Pushing Detroit Queer Culture Forward!
Urban Innovator- Adriel Thornton

Urban Innovator- Adriel Thornton

Posted in Blog, Features

Adriel Thornton is not your average event promoter or party enthusiast. He is on a mission to rid the world of bigotry, intolerance and “isms;” he rails against racism, ageism and sexism all throughout popular culture and music.

That being said: let’s dance!

Adriel Thornton says there is a mystery to Adriel Thornton — part of this mystery is that he sometimes speaks of himself in third person, and he never reveals his age. Talk with Thornton long enough and the mystery begins to unravel — he is, among other things, a passionate lover and booster of electronic music, a strong proponent of universal rights and an active community advocate through his work at Allied Media Projects.

Thornton is owner of Fresh Media Group, a company founded in 2007 to give structure to his diverse interests. An entertainment and lifestyle holding company of sorts, Fresh Media Group operates FreshCorp (an event production company specializing in electronic, hip hop and indie music events) and Wink Detroit, which creates experiences that promote queer culture in Detroit.

Fresh Media Group represents the antithesis of prevalent business practices; its mission of bringing people together“For a brief moment nobody cares about anything else other than your participation in the dance. It is almost an actualization of Martin Luther King’s dream.”supersedes traditional business goals (up to and including making money). It moves with enviable fluidity from hosting small club nights and raucously extravagant parties like Fierce Hot Mess, to helping support larger events like Motor City Pride and Dally in the Alley. From music curation to full-blown creative marketing and public relations, Fresh Media Group, through its two subsidiaries, works to create experiences that enliven people by promoting culture.

Thornton was born on Detroit’s west side. His family later moved to Virginia, and he spent his adolescent years traveling between Detroit and Newport News, VA. When he returned to Detroit after high school he was immediately immersed in the music scene, embedding himself in the rich underground music culture that was being celebrated in Detroit at the time.

Attending obscure parties in dank, anonymous buildings (sometimes small and suffocating, other times cavernous and wondrous), Thornton fell hopelessly in love with the scene, thrashing blissfully to Detroit’s punk, alternative, underground hip hop and electronic music. (While Thornton doesn’t give his age, he says he has at least been dancing since the nineties).

It was more than simply music and dancing for Thornton; his experience in the Detroit music scene was a validation of his long-held belief in togetherness, the transcendence of characterizations that work to separate people. “For a brief moment nobody cares about anything else other than your participation in the dance. It is almost an actualization of Martin Luther King’s dream … we are all ourselves. It is an opportunity to participate in something — leave your baggage at home and participate in something.”

He was so impressed with the parties he attended that, without prompting from anyone, he began to pass out flyers to help promote the events to friends. So enamored was he that he became a proselytizer of Detroit’s underground music; an evangelist of this urban experience of unaffected revelry and human cohesion.

As an ambassador of Detroit’s electronic music scene he was always consciously promoting the city. “Many people were exposed to electronic music but they didn’t know there was a place to listen to it, so we would flyer suburban spots to get people to come into the city. They were a whole generation of metro Detroiters who were now experiencing Detroit whose parents had told them not to come to Detroit!” Thornton says.

He quickly moved from promoting other people’s events to hosting his own parties. Throwing raves under various party pseudonyms, he eventually settled on “FreshCorp” in 2004. As his reputation grew with the popularity of his parties, he sought to grow the underground music culture through other endeavors. He created a magazine called Nations United, Divisions Extinct (N.U.D.E.) and started a clothing store and clothing label Space 19. Throughout this his underlying philosophy of togetherness remained ever-present; it gave the party a reason beyond hedonism. “It was sort of a counter to what was happening in the real world, which was divisive. We wanted people to come together under the music. For a brief moment nobody cares about anything else other than your participation on the dance floor. It is almost an actualization of Martin Luther King’s dream.”

FreshCorp began as an expression of Thornton’s desire to not just consume culture but help create it by participating in its creation. Participation is important to him and he sees a lot of people waiting for an authentic invitation to be involved. “FreshCorp and Wink are the continuation of the mindset to create an experience. The party is your opportunity to go to a movie but actually be in it. For that little bit of time you can actually participate in the party and create your own character or identity — bring all of you or none of you, whatever makes you happy.”

Written by Tunde Wey.  Photograph by Marvin Shaouni PhotographyOriginal post in Urban Innovation Exchange here.


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