drug that could “cure him.” I shudder to think about what that drug was now, or what he endured.
But I have to think about that and all of these things.
I have to think about all of this fear all over again. I have to think about the time when we lived our lives in secret and joy came in bursts, instead of marriage vows made in front of God and everyone. I have to remember that. I have to remember all that because now I am the wife of an immigrant. I am the daughter of feminists. Now I am part of a family stitched in part together by marriage equality. I am the granddaughter of civil rights activists who feared white supremacists. I am the granddaughter of a lesbian who was never able to come out safely in her lifetime. I am a member of neighborhood that is made vibrant by new Americans who I love and respect in the great City Of Chicago, who now fear for their loved ones who are undocumented. I have to remember because I am a loud, proud queer person working in the dance music industry, whose best and brightest come from a tapestry of gender and sexual identities.
I have to remember all of that because last night America made a terrifying decision.
I am a white person, from a rural part of America. I watched a lot people from backgrounds just like mine vote to go to war with all the people I listed above. I watched this country turn down free tuition and the public assistance that kept me and my mother and millions like us afloat until we could thrive as we do now. I am deeply ashamed of the people who voted, often against their own interests, for white supremacy out of an irrational xenophobic fear and a resentment of “others.” They elected a petulant, unfit, crybaby tyrant. I watched other white women vote against their own reproductive rights to elect a man that suggested women should be punished for abortions and stay out of the workforce. His running mate, not to be outdone, signed a law demanding that miscarried or aborted fetuses receive funerary services.
Under a Trump presidency, immigrants and refugees will face even more unimaginable difficulties than they already face. White supremacists have been emboldened by the election of a camera-ready philistine who parrots their views. Women will live in a country knowing their leader not only sexually assaults anyone he pleases with impunity, but that fifty percent of the country didn’t believe these assaults disqualified him from the highest office in the land. As of this election, marriage equality barely stands a chance. And our Vice President wants to return to the kind of barbaric gay conversion therapy my friends suffered as teens. Spoiler alert: they are all still totally fucking gay.
“We have suffered indignities that you cannot fathom as a rich white man. And we have fought our way out. We are never ever going back” – The Black Madonna
I said all that to say this.
For about three seconds I felt powerless last night. I felt like I did on the bus in middle school. I felt unwanted and afraid that I would have nowhere to be. And a lot of people felt even more powerless than me. A lot of people spent sleepless nights wondering who was going to come for them. Who was going to take them from their children. Who was going to rip apart their families. Who was going to try to cure them or erase them from this earth. Who was going to look the other way after they were sexually assaulted.
I felt like I wanted to crawl under a blanket and die.
But I do not feel that way now.
You hear this, Mr. Trump. You have messed with the wrong people. We have suffered indignities that you cannot fathom as a rich white man. And we have fought our way out. We are never ever going back. And if I can live through those years of hell, where it was me and my mom against the world, and still win and rise to the level of excellence that God granted me in spite of everything, then I will live through you or fight you to the bitter end.
And this time I am not alone. The whole world rebukes you. And you may not know it, but the people you hate are the baddest motherfuckers on earth. We are the single moms that stand up for their queer kids in parent teacher meetings. We the immigrants that came here with nothing and made small businesses. We are the protesters united in declaring that black lives matter. We are Chicago and New York and San Francisco, and all the cities which thrive on our diversity rather than using it as a weapon to terrify voters and seize power. We are the gay kids who are never going to be converted. We are the families with two fathers. We are the clinic escorts. We are the gender anarchists.
We are the people who refuse to dance in secret.
We are your poor, but we are not so tired that we cannot fight and by the grace of God we are already free.
And you will not stop us. You will not win.
Because we are what makes America great and we shall not be moved.