Raye Zaragoza, who is of Akimel O’otham descent, brings light to topics that challenge women of color in our society through her indie folk music.
American singer-songwriter, Raye Zaragoza, known for her tenacious feminist anthems, supports women of color through her indie folk music. Her song “Fight Like a Girl” concerns reproductive rights, while “Red” spotlights domestic violence and Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women advocacy. “The It Girl” calls for colored women to have greater diversity and representation in the media. Zaragoza, who is of Akimel O’otham descent, brings light to these issues that challenge women of color in our society. According to Intheknow, she has new music that is still underway. “What inspired me was wanting to write something that was a feminist body of work, but also primarily focusing on lifting women of color.” says Zaragoza about her album, "Woman in Color."
Belonging to different heritages, Zaragoza was raised by a Japanese-Taiwanese mother and a Mexican-Indigenous father. While she takes pride in all of the aspects of her culture, she confesses, “I wanted to identify with every single part of my identity, but I also felt like I wasn't enough of any of it to claim it. The way that I look, no one thought I was Asian growing up," she told Fivecentsound. "I don't speak Spanish. I didn't grow up in the homelands of our Indigenous ancestors. I just felt like such a fraud.” Being no stranger to imposter syndrome, she explains feeling like this “American girl who no one says looks American.” The 29-year-old folk singer says she has a nuanced perspective on inclusion at every level.
“I’ve met a lot of people in the communities I’ve grown up in that were very much dedicated to feminism and dedicated to women’s rights and what it means to be a woman and what it means to fight for our rights,” says Zaragoza, who grew up in New York City but now lives in California. “But I feel like being a woman of color, an Indigenous woman, is something that’s so often left out of what feminism has been historically classified as.” A galvanizing presence who makes music to represent and fight for those left too long outside the spotlight, Zaragoza's fearless folk protest can be seen through her song “Fight Like a Girl,” which acknowledges "women of color, like the unsung heroes of feminism."
Being an Indigenous “It girl” herself, Zaragoza composed “The It Girl” for the animated kids’ series "Spirit Rangers" on Netflix. This song highlighted the open discrimination in Hollywood, where people of color land only the “best friend” roles in movies. With lyrics like “I could be the 'it' girl, can’t you see?/ I could bе the face on the magazinе/ Paint me like a debutante, your prom queen/ Pretty little it girl, yeah, that’s me,” Zaragoza puts girls of color on the center stage. In her music, Zaragoza also brought the reality of domestic violence and advocacy for Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women (MMIW), which advocates for the end of violence against native women, people with two-spirit gender identities, and Indigenous people of every gender.
Zaragoza pointed out that statistically Native American people experience more violence in their lifetime and are more likely to die of murder than their other American counterparts. “I think we all just need to understand that first, and then realize that we need to have more systems in place to protect Indigenous women because it’s something that is an emergency,” she says.
Zaragoza also addresses violence in her song “Red,” with lyrics symbolic of red handprints painted on the faces of those speaking out about the movement. “‘Red’ is one of those songs that I honestly don’t even play it live as often, because I get so emotional playing it,” she says, “but I try to, I try to play it as much as I can because it’s a very important topic.”