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The Now Sound

The Music and Activism of Tianna Esperanza

by Steve Desroches
It’s a cold, windy night in early February in Provincetown. While the streets are quiet, the Mews Restaurant & Café is packed on this particular Monday night for the open mic coffeehouse. The Provincetown institution has seen a lot of acts come and go in its almost 30-year history of providing a space for experimentation and creativity. But as the frigid winds blow in across the harbor this night, the room is cozy and warm as Tianna Esperanza takes to the stage. After singing just a few notes, the room quiets down. The clinking of utensils on plates and the tinkling of ice cubes in glasses stops as people put their drinks down in amazement at the young woman who, at only 16, commands the stage with sophistication beyond her years.

That night Esperanza exhibited a star quality that brought the crowd to its feet. Born and raised on Cape Cod, Esperanza is now 18 and ready to take on the world. A graduate of Barnstable High School, where she began singing when she was 14, Esperanza’s musical avocation grew into something much more significant as her talents grew —as did her political and social awareness. The two became intertwined as she came of age in these divisive and turbulent times. Being of a mixed-race background, Esperanza found herself devoted to equality inspired by the works of activist and civil rights leaders throughout history, but discouraged by the sharp divides she found prevented people of all backgrounds from working together for a common cause.

Representative of the most diverse generation in this country’s history, Esperanza doesn’t want to choose one aspect of her heritage as she’d rather celebrate it all. But she finds both black and white communities can often make her feel as if she doesn’t fully belong to either. As she explains, some Black Lives Matter activists say it’s not her fight, while she can’t have a full understanding of white privilege as she, too, faces racism. To channel her frustrations into something productive and progressive, she turns to her music, writing her own works and performing them around the Cape to speak out in song, something she will do this Saturday when she participates in the inaugural TEDx Provincetown, a locally produced and officially recognized franchise event based on the popular TED Talks, organized by Provincetown resident Ian Edwards.

“It’s just really me starting a conversation about race without fear of judgment and without fear of asking questions,” says Esperanza. “I feel like I was drawn to this topic as I’m a mixed person. I’m kind of caught in the middle. I think it would be true to say America is really divided. There are so many questions and belief systems. When we don’t talk about race we don’t hear other perspectives. There are plenty of spaces that are non-judgmental, but especially on the Cape, there is not a lot of people talking about race.”

Esperanza speaks with such calm and kindness, as well as an inquisitiveness that reveals her distinctive, pensive nature. She examines every aspect of her own life and how it fits into the world around and how in turn she can create change. Provincetown has had a large role in her development as an artist and activist as she continues to form her own worldview and opinions. Her journey to Provincetown, however, was not as simple as driving up Route 6. While she didn’t begin singing until high school, her family’s matriarch provides a substantial musical legacy as well as planting seeds of rebellion. Her grandmother, Paloma McLardy, was the drummer for the influential British punk band The Slits, under the stage name Palmolive. Born in Spain, McLardy and her family moved to Cape Cod in 1989, where she soon joined a controversial Pentecostal church named Victory Chapel in Hyannis.

Being raised in the extreme right-wing Victory Chapel (which continues to face accusations that it is a cult or, at the very least, uses extreme methods of control over its members), Esperanza was told to have no role in the secular world. But she and the congregation were also instructed not to visit Provincetown, a spot that Victory Chapel quite seriously believes is a modern-day Sodom and Gomorrah. When Esperanza was 13, her family left Victory Chapel as her grandmother became aware of and concerned over the religious group’s tactics. Esperanza lets out an easy laugh about her grandmother’s incurable rebelliousness, something she’s quite happy she inherited, as she knew there was something not quite right about Victory Chapel herself. But at the time, she felt isolated, no longer in contact with her friends from the church and having no real knowledge of the outside, secular world. That’s when she knew she needed to visit Provincetown to see this forbidden land for herself.

“I remember being so embraced by everyone,” says Esperanza. “The Mews is such a special place to me. The kindness and support I’ve received in Provincetown is so special to me. The audiences at the Mews and in Provincetown are so supportive and attentive. Provincetown is loving and kind. It’s such a special place to me.”

Esperanza has found herself quite a home in Provincetown, but is ready to see more of the world as she prepares to begin her studies in political science at Lesley University in Cambridge, Mass., in the fall. But music is her first love, and she will simultaneously continue to write and record music as well as performing. This past April she toured the United Kingdom, performing before each screening of Here To Be Heard: The Story of the Slits, a documentary about her grandmother’s band. In the U.K., her grandmother introduced her to the record label Rough Trade, as music is once again a family affair. Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga might be in the remake of A Star is Born, but Esperanza is living the story, something that will be on display this Saturday as she joins nine other speakers at the TEDx event.
“I’m just going to perform my talk,” says Esperanza. “What I want to say is in my music. All that I have to say is in my music.”

TEDx Provincetown: 20/20: Perfect [IN]sight is on Saturday, June 30 at 6 p.m. at Fishermen Hall, 12 Winslow St. For tickets ($18 balcony, $30 general/$50 VIP and backstage post-show reception) and information, visit

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Ginger Mountain

Ginger Mountain (MS Communications Media, BA Fine Arts/Teaching Certification K-12) has been part of the graphic design team at Provincetown Magazine since 2008. Ginger has worked as a creative director, individual contractor, and freelance designer with clients representing many areas —business software, consumer products, professional services, entertainment, and network hardware to name just a few — providing creative layout and development of a wide range of print media content. Her clients ranged from small local businesses to large corporations and Fortune 500 companies, from New Hampshire to Georgia

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