During the opening performance of the 2019 Grammys, nestled between three superstars and a colorful set design: A man sitting on a bench sat with a newspaper spread open, while everyone else danced around him. The headline on the paper read, “BUILD BRIDGES NOT WALLS.”
While the message wasn’t broadcasted across a giant screen, and there wasn’t an emphatic speech about the need for more humane immigration policies, the newspaper doubtlessly did nod to President Trump’s endless racist battle to get a border wall. Not only was the reference made, but it was during a performance from three latinx artists: Camila Cabello, who is Cuban American, Ricky Martin, who is Puerto Rican, and J Balvin, who is Colombian.
All three performers have their own histories speaking out against the Trump administration. In 2015, Ricky Martin wrote: “Xenophobia as a political strategy is the lowest you can go in search of political power,” in an essay for Univision. J Balvin canceled a Miss USA performance because of Trump, and Camila Cabello has refused to take a photo with Trump in the past.
The little message comes as 21 Savage, who is nominated for two Grammys this year, is sitting in an ICE detention center in Atlanta, and faces the possibility of deportation.
On a night about music, any political messaging can take on an insincere tone. A single hidden message in one performance is not enough to stand up against the Trump administration — but for an awards show that seems to strive for political neutrality, it was more than expected.