ChocQuibTown's Goyo Pens Open Letter on Black Lives Matter: 'Speak Up ... Without Fear of Being Criticized'

Goyo Gloria Martínez ChocQuibTown
Sara Espinoza

Gloria "Goyo" Martínez of ChocQuibTown

In a thought-provoking open letter shared exclusively with Billboard, ChocQuibTown's Gloria "Goyo" Martínez discusses racial injustices and systemic racism in Latin America and the U.S., and the lack of education on the topic in the Latin music industry.

While few Latin artists have spoken about the topic, the Afro-Colombian was among the first Latin artists to condemn the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis, and is also seeking justice for the death of Anderson Arboleda, a victim of alleged police brutality, in Colombia. "I don’t care if I lose a racist follower or to seem ‘less cool,'" she shared. "If they want to know me, follow me, respect me or hear my voice, they should also respect where I come from."

Goyo's poignant letter comes amid national outrage over the recent deaths of Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery and other black citizens who have died at the hands of police.

Read Goyo's full message below (in English and Spanish):

I was born in Chocó, a gem in Colombia’s Pacific Coast.

After the painful murder of George Floyd, a video I could not finish watching without crying, many protesters took the streets in support of Black Lives Matter.

In Latin America, I saw many posts about the topic. I also saw how some included [in their Black Lives Matter posts] examples of dogs, racist jokes, among other things, knowing that we are multiracial and multi-ethnic countries. They would make comments saying all colors are equal and what matters is the human race. [Saying that] we are all equal negates racism and discrimination when we all know that it’s no secret that THERE IS NO EQUALITY. I read superficial messages that allow people to continue saying something that is not true.

The great reality is that there is no racial equality in the United States or Latin America. I saw many comments, hundreds of people normalizing the subject saying, "But this also happens to white people," "But black people are criminals," "Maybe if they dressed like normal people," "They’re just hurt" or "You are the racists by posting messages that only produce more pain."

When I left the Pacific Coast to live in Bogotá and look for new opportunities in  music, I encountered a sad reality. I was asked to get out of a public transportation bus. And even though I tried to do what Rosa Parks did and refuse to get off, the person who was with me and I decided to get down when others [in the bus] said, "Get out; you’re going to make us late." I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. That is what we live in Colombia every day.

A few days ago, they murdered a young man named Anderson who, allegedly, was killed by a police officer who hit him on the head with a police baton. Not one media outlet covered the story. It was published after I denounced it on my social media. Recently, I gave my opinion about the topic on Twitter, and I don’t care if I lose a racist follower or seem "less cool" by exposing the case. I learned early on that if they want to know me, follow me, respect me or hear my voice, they should also respect where I come from.

That's what my role models and hip-hop colleagues and artists from my region, such as  Zully Murillo and [the late] Grupo Niche’s Jairo Varela, have done.  But a lot [of other artists] continued to talk only about Floyd.

I wonder if they know that racism is systemic, that it doesn’t allow black people to have a voice. That their deaths aren't even noticed, that they’re killed with police batons or even in some instances, they’re killed just because they are black.

There are racists that don’t even know they are racists, and many Latinos that don’t know they are being discriminated because they are Latinos or black. There are a few of us black artists who have been able to enter the Latin industry like we did. First, we won a Grammy and then we were signed to a major label like Sony Music Latin, who in the middle of all that’s happening, called us so that we can talk to them from our perspective and share our lived experiences so we can then know more about the topic and be part of the change.

Honestly, amid all that’s happening, the pandemic -- which is also impacting a lot of the regions in the Pacific -- and the subject of racism in the world, was a way to open many doors that some have closed.

It has been a big challenge and it takes time, effort and many put-downs. One time, a clothing brand told me that black didn’t sell well. It’s because of this and many other reasons that we should speak up without taboos, without fear of the subject or without fear of being criticized for speaking about an issue that transcends borders.

Original Spanish version: 

Nací en el departamento del Chocó, una joya del Pacífico Colombiano.

A raíz del doloroso asesinato de GEORGE FLOYD, video que no pude tan si quiera terminar de ver sin llorar, surgieron muchas manifestaciones de apoyo al movimiento Black Lives Matter.

En Latino América, vi muchas publicaciones sobre el tema, también pude evidenciar cómo ponían ejemplos con perros, chistes racistas, y demás, sabiendo que somos países pluriétnicos y multiculturales.

Hacían comentarios diciendo que todos los colores son iguales, que lo que importa es la raza humana, QUE TODOS SOMOS IGUALES restándole importancia al racismo y discriminación cuando para nadie es un secreto que NO HAY IGUALDAD.

Leí mensajes superficiales que hacen que la gente siga diciendo algo que no es verdad. La gran verdad es que no hay
igualdad racial en los Estados Unidos ni en América Latina.

Vi muchos comentarios, cientos de personas normalizando el tema diciendo: “pero a los blancos también les pasa,” o “pero los negros son criminales,” o “pero si se vistieran cómo la gente normal,” o “¿son resentidos?” o “ustedes son los mas racistas exponiendo mensajes que solo producen más dolor." 

Desde que salí del Pacífico a vivir a Bogotá y buscar nuevas oportunidades en la música, me choque con la triste realidad. Fui bajada de un bus de servicio público, intente hacer la de Rosa Parks pero quien me acompañaba y yo nos bajábamos cuando la gente decía: “Bájense que vamos a llegar tarde". Como para reír o llorar. Todos lo vivimos a diario en Colombia.

Un par de días atrás habían asesinado a un joven llamado ANDERSON, quien supuestamente, lo mató un policía golpeándolo en la cabeza con un bolillo. NINGÚN MEDIO PUBLICÓ la noticia. Se publicó cuando hice la denuncia en mis redes.

Hace poco opiné sobre el tema en Twitter y confirmó, que no me importa tanto perder un seguidor racista o parecer menos “cool” si exponía el caso; entendí muy temprano que si pueden conocerme, seguirme, respetarme o escuchar mi voz, también pueden hacerlo con mi región. Así lo hacían mis referentes del hip hop, artistas de mi región como: Zully Murillo o Jairo Varela con Grupo Niche. Muchos solo siguieron hablando de Floyd.

¿Será que saben que es el racismo estructural, aquel que hace que la gente negra no tenga voz? ¿Que sus muertos pasen desapercibidos, que los maten a bolillazos y en ocasiones también los asesinen por el solo hecho de ser negros como a varios de esta región?

Hay racistas que ni saben que lo son y muchos latinos que no saben que son discriminados por latinos y por negros. Somos pocos los artista negros que hemos logrado entrar a la industria latina como nosotros; primero ganamos un Grammy y después nos vamos a una disquera de renombre como Sony Music Latin, que en medio de todo esto, nos llamaron a que les habláramos desde nuestra perspectiva y experiencias vividas, y así empezar a conocer del tema y aportar al cambio.

La verdad en medio de tantas cosas, la pandemia entre otras, que afectan mucho a regiones como el Pacifico y el tema del racismo en el mundo, fue como empezar a abrir puertas que algunos cierran. Ha sido un reto grande porque tocó hacer mucho primero y cuesta mas tiempo, esfuerzos, desplantes; y como me lo dijo una vez una marca de ropa por que el negro no vendía. Son estas y muchas más razones para hablar sin tabu, y sin miedo del tema o de ser criticados por hablar de un problema que trasciende fronteras.