Fiercely feminist. Publishers of a socially conscious zine. Curators of all things rad.
Seraphine Collective fuses art, activism and music into an all inclusive collaboration between feminists.
If you live in Detroit, chances are you've seen Seraphine Collective posters, performances, or Facebook posts- but who and what is Seraphine Collective?
Fundraising chair and seraphine dj, Sophia Softky, came by the J'adore Loft to break down the who, what, where, when and why.
Need to Know
J'adore: Tell me about Seraphine Collective
Seraphine: "Seraphine Collective was started about three years ago just as a blog that was profiling mostly female, but other under represented musicians in and around Detroit about their experiences in the music scene here. It grew from there into a circle of friends and then wider concentric circles of people who were interested in the same kind of issues who are making music or art in the city and wanted to have an inclusive and supported community to talk about issues that come up for women and nonbinary and gender nonconforming and queer people in the city. I only joined about a year ago so I can’t speak to the whole history but as of now we have about 100 people in our community group who volunteer, who help us throw events and come to our parties and shows. Within that group there is a smaller group who are very active and help with coordinating, the zine and workshops."
J'adore: What brought you into the collective?
Seraphine: "About a year ago Seraphine Collective put on the inaugural Beat Match Brunch DJ Workshop series. I have been aware of Seraphine Collective before because I had been a freelance writer and at that particular point I had recently moved to the city and was writing a piece about the music scene here for an international audience but I really wanted to profile women and people of color. So I reached out to Seraphine Collective and they pointed me in the direction of different musicians and artists I could talk to and profile. After I had wrapped that up, they had put the word out that they were doing this DJ workshop series and I knew right away that I had to take it. I had been writing about club culture and electronic music for a long time but never actually taken the extra step to try my hand at it and this sounded like a really great, supportive way to dip my feet in.
So that was last April, there were eight of us who applied and were selected out of a pool of 20. We met every Sunday for all of April 2016 at Lo and Behold Records and Books in Hamtramck and were taught by Mother Cyborg aka Diana Nucera just the very basics of beat matching on vinyl. I had never taken a workshop quite like that, it wasn’t even about the techniques or the technical skills at first, it was much more about learning or describing to ourselves why we want to be in music, why we want to play music for other people, what do you want people to feel when you’re DJing and how important it is to have a supportive community to help you through that learning process and to skill share. I loved the experience so much that I joined Seraphine and started playing out at Seraphine events and joined the board eventually and took it upon myself to write the grant that got us the Knights Arts Challenge Award to keep producing that same workshop series."
J'adore: What are your roles in the organization?
Seraphine: "I sit on the board, I’m a member of the board and I’m the fundraising chair. Right now because one of our main focuses is matching this grant that we have to keep producing that workshop series I’m pretty busy with that- the fundraising, getting the word out and doing all of it."
J'adore: Have you done any shows since Beat Match Brunch?
Seraphine: "Yeah, I’ve done a lot actually. The debut after that workshop- Seraphine gave everyone who completed that workshop a slot to DJ the last day of our annual music festival called BFF Fest- I was really nervous about it but it was really fun. After that, I kept getting offers to play community events or house parties or my friends art openings and then I started playing at real venues. I’ve DJ’ed at Temple Bar and El Club and now we have a monthly at UFO Factory. At this point I DJ a couple times a month."
J'adore: Do you have a stage name?
Seraphine: "Yeah, it's Beige."
J'adore: Can you tell me more about the Zine.
Seraphine: "Sure, the Zine is not my area of expertise but we have at this point put out a quarterly Zine for as long as Seraphine has been running- we’re on edition 10 or something. It’s all community submitted content so anybody can submit artwork or poetry, DIY Guides, How to’s, interviews with local musicians or artists- really anything- and then we have a community event for people who may or may not have submitted work to physically put the zines together and then copy them and send them out to the world."
J'adore: When and where does that take place.
Seraphine: "It goes out through our Facebook page, the upcoming Zine party was just announced through our Facebook page. People can find out about it that way."
J'adore: Will BFF Fest be back this summer?
Seraphine: "Yes it will, it’s going to be three days in August at El Club. I think it’s the 13-15th in August. That will be really fun again, we have lots of bands and DJs we book, we do community workshops. We’ll have the BFF Zine and mixtape release around the same time as the festival."
J'adore: Does the whole collective get together a lot?
Seraphine: "Yeah, we try to. It’s kind of tough to get everyone together because there’s about 100 people that participate in Seraphine in some way, but the board does meet once a month as the core of the collective to make decisions and move things forward and work on initiatives and each of the committees that carry out the work of the collective meet on their own schedule."
J'adore: What do you do and where do you go when you’re all together?
Seraphine: "We have various shows that we present or participate in. Once a month we have our monthly night at UFO Factory. I think the main event would be BFF Fest. That’s where everybody comes together once a year."
J'adore: Who are you influenced and inspired by?
