By D'Arcy Briggs
Rama DelaRosa is a songwriter, activist, and director of the Resistance Rising Choir, based on Vancouver Island. Spring Magazine asked her a few questions regarding art, activism, and how they can both guide and amplify today’s movements.
Thank you for taking time to speak with us. Can you start by telling us a bit about your life and how it shaped you as a performer and activist?
I started performing in church choir at six years old and participated in school choirs through college. I began my career as a solo folk musician in 2000 and lived off my music for many years. My work included arranging harmonies for the bands I was singing in. For six years I facilitated a free weekly womyn’s song circle on Saltspring Island giving me an opportunity to develop my leadership skills and a chance to see how leadership could serve community.
When did the idea for a social justice choir start?
Folks began to suggest I start a choir for sometime before I considered it. It wasn’t until I thought of the choir as being a medium and catalyst for justice, that I finally began to get excited about the idea. I tried two seasons of a radical choir on Saltspring, but although there were many interested singers I did not find the firm foundation in activism that I was looking for. After successfully testing out my activist choir idea at a couple activist workshops in Victoria, I decided I had found the rich activist soil I was looking for to nourish the musical seeds ready to sprout from me and Resistance Rising Choir quickly grew into being.
What initial hurdles and successes have you faced with the choir?
I’m an artist, composer and visionary. I have really struggled with the administration and organization of the choir. It’s been a steep learning curve for me. And though I appreciate learning new skills, I’m still healing from a brain injury and ultimately I wish that I could pass along all the other roles so I can just focus on the music. I have a number of songs that are so much alive in me just ready to burst and I wish I had the time to focus on preparing and scoring these songs to be shared.
How do you see yourself and the choir fitting into social and environmental activism today?
The Resistance Rising Choir is part of a global rising tide of awakening. We as a human species are coming to a realization of the damage we have done and the finite capacity of our precious planet. As much as this is terrifying it is also a rich opportunity to make the needed changes that would make life on earth better for everyone. I want our youth to know that they are not alone, that there are people who care and are willing to do the work needed.
In what way do you see artistic inclusion to be both shaped and a shaper of political struggle?
Art shapes the way we think and see the world. The way we think and see the world affects how we treat ourselves, our planet and each other. Art and music is used to sell us everything from hamburgers to life insurance. Why not use it to spread awareness and inspire care?
Do you see a space in contemporary activist networks that you feel needs addressing?
I have noticed that although many activist groups state values about diversity, inclusion and accessibility, I see that the follow through is not as enthusiastic as the claim. I see that many well meaning organizations commitment to diversity seldom amounts to anything more than tokenization and fails to address the breadth of the distance between marginalized and privileged facets of various local movements and communities, or truly realize it’s impacts on the disenfranchised. Last night, on Lekwungen territory, I was at a vigil about violence against women and their were dozens of Red Dresses ominously hung from the balcony above surrounding the sanctuary. It felt so empty to look around and see that there were many many more Red Dresses than there were Indigenous women in attendance. I wished to see their bright eyes, feel their warm gentle hands and hear their voices, tears and laughter, but felt their ghosts instead. Their absence was deafening to me.
Any events coming soon people should know about?
Yes! I’m very excited about our upcoming winter concert and fundraiser, Talkin’bout the Heart Things Thursday December 19th 6-9PM at the Victoria Event Centre. In addition to the choir we are featuring local indigenous talents, Ms.Panik and Tawahum Bige, as well as an emerging youth poet from Saltspring, Ellie Green. We are raising funds for Red Willow Womyn’s Society, who help prevent Indigenous child apprehension, and keep families together. Fifty percent of net profits will go to supporting their beautiful work. Our sincere apologies for the event not being wheelchair accessible, we’d hoped the elevator would have been fixed by now and it is not yet. We are taking steps to ensure this never happens again. We will have an ASL interpreter there for the concert.
Any final comments you would like to share?
If you are one of the many people feeling overwhelmed, hopeless and helpless about the world today, please come out and see how it feels to be surrounded by a community of people who really care, and who show up for what is important to them. For me it’s impossible to be around this much care and still feel hopeless. As Adrienne Maree Brown said,
“things are not getting worse, they are getting uncovered. we must hold each other tight and continue to pull back the veil.”
This will be a very warm-hearted event full of care and possibility for greater healing, deeper relationship and levity through music, poetry and community. Also we are still needing volunteers and donations, please send us an email if you’d like to contribute or inquire about joining our next season, email: email@example.com
Facebook page: facebook.com/resistancerisingchoir
Ticket link: resistancerisingchoir.bpt.me