Posts Tagged ‘California’

ARTIST TALK AT MEDIANOCHE – Thurs, Jan 4, 6:30PM

Sunday, November 1st, 2009
January 4, 2007
6:30 pm

“Turnstyle”
A transnational, interactive installation by Zulma Aguiar

Through February 2, 2007

Artist Talk: Thursday, January 4, 2007 at 6:30PM

Recreating the experience of crossing the U.S. – Mexico border is by its very nature controversial and new media artist Zulma Aguiar plunges waist deep into the fray with her interactive video installation Turnstyle.

As any tourist, day laborer, businessman, or immigrant (legal and illegal) will attest, these border crossings divide North from South. Turnstyle cleverly delivers the style of each side through the persona of its border agents who are portrayed by the Mexican American artist herself. According to Aguiar, “One is María and the other is Maria. The Mexican guard’s name has an accent over the “i.” When I play the American border agent, I am portraying my American self. When I play the Mexican one, I am steeped in my Mexican identity. The same white-gloved hand waves people through and keeps them from entering.”

Turnstyle represents the reality of border crossing as a transnational experience, where both sides are patrolled by Mexicans or their descendants. exploding popular myths about any simple white/brown dichotomy. In an urban landscape unfamiliar with border life, Aguiar reconstructs an emblematic turnstile through which visitors pass back and forth, under the encouragement or harsh scrutiny of the border agents.

Zulma Aguiar is a new media artist from Calexico, California. She is a Masters in Fine Arts candidate at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute where she collaborated with Aeronautical Engineer Rafael Antonio Irizarry and time-based media artist Jonathan Lee Marcus to create an interactive installation based on her U.S. – Mexico border experience.

MediaNoche is a project of PRDream and is located in Spanish Harlem, just blocks away from Museum Mile. By subway, take the IRT#6 train to 103rd Street and walk north along Lexington Avenue to 106th Street. Turn right on 106th Street. MediaNoche is on the north side of the street, in the middle of the block. Gallery hours: Tuesday – Saturday, 3PM – 7PM.

Latinos in US Media

Sunday, November 1st, 2009
October 20, 2007
2:00 pm

The Boston Latino International Film Festival (www.bliff.org) the Boston
Area Spanish Exchange – BASE present:

Latinos in US Media
(panel *mostly* in Spanish)
Saturday October 20, 2pm, Howard Thurman Center at Boston University (FREE)
775 Commonwealth Ave.
Boston, MA 02215
www.bu.edu/thurman

“Boston area Spanish-speaking media, film and arts experts meet to discuss in Spanish the present state of Spanish language (and bilingualism) in these U.S. media. The media have played an active role in the creation of many of the stereotypes related to the Latino community in the United States. By addressing the role of language in the inscription, and subversion, of these stereotypes, this panel seeks to provide a space for reflection about how these issues affect the very communities represented in the screen and other media, as well as their relationship with other
communities in the US.”

Moderator:
Carmen Oquendo-Villar

Panelists:

-Ernesto Livon-Grosman, Associate Professor of Hispanic Studies and Director of Graduate Studies of the Dept. of Romance Languages & Literatures at Boston College; he has also made the documentary “Cartoneros”, about the paper recycling process in Argentina, and how many people become trash pickers to be able to make a living.

-Cristina Kotz Cornejo, Associate Professor, Director of the BFA Program, Department of Visual and Media Arts, Emerson College; who has made several films. The last one, titled “3 Americas”, about the relation between an Argentinean-American girl, her anti-American grand-mother in Argentina, and America.

-Doris Sommer, Ira Jewell Williams Professor of Romance Languages and Literatures, Department of Romance Languages and Literatures, Harvard
University; her work focuses mainly on issues of bilingualism and cultural agency.

-Marisol Negron, Florence Levy Kay Fellow in Latino Studies, Department of Romance Studies and the Program in Latin American & Latino Studies, Brandeis University; her dissertation is “Salsa as commodity and cultural signifier: an analysis of nuyorican musical form.” Her research interests are migration and diaspora, popular culture and comodification, and Cuban-American, Dominican-American, Chicano and Puerto Rican cultural production.

-Jose Barriga, He is a social psychologist by training and specializes in Latino media in the U.S. He has worked in Los Angeles with Telemundo, Fox Latin America, La Opinion newspaper, and Enigma Entertainment in different executive positions. He attended: la Universidad Catolica de Lima, la Universidad Ricardo Palma de Lima, the University of California, Los Angeles, and the Armando Robles Godoy Filmmaking School.

-Carmen Oquendo-Villar, (Harvard Ph.D) is a Boston-based interdisciplinary artist and writer-scholar of Puerto Rican and Spanish descent, educated in Latin America, West Africa and the United States. She has been lecturing, exhibiting, and curating internationally since 2004.

At the Nuyorican Poets Cafe

Sunday, November 1st, 2009
May 3, 2008
8:00 pm

(Sat), May 3 at 8pm

The Nuyorican Poets Café

Third Millennium Celebration

ALOUD AND ALIVE AT 35

Legends, pioneers and new millennium poets unite for one night only on The Town Hall stage as the Nuyorican Poets Café celebrates its 35th anniversary on May 3, 2008 at 8 pm.

Mistress and Master of Ceremonies: actress/producer, *Rosie Perez *and poet/singer/ comedian, *Flaco Navaja* with some of the leading voices in the spoken word movement, including* Carlos Andrés* *Gómez, Kirk Nugent, Sandra María Esteves, Mariposa, Willie Perdomo, Steve Coleman*, *Nancy Mercado*, California’s first Poet Laureate *Quincy Troupe,* the performance poet and playwright *Jesús Papoleto Meléndez *along with the multifaceted performer, known for her mesmerizing poetry and characterizations, *Caridad De La Luz*, a.k.a. La Bruja. With music by the Boricua Roots Music group, *Yerbabuena*.

Ticket Price: $40 & 35

Producer: The Town Hall “Not Just Jazz” series

SEIU engages in union raiding and busting in Puerto Rico

Sunday, November 1st, 2009

“In Puerto Rico, the SEIU is embroiled with the Teachers Federation, a 42,000-member independent union of public school teachers. After a 10-day inconclusive strike in February, the Federation was punished by losing its right to represent the teachers. The SEIU reached an agreement with a rival teachers group and supported its request for a collective bargaining election, which in effect would eliminate, if not destroy, the Teachers Federation. At the SEIU convention hall in Puerto Rico, a mass delegation of Teachers Federation members demonstrated with picket signs “Stop Union Raid.” Many of Stern’s critics support the Federation’s battle for survival. They ask: Will the new clause on “aiding” a “rival” make them vulnerable to disciplinary charges for openly expressing that support?”

uniondemocracy.org

Below: entire article
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From the July-August 2008 issue of Union Democracy Review #174

Reflections on the SEIU Convention in Puerto Rico

At the June convention of the Service Employees International Union, climaxing President Andy Stern’s twelve years in office, a big majority of the 1,900 convention delegates endorsed his program and endowed him with increased power amounting to presidential authoritarianism couched in democratic verbiage.

