Singing star Ricky Martin uses voice to help others

LinkedIn

Five-time Grammy winner Ricky Martin was changed forever 15 years ago, when he helped save three girls who were being sold into prostitution in India.

Martin is 45 and still performing in sold-out venues, where crowds invariably request “Livin’ La Vida Loca,” but the crazy life? That’s yesterday’s news. These days, he’s settled into a deeply meaningful life, starting with his foundation, rickymartinfoundation.org, a leading voice in exposing human trafficking globally since the launch of the awareness campaign Slaves of a New Era in 2004.

“My dream right now is seeing the abolition of modern day slavery and human trafficking,” he said.

The mission of the foundation: denounce human trafficking and educate about its existence through research and community initiatives, anchored in the defense of children and youth rights.

The vision: a world free of human trafficking.

The strategy: The foundation researches human trafficking in Puerto Rico and the Caribbean to educate and sensitize the public with the hopes of preventing more people from falling victim to this crime.

Human trafficking is a tragic problem. Approximately 30 million people are victims of human trafficking, of which 5.5 million are children. Human trafficking is the second most lucrative crime in the world, generating $150 billion annually.

To help, visit rickymartinfoundation.org.

Martin, who first gained fame as a member of the band Menudo, continued his evolution in 2008, when he became the father of two sons, Matteo and Valentino. Every action Martin takes, even while performing, is tethered to his undying commitment to his sons’ well-being.

On top of that, parenting is a blast, he said.

“It can’t get better,” he said. “I want my children to be proud of their father and to say, ‘My father is the best dad in the world.’ And I want them to belong to a modern family, and live a path of happiness and calm.”

He’s been taking them on the road with him their entire lives.

“They’ve been traveling since they were born because I’ve been on the road ever since, pretty much,” he said. “I’m their stability.”

A study in revelations, the pop star most famous for “Loca” and “She Bangs” altered his trajectory again in 2010, when he came out as gay, after which he realized, “Oh, my God, this is it. Perfect. Perfection.”

“The years in silence and reflection made me stronger and reminded me that acceptance has to come from within and that this kind of truth gives me the power to conquer emotions I didn’t even know existed,” he said at the time.

Martin advocates for LGBTQ rights, and battles bullying wherever he sees it.

“When someone isn’t ready we must not try to force them out,” he said. “People are being bullied and committing suicide because they’re gay, and it’s horrible.”

Martin and his family have settled down in Las Vegas — for now — as Martin performs at The Park Theater at Monte Carlo.

At Monte Carlo, Martin is belting out his greatest hits to sold-out crowds of 5,000-plus.

Here’s how his shows are being promoted: Head inside the stunning Park Theater, a revolutionary new space that delights every sense with its state-of-the-art visual and audio effects. As the lights go down and Ricky takes the stage, a sweeping projection screen brings you closer to the pop star than you ever thought possible. You can’t resist singing along as the Latin superstar delivers an exhilarating performance of chart-topping favorites and current hits, including “Livin’ la Vida Loca,” “Vente Pa’Ca,” and “She Bangs.” Complete with incredible costume changes and 18 of the most talented dancers in the industry, the intoxicating show leaves you buzzing long after the last song.

Martin has accepted a role in, “The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story,” set for release in 2018.

Martin will play Gianni Versace’s longtime love, Antonio D’Amico.

“It’s a story that needs to be told,” said Martin. “We’re going to go mainstream with a story that talks about homophobia, that talks about hate, that talks about indifference. I feel humbled. It’s so raw and honest and so dramatic and sad. But at the same time you show the love of Gianni and Antonio and 15 years of struggling, fighting. It’s something that I really wanted to be loud about.”

Born December 24, 1971, in San Juan, Puerto Rico, Ricky Martin began appearing in commercials at age 6. He joined the teen singing group Menudo in 1984, and sang with them for five years, earning stardom.

His debut solo album, Ricky Martin, was released in 1988, followed by a second effort, Me Amaras, in 1989.

