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art by Favianna Rodriguez

Art by Favianna Rodriguez

“ Washing one’s hands of the conflict between the powerful and the powerless means to side with the powerful, not to be neutral. ” – Paulo Freire, Educator

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SEPTEMBER 12, 2012 / BY GABRIELA GARCIA Los Rakas talk New World music & support for Undocubus protestors

Presente.org caught up with Latinos inside the Democratic National Convention last week, but we met up with members outside the arena walls as well—most notably, protestors with the No Papers, No Fear bus ride. The bus rolled into Charlotte, North Carolina, to share stories from immigrant families directly affected by this nation’s immigration policies. Members of the "undocubus" engaged in direct action, holding up signs of butterflies in migration at an intersection outside the DNC. Several undocumented bus riders were arrested and detained overnight. 

The culminating event was Undocunation, a night of pro-migrant art, music, and poetry headlined by Los Rakas, cousins who mix Panamanian dancehall melodies with Bay Area hip hop flow to create a hybrid sound they describe as “born of migration and tradition, critique and celebration, joy and pain…New World music.” Los Rakas have performed with Outkast, Nas & Damien Marley, Mos Def, Talib Kweli, and others, and have been praised by FADER, The New York Times, NPR, and bloggers across the indie music scene.

Presente.org caught up with Abdull Dominguez and Ricardo Bethancourt, better known as Raka Rich and Raka Dun, to talk about their support of pro-migrant action outside the DNC.


Presente.org: What inspired you to want to travel to Charlotte, NC, for Undocunation?

 Abdull Dominguez: Understanding where they are coming from because we are that too—we come from different countries. We come here, from immigrant families, in chase of a dream. We don’t believe its fair they treat you like criminals when you’re just trying to make a living for your family. In all reality, the world doesn’t belong to anybody. The world is for everybody. That’s why God made the world, for everybody, but we got people who control it who are greedy. 

Do you talk about some of these issues like immigration in your music? 

Ricardo Bethancourt: We got “El Sueño Americano” translated into “The American Dream.” When we wrote that we had our family in mind and people in Latin America who come to the United States—telling them of the struggles that I see around me.

 AD: You come to this country in search of a better life but you struggle as well. You go through your problems and you have no papers…that’s what “El Sueno Americano” is about—just different situations that you encounter just trying to live the American Dream.

We got songs we just released like “Hablemos del Amor” that talks about different issues—first verse talks about a kid who got killed by the police and then in the second verse I talk about how the poor stay poor, and the rich get rich. We need to educate ourselves and stop the ignorance. We can’t believe everything that’s in the media because in the media all they project is negativity [about our community]. They don’t about anything positive…they don’t give the people hope. So in “Hablemos del Amor” we wanted to talk about love…all of this stuff is going on but if you believe in love, you conquer anything.

What has your experience at Undocunation and with the No Papers No Fears riders been like?

We just came from Chicago real quick [to make it to Undocunation]. We really appreciate being here because [riders] understand where we’re coming from and we understand where they’re coming from. We’re all one…one love. Dile no al racism, dile si a la paz. We have to unite. Everybody has to come together and inform as one…blacks, Latinos, Asians, the old, the young, everyone. We need to stop living so separate.