But he has paid a price for that victory. When he first took office 12 years ago, his plans were greeted with near-unanimity by labor activists and pro-labor academics, and he was hailed in the press as the promising new labor leader. He came out of this convention stronger organizationally and constitutionally but with a diminished image. On the eve of the convention, a hundred writers, labor educators, and academics had expressed concern over the fate of SEIU democracy under his tutelage. Sal Rosselli, a major SEIU leader, broke with the administration and emerged at this convention as an outspoken oppositionist. Unexpectedly, more than a dozen rank and file delegates ran for international positions as insurgents. None were successful, but protest votes on their behalf were recorded from 15% of the delegates.

The union administration summed up its proposed program of action for the next four years until the next convention in an ambitious, emotion-stimulating 31-page declaration, “Justice for All.” It began on a high note of great promise and expectation. “We stand for not only ‘Just Us’ but for ‘Justice for All’ workers in our industries and in our country.” It called for “a more just and humane society”, for us and “for future generations.” That lofty theme was sustained and repeated in a multitude of variations. No one could fault such lofty goals. Can anyone object to justice for all? In a post-convention letter to educators, a Rosselli spokesman wrote, “Delegates from our local union … supported core parts of a platform proposed by our union’s national leadership, including expanding our organizing efforts and improving regional and national coordination among SEIU locals.”

But how to go about revitalizing the labor movement and changing the world? There’s the rub. And so there was criticism, and it was just as sharp and emotional as Stern’s support was enthusiastic. It emanated from two main sources: 140 delegates from Sal Rosselli’s 140,000-member United Healthcare Workers-West and about 100 delegates from other locals, many of whom joined together in a loose rank and file caucus called SMART (for SEIU Member Activists for Reform Today.)

In the spirit of “one national strategy” and “one voice” (phrases repeated over and again) the administration proposed a bewildering creation of boards, committees, and subcommittees — wheels within wheels — all dominated by the international president. Critics charged that the new structure of Division Leadership Boards and National Bargaining Teams overloads the system with international officers and appointive staff and reduces representation from local leaders and rank and filers.

But the critics’ main objection is to Stern’s basic plan, the stratagem that he hopes will open the road to a massive rise in membership. Stern is convinced that traditional unionism is not working; he would not rely on the old-fashioned method of inspiring workers in a battle for union recognition. He proposes to organize hundreds of thousands of new members, perhaps even millions, not in conflict with multi-million dollar global capitalists and corporate buyout firms, but in cooperation with them. That central aim was only imperfectly touched upon, and only by implication, in convention documents.

Many months before the convention, Stern disclosed his intentions to Kris Maher, a Wall Street Journal reporter, who wrote “Mr. Stern says he wants to remake the labor movement by shedding the old adversarial image and creating more labor management partnerships.” Stern told him, “We want to find a 21st century new model that is less focused on individual grievances, more focused on industry needs.” Alan Murray, of the WSJ, wrote that Stern told him, “he much prefers working with the buyout kings than with their public-company counterparts, ‘I’ve been incredibly impressed,’ he said, ‘…these men have much more understanding of what we are trying to accomplish.’ ” What all this means in practice has been revealed in actual agreements Stern worked out with cooperating employers:

In 2003, Stern negotiated an agreement with the employers’ California Alliance, an association representing 284 nursing homes. The Alliance turned over 42 of its homes with some 2,000 members to the union; but the union agreed that it would be barred from trying to organize its 185 non-union facilities. According to the UHW-W, the agreement covering the newly organized sites undercut union standards in the industry. It provided no vacation, holiday, or sick pay; no seniority rights, strict limits on stewards, and management’s right to change the economic terms of the agreement. The SEIU units were, according to UHW “close to becoming …company unions.” Rosselli’s public repudiation of the deal marked his break with Stern. Under pressure of mass protests from the UHW-W membership, Stern backed off and ended the controversial arrangement. But he had not abandoned his basic policy:

On May 10, Kris Maher reported that the SEIU and UNITE/HERE (Change to Win allies) had entered into secret agreements with two global employers of service workers, Sodexho and the Compass Group. “The old ways aren’t working,” Stern told Maher, “and we’re trying to find different relationships with employers that guarantee workers a voice.” And so, unions are formed behind the backs of workers and with the permission and cooperation of the employers. Not just the terms of the agreements, but their very existence is not to be disclosed, not even to the lucky new union members. Of the several hundred thousand workers employed in North America, the union will be permitted to organize a limited number at designated sites; the companies will cooperate by providing lists of the employees and permitting union access to their work sites. The unions agree to be barred from attempting to organize the others; and they will not post derogatory remarks about the companies anywhere in the world.

Stern aims to increase union membership and minimize individual grievances. In that spirit, the convention endorsed the administration’s proposals for “Membership Resource Centers.” From now on, instead of presenting their “job problems” on the work site to a flesh and blood steward-representative, members will log in to a central office where they will get “expert” advice from a voice at the other end of the line — perhaps human, perhaps electronic. This novel system will transform the whole dynamic between the union and its members. Shop stewards under pressure of their constituents day to day on the job, especially those elected, are motivated to take grievances seriously and work hard to satisfy the grievant. But the owners of those voices on the telephone will know that they are appointed by an administration that views grievances as a distraction. To please the boss who appointed them, they will be motivated to slough off those distracting “job problems.”

Its rhetorical call for justice for all — for the poor, the immigrants, the minorities, the oppressed — has enabled Stern to rally round him a troop of social idealists in whose eyes the SEIU has become an extension of civil rights campaigning and community organizing. On the other hand, its trend toward bureaucratic central control, and its justification of a kind of defanged hybrid unionism to be built in cooperation with big domestic and global corporations, has alienated a whole other cadre of social idealists who want the labor movement to be a democratic movement of workers, a movement that, they feel, can only be built in confrontation with big capital.

Two conceptions of the labor movement are counterposed. Because the SEIU has been built and has acquired power by action of militant union loyalists, not by corporate partners, at some point even Stern’s own followers are bound to ask, “What kind of labor movement are we building?” This is no crude battle for power. It is no conflict between so-called “business” and “social” unionism. Nor between a conservative “right” and a militant “left.” Nor between crooks and honest unionists. It is a dispute over the meaning and nature of democracy in the labor movement. Those “alternative visions of trade unionism” could be counterposed only inadequately and tentatively at this convention. What are the chances for a serous discussion during the four years before the next convention?

There are disquieting signs: The administration’s repeated call for “one voice” and “one national strategy” doesn’t encourage independent views. Stern appears to have backed off from a threat to trustee Rosselli’s UHW-W healthcare local; but the international now pursues Rosselli and other local officers by a complex suit in federal court. The convention adopted a resolution that will strip the dissident local of 65,000 of its 140,000 members.

