Amidst the sunshine, tacos, free booze and ubiquitous floppy hats of South by Southwest, 19 people will have what will likely be the worst time of their life. This week, 19 people will be deported from Austin, Texas. This is nothing new.
This past Monday, on March 16, while the music portion of the festival was amping up the volume, the Texas State Legislature quietly and without fanfare held a committee hearing on SB185, one of the worst pieces of anti-immigrant legislation going around these days – a copycat “Show Me Your Papers”-style bill (modeled after the utterly racist SB1070 bill passed in Arizona in 2009).
If passed, this bill would further entrench racial profiling of black and brown bodies, enabling law enforcement to ask anyone they believe has questionable status to – you got it – show their papers. From traffic tickets to domestic disturbances, Austin (and Texas’) immigrant community would be even further under siege. 19 per week could turn to 90. And while SXSW is about fun, it is also about celebrating and honoring our existence through cultural production. And sometimes that means getting really real with each other. Messy. Dirty. Beautiful. Political.
So, to try and understand what the relationship is between our lives, our cultura, and this heavy political moment, Remezcla did what it does best: turned to the music of our people. How can music and culture help us make sense of this? And more importantly, how can the music we listen and love and party and rage to help us fight back? We asked three artists playing SXSW about how they see their music intersecting with and supporting the grassroots, on-the-ground work of the immigrant rights movement.
Cuban Hip Hop MCs, Independent Musicians, Poets, and Theater Performers representing Womyn, Immigrants, Queer and People of Color.
“We are immigrants and our music has always had an autobiographical character, we talk about our lived experiences, and we continue to suffer the weight of the system. With our music we self-empower our people to stand up for our rights…we know who we are, we rebel and we show that our resistance is so strong that no one is going to hold us back. Our music is our weapon against the injustice, it is our power, our word, and we know that the struggle is hard and the road is long, pero palante!”
Hailing from LA, he’s been breaking ground and holding it down for years using culture as sound and music as a tool to advocate for human rights.
“Today the best way to support struggles is not just to write songs about immigration but to provide a space for the voices themselves to be heard, or at a minimum, interpreted. But it’s important to participate beyond making music too. Part of the project has to be walking with the community in struggle, bringing you closer to the issues and inevitably inspiring more work. I spoke and performed at SB1070 rallies with over 500,000 people and wrote two songs after collecting stories there. I help organize events, build campaigns, perform at actions, support fundraising for the struggle. My project is about making movement music.”
Philly-based DJ (by way of Lima, Peru), Precolumbian has been building inclusive dance floors for people of all genders, races, and abilities can drop down and get their eagle on.
“For me, my music is a way of owning, reclaiming my culture as someone who was uprooted from their home. It’s a way to tell my story of diaspora, and chop up and remix the rhythms that are a part of my culture and add my experience as a Latina immigrant in the US. I create spaces that reflect my experience and one that mirrors many other immigrants and black/brown folks here who are also part of different diasporas, it’s creating a little piece of home in our current home and resisting cultural amnesia, as someone who’s indigenous making sure that we are seen and not thought of as part of some past. We’re here and we’re creating our spaces and our identities.”
We’re about that vibe, and definitely trying to catch these artists at their Saturday showcases, no wristbands or badges required! For more info on the immigrants rights work in Austin, check out Grassroots Leadership, the Austin Immigrant Rights Coalition, and the #19toomany campaign on facebook.