Musicians Joan Baez and Lila Downs took the stage at the Mission’s Brava Theater on Sunday and offered hundreds of people a roadmap for coping with uncertain times.
In front of a packed house of about 360 people, Baez and Downs took questions from Chicana Latina Foundation Executive Director Olga Talamante as part of Voices of Resistance — a benefit for the Chicana Latina Foundation and the Fondo Guadalupe Musalem of Oaxaca.
The most notable theme of the afternoon? Hope in the face of uncertainty.
“I’ve lived a long time and have done a lot of protesting, and I’ve never seen the world in this situation,” said Baez, who was a major figure in the 1960s counterculture movement. “Once every 12 years we say, ‘It’s never been like this’ — ha! That was peanuts compared to what we’re facing now.”
When Talamante asked how to offer hope to communities currently under attack by the Trump administration, both Baez and Downs struck an optimistic tone, remarking that hard times have a way of inspiring resistance and constructive dialogue.
Before Trump, “a lot people never even looked to see all the hard-working folks that come from Latin American countries and countries from all over the world, because of some sort of invisibility in our day to day life,” Downs said. “So there are positive things that come out of this.”
“You have to keep your voice out there,” Baez said. “What’s disheartening is how many people have never gone out in public to demonstrate or speak their mind, ever. Then suddenly you realize — whoops — you have to, now. Nobody is going to do it in my place.”
Baez said that every individual is important in order to “confront the madness,” and that even the smallest demonstrations are capable of making change.
“Going into a congressman’s office and saying, ‘If you want to be re-elected, this is what you do,’ [is important],” Baez said. “That’s happening all over the country.”
“How do you prepare yourself for what promises to be a long haul?” Talamante asked.
Baez said that sometimes it’s essential to just take it easy.
“Listening to music — that’s huge to feed us,” she said. “Beauty is the antidote to all of this — beauty and kindness and … empathy.”
At one point Baez said she felt that a sense of empathy has been lost among our leaders.
“So it’s hard to appeal to this block of people in the administration,” she said. “The only possibility is through the arts.”
The interview was accented by a performance from Mexican guitarist and singer Diana Gameros, who performed several of her own numbers and who at the end of the show, along with Baez and Downs, led the audience as they sang “‘No Nos Moverán’ (“We Shall Not Be Moved”).
“When I think about this event, I hope children in the neighborhood get to understand the power that’s in this community that continues to resist and organize,” Galería de La Raza Executive Director Ani Rivera said outside the theater following the event.
“Although the civil rights movement has happened, we’re still in the struggle,” she added.
Beatriz Leyva-Cutler, executive director of the Bay Area Hispano Institute for Advancement, said it’s important “to keep the struggle up with peace and justice with love and kindness in our heart.”
“We’re going to struggle, but a lot of us are focused on the non-violent way, and this is an example of how we can come together,” she said.