Friday night, Providence venue Aurora hosted “Mi Gente” — a benefit show thrown to promote support for Puerto Rico in the wake of the tragic circumstances resulting from Hurricane Maria’s landfall. Light reflected off of Aurora’s disco ball for the duration of “Mi Gente,” galvanizing the concert’s throngs of perspiring bodies to dance in an uplifting display of support for the island that many call home.
Though the artists present at the show comprised a wide spectrum of genres, each act grounded itself in hip-hop and dance conducive to high energy. Providence artists Norlan Olivo, Da Huey X, Wacklikedat, Ushamami, Cam Bells and Shenge all echoed the powerful aspects of Latin American genres, like Bachata, in the ignition and throttle of their music, functioning as an auditory painkiller for those affected by the tragedy.
“It was great to see many folks come together to show empathy through dance,” said attendee Shey Rivera, a decorated Puerto Rican artist and writer who serves as artistic director of the Providence arts nonprofit AS220. “Dance parties are necessary spaces to practice radical joy and to care for one another, especially (dance parties) that are by and for (people of color) and queer folks — they’re brave spaces where we can be ourselves and sweat off decolonization,” Rivera added, underscoring the cathartic potential of dance.
While the University has helped to relieve the crisis through providing free enrollment to students from the University of Puerto Rico, local Providence artists have done their part by coordinating benefit concerts like “Mi Gente.”
“I wanted everyone in the community — specifically people of color — to come together and feel united in an effort to raise money for Puerto Rico,” Olivo said, who performed at the show and helped organize it with the Aurora staff and members of the Providence-based arts agency Stay Silent. “We raised over three thousand dollars at the event between door sales and percentages taken from the bar,” Olivo added, alluding to the proceeds garnered from drinks and the event’s suggested $10 donation.
“It was a very unique experience with a great audience and choice of musicians,” said Annie Phan ’20. “It was also very heartwarming and inspiring to know the money went to a good cause.”
The show marks Aurora’s last official event — a fact that many Providence-based musicians and artists, including Olivo, have mourned. “There was a moment towards the end where I stopped the music and said into the mic, ‘I know there will never be another space like Aurora, but there will be a new space, because we always find a place. When they close the door on us, we just open another one,’” Olivo added, maintaining a degree of optimism for the creative capital’s future in spite of Aurora’s closure. “After that, I played Kendrick Lamar’s ‘Alright’ and the entire crowd just started jumping and singing along.”
“It’s moments like those that make me believe that, in a weird way, we’re changing the city and really making progress … even if it seems like an unwinnable battle sometimes,” Olivo said.