In 1993, Martin moved to Los Angeles, where he made his American TV debut in the NBC sitcom Getting By. In 1995 he acted on ABC’s daytime soap opera, General Hospital, and in 1996 he starred in the Broadway production of Les Miserables.

Martin’s third album, A Medio Vivir, came out in 1997, the same year that he lent his voice to the Spanish-language version of Disney’s animated feature, Hercules. His fourth album, Vuelve, released in 1998, featured the hit single, “La Copa de la Vida” (The Cup of Life), which Martin performed at the 1998 World Cup soccer tournament in France, as part of a production broadcast to 2 billion people around the world.

At the Grammy Awards in 1999, Martin gave a sizzling performance of “La Copa de la Vida” at Los Angeles’s Shrine Auditorium just before picking up an award for Best Latin Pop Performance for Vuelve. He followed that star-making Grammy night with the release of his phenomenally successful first English single, “Livin’ La Vida Loca.” Martin was also featured on the cover of Time magazine and credited with helping to bring a growing Latin cultural influence into the mainstream of American pop music.

Martin was nominated in four categories at the Grammy Awards the following year, cementing his status as a pop music legend.

Decades after becoming a megastar, Martin hasn’t lost his impressive voice, his rhythmic moves, his movie star looks or his fans.

He’s still a classic, triple-threat performer — he can sing, dance and act.

But he’s a living example of the old adage, “Experience is the best teacher.” He hasn’t lost anything, but he’s gained quite a bit: perspective and wisdom, for starters.

He’s Ricky Martin 2.0, if you will.

A conscientious, committed father, a loudspeaker for those in the LGBTQ community who are being silenced, a freedom fighter against a 21st-century version of human bondage.

This is a man who’s interested in a humble kind of heroism.

“Heroes represent the best of ourselves, respecting that we are human beings,” he said. “A hero can be anyone from Gandhi to your classroom teacher, anyone who can show courage when faced with a problem. A hero is someone who is willing to help others in his or her best capacity.”

Rudy Galindo, figure skating’s Latino, LGBT pioneer

LinkedIn

Rudy Galindo’s life story of joy, heartbreak and triumph over adversity is legendary in the skating world, and he’s seen as a Latino and LGBT pioneer.

Throughout his childhood and adolescence, figure skating was a way for Rudy Galindo to escape his hardscrabble upbringing and dysfunctional home life. As a young man, he medaled in national and world championships, becoming America’s most decorated Latino figure skater and a pioneer for LGBT athletes. Now with the eyes of the world on the skating events at the Pyeongchang Olympics, Galindo is still making his mark on the sport he loves, coaching and nurturing a new generation of hopeful skating champions.

At 7:30 in the morning at the cavernous Solar4America Ice at San Jose complex, Galindo, 48, has already been on the ice for several hours. Swathed in a heavy parka and a thick scarf, he watches one of his students practice her moves.

“We have to work on your axel, those are big points,” he calls out. “Good! Now do one more!” As a dozen skaters practice their routines, the frosty air is filled with the sound of blades skimming over the ice.

Galindo raises his voice so his young charge can hear him. “Hey, why are you looking down at the ice? Don’t look down, there’s nothing down there for you!”

His student skates over for a swig of water. “Very nice, high five! Now go back and do the footwork at the end.” Galindo eyes the skater’s ponytail with a sly smile. “Hey, why are you wearing a scrunchie?! That’s very ‘80s!”

While coaching is the latest chapter in Galindo’s life, over the years he has experienced spectacular professional highs and devastating personal lows. His life story of joy, heartbreak, and triumph over adversity is legendary in the skating world.

Of Mexican-American descent, Galindo was born in the working-class neighborhood of East San Jose. His childhood was far from idyllic. His family lived in a trailer, his truck driver father was on the road for long stretches and his mother suffered from bouts of mental illness. Galindo found his escape on the ice, where his older sister was taking skating lessons at a local rink. Before long, Rudy was taking lessons too, and participating in local competitions.

His aptitude for skating came at great cost. “My dad gave everything, his whole paycheck, so my sister and I could have skating lessons and stay off the streets,” Galindo said. “He worked hard, and we never could afford to move into a house because all of his earnings went for our lessons.”

