Reclaiming The Thunder: Taina Asili y la Banda Rebelde

By Ryan Harvey, AMO

The history of the current "Occupy" movement can be traced back to many places. For many of us in our 20's and 30's, that place was Seattle in November 1999  when 50,000 people shut down the World Trade Organization (WTO) conference. After Seattle, thousands of young activists went on to participate in and build other movements, and many are now engaged in The 99% Movement that has sprung out of Occupy Wall Street.

For me, that journey began at punk rock shows in Baltimore, where I first learned of the WTO, Corporate Globalization, and the upcoming Seattle protests. One of the most popular among the bands of that time was Anti-Product, who played beautiful tribal drum-backed, intensely political crust-punk, and were fronted by the power songwriter and vocalist Taina Asili. The band was among the most inspirational to emerge from the late 90’s punk scene in the U.S., and their DIY posters, shirts, and patches are still found all over the world today.

Thankfully, since those days, Taina has remained both politically (specifically in support work for political prisoners) and musically active. Her current band, Taina Asili y la Banda Rebelde, offers "a unique fusion of Afro- Caribbean/Latin American, reggae, and rock sounds, with multilingual lyrics often focused on themes of social justice."  Their serious yet festive live performances provide a rhythmic and moving atmosphere while urging listeners to get involved in the hard work of organizing for social change.

The band's focus on top-notch performances is backed by their personal involvement in political work, even when the two do not coincide. But when they do, its a powerful mix.

Taina is a member of Occupy Albany's Women's Caucus and People Of Color (POC) caucus. I had a chance to speak with her this week to get her thoughts about the current state of the Occupy Movement. As an active participant, she regards Occupy with a mix of skepticism and hope, underscoring what many women of color have written about since the movement began.

"I had a mix of emotions," she says. "Lots of excitement but also lots of caution, wanting to really see if this action (perhaps movement) would accurately represent the voices and needs of those most affected of the 99%."

"When the fire of rebellion spread across the country and landed in my small city, Albany, NY, I decided it was time to call a meeting of people of color activists in our community to process our feelings and see what role we wanted to play in Occupy," she continues. "This group officially developed into the Occupy People of Color Caucus, very much inspired by the People of Color Working Group of Occupy Wall St. I also joined the Women's Caucus, which was formed with a similar purpose."

Both caucuses are active in Albany, having organized several actions and teach-ins. The POC caucus recently held a "What's Your Bailout" speak-out event, asking "what we need to live with justice and dignity as people of the 99%." They also organized a Prisoner Justice teach-in in coalition with The New York State Prisoner Justice Network. The Occupy Albany Women's Caucus is preparing for a Women's Assembly in March.

On the artistic front, a lot is in the works, too. The band has recently announced a multi-continental Reclaim The Thunder Tour, which offers free performances in the U.S. and Europe for community centers, social justice organizations, and schools in order to "assist with their consciousness and fundraising raising efforts." They have launched a Kickstarter campaign to help fund the unique project.

The Reclaim The Thunder Tour is set to begin in the fall of 2012 to "create transformative spaces to inspire those working for necessary change, and bring the inspiration we gather from their work back with us to our own communities."
If they are performing near you, don't miss out! 

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