The scene could’ve been the premiere of a new movie or even the Oscars. But on this red carpet, the celebrities answered more important questions than “Who are you wearing?” They talked about hate speech against Latinos.
“We’re living in a very negative world and Latinos are the target,” said Dr. Isabel Gomez, the radio psychologist known as El Angel de la Radio(The Angel of the Airwaves).
“You have to ignore them and go on,” said Cheech Marin.
This was last Saturday’s National Hispanic Media Coalition (NHMC) 14th Annual Impact Awards Gala, held in Beverly Hills to honor outstanding Latino talent in front of and behind the cameras. Among the attendees was film producer and director Robert Rodriguez, who received the Visionary Award and feels his role is to send a positive message about Latinos through his movies.
“That’s what I’ve been doing since the beginning of my career, by having an honest screen front and center, and it’s good to be criticized because it just makes you better,” said Rodriguez.
Danny Trejo, who usually plays criminals, says he is very much aware of the negative perception against Latinos and that’s why he has one rule whenever he accepts a part: “I only play bad guys that die and that’s my message when I go to juvenile halls.”
The NHMC is a one of the country’s foremost Latino media advocacy and civil rights organizations. Its mission is to improve the image of Latinos as portrayed by the media, increase the number of Latinos employed in all facets of the media industry and advocate for media and telecommunications policies that benefit the Latino community. NHMC has many accomplishments, such as getting shock jock Howard Stern to apologize after the organization led a boycott against his radio show after Stern joked about the murder of late singing star Selena Quintanilla in 1995.
NHMC’s most recent efforts are against hate speech.
“We filed a petition for inquiry on hate speech in media with the Federal Communications Commission to establish a relation between hate speech and hate crimes against Latinos. Between 2003 and 2007, hate crimes against Latinos have increased 40%,” says Alex Nogales, President and CEO of NHMC.
NHMC’s goal is to gather 20,000 signatures against hate speech. Actress Amy Garcia said she would sign the petition, but for her what’s important is how Latinos present themselves.
“Get a good education, work very hard and be a professional, that way people will see you as who you really are and not just as a Latino,” she said.
Actress Zoe Saldana, who received the Award for Outstanding Performance in a Motion Picture, agrees. “Yes, there are many impediments in our culture, but tell me which culture doesn’t have impediments, so if you want to be half empty it’s on you,” she said.
For others, like Daniel Hernandez, who received the award for Outstanding Service to the Community for helping saving the life of Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, what needs to be done is to have more Latinos talking about civility.
“Let’s talk about the positive things we do in the community” said Hernandez.
The ceremony was emceed by Mario Lopez and Michelle Rodriquez, who entertained the guests with her speak-her-mind quality. The guest list included politicians and prominent Latinos, plus dozens of Hollywood stars who shined as they usually do.
“If we all would understand American History a little bit more, we might get along better,” said actor Enrique Castillo, from the hit show Weeds.