After weeks of protests in front of their Manhattan studio, a local ABC affiliate met with Puerto Rican activists angry over a comment made in a now-cancelled TV show.
“Boricuas for a Positive Image (BFPI)” have protested in front of WABC for seven weeks demanding an apology from the affiliate’s parent network over a remark made on the pilot episode of “Work It.” The comment that sparked outrage was when one of the characters said: “I’m Puerto Rican...I’d be great at selling drugs.”
The affiliate's parent company, ABC, has also agreed to meet with the group though no time or date has been set.
The plot of “Work It” revolved around two men who dress as women to land a job.
This week, WABC executives sat down with the protesters. WABC Vice President Saundra Thomas declined to comment on the meeting except to say that it was “productive.”
But members of BFPI who attended the meeting said it was cordial and that affiliate representatives seemed to respect their concerns and their right to assemble. But they stopped short of issuing an apology from the network itself, which was the one thing the group has been seeking.
The dismal ratings of “Work It,” which was widely panned by TV critics, led to the show’s cancellation after only two episodes.
“This is not a movement that has gone away simply because the show was cancelled," Julio Pabon Sr., a co-founder of the group, wrote recently. “Insulting jokes aired to a national audience against our community only fosters more anger and stereotypes that are untrue and puts our community in a very vulnerable situation.”
While the affiliate made no promises, they did promise to relay the group’s concerns to the appropriate executives in Burbank California, Pabon said. The network has reached out to the group for a more formal meeting.
The show also came under fire from gay rights groups because they claimed it poked fun at the transgender community. ABC met with the groups and subsequently cancelled the show.
The Boricua activists say they will continue their weekly protests until they receive an apology from ABC. The network would not comment on whether that would ever happen.
Not everyone has been supportive of their protests. On message boards and blogs many Latinos have said there are more pressing issues to address than wasting time on an unsuccessful show. Puerto Ricans both on the island and in the U.S. have said the outrage should be saved for other problems plaguing the island, like the violent drug trade and high crime rates.
Pabon disagrees. And he vows not to give up his fight.
“When an issue like this comes up and we cannot get support from different sectors within the Latino community or from within our own community, it is a problem,” he said. “When it is an insult against one it really is an attack against all.”
Erica Y. Lopez is a freelance writer based in New York City.