Over the course of three nights, the virtual, social-distanced 2020 Democratic National Convention has trudged along with the all the excitement and awkwardness of a Monday-morning Zoom work meeting. Actually, it's been worse – America would've been better off if Stephen Stills and Billy Porter had accidentally muted themselves during their bizarre performance of Buffalo Springfield's "For What It's Worth" on Monday night.
But in the midst of a political convention that can offer little in the way of celebration as the country mourns the loss of more than 170,000 Americans who've succumbed to COVID-19, the spirits of Miami viewers were momentarily lifted when the city made a prominent surprise appearance during last night's telecast.
Walking along the muraled streets of an empty, pandemic-scoured Wynwood, Dominican-American singer Prince Royce sang his bilingual bachata cover of Ben E. King's "Stand By Me" as a closer for the evening's segment on immigration. Royce's performance followed a segment narrated by a family that was separated by deportation at the hands of the Trump administration, and another story from a family that fears the same fate.
The Hispandering was strong during Wednesday's telecast, as the evening's program strove to make the case that a Joe Biden/Kamala Harris administration would "fix the broken immigration system" once and for all, even as it glossed over and failed to acknowledge Biden's role in an administration whose president was dubbed the "Deporter-In-Chief" by immigration activists. (It should be noted that the accuracy of that label is complicated.)
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Still, as he transmitted the musical stylings of the Dominican Republic into millions of American homes, Royce sought to galvanize the Latin community to vote for the Democratic ticket in the fall. "Where my Latinos at?" he shouted out after the performance. "Mi gente, let’s stand by each other.... Together, we can make a change," he continued, adding "En la unión está la fuerza."
Besides Trump's unequivocal racism and xenophobia, Royce has another reason to encourage prospective voters to cast their ballots in support of Biden. Last month, the singer told the Associated Press that he was recovering after being diagnosed with COVID-19, which has raged out of control in the United States after months of being downplayed by the president. Though he did not mention Trump in the interview, Royce admitted that the reopening of bars and restaurants gave him a false sense of security.
“I was home this whole time, and I went out to some restaurants because things opened," he admitted. "I thought, Well, Florida hasn’t been so bad, and New York is the one with the problem. I fell for that and I think many people can fall for that and will fall for that.”
Namechecking his hometown of the Bronx as well as his current home, Miami, Royce said he went public with his diagnosis because he felt he had "a duty to tell my communities" about his experience with the disease after seeing scores of maskless people in the street. Judging by Wednesday's performance, Royce appears to have made a full recovery. It remains to be seen whether America will do the same in November.