By Skylar Drew
For The Diamondback
Filipina American rapper and spoken word artist Ruby Ibarra performed at the Memories in Motion concert for APIDA Heritage Month Friday, using hip-hop to share how she followed her passions of activism and advocacy.
Fans crowded the front of the Hoff Theater stage, singing and rapping along to songs such as “Someday” and “Background,” which recount Ibarra’s early life as an immigrant living in the Bay Area. The chorus of “Someday” speaks directly to Ibarra’s mother, who the artist credits as a role model from a young age.
With features from writer and poet Liaa Fernandez and Les the DJ, the concert is one of the first of the University of Maryland’s early APIDA Heritage Month celebrations organized by the Multicultural Involvement Community Advocacy office.
The university’s theme for APIDA Heritage Month this year is Memories in Motion, which aims to emphasize how both joyful and painful memories can be made into motivators for change.
“Memories have power. Let them move us to action,” Stamp Student Union’s APIDA Heritage Month website reads.
Justine Suegay, a student affairs graduate student and graduate coordinator for APIDA Student Involvement, has been a fan of Ibarra since her 2017 debut album Circa91. She recognized similarities between her and the artist’s identities during her time as an undergraduate student. Both share the experience of life as Filipina Americans in the U.S., a demographic that makes up under two percent of the country’s population as of 2019.
“Now that I had a chance [to invite Ibarra] … I really wanted to do that,” Suegay said.
Throughout the night, Ibarra performed songs in both English and Tagalog, pausing to share stories of how she found a vessel for activism through hip-hop music. After looking up to artists such as Tupac and Lauryn Hill in her youth, she began writing in similar styles about her own identity. Before pursuing music full-time, Ibarra worked as a scientist at a biotechnology firm in California.
“I don’t think that I’m just an artist anymore,” Ibarra told the crowd during the event’s Q&A. “We’re at a time where people are hungry for more representation.”
Andrea Cagurangan, a junior marketing and management major and president of the university’s Filipino Cultural Association, faces the challenge of balancing cultural activism with college life and “growing up.”
After joining the organization her freshman year, Cagurangan learned more about both the history and advocacy surrounding Filipino American human rights. She admires Ibarra for her ability to balance her passions and a successful career.
“It was really inspirational to see,” Cagurangan said. “I’m figuring out how to balance [school] with giving back to my community.”
Ibarra closed out her performance with “7000 Miles,” a song named after the distance between her hometown of San Lorenzo, California and Tacloban, Philippines, where she spent the first four years of her life. The lyrics highlighted a shared feeling between many immigrant families and first generation Americans: homesickness.
After the show, fans and friends joined Ibarra and Les the DJ on stage to exchange greetings and snap pictures with the pair. APIDA Heritage Month events continue throughout the month of April, ensuring a full month of celebrations during the spring semester.