Kali Uchis, Cuco Stand Up for Immigrants in New Concert Series – Rolling Stone
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Kali Uchis, Cuco Stand Up for Immigrants in ‘Selena for Sanctuary’ Concert Series

Taking place August 18th in New York City, the upcoming event will raise money for immigrant advocacy

Kali UchisWe Love Green Festival, Paris, France - 01 Jun 2019

“Trying to create a better world for your children [is] not a crime,” Kali Uchis tells Rolling Stone.

Edmond Sadaka Edmond/SIPA/Shutterstock

Looking back, Doris Muñoz is still awestruck by that first show at the Hi-Hat, in Los Angeles’ Highland Park. Headlined by a young Cuco — the Chicano singer who, until then, had only performed his dreamy pop ballads in backyard shows — the 2017 event was organized by Muñoz, his music manager, to raise money for her immigrant parents’ legal fees. The 350-capacity venue ended up being sold out.

“We were all elated. I just remember everybody crying,” recalls Muñoz.

It’s a particularly resonant moment in time, especially as Muñoz readies Selena for Sanctuary — a New York City fundraising event, which will take place August 18th at Central Park’s SummerStage. A celebration of the late Tejana icon Selena, it is the tenth installment of the Solidarity for Sanctuary concert series, which sprang from the success of that initial gathering in 2017 — and has since raised $14,000 for immigrant advocacy causes at-large.

It’s worth noting that the event’s inception coincided with a striking phenomenon in American pop culture. That same year, Luis Fonso and Daddy Yankee’s “Despacito” would boost Latin pop’s global cultural capital — both on the charts and in the zeitgeist — while simultaneously, those early days of the Trump Era portended a wave of increasing violence and racism toward Latinx communities.

The seemingly paradoxical parallel is no coincidence, Muñoz says, pointing to the rise of Latinx artists like J Balvin, Ozuna and Bad Bunny. “They’re championing this movement because of all the shitty things that are happening, [doing so] with even more gusto,” she says.

“Even if their music isn’t overtly political, their existence is,” Muñoz adds. “Existing as successful Latinx artists within this political climate is a form of resistance.”

The series’ biggest outing yet, the upcoming SummerStage show and its Latinx lineup is a realization of this truth. Headlined by Kali Uchis, with additional sets by Cuco, Helado Negro and many others, the concert is organized in conjunction with immigrant advocacy group Make the Road New York, and will raise funds through a merch collaboration with the clothing brand Kids of Immigrants.

“Tearing families apart isn’t right, and ICE raids are inhumane,” Uchis says by phone from Los Angeles. “They treat us like animals. There’s no compassion there, no humanity.”

Speaking just days after the deadly mass shooting in El Paso, which targeted its Latinx population, Uchis and Muñoz condemn the Trump administration in bolstering a summer of horrors that has preceded the upcoming show.

“Trying to create a better world for your children, or running for your life is not a crime,” says Uchis, who as a dual citizen, grew up in both the United States and in Colombia. “The administration’s decisions to double down on white supremacist ideals and dehumanize anyone in this country who isn’t white is just so obvious at this time. The power of our community and the strength that we have united, that’s what’s really going to make a difference.”

“Children being ripped apart from their families, literally being put in concentration camps — it really blows my mind how in this day and age some of this literally is happening in my own country,” says Chicana indie rocker Ambar Lucid, who will also perform at the New York event.

For many in the show, its fraught context hits close to home. Lucid’s own father was deported when she was a child, and Muñoz and Cuco are both children of immigrants. Muñoz’s brother, who hadn’t been to Mexico since he was two years old, was deported in 2015. “He has three daughters and a wife he didn’t even get to say goodbye to,” Muñoz says.

While previous shows have been organized in response to new Trumpian policies, such as the dismantling of the DACA program, this latest edition arrives during the series’ most urgent moment yet. Uchis, along with Muñoz and Lucid, feels a heightened sense of responsibility, especially as the growth of Latin pop’s cultural import provides a larger platform.

“I want to inspire all artists who are capitalizing off of Latin culture right now, but not necessarily doing anything for the Latin community besides posting memes and shit,” Uchis says. “I want to inspire people to actually fucking do something.”

This sense of gravity carries into the future for Sanctuary, which will become an official nonprofit organization this year, and expand future shows to places like Texas.

“This anger and this frustration will just transform into motivation and more energy,” Muñoz says. She refers to an expression in Spanish: No nos vamos a rendir, nunca. “That means, ‘We’re not going to give up — ever.’ That’s us right now.”

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