In the wake of George Floyd’s murder and the ongoing Black Lives Matter protests, the music industry has undergone its own self-reflection as it relates to institutional racism. Such soul-searching has led veteran acts such as The Dixie Chicks and Lady Antebellum to change their names, to varying degrees of success.
Now, reputable electronic music producer The Black Madonna is following suit. The Kentucky-bred DJ born Marea Stamper is rebranding herself as The Blessed Madonna.
In a statement posted to social media on Monday, Stamper acknowledged the “controversy, confusion, pain and frustration” that’s been associated with The Black Madonna moniker, which she adapted during the early years of her career in the late ’90s. “The name was a reflection of my family’s lifelong and profound Catholic devotion to a specific kind of European icon of the Virgin Mary which is dark in hue,” she explained. “People who shared that devotion loved the name, but in retrospect I should have listened harder to other perspectives.”
“But now I hear loud and clear,” continued Stamper, whose house and techno music is rooted in Black culture. “We’re living in extraordinary times and this is a very small part of a much bigger conversation, but we all have a responsibility to try and affect positive change in any way we can. I want you to be able to feel confident in the person I am and what I stand for.”
The impetus for Stamper’s name change was a Change.org petition started by Black Catalogue label’s Monty Luke. Signed by nearly 1,300 people, the petition said that although the name The Black Madonna “holds significance for catholics around the world,” it especially does “so for black catholics in the US, Caribbean and Latin America. In addition, Detroit’s Shrine of the Black Madonna has been an important cultural figure to many interested in the idea of Black feminism and self-determination for the past 50 years.”
Luke added that he hopes “the dialogue this [petition] has sparked continues so that we may gain a deeper understanding and insight from all corners of the dance music community in an effort to move forward together.”
Find Stamper’s full statement below.
In addition to music, Stamper is an activist who has long fought against gender inequality, homophobia, and classism in the electronic music industry. “The internet gives people a great chance to talk the talk, but I am most interested in using any leverage I have over my own shows and projects to go ahead and make the world that I am advocating for,” Stamper said in a New York Times profile from late 2017.