Slug Spotlight: DJ Punky

An Interview with DJ Punky of KZSC's New Show, "A Little to the Left," about Identity, Community Activism, and Revolutionary Music

March 01, 2021

By , Cowell PA 

Mural in Chicano Park, San Diego

"A Little to the Left is a revolutionary and leftist music program, hence the name. It's mostly leftist stories being told through song. I try and not do too much talking myself, because I would rather give a platform to Black and indegenous artists, and people don't need to hear my voice too much [laughs]. I'm White passing, they don't need to hear me!"

My name is Iza, I use they/them pronouns. I identify as non-binary and gender fluid. I am Chicanx, and I come from a family of Chicano and Chicana activists dating back to my great-great grandparents, who were union organizers. Activism has always been something that I'm really passionate about. My mom started taking me to protests when I was really young, so it clicked really early for me that we have to fight for our community, because that's the only way we're gonna be able to protect ourselves. 

As I got a little bit older, I started getting radicalized through a lot of Chicano literature. Reading books that came from perspectives of people in my family and my community fundamentally changed the way I viewed the world. I started engaging in a lot of community activism, especially through a Chicano Saturday school that I started going to in high school. It was literally just a bunch of union organizers sitting down with high schoolers at a Boys and Girls Club and teaching us about why the system was messed up — we had Tampico and conchas, and it was really fun. That led me to UC Santa Cruz where now I'm a Critical Race and Ethnic Studies and Community Studies major. 

Community activism looks a little bit different at UCSC. When I was in high school and we would go to protests in Chicano Park [in San Diego, where Iza grew up], there would be the Danza Azteca and this community that came together around politics, but also culture. Going up to UCSC was a different experience for me, because I was never really one for reading theory or getting super academic about my politics. 

I started to really judge UCSC, like "OK, there's all this academic intellectualizing of struggle," until the first AFSCME strike that happened in Fall quarter last year, and then UCSC became a really special place for me. It felt like I was learning, not just in the classroom, but getting my education in how to be an organizer and how to push the struggle forward. By going down to the picket line at the AFSCME strikes, at COLA, and really interacting and engaging with my community, seeing that all the students were here for this, was something I really really appreciated because then, walking around campus, I knew all these people and all these faces, these were my comrades and who would stand by me.

If I was becoming a Community Studies major at UCLA, I don't think it could have become nearly as real for me. Because I wouldn't have the COLA strikes there to parallel, and I couldn't go out in my community to Subrosa and see their Really Free Market. People bring things and we share what resources we have. I couldn't have gone down to see Food Not Bombs passing out food every single day. There's so much work in the community of Santa Cruz that is as much a part of my education as anything that I'm receiving from the university.

What I really appreciate is the first Community Studies class you take, Intro to Community Activism. That class, more than any other class on campus — maybe CRES 10 — really changed my perspective on things. It's all about organizing. Professor Leslie Lopez teaches you about different ways people are actually strategizing and furthering their goals as a community, whether it be through community land trusts, tenet unions, all of these different forms of organizing that I hadn't been exposed to. Instead of just talking about the best way to create a utopian society, it's like, how can we start making change in our communities here and now? What does it come down to? We're making sure we have food. We're making sure we have water. And we're trying to make sure we have control over the food and water, so that we're not having to constantly be fighting up against someone and struggling for our lives because they are in control of the very basic needs that we have to have as humans in order to survive. When you put it that way, it's something that a lot of people can get behind. 


I feel like music is one of the ways to capture the essence of our collective struggle, and there's something about music, like when you listen to these revolutionary songs, whether they be old or new, punk or folk or rap, these revolutionary songs have this impact on us. They fuel us and they ignite my revolutionary spirit, I always say. It's a fun way to end the week, kick back with my friends, stay up until midnight and then listen to the show until 2 am, and then get me motivated for a new week of activism and fighting for my community.

Each week I get to center A Little to the Left around a couple of songs that really impacted me. The very first song I played on the show was "The Revolution Will Not Be Televised." When I was in 10th grade, I remember sitting on a bus and my friend showing me that song. I was looking out the window of the bus at all the people passing me on the street and feeling the song, the rhythm, the vocals, the drum beats in the back, everything about it combined with lyrics — just the power and simplicity of saying "the revolution will not be televised" — it all hit me in that moment. The first show, when I played "The Revolution Will Not Be Televised," it was my Black Power Week.

