Darrell Grant & Edna Vazquez Unite to Elevate Refugee Voices in 21 Cartas

Press kit with photos, images, bios, and quotes here.

Artwork by Mia Rincón.

Artwork by Mia Rincón.

21 Cartas explores the issue of immigration by amplifying the human stories behind the headlines

(PORTLAND, OR) — Jazz pianist/composer Darrell Grant and singer/songwriter/guitarist Edna Vazquez unite to create a powerful set of songs based on letters written by mothers at the South Texas Family Residential Center in Dilley, TX—a for-profit prison for refugees in the US—about what it means to be in jail on Mother's Day. Drawing on the composers’ diverse musical and cultural backgrounds, the bilingual songs of 21 Cartas range from lullabies and hymns to battle cries. Together they address the hopes, hardships, struggles, and dreams expressed by those who have risked everything in pursuit of better lives for their children. Interwoven with filmmaker Adolfo Cantú-Villareal’s evocative portraits of Portland, Oregon’s immigrant community, 21 Cartas represents the legacy of bravery, the search for justice, and power of a mother’s love that are common to the multitude of immigrant stories that define our country.

21 Cartas premieres Mother’s Day weekend 2019.

Friday, May 10 | 7:30 PM
Alberta Rose Theatre | Portland, Oregon
Tickets $30 general, $20 senior, $10 students with ID
$5 tickets available at the door with Oregon Trail Card

Saturday, May 11 | 7:30 PM
Glenn & Viola Walters Cultural Arts Center | Hillsboro, Oregon
Tickets $20 general, $15 senior, $10 students with ID
$5 tickets available at the door with Oregon Trail Card

Tickets and information at darrellgrant.com/21Cartas.


In May of 2016 Cameron Madill, owner of Portland web design and digital marketing company PixelSpoke, and a former student of Grant’s, volunteered with CARA Pro Bono to assist families incarcerated at the South Texas Family Residential Center in Dilley, Texas. Madill was able to help dozens of refugee women process their legal claims using Portland-based Innovation Law Lab’s legal software that allows average citizens to assist in processing asylum claims. Fluent in Spanish, he was also able to start conversations with more than 20 women about their experiences being in “baby jail” (their term) on Mother’s Day weekend. He returned with 21 heartbreaking letters reflecting their hopes, fears, and prayers. Grant, who has long been involved in acts of civic artistry, was immediately drawn to the letters upon hearing about them. Having already met Vazquez through work with Bravo Youth Orchestras and Artist Repertory Theatre, he called her to collaborate when asked to perform at a benefit for Innovation Law Lab. The collaboration was electric, and Grant set about sourcing funding for 21 Cartas in 2017.

Since the project was conceived, asylum seekers have been increasingly in the headlines, making the need to elevate the voices and issues of asylum seekers themselves increasingly urgent.

This project was funded in part by a grant from Regional Arts & Culture Council with additional support from project partners including Latino Network, Joaquin Lopez, Cynthia Gomez, and Innovation Law Lab. Learn about their work representing immigrants here.


Adolfo Cantú-Villarreal is a Mexican Filmmaker and Cinematographer currently based in Portland, Oregon. From a young age he’s been interested in exploring light and darkness through a camera lens and through his storytelling. His films explore a wide array of topics spanning the human experience. In 2014 he directed and shot The Darkest Hour a feature documentary that exposed the inhumanity of the U.S. prison system narrated through spoken word and hip hop. In 2015 he provided cinematography for the series California Matters a food scene video series hosted by Mark Bittman and produced by the University of California’s Global Food Initiative and The New York Times. Adolfo has also directed videos for a wide array of artists like Dallas-based post-punk trio Nervous Curtains and emerging Portland rapper Karma Rivera, among others. In 2018 he shot STACY, a fiercely funny feature film about how we choose to avoid honest conversations about sex, gender, and race in America set for a 2019 release. One of Adolfo’s biggest passions is to be involved in lifting up his community and to generate a positive impact through his creative work.

