On Wednesday night, Raye Zaragoza captivated her audience through song as she advocated for Native American rights, an issue she holds close to her heart.
Zaragoza, a 22-year-old Native American, Mexican and Taiwanese singer-songwriter, performed at Another Type of Groove’s (ATOG) American Indian Heritage Month open mic night at Chumash Auditorium. The night centered around honoring American Indian heritage. Zaragoza was the featured performer.
Zaragoza began with her most recent song, “In the River: A Protest Song,” dedicated to protesting the North Dakota Access Pipeline. The forlorn, melancholy lyrics echoed through the auditorium as Zaragoza urged Americans to stop the destruction of lands sacred to Native Americans.
Zaragoza said she recently realized the power behind using music as a platform to educate others.
“Using music for social change has really changed music for me,” Zaragoza said. “I noticed you can do so much with music to reach people and promote change.”
She posted the song “In the River: A Protest Song” to YouTube two months ago. Since then, it has received more than 7,000 views.
The North Dakota Access Pipeline conflict poses a personal threat for Zaragoza because she is Native American with several family members living on reservations. At ATOG she spoke of the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation, whose water supply could be compromised with the proposed oil pipeline plan. She has been campaigning for those who are affected by the pipeline and she urged the Cal Poly community to become involved in the cause.
“It’s not just a native issue, it’s a global issue,” Zaragoza said. “If we get everyone on the same page, especially young people and especially people at universities, we can really stop this.”
Throughout the night, Zaragoza reflected on her journey from her hometown of New York City to Los Angeles and her passion for performing. Zaragoza has a soft spot for open mic nights, because they are how she first started her music career.
Zaragoza wants to support the water protectors that will be protesting in North Dakota throughout the winter. She brought aboriginal jewelry handmade by her family and shirts she designed to sell to ATOG audience members. All proceeds fund coats and supplies for those in need and living on the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation.