Here’s the backstory behind this song and the music video:
Olmeca is rising hip-hop figure from Los Angeles with his own family story of migration. He’s been writing pro-migrant songs and performing them as part of the movement since he started. He was one of the first artists to support the movement in Arizona and currently travels around the country pairing his concerts with ‘Brown is Beautiful’ workshops about culture, community and organizing.
So when Olmeca wanted to make a video for his new song “Browning of America,” collaborating with Puente was a natural fit.
Barni Qaasim has been a long-time volunteer making videos of the protests in Arizona and using video to show the impact of detention and deportation on families fighting to stay together. She started Puente Vision with a group of youth whose mother was in detention. They produced a video to help get their mom out and then learned under Barni’s mentorship to make videos to help other families themselves.
One of those young people, Jennifer Hernández, explains, “Standing up to fight for my mom’s liberation was the best experience I have gone through. It has taught me that even though the odds may be against you, you have to try to fight for what you want. We went from being in a video needing help, to making them to help others.”
When it comes to this new Olmeca video, Qaasim says, “We wanted the screen bursting with the faces of the beautiful people we see every day in our community. The video is filled with friends and family. Everyone came out to show off their uniqueness and affirm our right to be here.”
Carlos García, director of Puente, says that “Olmeca has been working with impacted communities for years and so his music reflects the culture and the vibrancy of our people. In nis work Olmeca echoes the famous saying, ‘la cultura cura.’ This is what enables oppressed communities to cope and resist against the daily attacks we face.”
When Olmeca was asked what was the motivation behind “Browning of America,” he pointed to the fear and denial about the demographic shift among conservatives like John Boehner and Ann Coulter.
“It’s simple,” he says. “The United States is becoming more brown. It is not a political statement, it’s not an ideology conjured up. It is simply the reality! There are 54 million Latin@s in the U.S. The demographics are changing, and with it, the culture of the U.S.”
Olmeca foresees changing tactics to deal with Latinos. “Soon the goal will shift from kicking us out, to assimilating us,” he says.
Why partner with Puente and NDLON? “Because amidst the efforts to stop deportation and the reactive mode many of us have to be in, Puente also focuses on building, constructive and bridging communities together,” Olmeca says. “They have been at the forefront of the issue and have helped spark marches, rallies and been creating campaigns that speak to the heart of the issue.”
When it came to the making of the video, Olmeca set a goal to highlight the faces of the people at the center of the debate and who are part of the demographic shift. He enlisted Qaasim and members of Puente to give a portrait of the every day people who make up the immigrant rights movement.
Families like Jennifer’s who have had to fight to stay together are shown in tact in the film that’s a medley of smiling and serious faces. Olmeca explains, “I wanted to honor folks who have directly been affected by bad policies and who, despite their tormented reality, have taken up the fight for the dignity of the people.”
What they created is a song that is sure to be a soundtrack for any march and a display of the beauty of a people who, as Olmeca explains, “are changing the reality of the U.S. by simply existing.”
What the demographic shift means for the future may be anyone’s guess but a chess match with García’s son, who’s a real-life Bobby Fischer when it comes to the game, at the end of the video gives a hint of a change to come.