Since the release of his debut album Black Art, one of the New York Times's top ten jazz CD's of 1994, Darrell Grant has built an international reputation as a pianist, composer, and educator who channels the power of music to make change. He has performed throughout the U.S., Canada, and Europe in venues ranging from Paris’s La Villa jazz club to the Havana Jazz Festival. Dedicated to themes of hope, community, and place, Grant’s compositions include his 2012 Step by Step: The Ruby Bridges Suite honoring the civil rights icon who integrated New Orleans’s public schools, and Chamber Music America-grant-funded The Territory which explores the terroir of music through the geographic and cultural history of Oregon. Committed to practicing civic engagement through artistry, Grant has driven pianos deep into state forests to support the environment, arranged protest anthems, and shared the stage with Bishop Desmond Tutu. Since moving to Portland, Oregon he has been named Portland Jazz Hero by the Jazz Journalist Association, received a Northwest Regional Emmy, and has been named the 2019 Portland Jazz Master. Grant is a Professor of Music at Portland State University where he directs the Leroy Vinnegar Jazz Institute.

Edna Vazquez is a fearless singer, songwriter, and guitarist whose powerful voice and musical talent transcend the boundaries of language to engage and uplift her audience. Her original music crosses the genres of alternative rock, folk, pop, and R&B seamlessly and delivers a message of light, love, and cultural healing - beautifully captured by TEDx in 2018. Her passion for music and education have led her to empower youth and the community through workshops and projects with the Bravo Youth Orchestras, Young Audiences, and the Lullaby Project by Carnegie Hall through the Oregon Symphony. After releasing her album, Sola Soy, Edna Vazquez began to perform at venues nationwide that include Lincoln Center and the Kennedy Center. She has also performed at the MGM in Las Vegas in a special performance with Latin Grammy award-winner Flor de Toloache and Natalia Lafourcade. Vazquez is receiving the Most Influential Latina Award 2019 and is currently touring with Pink Martini, sharing a special version of her song, Sola Soy with their full orchestra, while working on a new album due to record April 2019. Edna Vazquez looks forward to sharing more of her original compositions in 2020 at Fiesta! with the Oregon Symphony.


Darrell Grant y Edna Vázquez se Unen para Elevar las Voces de los Refugiados en 21 Cartas

“21 Cartas” Es un proyecto que explora el tema de la inmigración, amplificando las historias humanas detrás de los titulares.

El pianista y compositor de jazz Darrell Grant y la cantante y compositora Mexicana Edna Vázquez se unen para crear una serie de impactantes canciones basadas en 21 cartas escritas por madres a sus hijos que narran el sentimiento de estar en la cárcel el Día de las Madres, detenidas en el South Texas Family Residential Center en Dilley, TX., una prisión con fines de lucro para refugiados en los EE. UU.. Estas canciones bilingües de “21 Cartas” exploran distintos estilos musicales desde himnos de gritos de batalla a canciones de cuna. Estos compositores y músicos abordan la esperanza, las dificultades, la lucha y los sueños que han arriesgado estas madres en busca de una vida mejor para sus hijos. A esta presentación se añade la muestra visual de los retratos de esta comunidad de inmigrantes, que es presentado por el cineasta Adolfo Cantu-Villareal. “21 Cartas” habla de las historias, el legado de valentía, la búsqueda de la justicia y el poder que tienen el amor de una madre.

Este proyecto fue financiado en parte por el apoyo de Regional Arts & Culture Council con el apoyo adicional de Los colaboradores incluyen Latino Network, Joaquin Lopez, Cynthia Gomez, y Innovation Law Lab. Aprende más sobre el trabajo que realizan representando a los inmigrantes aqui.

21 Cartas se estrena el fin de semana del Día de las Madres 2019.

Viernes 10 de mayo | 7:30 PM
Alberta Rose Theatre | Portland, Oregon
Boletos $30 generales, $20 mayores, $10 estudiantes con identificación
Boletos de $5 disponibles en la puerta con la tarjeta Oregon Trail

Sábado 11 de mayo | 7:30 PM
Glenn & Viola Walters Cultural Arts Center | Hillsboro, Oregon
Boletos de $20 en general, $15 para mayores, $10 estudiantes con identificación
Boletos de $5 disponibles en la puerta con la tarjeta Oregon Trail

Entradas e información en darrellgrant.com/21Cartas.