Dance

How Inner City's New Music Video Honored Detroit's Techno History & Current Protests

Kevin Saunderson
Scott Sprague

Kevin Saunderson

Inner City's "We All Move Together" is a techno history lesson that schools listeners on the genre's inextricable connection to the city in which it was created: Detroit.

Now, through its new music video, the track is linking Detroit history with the city's current events. Released Friday (Dec. 11), the clip features the trio, led by techno pioneer Kevin Saunderson, amidst a recent protest by the social justice group Detroit Will Breathe, which calls itself "an integrated, youth-led, militant organization fighting against police brutality and systemic racism in Detroit."

Led by Jae Bass, the group has been protesting for 200 consecutive days, since the police killing of George Floyd in May. Their efforts have focused on justice for a 15-year-old girl who was jailed for not completing her homework, unfair evictions, police curfews, the right to protest and other issues related to racial injustice.

At the the protest where the video was filmed, Detroit Will Breathe members were demanding the resignation of Detroit Police Chief James Craig, who, Bass tells Billboard, "has continuously failed the citizens of Detroit...and presides over a police department that is rife with corruption and violence." Detroit Will Breathe is also focused on defunding the police and having those funds rerouted into schools, health centers, parks and other public services.

It was Saunderson who had the idea to film the video for "We All Move Together" at an event where Detroit citizens were making history by literally moving together. For Bass, the project was an easy sell. "The father of techno collabing with the movement for Black and Brown lives in Detroit immediately made sense to me," he says.

Here, Saunderson and Bass discuss the video, and how it extends the legacy of Black-fueled movements in Detroit.

Kevin, obviously "We All Move Together" wasn't written with the Black Lives Matter protests in mind. How do the song's message and this moment work together?

Kevin Saunderson: "We All Move Together" pays homage to Detroit, the birthplace of techno, a movement fueled by Black people. Detroit is a special place that breeds some of the most talented, passionate, hardworking, artistic, and influential human beings. That being said, it only makes sense that Detroit is also the home to many powerful movements throughout history -- Motown Records, the Labor Movement, Aretha Franklin, Civil Rights and Black Power Movements, the 1967 Rebellion and techno. It’s in collective strength that these movements are possible.

That is also true for Detroit Will Breathe, a movement formed in response to the tragedies of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and every other atrocity brought upon Black Lives in America. Over the past 200 days, citizens have been empowered, uplifted, and compelled to pour into the streets and move together as one toward the common goal of Black liberation, which is true freedom for all.

These protesters are literally all moving together.

KS: That’s why this track works so well with the movement -- it embodies everything the movement stands for. Breaking barriers for the Black community, using whatever ability you have to contribute to the group and celebrating in the people’s collective power. That’s what Detroit has done, created a space of collective power. And Detroit is a strong example of that creation of Black power happening all over the country. Makes sense that Detroit would be helping to fuel the movement!

Why was a protest the right setting for the song's music video? 

KS: Nakia Wallace, an organizer and co-founder of Detroit Will Breathe, said, "The right to protest is as basic as the right to vote in this country; both are essential pillars of democracy.”

It is important that Black people take advantage of both of those rights. When you see mass collective action in both of those areas, the power of the people is stronger than ever. [There are] plenty of examples to pull from: the mass movement to get Obama in office, or even bigger, the mass movement to get Biden and Harris in office. The mass movement to desegregate schools, voters rights, etc. It’s only when the people come together to demand change, that the change actually comes.

Protesting is one of the clearest visual representations of that collective power, especially considering the risks. Protestors and organizers for Black lives are threatened with violence, police brutality, arrests, charges, harassment, death threats, etc in order to intimidate them from exercising constitutional rights. When you see protestors out in the streets marching despite those risks, it’s clear power in that.

Therefore, depiction of a genuine protest in the city of Detroit, with a group, Detroit Will Breathe, who have been in the streets for 200 days battling those direct threats, sends a powerful message of unity, Black culture, equality, freedom, and even artistic creativity.

Josh Beebe
Filming for "We All Move Together"

Jae, how does "We All Move Together" embody what you're working on with Detroit Will Breathe?

Jae Bass: While exercising our constitutional rights to assemble and protest against the police brutality and the systemic racism that continues to plague Black lives, it was clear that, through mass action, we were building collective strength and collective power. The police saw it too; and, not surprisingly, attempted to use violence to silence, suppress and intimidate the movement in hopes of getting protestors off the streets.

This campaign of intimidation has come in the form of state violence: police brutality, arrests, charges, and harassment. However, they only succeeded in making clear what we already knew: the police don't keep us safe, we keep us safe. We all have to move as one to overcome racial injustices that perpetuate an unfair system.

“We All Move Together” speaks to that sense of power in unity. This track allows us as a movement to rejoice in our collective strength and celebrate our journey to liberation. All while paying homage to the city of Detroit, a city where the people are strong enough to play a critical role in the movement for Black & Brown lives, and a place where people are creative enough to launch new genres of music globally.

Do you feel that this video project is bridging eras of Detroit history?

KS: Absolutely, techno being a movement created by Black Detroiters and accomplishing global recognition, as well as the movement for Black lives becoming the largest global movement ever -- there are 100 percent parallels. You could even go as far as saying that the same attempts of the displacement of Blacks you see in the music industry is the same ploy we see in our communities. You can also say that the capitalization of movements, Black creativity and Black culture happens in our entertainment industries, jobs, and communities as well. It’s all the same fight.