Last night, artists and community members crowded into a room at Electric Lady Studios to celebrate the power of language and pay homage to our Latinx communities. In anticipation of Nosotros Fest, the intersectional Latinx festival taking place tonight at Bowery Ballroom, the event gathered some of the festivals’ bands alongside spoken word artists to showcase a broad range of Latinx and queer pride from across the continent. The festival organizer, Alynda Segarra of Hurray for The Riff Raff, kicked off the night and was followed by Las Cafeteras, Making Movies and The Mona Passage, among other artists. Rosal Colón from Orange Is The New Black was also present, and blessed the audience with a keynote speech about her journey to recognizing the importance of her South Bronx community— an “ode to my parents.”
While the bands that performed stomped, sang and strummed gloriously throughout the night, the standout performances came from six young poets from Urban Word, a New York City organization that promotes youth literacy through creative writing workshops and performances, and who will be receiving a portion of the Nosotros Fest sales. When reflecting on the importance of language, Segarra talked about how our own rhetoric can work to oppose dehumanizing words we hear every day. “Decolonized, Latinx, Chicanx, Indigenous, queer, protector as opposed to protester, Black Lives Matter. We are all immigrants y no creo en fronteras. It is up to us— the poets, the artists the songwriters to use the mighty force of language,” she said.
Through language, six poets from Urban Word spit their own truth into the room that not only highlighted Latinx resistance but reminded us of the true power of young people to reveal the beauty and hypocrisy of the world. We compiled five powerful quotes from some of the people who shared words last night about the creation of our identities, the pain we feel, and the liberation that guides us as Latinx people.
Tonight, Nosotros Fest will showcase more Latinx artists and collectives in an effort to empower our communities in an intersectional spirit. There are still tickets available here.
José Guadalupe Olivarez, Program Director of Urban Word
“We live in a moment where we are constantly recreating the national narrative— the story that we tell ourselves about who we are. I’m a first generation Mexican-American and I’m the first person in my family to go to college. That’s a story about me and my family and the country. We live in a country where that’s possible. At the same time, we live in a country where when I went to college my freshman year at Harvard University, some Latinx workers came to us as students and said, ‘We have this issue in our chemistry lab where we work where our boss sprayed clorox on our food because they didn’t like the smell of Latin food.’ We live in a country where both of those stories are true. We create opportunities and at the same time we are capable of punishing and oppressing people. The truth of America is not choosing one story over the other, but the truth is we need to hear all stories— we need to hear the truths that we all live.”
Kevin Gonzales, Urban Word Poet
“Since we’re on the subject of language and how language is useful, one of the things I learned in my linguistic anthropology class is that language is infinite. Human communication is infinite which means that we are able to understand senses never spoken, speak senses that have never been made before. There’s no bad forms of language, there’s no such thing as substandard. Those are only the bounds that the elitists put over us.”
Chantelly Medina, Urban Word Poet
“You’re from wastelands of artificiality, where appropriation’s a dictator. Tells people like you to pretend you are who you were never meant to be. My people’s loss of identity is your next hairstyle, next surgery, next husband. You have a fetish for lives that you cannot relate to and you don’t carry the burden of my people because you carried a half Black child for nine months. You don’t get that credit when you have enough credit cards to feed the people you want to be so bad. Dear Kim Kardashian, wake up from your beauty sleep, girl. You know nothing of everything you wish to be.”
Jessica Torres, Urban Word NYC Poet
“We have a world of people with concealed aspiration lingering with skeletons in their closet and fear of erasing the glory of resistance. Why? Because mediocrity is not just applauded, but given a standing ovation. We must set a proper declaration before our bones. Wake up. This is an entirely fictitious land of our misconceptions and temporary assimilation. The potentially bright side of the situation is that we will hopefully, eventually wake up from this hallucination. We will be the generation that stops sleeping.”
Noel Quiñones, Urban Word NYC Alum
“My mind moves like bomba. Pure Africano hymn it was brought on the backs of sugar slaves from Africa to Puerto Rico where I’m from, it’s as if everyone moves with two left feet because they knew they had a right one. My people move in threes: from Africa to Puerto Rico to America, from countryside to boat to city, from drummer to dancer to audience from bomba to plena to salsa.
This is a story line that you are all used to. The way that in the beginning nothing is ever right but we, taino brass boom try our best, stumbling as things considered dirt always do to shake that which has been forgotten – yet we always be perceiving that which has been forgotten. Feeling like an espíritu thinking ‘What if the Caribbean had it right?’”