Seraphine: "I think as a DJ I’m really influenced and inspired by the incredible rich and tangible history of electronic music that came from Detroit and is still so present here. There are living legends everywhere in the city. You can meet them and talk to them and ask them about their experiences. I love that is still so close and so present and accessible. Particularly inspired by the female DJ legends- Stacey Hotwaxx Hale is a big one. She’s been DJing for longer than I’ve been alive- same thing with DJ Minx. They’re the grandmothers of house DJs. Stacey's tag line is literally “The Godmother of House Music”. I think they’re incredible. There are a lot of others, DJ Mother Cyborg is my direct mentor and has taught me a lot. And the people I learned to DJ with, specifically DJ Nandi aka Short Stacks. We play out together the most. I guess we’re almost a duo at this point."
J'adore: Where do you like to listen to music in the city?
Seraphine: "My favorite place right now, is new, it’s called the Griot. It’s a small bar in Midtown that is vinyl themed. It’s right next to Seva, tucked away in the alley. It’s a small bar with really chill vibes and a massive record collection. It’s not even a DJ set, more someone playing high quality, rare vinyl on a really beautiful record player and sound system. Other than that, I end up at El Club and UFO Factory a lot."
J'adore: You mentioned you just moved here from Australia?
Seraphine: "Yeah, I grew up in the Bay Area and then moved to Austin Texas and Melbourne Australia before I moved to Detroit."
J'adore: What brought you to Detroit?
Seraphine: "Basically just a whim. I didn’t have a job offer or any concrete reason to be here. I had been hearing so much about the political and cultural legacy of the city, I knew it was something I wanted to see and get acquainted with myself. I really just landed here and worked it out."
J'adore: What do you think about Detroit?
Seraphine: "I love it. I don’t think there’s any other city- in the US at least- where I would want to live and put down roots. I’m really, really glad I ended up here. The art, the music, the culture, the grassroots activism is really incredible and like with the legends of techno it’s all still here and accessible in a way that it probably wouldn’t be in a bigger city like New York."
J'adore: What does Seraphine Collective do in terms of Feminism?
Seraphine: "We are specifically a feminist organization. What that means is to be an inclusive, supportive, and active community of feminists- mostly in music but in arts and culture in general. That means for our own shows, for our own workshops making sure we have a feminist lens and prioritizing women, queer people, people of color, gender nonconforming people. That we are lifting them up, supporting them, paying them fairly- compensating people that we book for shows is really important.
The most recent round of workshops was a community dialog series that ran for four weeks last month called Ending Rape Culture in the Music Scene. That came about because Seraphine Collective had initially been booked to curate a showcase for the Hamtramck Music Festival and it came out that in the organization of HMF and one of the bands that had been booked to play were some really serious allegations of sexual assault and sexual harassment. Hamtramck Music Festival wasn’t prepared to address that and make it right by the people who had been harmed so we pulled out of the festival. Rather than merely boycott, we wanted to be active in trying to talk about what is rape culture, what is sexual assault, what is sexual harassment and how do people experience that in the music scene here and how can we address it."
J'adore: How do people get involved with Seraphine Collective and become a member?
Seraphine: "At the moment, there are lots of different ways to get involved at different levels of commitment. There are open meetings once a month, they are totally open to the public. Anyone can show up to hear about who we are and what are latest activities are. If there are upcoming events and opportunities to perform. If people want to submit to the Zine they can, if they want to submit their music to the mixtape they can. There’s always a need for volunteers. If people have a specific interest they can sign up to join a committee that does the work of the collective. Depending on what you’re interested in, there’s lots of different ways to plug in."
J'adore: When is your next show?
Seraphine: "The next big one coming up is Mother Cyborg’s album launch party at El Club, it’s on April 29th. It’s her debut as a performing artist and producer but it’s also a Seraphine Fundraiser. She’s really generously agreeing to make it a fundraiser to help us meet our Knight Arts Challenge Grant. She has lots of surprises in store."
J'adore: How do people get involved with Beat Match Brunch?
Seraphine: "If they want to take the actual class, we’ll be putting out a public call for applications in mid to late summer. The actual next round of workshops will be held every Sunday, next September at Assemble Sound Church. It will probably only be about eight to ten people and we’ve already gotten a lot of interest. There’s a lot of hype, a lot of people want to take the next round of classes. I would recommend keeping your eye out for those applications."
J'adore: What else would you like J’adore readers to know?
Seraphine: "We need a lot of help to match our $15,000 grant from the Knight Foundation before November. If anyone wants to donate, please do. We have fundraising events here and there but we’re also going to be throwing a Beat Match Benefit Brunch on June 4th at Bank Suey. We have an amazing musical lineup headlined by Stacey Hotwaxx Hale and we’re also going to be having a really amazing farm to table brunch by the woman who owns Gorilla Foods and Pink Flamingo. We’re going to have mimosas and signature cocktails from Our Detroit. It’s going to be a lot of fun- daytime fancy brunch. If anyone would like an invitation to reserve a spot, please reach out to the Collective."
Sophia's love of music and passion for social justice is contagious.
if you're interested in getting involved, check out the seraphine facebook page for information on the next open meeting or submit your piece to the zine.
head to el club, this friday, for mother cyborg's record release party. You won't want to miss the special surprise she has planned!
See you there,