International Artist SONI withanEYE Candidly Shares About Her Recent Fundraiser Trip To Puerto Rico

SONI withanEYE | Photo By PowerQuevedo

With our rapidly changing news cycle right now, it can be hard to keep up with the pace of stories coming at us each day. When Hurricane Maria devastated the Dominican Republican and Puerto Rico, there was plenty of coverage immediately after the storm hit. But as the region affected has struggled to recover and seek aid from America, the news is now much more scarce.

The New York Times recently published that the estimated death toll is currently over 4000, and that right there should be enough for us to stop what we’re doing and find ways to help out. While the mainstream media may not be reporting on what is happening in Puerto Rico round the clock, thank God for artists, activists, and people using their platform to advocate for those in need.

One of those artists is our new fave badass musician SONI withanEYE, an international singer and DJ who has worked with the likes of Raekwon, Questlove, and Mobb Deep on her debut album ‘Rebel’. She also recently made a trip to Puerto Rico to be part of Richie “Crazy Legs” Colon’s Puerto Rock Steady fundraiser. In addition to performing, SONI was able to do an influencer collaboration with UK website Glamorous who is donating 50 units of clothing and collaborating with non-profit “It’s From The Sole” to have footwear sent over as well.

We got a chance to catch up with SONI after she returned stateside to get the lowdown on the fundraiser, how she was impacted by what she saw on the ground, and why her music is a platform to share important message and causes she is passionate about.

SONI withanEYE | Aguadilla, Puerto Rico

You’ve just returned from your fundraiser trip to Puerto Rico. Tell us about your involvement with Puerto Rock Steady.

My Longtime friend Richard “Crazy Legs” Colon established a non-profit to help create immediate and long-term relief and sustainability across the island in wake of Hurricane Maria. Since then, I’ve organized fundraising events, donated musical performances, and directed donators to the non-profit.

I have attended Puerto Rock Steady in the past. It is a multi-genre festival 3-day event that provides beach & pool parties featuring guest DJ’s, concerts, dance competitions, wellness & dance workshops, educational mentoring programs which help the islands economy. This year I was asked to join the line-up of performers for the festival. For this particular trip to Puerto Rico I collaborated with The non-profit “it’s from the sole” & clothing brand “UK Glamorous” to donate 500 sneakers and 50 units of womens’ designer clothing. I helped to personally deliver these items to people in different parts of the island as well as some organizations affiliated with Puerto Rock Steady.

The area has been devastated by major storms, power outages, and destruction in the wake of Maria. What was the most confronting part of being there in the wake of this still recovering nation?

Every person had their own unique way of telling their experiences. Honestly, it was all very confronting and heartbreaking. Some had been surrounded by dead bodies in their towns. Some lost everything including family members during and after Hurricane Maria as a direct result. The stench in some towns was still present. One family I met mentioned that they had never been checked on by the government to this day. From an agricultural stand point, economic, physical & educational, the islands population is somber however remains strong in hope, unity and self preservation.

SONI withanEYE | Isabela, Puerto Rico

Why was it important for you to be part of this fundraiser and use your platform for good?

When it comes to www.gofundme.com/RSCForLife I know exactly how the funds donated are being allocated. They have my 100% support. It’s important to use our platforms to create awareness of what’s going on in the world. We can’t solely rely on the news media. Once the “breaking news” and hype is over, they are on to the next topic without updates. Sometimes the information isn’t accurate.

A recent article in the NY Times stated the death toll from Maria could exceed 4000. Many across the nation still don’t have access to running water or power. How did being there with the Puerto Rican people make you feel during this time?

I had mixed emotions. I felt very sad. I felt very proud of the strength and resilience of the people of Puerto Rico. I couldn’t help but feel hurt and angry at the response and lack of resources from our government. I also felt appreciative of the bare necessities.

It seems like the devastation has largely disappeared from the news media cycle, which is why it is important we see activists and artists using their voices to make change. How would you encourage other people to make change in areas where it is most needed?

I encourage people to talk about it. Start a discussion or contribute to the discussion and share knowledge, ask questions and keep the conversation going. Find out what resources you have that can be used to help those in need, even if you physically cant be there.

Puerto Rock Steady aims to increase awareness about and generate more tourism. Why is this important to the locals there?

Tourism provides income for the island and its residents. As long as businesses are successful, the people that are employed by the businesses have jobs and can sustain life.

Fittingly, your debut album is called ‘Rebel’. Can you tell us about the meaning behind that and what makes you a rebel?

It’s meant to encourage people to follow their own lead, stand up for what they believe, live their life according to their standards, not anyone else’s. Follow your heart, love hard, cry hard, self love, follow dreams and live life to its fullest with no regrets. What makes me a rebel is I do just that. There is no handbook on life. I unite with others to stand up and fight for what I believe is right. I’ve been told so many times to dress a certain way, sound a certain way, stick with one genre, “but your a female you can’t or shouldn’t”.

If I listened to those people, Rebel wouldn’t exist. I’ve been told I couldn’t hold multiple careers and to direct my energy somewhere else at times when I financially struggled, but I never gave up. It’s who I am. It’s how I live. I was told I couldn’t be a musician and finish school. I did exactly that and obtained a college degree. I’m not perfect. I fall and I get right back up. That’s what makes me a REBEL.

What is next for you on your calendar?

Create and continue doing what I do and by all means have fun doing it.

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You can download SONI withanEYE’s debut album ‘Rebel’ here.

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