The convention voted to expand the reach of its constitutional ban on supporting “dual unionism.” A member or local union can now be charged for “aiding a rival labor organization.” This provision is obviously prompted by a rivalry between the SEIU and at least two other unions. The California Nurses Association, an AFL-CIO affiliate, is extending its reach beyond California to the whole nation, thereby offering an alternative to any registered nurses who might be dissatisfied with existing SEIU representation. The bar on “aiding” rival unions can create a dangerous problem for SEIU locals which have overlapping, but friendly, representation in areas where the CNA represents nurses and the SEIU all other employees at a given site. Despite the hostility between the two national unions, practical necessity impels locals to cooperate. Stern’s critics, wary of how he will interpret “aiding” a “rival,” fear that he will use the new provision against them.

In Puerto Rico, the SEIU is embroiled with the Teachers Federation, a 42,000-member independent union of public school teachers. After a 10-day inconclusive strike in February, the Federation was punished by losing its right to represent the teachers. The SEIU reached an agreement with a rival teachers group and supported its request for a collective bargaining election, which in effect would eliminate, if not destroy, the Teachers Federation. At the SEIU convention hall in Puerto Rico, a mass delegation of Teachers Federation members demonstrated with picket signs “Stop Union Raid.” Many of Stern’s critics support the Federation’s battle for survival. They ask: Will the new clause on “aiding” a “rival” make them vulnerable to disciplinary charges for openly expressing that support?

How will it all work out? Will Stern’s program fulfill its promise as a devious route toward social justice for all in America, or will the centralized bureaucracy and the special deals with employers choke out the very spirit of idealism that inspires Stern’s dedicated followers? That question can be answered only after extended experience. Will the Stern regime use the endorsement by the convention of its “one voice” and “one national strategy” to justify turning the collectivity of hired staff, appointive and elected local leaders, and international officers into a disciplined goose-step apparatus to glorify the official line and exalt its results; or will it tolerate, if it will not encourage, the kind of free discussion that can truly assess what is achieved? The answer to that question can come promptly in how the regime responds to critics like Sal Rosselli in United Healthcare-West and other critics in SEIU locals around the country.

Puerto Rico cancels Calle 13 concert after insult

Saturday, October 17th, 2009

Calle_13.jpeg
Rene Perez, right, and Eduardo Cabra of Calle 13, arrive at the “Los Premios MTV 2009″ on Thursday, Oct. 15, 2009, at the Gibson Amphitheatre in Universal City, Calif. (AP Photo/Chris Pizzello)

(AP) – 3 hours ago
SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico — Puerto Rican officials said Saturday they have canceled a concert featuring Grammy-winning band Calle 13 after the group’s lead singer insulted the governor and other Latin American politicians during an MTV awards show.

San Juan Mayor Jorge Santini said he was calling off the Halloween concert only because no contract had been signed for use of the city’s Roberto Clemente Coliseum — not because of the comments by singer Rene Perez, known as “Residente.”

But his announcement indicated the city did not want the concert, saying, “We are not interested in reaching the contract now or in the future.” The city allowed a similar concert by the same promoter last year.

“Mister Perez, of Calle 13, will not be bothered by the decision … because I don’t think he is interested in benefiting economically from an event that was going to be held in a facility administered by government personnel for whom he has no respect,” Santini said.
During Thursday’s MTV show, Perez used an offensive phrase referring to the mother of Gov. Luis Fortuno as he denounced the state’s layoff of 17,000 workers.

Perez also wore a black T-shirt with a message that appeared to criticize Colombian President Alvaro Uribe for a deal to allow U.S. bases in his country — and which could be read to suggest he has paramilitary links.

The Colombian government issued a statement saying it was “indignant” about the “slanderous” message. Fortuno made his first public comment about the incident while attending a political event Saturday.

“This individual disrespected all Puerto Rican women, all Puerto Rican mothers and the people of Puerto Rico in general,” Fortuno told reporters. “That is what I can tell you.”
Representatives of Calle 13 and production company Arco Publicidad did not immediately respond to requests for comment. City officials declined to elaborate on details of the concert contract.

Calle 13 won a Grammy for best Latin urban album last year and it has won several Latin Grammy awards.

Copyright © 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.
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Island crisis could fuel more Puerto Rican migration to U.S.

Thursday, October 15th, 2009

by Jorge Duany, Ph.D., Guest Writer
Orlando Sentinel (Oct 15, 2009)

The signs of Puerto Rico’s acute socioeconomic crisis are everywhere.

The Island’s economy is expected to decline by 5.5 percent this year. Local consumer debt reached almost 23 billion U.S. dollars in 2008. The unemployment rate was 16.5 percent in July 2009. Since 1996, 45,000 manufacturing jobs have been eliminated. For the first time in years, the poverty rate increased during the current decade. The massive layoffs by the Commonwealth government have caused public dismay. Many people are extremely worried about keeping their jobs and paying their bills, taxes, insurance, and mortgages.

One of the traditional strategies in the face of economic difficulties in Puerto Rico has been emigration. An increasing number of Puerto Ricans is seriously considering that alternative, despite the recession of the U.S. economy.

During the current decade, at least one-quarter of a million Puerto Ricans has moved to the continental United States. According to the Puerto Rico Community Survey, nearly 428,000 residents of the Island relocated to the mainland, while about 224,000 returned from abroad between the years 2000 and 2007. According to the Puerto Rico Ports Authority, the net passenger movement to the United States totaled around 297,200 persons between 2000 and 2009. In 2008, 51.6 percent of all persons of Puerto Rican origin lived outside the Island.

Aside from the massive resurgence of the Puerto Rican exodus, the latest census statistics confirm the migrants’ changing settlement patterns. In 2008, the state of Florida had the second largest number of Puerto Rican residents (744.4 thousand), after New York (1.1 million). Between the years 2000 and 2007, five of the ten leading destinations of Puerto Rican migrants were in Florida: Orange, Miami-Dade, Broward, Hillsborough, and Osceola counties.

During the same period, 38,257 residents of the Island resettled in Orange County, the center of the Orlando metropolitan area, which has displaced Philadelphia and Chicago as the second concentration for Puerto Ricans in the U.S. mainland. Other popular destinations for the migrants are Hamden County, Massachusetts; Philadelphia; the Bronx in New York; Hartford and New Haven, Connecticut.

On average, contemporary Puerto Rican migrants are younger, better educated, more skilled, and more likely to be bilingual than the Island’s population. Still, it is exaggerated to characterize the entire new migrant flow as a “brain drain,” since the bulk of the migrants has a secondary education and a blue-collar or service job.

