By Nichole Harwood
In her black and white music video, local Albuquerque musician Zandi Ashley Cabiltes leans over her guitar, her eyes lowered as she begins singing in rhythm to her strumming. Her song “The Country’s Burning (Can You Hear Us Now)” was inspired by her desire to make a positive stand against racial discrimination.
Cabiltes was spurred to write her song in response to the riots that took place after the wave of protests swept the nation following the murder of George Floyd, a 46-year-old black man, in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
Despite being miles away from the incident in Albuquerque, Cabiltes said she still remembers singing the chorus of the song in her car over and over again, moved by everything that was happening across the nation.
“It’s crazy to see how much racial discrimination still exists, honestly, it opened my eyes as well and all I wanted to do then was learn more about what I could do, as well as stand together with our black community,” Cabiltes said.
Cabiltes’s chorus pleads to her listeners to view recent events through a different lens outlining both the protest and the following riots.
“Oh, the country’s burning can you hear us now?
We tried the peaceful protest but it wasn’t loud.
How many black lives does it take,
to prove there’s still hate?”
(“The Country’s Burning (Can You Hear Us Now)” by Zandi Ashley Cabiltes)
Cabiltes said she is the type of individual who sees a person for who they are, but that she had to admit to her own ignorance in regards to how powerful racism remains in the modern-day.
“It was eye-opening to me that racist jerks still exist,” Cabiltes said. “When I first heard of George Floyd’s murder, it was just heartbreaking. I definitely consider myself an empath and so that was very upsetting, as it was for others.”
Cabiltes said she watched as Floyd’s death sparked a desire for change and reform, not only towards police protocol but within society’s shift and outlook towards African-Americans.
“Then the protests happened,” Cabiltes said. “The peaceful ones, the riots… There was such a chaotic energy, and I felt it. All I really wanted to do was give the world a hug because so much was happening. There was so much fire in me, being inspired by protests, the togetherness of everyone standing together; my heartbreaking at the same time, seeing how as a nation, there still existed this disgusting type of hate.”
Cabiltes saw the riots as the inevitable outcome of peaceful protests being ignored. She emphasized that, while non-violent protests are great, she finds it infuriating seeing the black community practically screaming in a peaceful manner without an answer. This, Cabiltes said, began with Kaepernick taking a knee in 2016, followed by the L.A. Lakers wearing “I Can’t Breathe” shirts after the death of Eric Garner in 2014. Despite the mass circulation of these messages, among others, the black community still wasn’t, and perhaps still isn’t, being heard.
“It had to get crazy to make the news,” Cabiltes said. “When people are silenced for so long, people will do what they need to in order to be heard. Martin Luther King Jr. did well with his peaceful protests, however, Malcolm X was on the other side of the spectrum. In my opinion, the rioters were somewhat a catalyst to spark the change our society needs.”
Each day, Cabiltes said, she continues to learn about the racial discrimination that exists within her community. She stays in tune to the voices of Black Lives Matters in her community by following the Instagram account @BlackVoicesABQ, which posts events in regards to the Black Community in Albuquerque, as well as when upcoming protests are.
“Honestly, the type of change I’d like to see, just in general, is for people to truly look past skin color and to value others based on who they are. Some other things I’m doing personally is I joined a book club and we’re reading the book, ‘White Fragility.’ I think it’s so important to keep educating ourselves on social issues that we have the ability to change. To stand together as a community and support each other through it,” Cabiltes said.
Until the day that discrimination becomes a thing of the past, Cabiltes said she and other musicians will continue to communicate the message that America needs to change their societal views regarding racial discrimination.
As a musician, she sees this as essential as artists have forever been the ones to use their platforms to advocate for the issues society needs to address. As a young musician and citizen of Albuquerque, Cabiltes advises everyone, regardless of age, to educate themselves.
“It’s one thing to be ignorant, but that is always changeable,” Cabiltes said. “Do your research! Donate, help out, protest. Stand with your fellow human race. And, never ever be afraid to stand your ground and use your voice.”
For more on her music, you can follow Zandi Ashley Cabiltes on social media at:
@zandi.ashley on Instagram
Zandi Ashley on Spotify