Before long, Galindo was paired up with another promising young skater from the Bay Area, Kristi Yamaguchi. “I was 11, and he was 13. He was very energetic, even at that young age,” Yamaguchi told NBC Latino. “Once we started skating together, things took off, and he was so creative. We would choreograph our own programs, and he was always full of ideas.”

Galindo even lived with Yamaguchi’s family for several years so that they could focus on their training; a typical day found them training for 6 to 8 hours, and doing their homework in the backseat of Kristi’s mother’s car as she drove them to practice sessions. “Rudy was like my brother,” Yamaguchi recalled.

Continue onto NBC News to read the complete article.

‘One Day at a Time’s’ Justina Machado reflects on the evolution of the all-American family

LinkedIn
one day at a time cast

“I hope that non-Latino families watching our Latino family on television can see that we are more alike than we are different,” says Machado

Netflix’s hit comedy series “One Day At A Time,” now in its second season, is taking some of our most polarizing and hot-button topics — racism, immigration, LGBT issues, PTSD and even how we care for our veterans — and making viewers not only think but laugh along the way.

The show’s lovable family is unapologetically Hispanic, specifically Cuban American, and yet the more we come to know them, the more we all see ourselves in this typical ‘American’ family. And that’s the point.

“I hope that non-Latino families watching our Latino family on television can see that we are more alike than we are different,” said the show’s lead actress, Justina Machado, who spoke to NBC News about the show’s recently released second season. “We love the same, maybe a little louder,” she said laughing. “We feel the same, we cry the same, we’re a lot more similar than we are different.”

The show is a remake of Norman Lear’s hit show, “One Day At A Time,” which ran from 1975 to 1984. The groundbreaking comedy featured a divorcée and her teen daughters, as well as the building’s lovable super or handyman.

The show’s modern ‘reboot’ has legendary actress Rita Moreno playing a feisty widowed grandmother, Lydia Rivera, and her daughter Penelope Alvarez, a veteran of Afghanistan struggling with PTSD and combat-related injuries and a marriage that unraveled mainly due to her husband’s PTSD and related issues. She is grappling with work and parenthood as she raises two teenagers: Elena, played by Colombian-American actress Isabella Gomez and Alex, played by Marcel Ruiz, who is the grandson of famed Puerto Rican actor and artist Silverio Pérez.

The show has been praised for its details that so accurately portray its Cuban-American household, touches that will draw chuckles from those who grew up with them: the ever present cafetera (coffee pot) and the specific way the grandmother beats the sugar and coffee to make the morning drink, the ropa vieja (shredded beef) that Abuela takes to a sports outing in a tub of margarine.

These kinds of touches were important to the show’s co-creator and showrunner, Gloria Calderón Kellett, who was tapped by Lear when they decided to make the remake with a Hispanic American family.

Continue onto NBC News to read the complete article.

Rapper French Montana Launches Campaign To Help Dreamers Go To College

LinkedIn
rapper french montana

The 33-year-old star joined forces with MTV and Get Schooled, a nonprofit focused on improving high school graduation rates and boosting college attendance, to launch “We Are The Dream.” The campaign seeks to help young undocumented immigrants, known as Dreamers, go to college.

Rolling Stone broke the news of the initiative on Thursday. 

“I am one of tens of thousands of first and second generation immigrants that are having a significant positive impact on the United States,” the Moroccan-American rapper said in a press release. “I am excited to lead others in this fight to ensure Dreamers connect with support they need to get to college and make their American Dream come true.”

The campaign will leverage social media and its WeAreTheDream.us digital hub to help undocumented students find resources and support. The website will include personal stories, information on scholarships, and the names of sanctuary colleges. Dreamers can text “we are the dream” to 33-55-77 with questions that trained counselors will answer and keep confidential.

Montana will lead the social media campaign, asking people to post selfies with the hashtag #WeAreTheDream to share stories, spread awareness and express solidarity with Dreamers. Get Schooled will hold a Twitter chat on Feb. 21 with experts, and will award grants (up to $1,000) to schools, colleges, and community-based organizationslooking to support undocumented students’ access to higher education.