At the same time, a growing proportion consists of highly qualified professionals, including medical doctors, engineers, nurses, and teachers. Among the main motivations for this continuous exodus are the gaps in wages, working conditions, and opportunities for professional development on the Island and in the United States. Furthermore, many migrants are seeking a better “quality of life,” referring especially to public services, housing costs, safety, and tranquility.

Finally, the most recent census estimates allow a comparison between the living conditions of Puerto Ricans on and off the Island.

In 2008, Puerto Rico’s unemployment rate was 14.8 percent, compared to 10 percent for Puerto Ricans in the United States, 9.3 percent in Florida, and 10.4 percent in Orlando. The median income for Puerto Rican households on the Island ($18,190) was less than half than in the United States ($39,039), Florida ($41,892), and Orlando ($39,778). In turn, Puerto Rico’s poverty rate (45 percent) was much higher than for Puerto Ricans in the United States (24 percent), Florida (17.5 percent), and Orlando (16.2 percent).

Given such wide discrepancies in employment opportunities, income levels, and other economic indicators, the new migrant wave will probably persist, until living conditions on the Island improve substantially. Let’s hope that happens soon.

Jorge Duany is Professor of Anthropology at the University of Puerto Rico, Río Piedras. He is currently the Wilbur Marvin Visiting Scholar at the David Rockefeller Center for Latin American Studies at Harvard University. He earned his Ph.D. in Latin American Studies, with a concentration in anthropology, at the University of California, Berkeley. He also holds an M.A. in Social Sciences from the University of Chicago and a B.A. in Psychology from Columbia University. He has published extensively on Caribbean migration, ethnicity, race, nationalism, and transnationalism. His most recent coedited book is “How the United States Racializes Latinos: White Hegemony and Its Consequences” (2009).

SOTOMAYOR’s OFTEN QUOTED SPEECH

Tuesday, June 9th, 2009

The following is the text of the Judge Mario G. Olmos Memorial Lecture in 2001, delivered at the University of California, Berkeley, School of Law, by appeals court judge Sonia Sotomayor. It was published in the Spring 2002 issue of Berkeley La Raza Law Journal, a symposium issue entitled “Raising the Bar: Latino and Latina Presence in the Judiciary and the Struggle for Representation,” and it is reproduced here with permission from the journal.

“A Latina Judge’s Voice”

By Sonia Sotomayor

Judge Reynoso, thank you for that lovely introduction. I am humbled to be speaking behind a man who has contributed so much to the Hispanic community. I am also grateful to have such kind words said about me.

I am delighted to be here. It is nice to escape my hometown for just a little bit. It is also nice to say hello to old friends who are in the audience, to rekindle contact with old acquaintances and to make new friends among those of you in the audience. It is particularly heart warming to me to be attending a conference to which I was invited by a Latina law school friend, Rachel Moran, who is now an accomplished and widely respected legal scholar. I warn Latinos in this room: Latinas are making a lot of progress in the old-boy network.

I am also deeply honored to have been asked to deliver the annual Judge Mario G. Olmos lecture. I am joining a remarkable group of prior speakers who have given this lecture. I hope what I speak about today continues to promote the legacy of that man whose commitment to public service and abiding dedication to promoting equality and justice for all people inspired this memorial lecture and the conference that will follow. I thank Judge Olmos’ widow Mary Louise’s family, her son and the judge’s many friends for hosting me. And for the privilege you have bestowed on me in honoring the memory of a very special person. If I and the many people of this conference can accomplish a fraction of what Judge Olmos did in his short but extraordinary life we and our respective communities will be infinitely better.

I intend tonight to touch upon the themes that this conference will be discussing this weekend and to talk to you about my Latina identity, where it came from, and the influence I perceive it has on my presence on the bench.

Who am I? I am a “Newyorkrican.” For those of you on the West Coast who do not know what that term means: I am a born and bred New Yorker of Puerto Rican-born parents who came to the states during World War II.

Like many other immigrants to this great land, my parents came because of poverty and to attempt to find and secure a better life for themselves and the family that they hoped to have. They largely succeeded. For that, my brother and I are very grateful. The story of that success is what made me and what makes me the Latina that I am. The Latina side of my identity was forged and closely nurtured by my family through our shared experiences and traditions.

For me, a very special part of my being Latina is the mucho platos de arroz, gandules y pernil – rice, beans and pork – that I have eaten at countless family holidays and special events. My Latina identity also includes, because of my particularly adventurous taste buds, morcilla, — pig intestines, patitas de cerdo con garbanzo — pigs’ feet with beans, and la lengua y orejas de cuchifrito, pigs’ tongue and ears. I bet the Mexican-Americans in this room are thinking that Puerto Ricans have unusual food tastes. Some of us, like me, do. Part of my Latina identity is the sound of merengue at all our family parties and the heart wrenching Spanish love songs that we enjoy. It is the memory of Saturday afternoon at the movies with my aunt and cousins watching Cantinflas, who is not Puerto Rican, but who was an icon Spanish comedian on par with Abbot and Costello of my generation. My Latina soul was nourished as I visited and played at my grandmother’s house with my cousins and extended family. They were my friends as I grew up. Being a Latina child was watching the adults playing dominos on Saturday night and us kids playing loteria, bingo, with my grandmother calling out the numbers which we marked on our cards with chick peas.

Now, does any one of these things make me a Latina? Obviously not because each of our Carribean and Latin American communities has their own unique food and different traditions at the holidays. I only learned about tacos in college from my Mexican-American roommate. Being a Latina in America also does not mean speaking Spanish. I happen to speak it fairly well. But my brother, only three years younger, like too many of us educated here, barely speaks it. Most of us born and bred here, speak it very poorly.

If I had pursued my career in my undergraduate history major, I would likely provide you with a very academic description of what being a Latino or Latina means. For example, I could define Latinos as those peoples and cultures populated or colonized by Spain who maintained or adopted Spanish or Spanish Creole as their language of communication. You can tell that I have been very well educated. That antiseptic description however, does not really explain the appeal of morcilla – pig’s intestine – to an American born child. It does not provide an adequate explanation of why individuals like us, many of whom are born in this completely different American culture, still identify so strongly with those communities in which our parents were born and raised.

America has a deeply confused image of itself that is in perpetual tension. We are a nation that takes pride in our ethnic diversity, recognizing its importance in shaping our society and in adding richness to its existence. Yet, we simultaneously insist that we can and must function and live in a race and color-blind way that ignore these very differences that in other contexts we laud. That tension between “the melting pot and the salad bowl” — a recently popular metaphor used to described New York’s diversity – is being hotly debated today in national discussions about affirmative action. Many of us struggle with this tension and attempt to maintain and promote our cultural and ethnic identities in a society that is often ambivalent about how to deal with its differences. In this time of great debate we must remember that it is not political struggles that create a Latino or Latina identity. I became a Latina by the way I love and the way I live my life. My family showed me by their example how wonderful and vibrant life is and how wonderful and magical it is to have a Latina soul. They taught me to love being a Puertorriqueña and to love America and value its lesson that great things could be achieved if one works hard for it. But achieving success here is no easy accomplishment for Latinos or Latinas, and although that struggle did not and does not create a Latina identity, it does inspire how I live my life.

