Get Woke With NYC’s Nosotros Fest, a Night of Latinx Music, Performance, and Activism

Hurray for the Riff Raff. Photo by Robin Laananen

On Friday, November 4 at New York City’s Bowery Ballroom, the first-ever Nosotros Festival will bring together Latinx communities of all backgrounds in the spirit of protest. The festival is not the first of its kind, but comes at a time when critical hope and activism through art are necessary in our communities. The event will feature live sets from punk, bluegrass, and folk artists like Downtown Boys, Las Cafeteras, and more.

To provide a platform to unite marginalized Latinxs, the festival brings together voices from every corner of the Latinx community to fight systems of oppression. Founder Alynda Lee Segarra of folk-blues group Hurray for the Riff Raff created the event with transformation in mind. Over the phone, she tells me she wanted to create a night where we can use collective anger and fear, and focus our energy to incite change. “Someone told me once that when you heal yourself, you’re also healing your ancestry. That really means something to me. I hope we can heal each other, be there for each other and really stand up for our ancestors.”

Downtown Boys. Photo by Itzel Alejandra Martinez
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Segarra says the festival was inspired in part by her exploration of what it means to be Puerto Rican in New York and learning about the deep political history of groups like the Young Lords. The current economic crisis in Puerto Rico and resistance against the PROMESA bill has been especially important. Segarra explains that the more she learned about the island’s history, the more she realized how deep colonization was. “There is a very strong effort to make sure the island never gets the independence it deserves,” she declares. Nosotros Fest emerged from this anger, centering healing, transformation, and empowerment. She continues, “I want people to walk away from the night and feel inspired and full of life, as opposed to drained from what we have to experience every day and from what we have to listen to on the news every day.”

“I hope we can heal each other, be there for each other, and really stand up for our ancestors.”

To create this festival, she enlisted artists as well as collaborators who are actively engaged and intentional about their politics. The event will be co-hosted by Brujas, the Bronx’s feminist skate collective, and will bring together a lineup of artists of different styles. Among these are Son Jarocho folk fusion group Las Cafeteras, dance punks Downtown Boys and son-inspired rock band Making Movies. Chicana drag performance artist Lady Quesa’dilla and Nuyorican poet Bonafide Rojas will also bring their talent to the festival.

This intergenerational lineup, with Latinx people from all over the Americas, is a testament to Segarra’s mission to unite people of different backgrounds. When I ask her about her use of the word “intersectional,” she says she wanted to create an event where people feel fully recognized. “They can be complicated and they can be proud…I wanted it to be a pride event.” Intersectional identities are key here; it was important for her to curate an event that was multidimensional, queer, and feminist.

Nosotros Fest is about creating a space where queerness and Latinidad don’t just co-exist, but one where they’re celebrated, too. After the Pulse shooting in Orlando, there’s been increased attention on the specific violence enacted against queer Latinx bodies, a violence that speaks to generations of colonialism. Segarra tells me that even though Latinx people didn’t create heterosexist stereotypes or dichotomies, they are still used against us. As a performer, the importance of showing up fully is important to her, not only because queer Latinx people are targets for violence, but because they are often erased as creators. “It’s important as a performer for me to take all my identity on stage and not be afraid I’m going to confuse you.”

As much as Nosotros Fest honors ancestors, it also is committed to empowering youth. The event is 18 and over, and a portion of ticket sales will benefit youth literacy organization Urban Word NYC.

Update, 10/20/2016 4:45 p.m.Yva Las Vegass is no longer a headliner at Nosotros Fest. The post has been updated to reflect the lineup change.

Nosotros Fest takes place Friday, November 4, 2016 at 7 p.m. To purchase tickets, click here. Check out the full flyer below.