Presidents won’t save us because they don’t understand us. That statement echoed in the manifestos, songs, and poems performed at the inaugural Nosotros Fest last Friday, an event that showcased artists and activists in the spirit of intersectional empowerment. A stellar lineup graced the stage of New York City’s Bowery Ballroom with the sounds of Latinx celebration and queer pride to highlight the activism and continuous resistance of our communities against land theft, machismo, border violence, and more. Alynda Segarra, Nosotros founder and frontwoman of New Orleans folk-blues group Hurray for the Riff Raff, offered what may have been the best summary of the festival’s message. Citing Julia de Burgos and the Young Lords as sources of inspiration, she said, “To be a rebel is to be Latino.”

Nosotros Fest was successful in recognizing the rebels within all of us, bringing together artists of different disciplines, genres, and backgrounds to create space for critical resistance and celebration. Feminist skate collective Brujas kicked off the night with two powerful manifestos that highlighted the equal importance of economic empowerment and media representation. One powerful quote – “The goal is not success, but autonomy” – was reflected in the artwork displayed by two other independent Latinx collectives and zinemakers present at Nosotros Fest: La Liga and La Chamba Press.

 “To be a rebel is to be Latino.”

Young organizations like these (and poets from Urban Word NYC) shared their potent words onstage, but the festival was also committed to drawing an intergenerational lineup and audience. Through live sets of poetry and music, the festival celebrated both ancestral and contemporary expressions of Latinx artistry.

Continuing in the tradition of honoring ancestors, Puerto Rican spoken word artist and singer-songwriter Bonafide Rojas spit truth about gentrification and drag performer Lady Quesadilla performed a striking rendition of Juan Gabriel’s “Querida.” Punk band Downtown Boys played a set recognizing the people who fight for prayer, history, and land, while Hurray for the Riff Raff played an homage to Trayvon Martin. We also heard artist-activist sets from indie rock group Making Movies and the East LA son jarocho band Las Cafeteras, while a live set from Afro-Latinx DJ Bembona closed out the night.

In the midst of political pandering, whitewashing queer activism, and rampant unchecked xenophobia, Nosotros Fest was the space we needed to recognize our own complexity and potential. Although only in its first year, Nosotros Fest was an authentic celebration of Latinx activism right in time for the election, reminding us all that we can and will empower ourselves.

All photos by Itzel Alejandra Martinez for Remezcla

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Victoria Ruiz of Downtown Boys. Photo by Itzel Alejandra for Remezcla

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