Thousands of people have taken the streets, from Minneapolis to Los Angeles to Miami, and beyond, to protest against racial injustice and police brutality in the U.S. The national outrage is in response to the death of George Floyd and other black citizens who have died in the hands of police.
Amongst the countrywide protesters, Cuban-American artist Lauren Jauregui walked the streets in Downtown Miami to demand justice and police accountability.
“I think it would be irresponsible of me to not lend my voice to this movement in the name of all of the Afro-Latinx people of the world that are the backbone of most of our beautiful cultures all across South America and the Caribbean,” Jauregui exclusively tells Billboard.
As part of Billboard’s “Why I Protest” series, Jauregui, known for hits such as “Expectations” and the Tainy-assisted “Lento,” shares why it matters, more than ever, to stand in solidarity with the black community, and encourages other Latinos to join the fight for justice.
Which protest did you take part in and can you describe your experience?
I protested in Downtown Miami at the Circle of Friendship on Saturday, May 30. Thousands of us in the peaceful protest were gathered in the streets. There were all kinds of people present and prepared to be there for one another. Everyone was wearing masks and people brought backpacks full of water and snacks they would hand out for free. We screamed at the top of our lungs “No Justice, No Peace. NO RACIST POLICE.” We all knelt together in a wave of protest. We walked for 3 and a half hours straight. I went with my younger sister and a few of her friends. We were handed signs at one point by some dope black femmes in the crowd that had some extras. People were tagging the streets with our words of dissent. We marched onto I-95 and against traffic on the highway. There were helicopters and plenty of police on bikes. People were watching out for one another and protecting each other. People were out demanding justice and freedom for all.
I left about 30 minutes before the police began to tear gas and shoot rubber bullets at protestors because as we were rounding back out to where the protest had begun, I noticed the way the police were herding everyone and beginning to show up in heavier gear than the earlier cops. I was with my younger sister and responsible for her and her friends so I listened to my intuition and left. That night, an 8 p.m. curfew was instated. I did not witness not one act of violence. There were two points at which tensions rose between a few protesters and police but other protestors stepped in and de-escalated the situation before it got out of hand. The overall air of the entire moment was one of solidarity, of peace and of a deep-rooted acknowledgment of the need for true justice in this country. One man, Downtown D he told us, jumped on top of his car that he stopped on the ramp to get on the highway and proclaimed how emotional it made him see faces of all races prepared to fight for the black lives lost in vain in this country. He let us know he could feel the change, and we could feel it too. It was one of the most beautiful moments of the day, besides seeing one of the cutest babies I ever did see.
What does it mean to you as a Latinx artist to be involved in the BLM protests?
I believe that any involvement in the Black Lives Matter Movement is involvement for the Latinx community. Although there is much-unaddressed anti-blackness in our communities that stem from the intergenerational traumas of colonialism and the Trans Atlantic Slave Trade, on our people we have a duty to have difficult conversations and stand up for our true values as Latinos. Our community is warm, welcoming, hospitable, brave, joyful, generous, caring, and open, yet we often see our closest family members that we know have hearts of gold align themselves with movements or ideologies that do not exemplify said values.
We are a segregated people in the Latinx community and I quite often find my more white-passing Latinx people are quick to side with the oppressive, racist mentality that is perpetuated by US propaganda. I think it would be irresponsible of me to not lend my voice to this movement in the name of all of the Afro-Latinx people of the world that are the backbone of most of our beautiful cultures all across South America and the Caribbean. Their lives matter and I don’t think we acknowledge often enough that there are many black people in the Latinx community that is discriminated against and somehow seemingly supposed to choose their blackness or their Latinx-ness when they coexist in their very existences. We have a lot of work to do as a community but it starts with the uncomfortable conversations at home and in our neighborhoods.
How do you encourage the Latino community to support the Black Lives Matter movement?
I would say to the younger folks that are educated on matters, don’t be afraid to stand up to your racist relatives and educate them about what’s going on. I know most of y’all feel me knowing that your loved ones have beautiful hearts that if given the proper tools and information would not actually agree with what they think they do. And in the same breath, I feel that there are many incredible folks out there in the Latinx community who are doing the grassroots groundwork right now and are vital pieces of these movements. As in any, at the core are the women and I feel there are many, especially out here in Miami, that are feeling more inclined than ever to get involved in a more tangible way. Of course, donating, petition signing & sharing, emailing and calling representatives as well as peaceful protesting if they so choose. Doing something is absolutely necessary at this moment, though.
Can you share a safety tip for attending a protest in times of a pandemic?
I would say to always stay conscious of your surroundings and of escape routes, travel in a buddy system, wear layers of clothing and if you have anything of a protective nature, use it: goggles, gas mask, helmets, etc. Make sure that you have an emergency contact number written somewhere on you in case you get arrested, there are a lot of bailout community efforts going on across the nation. Make sure to research one in your area and have that number written on your arm in case of anything. I would say to film what’s going on but make sure to always blur out the faces of anyone that has not consented to be on camera. Recording things is saving lives and collecting evidence to hold some of these cops accountable (hopefully) at some point but the fact of the matter is that they are being violent whether provoked or not and the occupant in the White House unleashed the force of the military on his own people. So, I would strongly caution against going out to protest unless you are prepared for the potential outcomes of these very real scenarios right now. Be vigilant. Also, milk is good to use as an agent to remove the effects of being maced or pepper-sprayed. Again, be vigilant, stay safe, and protect each other.