The Red-Brown Border Politics of Phoenix Hip-Hop Duo Shining Soul
In May, Phoenix-based hip-hop duo Shining Soul -- Franco Habre, a.k.a. Bronze Candidate, and Alex Soto, a.k.a. Liason -- made a video for their track "No Mercy," off their album, released in September 2013. The video mostly is protest footage mixed with clips of the group performing in concert, but the simple video goes well with the song, and the group's simple message: Smash borders.
The video includes footage from Arizona demonstrations such as 2010's Diné, Tohono O'odham, Anarchist bloc (known as the DO@ bloc), which was a protest against Tent City, as well as an anti-fascist demonstration that took place in downtown Phoenix in 2009 known as The Inglourious Basterds Bloc, and footage from a lockdown at a Tucson border patrol station.
Also mixed into the footage is video of a 2000 detention center breakout in which demonstrators took out the front gates of a jail while inmates overtook the guards and escaped.
"We showed videos of people getting free and liberating themselves," Habre says.
Soto adds, "In the States, you don't see resistance. You just see people trying to manage the struggle and anything that's a threat to the state. Outside this country, from hearing stories from comrades from Canada or Mexico, the U.S. view of protest or activism is to cry to power, and theirs is very different."
Shining Soul consistently has been pushing its radical anti-border politics for more than four years and has grown a reputation throughout the Phoenix hip-hop scene for being unrelenting when it comes to indigenous and Chicano issues. The group's reputation is getting noticed outside Phoenix as well, as recent features in the Huffington Post and Indian Country News attest.
The group also got a nod from Al Jazeera America when Soto was part of a delegation on his reservation to host a reporter doing a in-depth story on conditions on the Tohono O'odham reservation in southern Arizona. The Tohono O'odham reservation straddles the United States-Mexico border, which makes the militarization of the border a shared issue for both Mexicans and Soto's people.
Habre refers to borders as "arbitrary lines" and says that Shining Soul's music is meant to "fight back in the face of a heightened police state in our city and in the face of a larger military presence. Border to border, Palestine, the so-called United States and Mexico border, and the U.S.-Canada Border and beyond."
While events on the U.S.-Mexico border have always been real for both Soto and Habre, the duo recently was given a not-so-polite lesson on some of the problems facing indigenous people living on the northern border of the United States. While Shining Soul was trying to enter Vancouver via bus, the duo was stopped and detained for nearly three hours by the Canadian border patrol.
The group was heading to a Canadian reservation to perform for the Secwepemc Nation, an indigenous tribe of Canada.