Border Policies Unite Artists for a Cause

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Monday October 29, 2018

From The Boston Globe

Border policies unite artists for a concert and a cause
By: James Sullivan

The singer Lila Downs was born and raised in Oaxaca, Mexico. She still lives there, but she also has a new part-time home in Northern California. Right now, she says, she’s not comfortable bringing Benito, her 8-year-old son, stateside. Downs has some upcoming dates as a headliner in Toronto, Chicago, and St. Louis. First, though, she’ll join an all-star cast of singers, including Emmylou Harris, Jackson Browne, and Steve Earle, for the five-date Lantern Tour, which kicked off this week in Nashville and hits Boston’s Orpheum Theatre for a sold-out show Saturday.

Conceived by Harris and Earle as a response to the Trump administration’s ‘family separation’ policy for immigrants seeking asylum at the US-Mexico border, the Lantern Tour is designed to keep a spotlight on the issue in a chaotic time. Proceeds will benefit the New York-based Women’s Refugee Commission.

Each date on the tour features variations on the core lineup. Brandi Carlile and Mary Chapin Carpenter, among others, joined the Nashville gig; Graham Nash and Joan Osborne will perform at the New York City show on Sunday.

[…] The rhetoric about ‘illegal’ immigration has been frustrating to combat, she says. Doing so is part of the aim of the Lantern Tour.

‘One thing we hear often from the administration and its supporters is that people should come here the ‘legal’ way,’ BranĂ© says. ‘We have a system in place that requires that you be at the border and then ask for asylum. I think we want to remind people that together we have a voice. Family separation became a top news story, and the administration had to change course because the public spoke out. We can’t stop there. The administration is now looking for new ways to separate families, to prevent access to asylum.’

Still, Downs says, the musicians need to keep speaking out, or the plight of the immigrants will slip out of view.

‘People will move on to the Kardashians,’ she says. ‘It’s the nature of US culture. I’m glad we’re doing this music. It always helps.’

She plans to perform three songs, including a cover of Gillian Welch’s ‘Dear Someone’ and her own version of the traditional Mexican folk song ‘La Llorona’ (‘The Weeping Woman’). ‘It’s a very spiritual song that makes people connect to difficult times such as those we’re living in now,’ she explains.

Each of the performers plans to address the audience about their own commitment to the cause. They’ll get a little help from the advocates at the Women’s Refugee Commission, Downs says.

‘It’s important to know the law in order to change legislation,’ she says. ‘But my position has more of a spiritual nature to it, I think. I sense that the music somehow makes a change in people. I do believe that music can transform.’

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