I was born in the year 1954. That year was the fateful year in which Brown v. Board of Education was decided. When I was eight, in 1961, the first Latino, the wonderful Judge Reynaldo Garza, was appointed to the federal bench, an event we are celebrating at this conference. When I finished law school in 1979, there were no women judges on the Supreme Court or on the highest court of my home state, New York. There was then only one Afro-American Supreme Court Justice and then and now no Latino or Latina justices on our highest court. Now in the last twenty plus years of my professional life, I have seen a quantum leap in the representation of women and Latinos in the legal profession and particularly in the judiciary. In addition to the appointment of the first female United States Attorney General, Janet Reno, we have seen the appointment of two female justices to the Supreme Court and two female justices to the New York Court of Appeals, the highest court of my home state. One of those judges is the Chief Judge and the other is a Puerto Riqueña, like I am. As of today, women sit on the highest courts of almost all of the states and of the territories, including Puerto Rico. One Supreme Court, that of Minnesota, had a majority of women justices for a period of time.

As of September 1, 2001, the federal judiciary consisting of Supreme, Circuit and District Court Judges was about 22% women. In 1992, nearly ten years ago, when I was first appointed a District Court Judge, the percentage of women in the total federal judiciary was only 13%. Now, the growth of Latino representation is somewhat less favorable. As of today we have, as I noted earlier, no Supreme Court justices, and we have only 10 out of 147 active Circuit Court judges and 30 out of 587 active district court judges. Those numbers are grossly below our proportion of the population. As recently as 1965, however, the federal bench had only three women serving and only one Latino judge. So changes are happening, although in some areas, very slowly. These figures and appointments are heartwarming. Nevertheless, much still remains to happen.

Let us not forget that between the appointments of Justice Sandra Day O’Connor in 1981 and Justice Ginsburg in 1992, eleven years passed. Similarly, between Justice Kaye’s initial appointment as an Associate Judge to the New York Court of Appeals in 1983, and Justice Ciparick’s appointment in 1993, ten years elapsed. Almost nine years later, we are waiting for a third appointment of a woman to both the Supreme Court and the New York Court of Appeals and of a second minority, male or female, preferably Hispanic, to the Supreme Court. In 1992 when I joined the bench, there were still two out of 13 circuit courts and about 53 out of 92 district courts in which no women sat. At the beginning of September of 2001, there are women sitting in all 13 circuit courts. The First, Fifth, Eighth and Federal Circuits each have only one female judge, however, out of a combined total number of 48 judges. There are still nearly 37 district courts with no women judges at all. For women of color the statistics are more sobering. As of September 20, 1998, of the then 195 circuit court judges only two were African-American women and two Hispanic women. Of the 641 district court judges only twelve were African-American women and eleven Hispanic women. African-American women comprise only 1.56% of the federal judiciary and Hispanic-American women comprise only 1%. No African-American, male or female, sits today on the Fourth or Federal circuits. And no Hispanics, male or female, sit on the Fourth, Sixth, Seventh, Eighth, District of Columbia or Federal Circuits.

Sort of shocking, isn’t it? This is the year 2002. We have a long way to go. Unfortunately, there are some very deep storm warnings we must keep in mind. In at least the last five years the majority of nominated judges the Senate delayed more than one year before confirming or never confirming were women or minorities. I need not remind this audience that Judge Paez of your home Circuit, the Ninth Circuit, has had the dubious distinction of having had his confirmation delayed the longest in Senate history. These figures demonstrate that there is a real and continuing need for Latino and Latina organizations and community groups throughout the country to exist and to continue their efforts of promoting women and men of all colors in their pursuit for equality in the judicial system.

This weekend’s conference, illustrated by its name, is bound to examine issues that I hope will identify the efforts and solutions that will assist our communities. The focus of my speech tonight, however, is not about the struggle to get us where we are and where we need to go but instead to discuss with you what it all will mean to have more women and people of color on the bench. The statistics I have been talking about provide a base from which to discuss a question which one of my former colleagues on the Southern District bench, Judge Miriam Cederbaum, raised when speaking about women on the federal bench. Her question was: What do the history and statistics mean? In her speech, Judge Cederbaum expressed her belief that the number of women and by direct inference people of color on the bench, was still statistically insignificant and that therefore we could not draw valid scientific conclusions from the acts of so few people over such a short period of time. Yet, we do have women and people of color in more significant numbers on the bench and no one can or should ignore pondering what that will mean or not mean in the development of the law. Now, I cannot and do not claim this issue as personally my own. In recent years there has been an explosion of research and writing in this area. On one of the panels tomorrow, you will hear the Latino perspective in this debate.

For those of you interested in the gender perspective on this issue, I commend to you a wonderful compilation of articles published on the subject in Vol. 77 of the Judicature, the Journal of the American Judicature Society of November-December 1993. It is on Westlaw/Lexis and I assume the students and academics in this room can find it.

Now Judge Cedarbaum expresses concern with any analysis of women and presumably again people of color on the bench, which begins and presumably ends with the conclusion that women or minorities are different from men generally. She sees danger in presuming that judging should be gender or anything else based. She rightly points out that the perception of the differences between men and women is what led to many paternalistic laws and to the denial to women of the right to vote because we were described then “as not capable of reasoning or thinking logically” but instead of “acting intuitively.” I am quoting adjectives that were bandied around famously during the suffragettes’ movement.

While recognizing the potential effect of individual experiences on perception, Judge Cedarbaum nevertheless believes that judges must transcend their personal sympathies and prejudices and aspire to achieve a greater degree of fairness and integrity based on the reason of law. Although I agree with and attempt to work toward Judge Cedarbaum’s aspiration, I wonder whether achieving that goal is possible in all or even in most cases. And I wonder whether by ignoring our differences as women or men of color we do a disservice both to the law and society. Whatever the reasons why we may have different perspectives, either as some theorists suggest because of our cultural experiences or as others postulate because we have basic differences in logic and reasoning, are in many respects a small part of a larger practical question we as women and minority judges in society in general must address. I accept the thesis of a law school classmate, Professor Steven Carter of Yale Law School, in his affirmative action book that in any group of human beings there is a diversity of opinion because there is both a diversity of experiences and of thought. Thus, as noted by another Yale Law School Professor — I did graduate from there and I am not really biased except that they seem to be doing a lot of writing in that area – Professor Judith Resnik says that there is not a single voice of feminism, not a feminist approach but many who are exploring the possible ways of being that are distinct from those structured in a world dominated by the power and words of men. Thus, feminist theories of judging are in the midst of creation and are not and perhaps will never aspire to be as solidified as the established legal doctrines of judging can sometimes appear to be.

