Where does your DJ name Venetta come from?
It's the name of my 12-year-old alter ego slash evil twin.
How did your musical upbringing inform your current practice?
I grew up in a household with a really strong music history. My parents were always listening to Ethiopian jazz when I was younger, so that's something that is always present in the music that I make and play. There are specific harmonies and tonalities [I am drawn to] because of growing up on heavier music with folk and traditional themes. Being exposed to that made me have a really rich appreciation for complex music in general.
Whitney Wei: How did you end up in Berlin?
Venetta: I actually never romanticized Berlin at all. It was a place for me that was never appealing because the first thing I would hear was how the food was bad. So I was like, why would I live here? Coming from Vancouver, why would I do that? I obviously knew that the music scene was popping. I was in New York at the time and then [because of visa reasons] I had to move somewhere within a month. I had to figure out either between Berlin or London, which would be the easiest as a musician. My friends from Berlin said it would be the most feasible place to be, so I really just went off on a whim and encouragement from peers. I’m really glad I did it because I actually do love living here. It’s been really good for me, in a lot of ways, I think, personally, creatively, like just not having to struggle as much as I was before. I’m really happy that I moved here with no expectations.
Whitney Wei: Could you tell us about your non-profit, the Vancouver Black Therapy and Advocacy Foundation?
I am still running the foundation remotely here from Berlin. We actually just opened up our intake round two days ago. So today, we've been able to provide 100 Black folks with over 700 free therapy sessions since its inception in June 2020.
A lot of people in Vancouver were feeling generous after the tragedy of George Floyd. Originally I wanted to do a call out on social media to fund 10 free therapy sessions for 10 people. And I wanted it to be low-key where people could just message me and I would just give them the funds and then my friends in the community told me, "Why don't you just use a crowdfunding platform and make this happen?" It felt intimidating but I did it. I remember being up all night writing the copy and everything, and [by 2PM the next day] we had already raised $30,000, or something like that. By the next day, we had $60,000 and by the end of the summer, it was over $200,000. I quickly incorporated it into a nonprofit and put together a team, contracted Black therapists, and did the open call for applications.
For me, the main priority has been that it's always prioritizing LGBT, trans, queer refugees, immigrants, and low-income folks. Now, it's been three years, and each year, we've had an intake round. We usually open up in the spring, and we'll have, for this year, 25 folks and five families. I usually get at least a couple hundred applications. I did this because I wanted to create a sustainable pathway for healing for the community and do something long-lasting.
Whitney Wei: What is your own relationship with music as a pathway for healing?
Venetta: First of all, it’s cathartic to hear music that you’ve never heard before, that makes you feel something. I also love to play around with tension a lot in my practice and also with my DJ sets. I feel like that is healing too because it gets you out of your comfort zone. It’s like that push and pull that I love—I really love the drama of music. At the club, there’s something that keeps you on the edge. I feel that intensity and that experience, in and of itself, is something that gets me out of my head and helps me reconnect to other parts of myself that I might not be connected to.
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