DANNY RIVERA

Artist & Founder
The Artist Initiative for Revolution

Heritage: Puerto Rican

By: Frank Morris Lopez

 

Danny Rivera Jr. is a singer, songwriter, record producer, pianist and guitarist. While he admits he’s not one for titles, he considers himself a “new Renaissance artist.” That’s because he’s not just focusing on art, but on how art can be used to mobilize social change.

“Renaissance involves not just being in one thing, but to be doing all the things that help people who are closest to the pain,” he said, borrowing words from Rep. Ayanna Pressley.

It makes sense he would quote Pressley. In 2019 — still in high school and too young to vote — Rivera wanted to make sure he could contribute to her campaign in some way. So, he wrote, produced and released a campaign song for the congresswoman.

“Social change is important to me really because it has the power to enable one thing in particular, and that’s the power of the voice,” Rivera said.

Indeed, the Boston native — born to a Black mother and a Puerto Rican father — has used his voice for many social movements and political campaigns. He’s performed for former President Barack Obama at the White House, and has done work for Boston’s first woman and Black mayor, Kim Janey; Boston’s first mayor of Asian descent, Michelle Wu; and former Boston mayor turned U.S. Secretary of Labor Marty Walsh.

His music sheds light on issues such as mass incarceration and racial injustice.

Amid the killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery in 2020, Rivera founded the Artist Initiative for Revolution. It’s a multimedia collective of BIPOC artists who seek to make a difference through art, culture, activism and educating others on the power of the vote.

“I had a conversation with Congressman John Lewis before he passed, and he told me, ‘The vote is the most precious weapon and thing that you have,” Rivera said.

Rivera first gained a following in 2018 when he released his debut single “Gravity,” which led to his first extended play record, “The Requisite.” One of his songs, “Christmas Now,” was featured on an Amazon Prime show.

 

For up and coming artists and activists who are trying to find their place, “I would say keep your hand on the plow,” Rivera said. “It’s not about working until you achieve fame, or working until you win the election. It’s about working on what you are called to do.”