That same point can be made with respect to people of color. No one person, judge or nominee will speak in a female or people of color voice. I need not remind you that Justice Clarence Thomas represents a part but not the whole of African-American thought on many subjects. Yet, because I accept the proposition that, as Judge Resnik describes it, “to judge is an exercise of power” and because as, another former law school classmate, Professor Martha Minnow of Harvard Law School, states “there is no objective stance but only a series of perspectives – no neutrality, no escape from choice in judging,” I further accept that our experiences as women and people of color affect our decisions. The aspiration to impartiality is just that–it’s an aspiration because it denies the fact that we are by our experiences making different choices than others. Not all women or people of color, in all or some circumstances or indeed in any particular case or circumstance but enough people of color in enough cases, will make a difference in the process of judging. The Minnesota Supreme Court has given an example of this. As reported by Judge Patricia Wald formerly of the D.C. Circuit Court, three women on the Minnesota Court with two men dissenting agreed to grant a protective order against a father’s visitation rights when the father abused his child. The Judicature Journal has at least two excellent studies on how women on the courts of appeal and state supreme courts have tended to vote more often than their male counterpart to uphold women’s claims in sex discrimination cases and criminal defendants’ claims in search and seizure cases. As recognized by legal scholars, whatever the reason, not one woman or person of color in any one position but as a group we will have an effect on the development of the law and on judging.

In our private conversations, Judge Cedarbaum has pointed out to me that seminal decisions in race and sex discrimination cases have come from Supreme Courts composed exclusively of white males. I agree that this is significant but I also choose to emphasize that the people who argued those cases before the Supreme Court which changed the legal landscape ultimately were largely people of color and women. I recall that Justice Thurgood Marshall, Judge Connie Baker Motley, the first black woman appointed to the federal bench, and others of the NAACP argued Brown v. Board of Education. Similarly, Justice Ginsburg, with other women attorneys, was instrumental in advocating and convincing the Court that equality of work required equality in terms and conditions of employment.

Whether born from experience or inherent physiological or cultural differences, a possibility I abhor less or discount less than my colleague Judge Cedarbaum, our gender and national origins may and will make a difference in our judging. Justice O’Connor has often been cited as saying that a wise old man and wise old woman will reach the same conclusion in deciding cases. I am not so sure Justice O’Connor is the author of that line since Professor Resnik attributes that line to Supreme Court Justice Coyle. I am also not so sure that I agree with the statement. First, as Professor Martha Minnow has noted, there can never be a universal definition of wise. Second, I would hope that a wise Latina woman with the richness of her experiences would more often than not reach a better conclusion than a white male who hasn’t lived that life.

Let us not forget that wise men like Oliver Wendell Holmes and Justice Cardozo voted on cases which upheld both sex and race discrimination in our society. Until 1972, no Supreme Court case ever upheld the claim of a woman in a gender discrimination case. I, like Professor Carter, believe that we should not be so myopic as to believe that others of different experiences or backgrounds are incapable of understanding the values and needs of people from a different group. Many are so capable. As Judge Cedarbaum pointed out to me, nine white men on the Supreme Court in the past have done so on many occasions and on many issues including Brown.

However, to understand takes time and effort, something that not all people are willing to give. For others, their experiences limit their ability to understand the experiences of others. Other simply do not care. Hence, one must accept the proposition that a difference there will be by the presence of women and people of color on the bench. Personal experiences affect the facts that judges choose to see. My hope is that I will take the good from my experiences and extrapolate them further into areas with which I am unfamiliar. I simply do not know exactly what that difference will be in my judging. But I accept there will be some based on my gender and my Latina heritage.

I also hope that by raising the question today of what difference having more Latinos and Latinas on the bench will make will start your own evaluation. For people of color and women lawyers, what does and should being an ethnic minority mean in your lawyering? For men lawyers, what areas in your experiences and attitudes do you need to work on to make you capable of reaching those great moments of enlightenment which other men in different circumstances have been able to reach. For all of us, how do change the facts that in every task force study of gender and race bias in the courts, women and people of color, lawyers and judges alike, report in significantly higher percentages than white men that their gender and race has shaped their careers, from hiring, retention to promotion and that a statistically significant number of women and minority lawyers and judges, both alike, have experienced bias in the courtroom?

Each day on the bench I learn something new about the judicial process and about being a professional Latina woman in a world that sometimes looks at me with suspicion. I am reminded each day that I render decisions that affect people concretely and that I owe them constant and complete vigilance in checking my assumptions, presumptions and perspectives and ensuring that to the extent that my limited abilities and capabilities permit me, that I reevaluate them and change as circumstances and cases before me requires. I can and do aspire to be greater than the sum total of my experiences but I accept my limitations. I willingly accept that we who judge must not deny the differences resulting from experience and heritage but attempt, as the Supreme Court suggests, continuously to judge when those opinions, sympathies and prejudices are appropriate.

There is always a danger embedded in relative morality, but since judging is a series of choices that we must make, that I am forced to make, I hope that I can make them by informing myself on the questions I must not avoid asking and continuously pondering. We, I mean all of us in this room, must continue individually and in voices united in organizations that have supported this conference, to think about these questions and to figure out how we go about creating the opportunity for there to be more women and people of color on the bench so we can finally have statistically significant numbers to measure the differences we will and are making.

I am delighted to have been here tonight and extend once again my deepest gratitude to all of you for listening and letting me share my reflections on being a Latina voice on the bench. Thank you.

Howard Jordan’s Response to Black Agenda Report (BAR) article about Sotomayor

Sunday, June 7th, 2009

Below please find a reply I wrote to the recent article by “Black Agenda Report (BAR) the journal of African American political thought and action” on an article entitled “Sonia Sotomayor: She’s No Clarence Thomas, But No Thurgood Marshall Either” by managing editor Bruce A. Dixon. I invite all readers to write BAR and express your opinion on this important nomination. The article is on the following website: http://www.blackagendareport.com/

