Denver Musicians Throw a Benefit for Immigrants in Sanctuary

Jeanette Vizguerra is the beneficiary of a hip-hop fundraiser at First Unitarian Society of Denver.
Jeanette Vizguerra is the beneficiary of a hip-hop fundraiser at First Unitarian Society of Denver. Jake Holschuh
Denver rapper Chris Steele, aka Time, met Jeanette Vizguerra through their work with the Romero Theater Troupe, the social-justice theater company. The troupe was working on a skit about Vizguerra's experiences as an undocumented immigrant. Through that, the two formed a strong friendship.

Vizguerra has been in and out of sanctuary at First Unitarian Society of Denver church while her immigration hearings have made their way through the courts. In March, a two-year stay she had been granted was terminated by Immigration and Customs Enforcement, so she returned to sanctuary, where she is unable to work. To help, Steele and other supportive musicians have organized a benefit concert at the church. "We were like, we’ve got to do something," says Steele. "We’ve got to raise money for her."

The money will go to supporting the basic needs of Vizguerra and her children. She, in turn, will donate some of the proceeds to support Ingrid Encalada Latorre, another woman in sanctuary.

The concert, which takes place Saturday, August 17, from 5 to 10 p.m. at the First Unitarian Society of Denver, will include performances from Let Them Roar, Stay Tuned, Puente Libre, Sunny Sideways and Happy Sad. Baked goods and jewelry will also be available for purchase, and donations are being requested at the door.

click to enlarge Steele's lyrical content is uplifiting, challenging and inspirational. - CAMERON CASTRO
Steele's lyrical content is uplifiting, challenging and inspirational.
Cameron Castro
Steele, who was born and raised in north Denver, has been dropping music since 2003, when he was in high school. He's about to release a new album called These Sounds Kill Fascists. He's also in the group Calm., which put out Things I Learned While Dying in Denver last year.

"We’ve always made music about protest, about radicalism. I’ve always been part of working for the anarchists," Steele says. "I’m a white rapper, and I’m from a working-class background. If you’re a white rapper and not trying to fight white supremacy and acknowledge hip-hop is a black art, you’re a minstrel show. You’re Elvis on Soundcloud."

He expects the show will have a potluck feel, where friends get together to support each other.

"We’re trying to do what hip-hop has always done," says Steele. "Show mutual aid and solidarity with people who need it."

The Sanctuary For All Concert takes place from 5 to 10 p.m., Saturday, August 17, at First Unitarian Society of Denver, 1400 Lafayette Street. Donations will be accepted at the door. For more information, go to the concert's Facebook page.
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Kyle Harris has been Westword’s Culture Editor since 2016, writing about the arts, music and film.
Contact: Kyle Harris