By Anastasia Vastakis, Photos by Ish (Ismael) Quintanilla III.
Latin Grammy-nominated Gina Chavez uses a slogan of silence as her rallying cry for survivors of domestic violence.
The year of 2020 has taught many of us the value of our homes. Decorating and redecorating to make our space as comfortable as possible during quarantine. However, what about those whose homes are the last place they want to be? A home where being inside is more dangerous than the world around itself? Since the beginning of the quarantine in March, Austin has seen a significant spike in domestic violence. Rather than a home that smells like warm banana nut bread, the air is stale and ripples with violence. Austin-based musician Gina Chavez wrote Latin Grammy-nominated song “Ella” to speak to the survivors of domestic violence and inspire them to persist and prosper beyond their dire living conditions.
The roots of “Ella” came to be when Mitch McConnell silenced Elizabeth Warren on the Senate floor. “Nevertheless, she persisted,” he proclaimed. This idea—“she persisted”—became a slogan of strength for women. How they have persisted despite all odds. Chavez started writing “Ella” at the end of 2019 but produced it at the beginning of 2020. “Over the years [I] had heard of Tarana Burke,” Chavez says. “She persisted, and the #MeToo Movement caused women’s voices to rise up in society. People started being held accountable for their actions. [It] was amazing but needs to continue.”
Struggle & Resilience
Chavez has traveled a lot in her life. She reveals she has visited countries around the world where women are hunted and killed. “It’s disheartening, but it’s also beautiful to see the resilience,” Chavez says. “Especially in the Latino community. So to me it was like, ‘How do I write a song that speaks to the struggles but also the resilience, and the hope, and the beauty?’” Chavez collaborated with Latin Grammy Producer of the Year Linda Briceño and director Lisa Donato—also a survivor of domestic abuse—in order to bring “Ella” to life.
When coming up with inspiration for the music video of “Ella,” Chavez couldn’t stop thinking about quarantine. The idea of being confined at home with your abuser. Chavez says, “If you’re in an abusive relationship, maybe in a normal time you get your space because that person is at work or you’re at work. But in quarantine you’re always together. So I thought how cool it would be if we could reclaim the domestic space for survivors of domestic abuse as a way of uplifting their stories. As a way of saying that we see you, we believe you, and providing a sense of hope.” The video features 26 dancers from all over the world who used their different dancing styles to communicate the song’s message.
Chavez also worked with Courtney Santana, founder of organization Survive2Thrive, in order to properly support and raise funds for victims of domestic violence. “I was thinking A, how can we raise funds for an organization that is doing a lot; and B, I want a thought partner to make this something that really will support the community,” Chavez says.
It has been said a million times. Community is important, especially in 2020. However, for some people, community is truly a saving grace. In the case of “Ella,” the community opening their eyes and not just seeing, but actively working to solve the problem of domestic violence can save lives.
Learn more about Survive2Thrive.
If you or anyone you know is in an unsafe environment at home, please reach out to National Domestic Violence Support for resources and get the help you and your loved ones need.