Black Agenda Report(BAR) Joins the Anti-Latino Sotomayor Agenda
By Howard Jordan

I was saddened to witness Black Agenda Report (BAR) join the chorus of attacks on Latina justice Sonia Sotomayor. The article “Sonia Sotomayor: She’s No Clarence Thomas, But No Thurgood Marshall Either” by managing editor Bruce A. Dixon trivializes the historic importance of the nomination of the first Latina to the court. It also does a disservice to the Puerto Rican/Latino legal and political experience in the United States. Let me address some the points you raise:
First you argue that corporate media is exaggerating the importance of the nomination and it just feeds the notion that anybody can overcome racism in America. As a New York born Puerto Rican/Latino the importance of the nomination to our community is unprecedented. Though racism is structural and will not be eliminated by one appointment Mr. Dixon the narrative is important. A diabetic Latina, who lost her father when she was nine, raised in a housing project speaking a foreign language, attended Princeton, was editor a Yale Law Review, and served on the bench for seventeen years is a tribute and recognition of the important contributions Latin@s have made to this nation. The elevation of Thurgood Marshal to the Supreme Court during that historical period received the same sense of elation in the African-American community. It is as one Dominican legislator noted a “Jackie Robinson moment” for the 40 million Latinos in the U.S.
I am troubled that in your article you make only a passing reference to the racist comments characterizing Sotomayor as a “reverse racist,” an “affirmative action pick, a Hispanic chick, making fun of her unpronounceable last name, or cartoon depictions of her strung up like a piñata with a sombrero as an “easy out for progressives…to waste all their time and oxygen debating Republicans, ridiculing and refuting their racism.” The Latino community, as do all communities of color, have a responsibility and yes even an obligation to refute unfounded attacks that stereotype Justice Sotomayor and by extension promote racist stereotypes against Latinos.
Second, you rightly note Justice Sotomayor’s participation on the Board of the Puerto Rican Legal Defense and Education Fund, the main civil rights law firm for Latinos in the Northeast, but demean that participation by referring to the fact that she was “reportedly involved.” You state “No reports we have seen say that she personally filed those suits or that she ever appeared in court on behalf of litigants in discrimination and other lawsuits… she can hardly claim sole credit for it. The best barometer of her participation in PRLDEF is the statement of Puerto Ricans themselves. As Cesar Perales, the PRLDEF President stated “Sonia displayed an increasing amount of leadership on the board.” Unless of course you are going to parrot the white right and argue that Perales is only saying that because he’s Puerto Rican. She served nobly. By the way as I am sure you know board members don’t bring the cases in civil rights organizations.
Mr. Dixon, Ms. Sotomayor was one of 20 Hispanics in her class at Princeton and co-chairwoman of the Puerto Rican organization Accion Puertorriqueno where she wrote a complaint accusing Princeton of discrimination and convinced the leaders of the Chicano Caucus to co-sign it and filed it with the federal Department of Health, Education and Welfare. As a result of her efforts, Princeton employed its first Hispanic administrator and invited a Puerto Rican professor to teach. (New York Times) Perhaps you also missed her Yale Law Review article where she urged the granting of special rights for off-shore mineral rights for Puerto Rico not enjoyed by U.S. states, a historical corollary to the Vieques struggle of the Puerto Rican nation. (New York Times-David Gonzalez)
The one point you raise that I wholeheartedly agree with is your recognition of the contributions of Justice Thurgood Marshal and his transformation of the legal and racial landscape. As an attorney Justice Marshal remains one of my heroes and is the most important Supreme Court justice in U.S. history. But I consider the Sotomayor nomination as part of the historical continuum of the Latino contribution to the broader struggle for civil rights. It is the cross fertilization of our communities struggle for legal equality.

For example, in the case of Mendez v. Westminster, nine years before Brown vs. the Board of Education, on March 2, 1945, five Latino fathers (Gonzalo Mendez, Thomas Estrada, William Guzman, Frank Palomino, and Lorenzo Ramirez) challenged the practice of school segregation in the Ninth Federal District Court in Los Angeles. They claimed that their children, along with 5,000 other children of “Mexican and Latin descent”, were victims of unconstitutional discrimination by being forced to attend separate “Mexican” schools in the Westminster, Garden Grove, Santa Ana, and El Modeno school districts of Orange County. Judge Paul J. McCormick ruled in favor of Mendez and his co-plaintiffs on February 18, 1946. As a result “separate but equal” ended in California schools and legally enforced separation of racial and national groups in the public education system. The governor of the state at this time was Earl Warren who later decided Brown.
I will not go on to cite all the contributions of Sotomayor this gifted jurist who is a legatee of our contributions to our struggle for social justice. Anybody with roots in our community understands this reality and can readily access her contributions through the internet or the written and oral histories of our community if they so desired.
Third, you maintain that her legal experience a “mere 12 years of legal experience” five as a prosecutor and 7 for and corporate firm is not significant. Perhaps in your analysis you failed to mention that Justice Sotomayor has more legal experience that any of the nominees on the present court had at the time. Even more troubling is your transparent attempts to cherry pick those cases that would present Justice Sotomayor in a negative pro-corporate light. As the New York Times indicated Justice Sotomayor would bring more federal judicial experience to the Supreme Court than any justice in 100 years and more overall judicial experience than anyone confirmed in the court in the past 70 years. She participated in over 3000 panel decisions and authored roughly 400 opinions.
Fourthly, you establish a false causal connection between the Rockefeller Drug laws and the development of the prison-industrial complex and Sotomayor. The article argues that during this period Sotomayor as a prosecutor did not inject herself in this scandalous imprisonment of people of color. I frankly don’t see the connection, did Sotomayor cause this situation? During this same historical period Puerto Ricans were held as Puerto Rican political prisoners in American prisons and many progressive lawyers did not speak out. Many jurist, liberals, and yes progressive of color have not played a leading role in denouncing the colonization of the Puerto Rican people (America’s last colony), despite the efforts of our people to bring our situation to the courts, yet I would not blame them for assisting the colonizers in their silence.
Five, you use a corporate news media source like the Wall Street Journal to argue that Justice Sotomayor not only represented corporate clients but rejoiced in that representation. You note that absent from the conversation is a cursory review of her (Sotomayor’s) legal career then proceed to offer your readers a less than cursory review of your own. I am particularly disturbed on how your article cherry picked the cases that pigeon hole the judge as pro-business- but conveniently ignored other decisions such as the 2006 case Merrill Lynch v. Dabit where she allowed class action lawsuits against Merrill Lynch or her ruling in favor of the players (workers) in the major league baseball strike. As many scholars have noted that her opinions do not necessarily put her in a pro- or anti-business camp. (New York Times-May 28)
It might also have been more intellectually honest to note the civil liberties decision by the Justice in the Ricci case allowing the city of New Haven to reject an exam that discriminated against African American and Latinos or her support against insensitive strip search of a 13 year old girl as intrusive. Or the case of United States v. Reimer where Judge Sotomayor wrote an opinion revoking the US citizenship for a man charged with working for the Nazis in World War II Poland, guarding concentration camps and helping empty the Jewish ghettos. And in Lin v. Gonzales where she ordered renewed consideration of the asylum claims of Chinese women who experienced or were threatened with forced birth control
I would add that while I would not reject the argument that many of the Justice’s experience have also been corporate friendly as is most of the court, I don’t believe we have any “revolutionaries” on the bench. Will the nomination of Sotomayor destroy the corporate state/capitalism or free people of color from the racial oppression in the United States- no but is it a significant step forward- yes.
I am particularly troubled with the overall tenor of your article characterizing Justice Sotomayor as a “zealot advocate for multinational business” and an “easy out for progressives around the Sotomayor nomination is to waste all their time and oxygen debating Republicans, ridiculing and refuting their racism.” I am a progressive and I wholeheartedly reject your advice. Justice Sotomayor is reflective of the Puerto Rican/Latino experience in the United States. I would submit to you Mr. Dixon that recognizing a community’s leadership is about “respect” and I view your article as disrespectful and a cavalier dismissal of our historical experience.
As a New York born Puerto Rican I have spent a large part of my life organizing in the Latino community and struggling to build bridges between Latinos and African Americans. From the struggles against police brutality, to the Jackson campaign in 1984 and 1988, to support for the election of Mayor Dinkins, to the endorsement of candidate Obama for the Presidency who received 67 percent of the Latino vote. It is in the interest of both African Americans and Latinos to continue to cement the historical alliance between our communities and against the white supremacy that has relegated both our communities to the bottom of the economic ladder. “Sticking it” to our leaders and refusing to recognize the different levels of our “racialization” of our respective communities does not lend itself to that goal. It instead diminishes solidarity, weakens alliances, and deprives our communities of the benefits of sharing experiences.
As a regular reader of BAR I have enormous appreciation for the insight your publication has on issues of importance to all communities of color. I have read with interest your critiques of President Obama and embrace of Rosa Clemente’s candidacy as the first Afro-Puerto Rican Vice-Presidential candidate for the Green Party. That is why I was bitterly disappointed at your blind spot on the importance of the nomination of Sotomayor as “historical milestone.” The first African American President nominating the first Latina to the U.S. Supreme Court is reflective of a new Black-Brown paradigm in America where all contributions are fully recognized. We must bring together the legacies of those “those who picked cotton and those that cut sugar cane.” However, with all due respect, this will not be accomplished by promoting anti-Latino sentiments in the mainstream press.
Howard Jordan, host
The Jordan Journal
WBAI-Pacifica

