Son del Centro rock out justicia.
Photo by Esther Park
Concert For Fair Food
Saturday, December 1, 2007
Bayfront Park, Downtown Miami
Better Than: winning a lifetime supply of Whoppers.
This past weekend, the Coalition of Immokalee Workers were in full effect, along with 500 or so of their supporters (both local and tourists) who came to Sunny Miami protesting against fast food giant, Burger King. If you’re unaware of the CIW and their struggles, here it is in a nutshell. Modern-day slavery exists, especially in a major farming community called Immokalee, right outside of Naples, FL. Mainly Latino and Haitian immigrants working 16 hour days in brutal conditions for minimum wage and an added chump-change of 45cents per bucket of picked produce, mostly tomatoes, that are used by fast food chains like McDonalds, Taco Bell and, you guessed it, Burger King. Their demand, only a penny more per bucket, which when calculated, would cost Burger King an additional pathetic $250,000 a year in expenses. Isn’t that like a holiday bonus for BK’s CEO, John Chidsey?
Whatever the case may be, the spirit of rebellion was prevalent as Saturday’s Concert for Fair Food took over Downtown Miami’s Bayfront Park. Activists from all over the country were present as they came to congregate and celebrate their struggles (and triumphs) and inspire others to keep hope alive. Ah yes, the rebel red star flags were flying high, Che Guevara's emblazoned silhouette shined from every t-shirt angle and the sweet stench of patchouli and unbathed anarchists consumed the air. The brisk December night was filled with chants of “Cuba Libre!” and “Si se puede!” as militant hip-hop MCs spit fire on topics such as neo-liberalism, US colonialism and why Castro and Chavez are like the Birdman and Lil’ Weezy of Latin American socialist reform.
Then reality struck as I looked around the outdoor venue, some 150 or so concert attendees, sporadically dispersed throughout the crowd, all obvious out-of-towners, their bright pink sun burnt faces and bad gringo accents giving them away. Did someone forget to tell the concert promoter that Miami and Castro don’t mix? Let’s not even get started with Chavez! It’s hard enough getting folks in Miami to come out to a free reggaeton concert but to an anti-corporate worker’s rights rally featuring music by crazy militant rappers like Rebel Diaz, Olmeca, Las Krudas and a Mexican folk guitar group called Son del Centro?!? That’s like asking a gay man to attend a Busta Rhymes concert. From the looks of the empty spaces and unfilled bleachers, Miami is not ready for such political radicalism.
“Miami is a strange place because it’s run by brown people but highly conservative,” notes LA-based Chicano MC, Olmeca, who’s fiery blend of unrelenting hip-hop meets grassroot organizing has been a “most played” on the iPods of many activists around the globe. “It’s just sad to think that so many people here don’t know about the struggles in Immokalee and it’s so close to Miami.”
The concert, even with the lackluster audience attendees, did not disappoint the however many people on hand. Groups like Rebel Diaz, whose stage performance was on point and their lyrical content even more on target, made fists punch the sky and bodies jump up and down. Then came Olmeca, who’s probably the closest thing to a Zapatista MC without actually living in Chiapas, did his set of Spanish linguistics mixed with banging New York style hip-hop. And in honor of the 3-0-5, he rapped about socialist takeovers over a classic reggaeton beat that even Tego Calderon would have been proud of.
But the highlight of the night came from Son del Centro, a collective of youth organizers based out of Santa Ana, California who plays traditional Son Jarocho music, a style that combines indigenous, Spanish and African musical elements mostly played on the jarana, a Mexican version of a ukulele. The rhythms, fast-paced and continuously flowing, combined with sing-song melodies about love, life and justice, fits perfectly into the soundtrack of a worthy rebellion. It’s an amazing performance combined with poetry, dance and impromptu guitar solos feeding off each other, like an MC battle between KRS-One and MC Shan. This is hip-hop to 18th Century Mexican farmers and we’re hearing it once more in the 21st Century. And so as the night concludes, we all can agree that revolution and music go hand in hand because all good fights need a fight song.
Personal Bias: Respects to the punk-rock girl with the ‘Zine table at the event. In the age of web 2.0 and blogs, it’s so refreshing to find there are still photocopied-stapled DIY black & white zines that only cost 75cents.
Random Detail: Gringo and gringa hippies sure love to go wild and dance all crazy. They also like to smoke a shit-load of Newports and roll around the grass holding hands. Oh and they smell … bad, which makes me wonder: is there a correlation between B.O. and being revolutionary? stinkier the B.O. = more revolutionary?
By the way: The last Concert for Fair Food took place in Chicago’s “House of Blues” to a packed 2,500+ crowd where Zack de la Rocha and Tom Morello of Rage Against the Machine reunited and tore up the stage with hot burning radical lava! Ah, if only that was to be Miami … we’ll settle for a reunion of Audioslave, I guess.
[Check out this memorable performance below.]
– Esther Park