Goyo, Rafa Pabön Lead 'Conciencia Collective' Campaign for Black Lives - Rolling Stone
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Goyo, Rafa Pabön Lead ‘Conciencia Collective’ Campaign for Racial Justice

Artists counter Latin music’s tepid response to Black Lives Matter movement with new education initiative

Goyo (ChocQuibTown) and Rafa Pabon

John Parra/Getty Images, Gabe Ginsberg/WireImag

On May 27th, the killing of George Floyd sparked a resurgence of Black Lives Matter protests in Minneapolis — and eventually, across the United States. As artists throughout the Anglophone music industry voiced their opposition to racism and police brutality, some of the most prominent voices in Latin music fumbled the opportunity to use their platforms with intention.

In response to the protests, J Balvin shared a now-deleted video of himself dancing salsa with a Black woman in Colombia, and Karol G shared a now-deleted photo of her spotted bulldog with the caption, “Black and White TOGETHER look beautiful!” Bad Bunny, reportedly taking an internet detox, remained silent for weeks, save for a poem he published at the behest of his fans in Time. “Living in a world like this, none of us can breathe,” he wrote; albeit with good intentions, such responses play down the acute violence and discrimination against Black people living in the U.S. and abroad. 

Clumsy efforts from within the Latin music industry prompted Goyo, lead vocalist of the Afro-Colombian hip-hop group ChocQuibTown, to start organizing her peers. “Latin America should seriously [consider] ethno-education,” she wrote in a tweet. After a lengthy series of private discussions, held over social media and Whatsapp, Goyo emerged with a formidable army to combat prejudice in the Latin music industry: they’re called the Conciencia Collective.

Comprised of more than 100 Latin music artists and 35 industry professionals, the Conciencia Collective is an alliance forged in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement. On Friday the Collective announced a social media campaign in hopes of educating fans and music professionals alike about racial and social injustice. In conjunction with Latinx culture website Mitú, the Collective will begin hosting digital talks and sharing messages of support from artists, including Anuel AA, Zion & Lennox, Farruko, Kali Uchis, Jessie Reyez and many more.

“If you love my music and if you believe me, I invite you to join me in my struggle,” writes Goyo in a press statement. “Join me in making people understand that racism is prevalent and has very deep impacts.” Adds Rafa Pabön, “[George] Floyd is one of many. We cannot stop fighting for justice.”

From June 26th through the end of Hispanic Heritage Month — which wraps up on October 15th — Mitú will host weekly online dialogues titled “Conciencia Talk.” On Friday, June 26th at 7 p.m. EST, Goyo and Puerto Rican rapper Rafa Pabön will kick off the series with a live conversation on YouTube, moderated by Dr. Aurora Vergara Figueroa, director of the Afrodiasporic Studies Center at ICESI University in Cali, Colombia. 

Apart from the Conciencia Talk series, SiriusXM’s Latin hub, SiriusXM Caliente, will feature a special program dedicated to educating listeners on racism in Latin America and beyond, titled “Tu Lucha, Es Mi Lucha.” The Conciencia Collective has also co-curated its own playlist with Spotify, outfitted with music from every artist participating in the effort.

The organization was debuted on Friday with a mission statement, personally written by Goyo. Read the full statement below:

“I’m talking to you as a Black woman, rapper, singer, born in South America. In an invisible region, a jewel in my country; a Black village. 

The experiences that we Black women live change you from the moment you leave your home. Society reminds you that at home, you live in a protected space. At home, we are educated with tools to go out into a racist world. As Howard C. Stevenson said, ‘we [as Black people] are educated with a kind of a racial literacy.’

Where I come from, they equip us with tools to achieve the highest level of education; they prepare you not to let yourself be belittled because of your skin color, to understand that your rights and privileges are different; to do things for others, for your brothers and sisters, even if we don’t have the same blood. It’s enough to live through the experiences that are not far from that of a normal woman in the Pacific. More than 100 million Afro-Latinos share experiences of racism that confront us.  We succumb to the inferior narratives in the media when we do not show our histories or as they did with “Blanquita,” the image of a woman that is used to perpetuate the image of a domestic servant. 