That first week was easy. It was right after everything happened, on January 6th, at the capitol. Whenever something related to white supremacy or a white supremacist uprising happens in this country, I feel like the most revolutionary response, historically, has always been Black power. Within the climate of where everyone was, all of the conversations I was hearing about fear of these very visible white supremacists — which I always like to say, white supremacy has been alive and well for over 400 years, just because they're more visible now doesn't mean that they weren't working just as hard to ensure that these systems were in place yesterday or the day before. But, what's gonna fuel us? Is it going to be focusing on the fact that there are these random white dudes in who-knows-where that are picking up guns and waving their little flags? Or is it going to be reminding ourselves of this super powerful revolutionary struggle that has been going on as a direct response to that?

I always like to counter-balance it. Are we gonna focus on how shitty things are or are we gonna focus on the power that we have to abolish and dismantle all the shitty things that exist? To me, Black power was a natural response to white supremacy. 

Then, the next week was Red Scare. I wanted to do a folk-themed show. My friend gave me a book, a reproduction of the Industrial Workers of the World Little Red Songbook, which is a bunch of union hymns from the 1920s. He gave it to me, I had been flipping through the book and learning how to play them on guitar. I'd always really loved folk music. I think folk gets a lot of its roots from Mexican music, so — it's kinda funny — my family's always played a lot of folk and country right alongside mariachi music. My dad is a laborer, he's a construction worker, and he's been in remission from cancer so he hasn't been able to work. Thinking about my dad and thinking about this book, and the role that folk music plays in unionizing workers, it just felt like the right time to do a week focused on folk music. 

After that, I did a Chicano-themed week, and I played Chicano Park, which is a song that is very near and dear to my heart. It's not only a song that's directly about my community, about being in San Diego and going under the bridge to see all of the  beautiful murals and see the land our community literally took over in a militant struggle. Lately, especially with Mexican music, it brings me to tears how much songs can mean to you when they connect not only to your revolutionary spirit but also that deeper spirit of home. To me, the struggle is rooted in home. It's about family, it's about the place where you grew up, it's about the people and the faces that you see everyday. It's about literally just loving them and loving this land and loving this community so much that you would do anything to ensure that it is thriving and safe and protected and autonomous.

Then there was punk week, where I was just channeling my angsty older brother and all the stuff he used to play for me as a kid. I think it's kind of whatever I'm thinking about that week. I would love more listener engagement, if listeners would tell me themes they want to hear I would love to deep dive into it. But as for now, especially as a new DJ it's easier to start with what I know. So, whatever experiences are feeling really formative for me in that week, that's what I choose. 


What is your advice for students who want to be in community with Santa Cruz right now?

Well, you can listen to KZSC anywhere in the world. That's a good start! Hear from a bunch of UCSC voices and Santa Cruz community members through KZSC. There's an app you can download and just flip it on anytime. Like you'd click on Spotify, but you might not really know what you want to listen to? I always click on KZSC instead because then I can get exposed to a whole bunch of new music and connect back to SC.

I also recommend joining organizations, things going on on campus. You're not alone, none of us really feel like UCSC is what it used to be right now, so there's a lot of groups that are working really hard to try and create a virtual experience for people. I went to a WSSC (Worker Student Solidarity Coalition) meeting last week, and I didn't really make it to WSSC meetings when I was on campus. Now I can go to a WSSC meeting for an hour and a half and hang out and laugh and see all these faces and also get down to business about union meetings. So join a couple clubs, go to those Zoom meetings, don't be afraid! 

KZSC is always accepting new volunteers. I'm a little biased, but KZSC is probably the best place on campus. I have found community there you cannot even imagine. Me, being non-binary, I walked into UCSC and I was like "Everyone here uses they/them pronouns!" It's so much fun, the coolest people you've ever met all talking about music and super passionate about what they do. 

If you want to volunteer with A Little to the Left, I'd be happy to have someone to help me out. If you want to volunteer with KZSC News, we're always taking new volunteers there. 

You can find A Little to the Left on Instagram at @revolution88.1 and on-air Friday nights from midnight to 2AM on KZSC.

You can find KZSC online at or on Instagram at @kzsc

Iza also runs the Community Update on KZSC News. Check out the SC Community Update spreadsheet to find mutual aid and community organizations in Santa Cruz:

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