LATINOS AND PBS’ WAR SERIES

Saturday, August 25th, 2007

Rodolfo F. Acuña weighs in
on the PBS/Ken Burns Controversy

Dear Ms. Mazur:

Please forgive me if I sound a bit exasperated. It is my understanding that the controversy is about the Ken Burns’ documentary and its failure to integrate Mexican Americans and Latinos into the mainframe of the documentary. Mr. Burns has said in the past that he has a right to artistic freedom and has even claimed that he has a constitutional right to his opinion. I don’t disagree with him — and if this were a novel or a work of fiction that would be great. However, we are talking about a historical documentary.

In defense of your showing the Burns documentary, you have listed a half dozen projects that KCET will offer to California viewers, which is great — but it does not absolve the Ken Burns documentary nor the fact that you will be featuring it. That you are advertising it. That you are touting it as true story of World War II.

Just like the warden said in the film, “Cool Hand Luke,” what we have here is a failure to communicate. You would probably understand me better if you had ever been involved in civil rights. The present controversy is analogous to having the premier school in the school district segregated.

When incensed parents complain, you add a bungalow to the premier school and say, “well you have a bungalow.” When the parents further criticize the school, the response is well Mexicans have a half dozen other schools that are integrated, and we just painted them for you.

Frankly, I am too old to buy the cover up. The damage has been done and you are compounding it. Public television did not do anything after Burns arrogantly disregarded Latinos in his baseball and his jazz documentaries. We were promised that next time there would be more care given to accuracy.

Well, you messed up again.

It just shows a basic “I don’t give a shit attitude” on KCET’s part. What should have been done is to send the documentary back to the editing table and Mexican Americans and Latinos integrated into the storyline. It did not happen although in cases involving other groups you have done it. I applaud you for being sensitive to the Jewish, women and African American communities — but you know what — you disrespect Mexican and Latinos.

Cordially,

Rodolfo F. Acuña, PhD
Chicana/o Studies Department
California State University at Northridge
racuna@csun.edu

BOYCOTT KCET
BOYCOTT NPR

_____

Mare Mazur responds:

Dear Dr. Acuña:

I am very sorry you were insulted by the Ken Burns letter that ran in our September magazine. As the person responsible for the broadcast schedule and our production slate, including the magazine, I can say with certainty that offending our viewers was anything but my intention.

California Connected, which just received the Alfred I. duPonte-Columbia University Award for journalism, just concluded production on a special one-hour episode titled California at War. California at War premieres August 23rd, and will be repeated several times leading up to our broadcast of The War. This program looks at the impact World War II had on California, and more importantly, the impact California had on winning the war. To that end, it includes the history of contribution from the Hispanic community who struggled with racism on the home front while being the most decorated group of the war.

In addition to airing California at War, we renewed the rights to Valor a 30-minute documentary on Latino stories of heroism during World War II, which KCET produced as part of the LA Stories project in 1989. We have also acquired a film by Mario Barrera, Professor Emeritus, Chicano Studies, University of California, Berkeley. Dr. Maggie Rivas-Rodriguez served as the academic advisor on both of those projects.

We are also running Valentina: Mexican-Americans in World War II from our sister station in New Mexico. All of these programs will be heavily promoted in and around The War. It is our expectation that this will give us the opportunity to introduce a wide audience to the history of contribution from the Latino community.

KCET has a long record of representing the Hispanic community in our productions and programming. In 1996 my colleague Joyce Campbell was the Co-executive producer of Chicano! The History of the Mexican American Civil Rights Movement which won the Nosotros Golden Eagle Award for Outstanding Documentary. She was also the executive in charge of American Family, the first Latino family drama to air on broadcast television, which KCET co-produced with Greg Nava.

In 2006 KCET was recognized by the National Hispanic Media Coalition for Excellence in Television Programming.

Ms. Campbell now serves as our Vice President of Education and Children’s Programming. In that capacity she oversees programming designed to reach the diverse audience represented in the eleven counties we serve.

This department is also responsible for the two shows that give me the greatest satisfaction: A Place of Our Own and Los Niños en Su Casa.

These are companion programs produced in both English and Spanish designed to help caregivers of pre-school aged children better prepare the children in their care for early learning.

These two series were originally developed for California distribution. While running regionally they were recognized with a George Foster Peabody Award for excellence in media, and a local Emmy. The website, which is completely bi-lingual, received the Japan Prize, an international commendation for best website. Based on our success in California, we are
able to make the programs available nationally, and are now being carried in nearly 70% of the country.

As a native Angeleno I have made the commitment that our programming, local and national, reflect the unique and diverse voices of Southern California. Again, I regret that Ken’s letter offended you. My colleagues and I work very hard to create a spirit of inclusion in all that we do, and as I began, I’m sorry that you did not find that spirit adequately communicated.

I do hope you choose to watch California at War and our other programs; we are all proud of the work and hope they resonate with our viewers. I would greatly appreciate your feedback and welcome your call should you have the
time.