This last example seems mild but it is an attack on the humanity of Black women because it is linked to a series of images that classify and perpetuate [their existence] in certain occupations. And, in this way, they ratify the racist logic of stereotyping someone’s image. 

I also understand that many speak from ignorance. This does not make them bad people. They need to make an effort and educate themselves to understand the multiple manifestations of racism. 

Many people do not live in [Black] skin. Some people find out when they experience discrimination as an immigrant. This helps understand the problem once and for all without hesitation. They also teach us that being direct is different from being rude, which all depends on how you grew up.

When we say that racism does exist, we are not asking for anything, nor are asking to be given anything. Who more than we, who through our ancestors learned to do things as best as humanly possible; as we set our standards three times higher for ourselves.

Equality is a right. If turning on cameras brings authority under scrutiny, we must continue to do so. 

If you love my music and if you believe me, I invite you to join me in my struggle. Join me in making people understand that racism is prevalent and has very deep impacts. It is something basic to understand.

I should be interested in you and even more so if your rights are violated, by the media and its policies, companies and governments that exclude [us] that are founded on systematic racism.

Many institutions do not care about our dead, it is up to us to talk about our pain. I’ve been denouncing this and using multiple platforms even if this is seen as “uncool.” For many years, at least through my music, we have showcased our lives without all the drama, in reality we laugh, we cry, we dance, we fall in love, we bitch and moan through our music. For example, in ‘Somos los Prietos’ we do just this because we believe that it is important, that in order to have equality, we have to talk about the issue of racism, in the same way that we talk about soccer or money. 

We live this in the music industry. This is similar to the discussion that is taking place to eliminate the word ‘urbano’ from describing Latin music. I think that by removing the term, it delegitimizes many of the jewels [songs] that are categorized under that term. That’s why I think it’s important to include categories in the music awards for Hip Hop, Latin R&B, soul, Pacific Music, Urban Alternative and Rap. Almost all of us [artists] have had a song that wasn’t necessarily showcased or awarded under the appropriate category in awards. Words are redefined and a good body of work goes beyond the numbers we all talk about, beyond the genres. This serves to say that we are number one in something and that’s it. However, each artist finds in their art a reason for being who they are. 

For these reasons, almost no reggaeton artist can say that they don’t have an [urban] track or that they haven’t collaborated in an ‘urban’ song. In the end they feed off the same sounds every time; like every musical genre does. Everyone can communicate with each other or they are family [of genres] and we must be prepared for this discussion. 

I’ve understood more and more that to be a rapper, you don’t have to be what the standard is in the US; we can do it our own way. The discussion is also from our experience in our cities or corners of the so-called Third World. Whoever raps or sings, does it under any rhythm. You’re even stereotyped because of your music. 

We all contribute something as a society. We are all capable of creating many reasons for living and achieving those dreams if we work for this, but it cannot be denied that the game is not 11 against 11 from any perspective. For the Black and Latino communities there is no equality. Much less when they always tell us that Black is ugly, that working a lot is ‘working like Black person,’ that, supposedly, braids were worn by domestic servants in Colombia, but they never told us our story in schools. There is no talk of racism in educational institutions. This must change.

There are not many Black people who have the privilege of saying ‘we make a living from music,’ ‘I have a career, I tour the world, I have awards and Grammy nominations.’ There are no serious marketing studies to believe that we are incapable of anything. 

Racism isn’t just saying ‘Black bitch’ to a person who plays soccer. But it’s not less important. If we continue reinforcing racist stereotypes through the media, we close the few doors that are open to us, thanks to the talent and the amount of people who don’t even see you as a number or a skin color. They see you as a human being that behaves like one. With mistakes and virtues but one who dreams of an inclusive, hopeful and loving future.”

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