There's a part at the end of "Young, Latin & Proud," Helado Negro's self-described lullaby to the Latinx diaspora, in which he switches from the song's eponymous chorus ("'cause you are / Young, Latin & proud") to offer a glimmer of hope for the future. Over pulsating synths that form the track's heartbeat, he softly coos: "One day you'll be / Old, Latin & Proud," before the synths spiral upward and fade out. It's a simple change, to be sure, but one that promises infinite possibilities.
For those of us who grew up in America as the progeny of immigrants, the path to self-actualization can be fraught with anxiety. There are surprisingly few blueprints for navigating that tricky double-consciousness of assimilation into white, mainstream American culture, and affirmation of one's cultural and ethnic identity. It's not that role models don't exist, but there is a tendency to favor a few narratives over a diversity of lived experiences, and these narratives can feel both tired and quaint.
Enter Nosotros Festival. Organized by Alynda Segarra of Hurray for the Riff Raff, the festival features a stacked lineup of musicians and poets showcasing the diversity of Latinx-American voices and experiences. Nosotros was first presented last November in New York as a way to unite Latinx people of all backgrounds through art and activism. On Thursday, July 27, Nosotros Festival will have its second iteration as part of Lincoln Center Out of Doors.
Once again, the lineup is expertly curated by Segarra, who enlists Nuyorican poets La Bruja, Bonafide Rojas, and Felipe Luciano, as well as Ecuadorian American musician Helado Negro, Chicanx Angelenos and son jarocho band Las Cafeteras, and Boricua Cuban artist Xenia Rubinos. While their styles and sounds vary considerably, they share a sensibility of being unapologetic about their backgrounds. They are deft at walking the line between celebrating those backgrounds and calling out institutions that fail to recognize black and brown bodies in all their humanity.
Above all, they are all invested in making sense of their past to help envision their future. (In a particularly pertinent example, Segarra's latest album was inspired in part by the Young Lords, which Luciano cofounded). And during a time in which the future is not guaranteed—and those at the margins (the "riff raff" of Segarra's namesake band) are most vulnerable—what better way to understand where we're going than to engage with the past? What better case for the communion offered by art and music? To be cognizant of one's position in a lineage is to know that you are not the first, you will not be the last, and your present words and actions can make all the difference in ensuring a future for everyone.
Daniel Soto is the Associate Producer of Public Programming at Lincoln Center. He is a second-generation Filipino American.