Kali Uchis, Helado Negro and Cuco are coming to SummerStage for a performance series with a message.
Doris Muñoz saw the crowd streaming in — grandmothers, young children and college students, many outfitted in Selena T-shirts — and pulled out her phone. “I had to FaceTime my mom and just cry it out,” she said recently.
It was July of last year, and Muñoz, a Los Angeles-based music promoter and manager, was at Lincoln Center’s Damrosch Park for Selena for Sanctuary, a concert named for the pioneering Tejano star that was the largest in a series of events Muñoz had dreamed up with her mother and father in mind.
In early 2017, when California was at the center of the fight over sanctuary cities that arose in the wake of President Trump’s inauguration, Muñoz held a concert in Los Angeles to raise funds to help cover her mother’s legal fees as she worked to attain citizenship. Muñoz grew up as the only United States citizen in a family of five in San Bernardino, Calif. Her parents came to the United States from Mexico in 1989.
“I was afraid that one day I would get that call that I was fearing my whole life, that one of my parents were deported,” Muñoz, 25, said in a phone interview.
That first concert grew into Solidarity for Sanctuary, a series in Los Angeles that has raised money not only for Muñoz’s parents, but for immigrant rights organizations and others fighting for citizenship. (Selena for Sanctuary is a version of the event with a focus on music by the singer, who was shot and killed in 1995.)
When Muñoz collaborated with Lincoln Center on Selena for Sanctuary last summer, it was the first time she’d brought the shows outside of Southern California. Around 4,000 people showed up.
“It exceeded any expectation that I ever had,” Muñoz said.
It also posed a question: “We already blew out Lincoln Center. Where do we go from here?”
The answer, at least this summer, is Central Park. On Sunday, as part of SummerStage, Selena for Sanctuary will return to New York. The lineup, built around Latinx artists, includes the R&B singer Kali Uchis; the genre-bending experimental musician Helado Negro; and Cuco, a 21-year-old singer and guitarist from the Los Angeles area whose unpretentious brand of trippy pop catapulted him from obscurity to a recent major-label debut in the span of just a few years.
All three grew up as children of immigrants in the United States. (Muñoz is also Cuco’s manager, and Cuco played the first Sanctuary event in 2017. “We talked about how cool it’d be to grab bigger artists to be a part of these safe spaces,” he wrote in an email. “And here we are.”)
Merchandise sales at the concert, which is free, will support Make the Road New York, a prominent immigrant rights group.
“It’s important to raise the visibility of what they’re doing,” Muñoz said, “so that the New York community knows what they can tap into if they’re undocumented themselves, or if they have a friend or a loved one who is in that process and just needs advice or needs community.”
As the name suggests, Selena for Sanctuary is centered around a celebration of Selena Quintanilla-Pérez, who Uchis said was “a huge icon and paved the way for artists like me and any other artists who are multicultural and have roots in another country.”
“She was American born and raised, but she very much always loved her Mexican roots and made that a part of who she was and always represented for her people,” Uchis, who is a citizen of both the United States and Colombia, added. “And that’s kind of what it is to be multicultural, to be someone who is from the United States but also to say, you know what, that doesn’t mean that I have to wash myself down with everything American.”
Both Uchis and Muñoz referred to Selena as the first Latina singer they’d seen have crossover success when they were growing up. “She’s a symbol of hope,” Muñoz said.
The concert is meant to be that, too.
“Doing something at this scale shows how much power we have and that we can bring the change,” said Daniel Buezo, a founder of Kids of Immigrants, a Los Angeles-based fashion brand that created merchandise for the concert this weekend.
“We’re bringing to the table what we don’t see,” Buezo added.
Muñoz echoed that sentiment when she talked about using the concerts to carve out safe terrain for members of the Latinx community and supporters of immigrants’ rights to come together.
“We didn’t have this space,” she said. “We created this space.”