Since Election Day ’16, legions of dissatisfied have taken to streets everywhere, protesting Trump’s ugly racist policies and reacting to the authoritarian-yet-needy/solipsistic timbre in that dude’s deceptive voice. They’re seeking comfort too in the company of the like-minded. Last Saturday, hundreds of Tucson activists and peace seekers gathered to build community solidarity and strengthen movement work, and hell, to just have a good time. It was actually inspiring.
The shady, tree-lined walkways and mown lawns of historic Armory Park set the scene for the 2017 Peace Fair & Music Festival, hosted by Tucson Peace Center. The sights, sounds and aromatic scents of food trucks, face painters, frolicking children and live music wafted through the sun-drenched park for Arizona's largest gathering of Peace, Justice and Environmental groups.
Up on the bandstand entertaining the afternoon crowd─ranging from spry senior citizens to very young children who were rollerskating, dancing and hula-hooping─were Flagstaff’s Navajo pop/punk outfit Sihasin, Tucson’s salsa soulsters Spirit Familia and the local Latin fusion of Santa Pachita.
Jeneda Benally, Sihasin’s singer and bassist, sports an outlook that embodies the spirit of the fest. Note that she, along with her brother Clayson, performed together as Blackfire for 21 years, yet something was missing. “We recognized that although there is a lot to be angry about,” Benally says. “Something in us changed. Where we realized that … What is the legacy that we are leaving for our future generations, if it is one of anger?”
“We need to leave a legacy of hope and love,” Benally adds, “And yes, there are injustices. But you can never lose sight of the hope that each person is in order to create those positive solutions against the injustices.”
When asked what drove them to take part in this year’s festival, Benally says, “We are looking for events that are hopeful, that bring positive energy to communities. That bring people together. It is really important in this day and age that we celebrate our freedoms, that we celebrate music and art. It is so important to support those that are striving to build healthy and respectful communities.”
The band shined as they delivered an energetic set that mixed infectious percussive elements, on top of a bed of pop/punk rock, and native chant with lyrics about “tearing the wall down.” “It doesn't matter what side you are on...”
With a brass heavy, percussive laden sound that combines soul, Latin and sounds from the Hawaiian Islands─where founding member Jomo lived for 17 years─the band had the crowd swaying and delivered a message of unity as they called out from the stage, “Let’s get together now…”
Drawing their inspiration from salsa, cumbia, rock, ska and bands like Manu Chao. Fronted by bassist/singer Victor Cruz and guitarist/singer Miguel Reyes, Santa Pachita had the audience dancing to their sultry Latin grooves and Reyes’ stinging lead guitar that recalls Carlos Santana, bringing the festival to a close.
Peace, Justice and Environmental groups
Handing out pamphlets and eager to engage in conversations with interested attendees, organizations comprised of community members on the move for change, tabled at the 2017 Peace Fair & Music Festival including: Sustainable Tucson, Black Lives Matter, Code Pink, Healthcare Not Warfare, Green Party, Speak: The Voice for the Rights of Animals, Occupy Tucson, Water is Life, ¡Resistencia! Tucson May 1st Coalition, Veterans For Peace, and many others.