Mballa’s ‘Illegal’ Will Change How You Think About The Undocumented Black Women Living in America

Mballa’s ‘Illegal’ Will Change How You Think About The Undocumented Black Women Living in America
The Cameroonian singer-songwriter is working to give a voice to the voiceless in this R&B-tinged cut.

In 2015, it was reported that there were 11 million unauthorized immigrants living in the United States. While breaking down the statistics, such as how this number is actually lower than 2009's findings and how of that number, eight million contribute to the U.S. workforce, the image that comes to mind when one hears the word "immigrant" doesn't necessarily reflect the reality, or even the humanity, of the situation.

Most people automatically think "illegal" and write off the situation as one that needs "fixing" and government intervention immediately, without fully understanding what that actually means, what the process to becoming a legal citizen looks like in its current form and how the negative connotations against immigrants and viewing them as "other" may do more harm than good. One person fighting to change such misconceptions, regarding undocumentation specifically, is Cameroonian singer-songwriter, Mballa.

While the 21-year-old musician has been turning her pain into empowerment through her music since she first picked up a mic as a young girl, the battle she is fighting has become much larger than herself. By taking ownership of her story, one that she alone is best-equipped to tell through her artistry, Mballa is inspiring a community of those in a similar position to speak their truth as well, encouraging others to trade in fear of the consequences of their immigration status for solidarity and revolution, at a time when that is needed most.

Mballa's story begins with her father's, a hardworking visionary who was appointed Ambassador of Cameroon to the United States, a prestigious position and honor that brought him and his family to Washington D.C., a place that became a second home and one where Mballa first became enamored with the local arts and music scene. After being forced by a battle with cancer to place her dreams to pursue music on hold, she now has returned to her childhood passions, a heartfelt decision further fueled by her father's passing–a tragedy that struck before he was ever exonerated, after being held as a political prisoner in their native Cameroon.

With the visuals accompanying her latest single, "Illegal," Mballa takes listeners on what holds the power to be a transformative journey, presenting firsthand her experience of what it means (as well as what it looks like and feels like) to be an undocumented person of color amid extreme racial tension in the U.S.

"Strong, Black, feminine beauty is not what most Americans envision when they hear the word 'illegal' in regards to the undocumented," director Rebecca Ward says. "This music video was made to turn the stereotype of 'illegal' on its head, and challenge what most people interpret undocumented folk to look like."

As Mballa works toward de-stigmatizing one of the most politically complex realities plaguing millions of people residing in this country founded by immigrants in the first place, the brave singer has inevitably emerged as a voice for the movement. As exemplified with "Illegal," she is representing for those who, like her, have found themselves in a position where protesting for the equal rights of Black people is met with the risk of losing freedom.

Throughout the video's vibrant scenes, a group of diverse empowered women of different religions and ethnicities take ownership of their undocumented stati and cultural identities. Finding solace in creating their own safe space, the women also create their own layer of protection, something that society does not offer to those without papers. With Mballa's stunning voice juxtaposed with scenes of an abandoned self-made empire—full of women exploring activities that build on their identities, complete with a choreographed riot—"Illegal" not only shines a light on those who are only safe in the shadows but gives a newfound sense of purpose and community to the voiceless.

Over the P.A.T. Junior-produced cut, Mballa's dedication to authentically weaving empowerment and strength into her lyricism shines through, showcasing how this track is as much for others, as it is for herself. Embracing the power behind that is exactly why Mballa is well on her way as becoming one of this generation’s most impactful voices, captivating an ever-growing audience each aptly soundtracked step of the way.

Check out Mballa's stunning new visual here.

Recap: Swisher Sweets Debuts its Artist Project Pack Nights in LA

Swisher Sweets, America's trustworthy--and top-selling--cigar, is definitely onto something. With the beloved company celebrating roughly six decades manufacturing its flavorful products, it only makes sense that part of their longevity and success is in part from the brand's ability to adapt to the current day. As exemplified by their new events series, titled Artist Project Pack Night, Swisher Sweets is doing just that, once again.

As fans of the cigarillos, cigars and (let's be honest, blunt wraps) packed into Los Angeles' Los Globos club Saturday (July 29) evening, the vibe was promptly set that this was going to be an affair that quite simply, was exactly the kind of party that clubgoers were definitely going to be in the mood for.

With the event complete with a Swisher Sweets-branded red carpet backdrop, special party cups for indulging in top-shelf mix drinks (treat yoself!) and various promotional items, such as vouchers for Swisher Sweets products themselves, the esteemed nightlife hotspot was transformed into a lighthearted activation, further sweetened by a proper soundsystem and a variety of folks blessing the turntables and the stage alike.

The most vibrant and exciting component of Swisher Sweets' new community initiative is, fittingly, its curated live music aspect. For the 2017 events, the company is focusing on providing an opportunity for emerging artists to reach new audiences, while also putting fans onto new music. 

This weekend's Artist Project Pack Night, the first out of the ongoing series, featured a slew of artists, including Jay Vinchi, Ponce De'Lioun, DaniLeigh, Chanel West Coast and Natalie La Rose. Full disclosure, I've only heard of one of these artists previously (I know, I'm not hip), but either way, considering I walked out of the club a new fan of each, further proves Swisher Sweets is finding success in its mission to provide a new platform for artists looking to expand their reach.

From Chanel West Coast's performance being the happiest surprise of the evening to DaniLeigh winning over the audience for what was her first-ever show in Los Angeles, it was great to see how the event's line-up skewed toward having more females on stage than males (a feat Swisher Swiss achieved without putting it on blast that for this event then booked more women than men, an unfortunate marketing tactic many club promoters use).

In between Chanel and Natalie's headlining sets, the dancefloor absolutely erupted, with a high-energy dance party kicking off quite organically and showcasing that the various host DJs were certainly doing their job well. All in all, bravo.

Take a look at some highlights of Swisher Sweets' Artist Pack Night's kickoff event in the posts below.