On Friday, March 26, 2010, BASICS Editor S. da Silva caught up with G1 and Rodstarz of the South Bronx Chilean hip-hop group Rebel Diaz. Rebel Diaz was in town to perform at Barrio Nuevo’s benefit concert ‘Chile Can Rise’ – a fundraising initiative to raise money for grassroots people’s organizations in Chile rebuilding their society after the February 27 earthquake.
BASICS: Thanks a lot for agreeing to this interview with BASICS.
G1: Always man – thanks for having us. It’s not the whole crew – it’s two-thirds of Rebel Diaz, but it’s a pleasure for us to be here. We’re from Chile, so it’s important for us to be here supporting the grassroots efforts to help the people out in Chile.
Rodstarz: Blessed to be here – we always down for community radio.
G1: It’s important that we make a distinction between charity and solidarity. We are here in the spirit of solidarity. There have been a lot of comparisons made with Chile and Haiti. They say that Chile is a more developed country, so it’ll be allright. But we understand that the ills of capitalism and the poverty that there is in Chile makes it clear that there is a Haiti in all of our countries – in Chile, in the South Bronx, right here in Toronto…
BASICS: On the reserves here in Canada with the First Nations…
G1: Absolutely, so we here out of a spirit of solidarity, not charity. We understand that it’s not just the natural disaster, but the disaster the follows afterwards.
BASICS: I understand that after the earthquake in Chile, just as in Haiti, they started to militarize the areas affected by the quake…
Rodstarz: What’s crazy is that Chile is in a historic moment. The new President, Sebastián Piñera, coming into power means that the right-wing is coming back into power in Chile. So more than ever we’re seeing the militarization of zones and we’re seeing almost martial law being enforced.
We’re also seeing the media exploiting images of people trying to survive – by getting access to goods being denied to them – being labeled as looters. It’s the same thing that happened with Hurricane Katrina, it’s the same thing that happened in Haiti. They use these images to justify the militarization and occupation of regions that are predominantly poor.
When you look at where the earthquake struck in Chile it was in the south – in Concepción – you look at all the towns that were washed away by the tsunami in which the government forgot and didn’t even announce a tsunami warning… The Mapuche – the indigenous communities – are in the South. You know, we read The Shock Doctrine by Naomi Klein so we know what happens when there are disasters…
BASICS: You say we got a Haiti in all our countries, in all our hoods. I know you guys are from the South Bronx. Tell me a thing or two about the struggles going on down there.
G1: You know, South Bronx is the birth of hip-hop. Hip-hop came out of the South Bronx in the ‘70s in conditions of unemployment, in conditions of lack of access to proper education and health care, housing. Those conditions still exist today in the South Bronx, it hasn’t changed. They call it the forgotten borough. Some of the work that we’re trying to do over there with the community space we opened up recently in the South Bronx is to reclaim the legacy of hip-hop. We understand that hip hop is about resistance and we’re really trying to bring those elements back in the work that we’re trying to do over there.
BASICS: No doubt, sounds like ya’ll are keeping it real. Now tell me a thing or two about how you understand art and the revolution.
Rodstarz: There’s a direct relationship. When you talk about culture – in our case the hip-hop culture – you talk about a culture that is being practiced all over the world. Wherever you see a hood, the soundtrack to that hood is hip-hop. When you look at France, Africa, Latin America, Brazil, Chile, Cuba, Mexico – hip-hop is alive a kickin’…
BASICS: And to think that that came out of the Bronx…
Rodstarz: Because the common denominator is poverty… When we talk about art and struggle, for poor people and people who are oppressed, culture is always gonna be a representation of resistance, always. That’s why corporations try to co-opt culture because it’s not convenient for them for there to be a culture that is questioning their authority.
BASICS: Something you wanna say to the people up here in Canada – the indigenous peoples, the migrants, the working class people struggling right now?
G1: We understand that the movement of people will not cease… We understand that there is a global South that has for years been colonized and exploited. So there is a movement of people following those resources that have been taken from them. We see it happening here in Canada. While we been here, people been telling us about US-style I.C.E. style raids on immigrants.
We understand that as a global response that what these developed countries are doing to the movements of people is creating a second-class citizenship, for people who may not be born here. We know that the only people who are not immigrants are the ones who are Natives – the first peoples on the lands here.
So the struggle to defend immigrant rights is the struggle to defend workers rights and human rights.
BASICS: No doubt man – revolutionary salute to ya’ll, Rebel Diaz.
Rodstarz: Word. Check us out at rebeldiaz.com. And I gotta say to everybody, organize your hood. Don’t preach to the choir. If you’re talking about organizing, organize your block, start small, start local.