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News and culture through the lens of Southern California. Hosted by A Martínez

Los Jornaleros Del Norte use music to tell the stories of day laborers

by Take Two®

Serenata a un indocumentado by Los Jornaleros del Norte
'Serenata a un Indocumentado' by Los Jornaleros del Norte NDLONvideos (via YouTube)

Back in the summer of 2001, representatives from twelve worker's rights organizations from across the country met in Northridge. Their goal? To work together to improve the lives of day laborers in the U.S.

That meeting marked the beginning of a group called the National Day Laborer Organizing Network, or NDLON. These days there are 36 chapters across the country, which organize rallies and sponsor political activity online to address workers rights.

As it turns out, music is integral to their mission and that's why they started a house band called Los Jornaleros Del Norte, or The Day Laborers of the North, who just released their first album Chant Down The Walls.

The goal of the music, band leader Omar Leon said, is to raise awareness of the rights, struggles and lives of day laborers.

The songs are also inspired by personal experiences. Take for instance Serenata A Un Indocumentado. Leon explained that it was born after a rally outside of the Los Angeles Metropolitan Detention Center.

One day after a rally I saw a family, a woman and two small children, they were holding a sign. The sign said, 'We love you. We miss you very much.' They were holding some balloons that say 'Happy Birthday.'

When I told them what was going on they told me that there's a certain period when the prisoners walk to a certain area and they are able to see us. They let them look through the windows for a little bit and that's why we come here.

And the lady told me that her husband got arrested because he was driving without a license. He was coming back from work and they pulled him over. I think something was wrong with one of the lights. And when they realized that he didn't have a drivers license, he got arrested. And of course I was sad, angry, and I went home and wrote this song.

Leon recently spoke with Alex Cohen alongside USC's Josh Kun. To hear the entire conversation click on the audio link embedded at the top of this post.

The two of them will be appearing onstage on November 3, at the Theater at the Ace Hotel in downtown Los Angeles as part of a show called Pop Up Magazine.

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