Singing, rapping, writing for home.
By Raye Zaragoza
Calina Lawrence (she/her) is a Suquamish singer, songwriter, & poet. Born & raised on the Port Madison Indian Reservation of WA State, Lawrence released her debut album “Epicenter” in 2018 & travels nationally, sharing her artistry to encourage accurate representation of Indigenous peoples in society.
Raye Zaragoza (she/her) is an award-winning singer, songwriter & peacemaker whose multinational heritage (Native American (O'odham), Mexican, Taiwanese and Japanese) deeply informs her music.
I know a lot about you Calina, but for the readers who are just finding out about you, tell us a little bit about yourself and your background.
I am Suquamish from Salish territory of the PNW. I am 25 years old and I have been singing many genres of music throughout my entire life, but have only been rapping for the past couple of years. I am a national advocate/activist for many different causes but ultimately, I just want to work however I can to eliminate unnecessary and unjust suffering caused by abuse of colonial power dynamics.
I grew up in the foster care system so I have a really big family and together, they have all worked hard to raise and mold me into who I am. Learning from youth is my biggest source of motivation, especially my nieces and nephews because they are so brilliant!
What was the moment you knew you wanted to become a music artist?
In 2010, an injustice occurred that propelled me to find any way that I could to tell the stories of Native peoples that are often untold. I had learned growing up in my coast-salish culture that our cultural values and history have always been passed on orally; through storytelling, singing, dialogue with our elders, and more. Through our continued oppression and genocide at the command of the U.S. Government, we have not always been the narrators of our own stories, which—in the bigger picture—has contributed to our erasure/misrepresentation in society.
That year, my heart was incredibly broken as a teenager when an Indigenous elder named John T Williams—who was a traditional woodcarver and artist as well as a houseless, deaf man living in the streets of Seattle—was unjustly murdered by a Seattle Police Officer. John T was known and loved by many in the Seattle Community. He was passing through a crosswalk on Boren and Howell during one August afternoon, carrying his carving kit while not bothering anyone when Ian Birk approached the crosswalk in his patrol car. Birk gave a deaf John T Williams 5 seconds of instruction from several feet behind without giving John T any chance to comply before shooting him 4 times in the back and killing him. When the news spread and his family called for support, I made several trips between Suquamish to Seattle with Sacred Water Canoe Family as we sang our ancestral songs at every march, rally, vigil, and court happening demanding justice for John T and his family.
I felt helpless in many ways, but if using my voice and sharing song was one way to contribute to the healing and the journey to justice—I knew that was what I could do. Like too many cases where Native people are on the receiving end of colonial violence, the Prosecutor did not press charges against Birk and our community still feels the heartache to this day. Singing for John T’s life as an Indigenous teenager put many things into perspective for me. It was his lifestory that confirmed my want and will to dedicate my life to use my passion for singing and writing to reclaim and represent Native peoples in every space that I ever have access to in my life.
What inspires you most in your writing?
I usually find myself most inspired when I am writing songs about topics that I wish I could have heard when I was younger! Especially content about being an Indigenous young woman. I also often think of the people who I believe deserve to hear songs about their reality and/or what is true for them. I believe that writing songs and poems to them is my way of recognizing their identity. It is one small way to remind them that they are seen and that their story is important…When listeners give feedback about how a specific song resonated with them, it definitely influences me to amplify the unheard stories of our society.
Tell us about your new album!
EPICENTER was released in August of 2018! It is my very first album and it represents the intersection of my life story as a Pacific Northwest Native woman and the Bay Area birthplace of the journey to starting my professional music career…It is comprised of both music and poetry ranging from spoken word to HipHop and R&B/Soul as told from the perspective of a 20 something Suquamish woman living as a guest in Yelamu (Ohlone) territory. I felt the title would reference both the physical location of the tectonic plates that SF sits on top of as well as the metaphoric Epicenter of my efforts to address the various social injustices that Native peoples face as a result of our oppression, marginalization, and the many ways in which we are exploited by the U.S.
It also speaks to the resilience of Native peoples and assures that we will hold strong to our teachings until future generations no longer have to suffer. I honestly feel so proud of the project, especially since I completed the process entirely independent from start-finish. It’s available on all streaming platforms and also physically through my website: www.CalinaLawrence.com.
How do you keep moving forward in an industry that can be challenging for women of color?
It takes a very strong support system! I honestly could not have made it this far without my family and friends who are able to lend an ear and words of encouragement during the frustrating and often tedious moments. What I have learned is that I have complete creative control and that I am allowed to move at my own pace without needing to force, rush, or add too much pressure on myself. If I come across other professionals who may not understand or prioritize my vision, then I take it as a lesson learned and I move forward until I find those who align with my message in hopes that I can contribute to theirs in exchange. It basically comes down to a lot of honest conversations with self and with loved ones who also know the importance of my expression—loved ones that remind me why I have to push through the challenges in order to be accurately represented in the outcome.
More specifically, what practices of self care help you?
I truly love sleep as self-care! I will schedule days to just sleep, or lay in bed, or rest on the couch—especially when I know that I will have been busy for days, weeks, or months at a time. I drink a lot of water every day! I make sure to FaceTime my family when I want to visit them since I live away from home. I rely heavily on sisterhood as self-care as well and try to surround myself with strong, funny, creative, and supportive women.
What can non-native people do this November as a way to honor Indigenous people for Native American Heritage month?
There many so many awesome ways to honor Indigenous peoples this month and every month of the year! I usually encourage non-natives to first learn whose ancestral territory they live in—learn the name of the nation(s), learn what language belongs to the land and if there are speakers of the language, learn what the musics sound like and what the regalia looks like, learn what Treaty belongs to the area and ways to be in solidarity with those fighting to maintain and protect their Treaty Rights! Non-natives can insist that Native voices are present in their professions and the spaces they exist in. If there are no Native voices present in the conversation, then they can advocate that a change is made so that we can be heard in decision-making efforts. Non-native people can advocate for Native scholars in higher-education! For Native roles in film and entertainment! They can actively support Native creatives in literature and music! I think honoring Indigenous peoples really means seeing us as we exist in present day—understanding how we self-define our identities—and also embracing all of our diversity throughout the entire continent.
Any last thoughts that I missed?
#MMIWG #RezPectOurWater #ProtectTheSacred #Run4Salmon #WellForCulture #NotYourMascot #UrbanNativeEra
Calina’s Latest Release
"One of the most politically relevant artists in her genre" - Paste Magazine
"One of the most affecting protest songs of the century" - WhatCulture
Raye Zaragoza is an award-winning singer, songwriter, and performer who carries an acoustic guitar and a message. Her quiet yet powerful song “In the River,” written in response to the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline near the Standing Rock Sioux reservation in North Dakota, resonated strongly with listeners and went viral in late 2016, garnering half a million views on the video, national media coverage, and a Global Music Award and Honesty Oscar. The song was named the #2 Protest Song by Paste Magazine in 2017, and one of the Top 25 Protest Songs of the 21st Century by WhatCulture.
Tracks from Raye’s debut album Fight For You have been featured on numerous Spotify playlists including ‘Feminist Friday,’ ‘Invisible No More,’ and Cyndi Lauper’s Protest Songs Playlist. Raye has captured hearts around the USA and Europe with her activist anthems, political commentaries, and love songs. This summer, she joined Dispatch and Nahko and Medicine for the People on their Summer Tour, which included dates at Red Rocks and two nights at Central Park SummerStage.