I was watching Residente in a video interacting with inmates at a California Maximum Security Prison on the Prison Tour he did with rapper Common. The video quickly made me realize how important Residente's work is to many of our communities across the globe and U.S.
It's easy to follow and like someone who is talented and always using his art to create awareness of things that are ignored by the bigger corporate interests. I am a fan of Residente and his work, and I wanted to share a bit more of how I became a fan and the importance of having someone like him being the voice of the oppressed.
The First Time I saw Residente Perform
During the summer of 2006, just before I returned to the island of Puerto Rico, I decided to go to Central Park and watch Residente perform as a member of the group, Calle 13. My life partner Lucy had become a fan, and I went to Central Park to please her more than I was interested in going.
As we waited on a hot summer day, we listened to a band from Mexico who had a mix of electronic music and was not doing the best job. I was anxious to watch Calle 13 live for the first time. After Residente, a rock legend Gustavo Cerati was also performing.
Residente and Calle 13 Took the Stage
After listening to music that didn't interest me, Calle 13 took over the stage; as soon as the band started playing the energy of the crowd accelerated from zero miles to 100mph.
The performance started, and we go to experience the great talent of the collective of musicians performing. It was at that moment where I became a fan of Calle 13 including Visitante and the now solo performing artist, Ile.
Even more admirable was seeing the commitment of La Calle 13 when talking about social issues. I have written many times on this blog of watching them. But where Calle 13 captivated me was when he sang the song "Querido FBI" which was bringing awareness on how the FBI assassinated Filiberto Ojeda Rios. We fast forward to 2017, and we can see how US interests once again are hurting the island and are being protected by law enforcement.
I became a Calle 13 Fan After the Central Park Performance
After watching Calle 13 live in Central Park, I became a fan, and 11 years later I continue to enjoy the work of Calle 13 musicians. I went to a concert in July of 2007 at Orlando's Hard Rock Cafe where the place was not full, but the band played like they were performing for a million people.
I also went to their concert in May of 2008 in El Choliseo with my mom, a friend, and Lucy. Out of all the times, I have seen them perform this was my favorite. I made it to his concert in 2012 over in San Juan, and it was a memorable moment.
Residente's commitment to Activism
When I chose to create this blog my main objective was to create awareness on social issues while having a tool to share my experiences. And help others if they want to go the entrepreneurial route.
Few Artists like Rene dedicate a good amount of time to participating and spreading the word on social injustices. I've seen his documentaries on Latin America's story and have seen him at protests here on the Island to stop the spraying of Naled and the government's abuse of power.
Rene AKA Residente as an Ally
Last year at a Naled Protest I was able to meet him and chat for a few seconds. It was hard to talk about activism when most people were too excited to take a selfie or picture with him. From that moment on I have seen how Rene has helped me when I am sharing content and creating awareness.
In November I captured police abuse at a protest in Tallaboa Peñuelas. Rene shared some of the images I captured and also brought attention to an issue we are still fighting which is the depositing of Toxic Ashes in Peñuelas.
Residente a Voice for the Oppressed
Residente's social work is global. He is a voice for Latin America and the rest of the oppressed world. A good example was his visit as stated on his youtube channel.
Residente and Common went to a maximum security prison in California to perform and discovered the truth of doing a hard time.
If you watch the video below you will see a few minutes of Residente sitting down with prison inmates in their early to mid 20's who went in when they were children (teenagers).
I guess watching the video below captivated me because as a kid I remember visiting close family members who went into the prison system for petty crimes. One of my family members went in as a teenager and came out when he was in his late 20's.
Thankfully that family member is an example of how someone with the worst obstacles possible can overcome everything and become one of the hardest working and caring humans I know.
Watch below how Residente captures part of the story of these humans who were not given and are still not given a fair chance at succeeding.
Being a Minority puts you at a disadvantage
As I watched this I was taken back to when W. Kamau Bell made a whole episode on United Shades of America in CNN on San Quentin and the struggles of minorities in the US prison system.
There are a bunch of interesting facts in that episode of how it is more probable that a black or Hispanic will end up in jail for a small crime vs someone who is not a minority.
To this day I am also a fan of the show United Shades of America including it's Puerto Rico episode.
But I have to say the San Quentin episode is one my top favorites.
Changes are needed in The U.S. Prison System
I also find this effort on showing others how the U.S. Prison system is setup to make minorities fail is a big start into uncovering how this is beneficial to large corporations who are using those who make mistakes to become wealthier.
There is more to cover into this very complex issue. But we start by having the conversations that Residente and W. Kamau have started and amplified.
Are you familiar with how the whole Prison System ecosystem works? Is it really to keep us safe?
My answer is a bit of keeping us safe while nurturing of modern slavehood where the costs are paid by taxpayers and the benefits are handed over to larger corporations.
Is that really fair?