Continue onto the HuffingtonPost to read the complete article.

The 2018 iHeartRadio Nominees Have Been Announced!

LinkedIn

The 2018 iHeartRadio Music Awards is set to air live on Sunday, March 11th at the Forum in Los Angeles, California. For the fifth straight year, the ceremony will celebrate the most talked about artists and songs heard throughout the last year across radio stations and the iHeartRadio app. Throughout the year, these artists have released hits that have impacted radio stations across the nation.

For the first time, iHeartRadio will be including fans in this year’s show. Fans will be able to vote for “Best Fan Army”, “Best Cover Song”,  “Best Solo Breakout”, and even “Best Musician Pet”.  Voting for these categories are now open at the iHeartRadio awards page. Don’t forget to vote! In the mean time, check out these Latino Superstars making their mark nationally and internationally!

1. Bruno Mars

While Bruno Mars maybe known for Uptwon Funk and 24K Magic,  the pop star first started his career at the age of three, as a young Elvis impersonator. Moving to Los Angeles from his native Hawaii, Mars began his professional career where he made a splash with his hit, Nothin’ On You. Continuing on the success from his debut song, Mars has continuously made hits, which has earned him Male Artist of the Year nominee.

2. Camila Cabello

Cabello first made her debut in the all girl band, Fifth Harmony. Making her own spotlight in the band, she departed in 2016 to start her solo career. The  young star made waves with her Latin influenced Havana, a homage to her birth country, Cuba. Her unique voice and smooth Latin influence has landed her as a Best New Pop Artist Nominee.

3. Luis Fonsi and Daddy Yankee

These Puerto Rican musicians made their mark on American radio stations with their release of Despacito and later the remix with pop superstar, Justin Beiber. Though both Fonsi and Yankee have had successful independent music careers, the collaboration on Despacito has landed them as Latin Song of the Year nominees.

4. J Balvin featuring Willy William

First J Balvin and Willy William released Mi Gente. It went viral and echoed through every radio station’s speaker.  It became a bonafide hit and then, it was remixed with Beyoncé to help with aid relief in Puerto Rico. So, it being Latin Song of the Year, comes as no surprise.

5. Enrique Iglesias

Enrique Iglesias has been on the music scene for a while now. He as made hits in America and Latin America. With his hit Bialando, Iglesias brought back Latin flair to American music. Now being nominated with Latin Song of the Year, Iglesias set set to take over both, American and Latin radio stations.

6. Shakira

Her pop hit Whenever made Shakira a superstar. Her collaborations with Latin and American artists solidified her as a versatile musician, and being a guest judge on NBC’s The Voice made Shakira even more adored by American fans. Her nominations as Latin Artist of the Year. Her hips definitely don’t lie.

As Latinx artists continue to make waves in America, iHeartRadio is dedicated to recognizing their contributions to music. The following nominees are artists to watch out for in the coming year:

Best New Latin Artist:
Abraham Mateo
Bad Bunny
Danny Ocean
Karol G
Ozuna

Regional Mexican Song of the Year:
“Adios Amor” – Christian Nodal
“Ella Es Mi Mujer” – Banda Carnaval
“Las Ultras” – Calibre 50
“Regresa Hermosa” – Gerardo Ortiz
“Siempre Te Voy A Querer” – Calibre 50

Regional Mexican Artist of the Year: 
Banda Carnaval
Banda Los Recoditos
Banda Sinaloense MS de Sergio Lizarraga
Calibre 50
Gerardo Ortiz

Best New Regional Mexican Artist:
Christian Nodal
Edwin Luna y La Trakalosa de Monterrey
El Fantasma
Ulices Chaidez y Sus Plebes

Check out iHeartRadio for more information on these talented artists!

Oscar-Winning Director of ‘O.J.: Made in America’ Ezra Edelman to Helm Roberto Clemente Biopic

LinkedIn
Ezra Edelman

Filmmaker Ezra Edelman is continuing his cinematic trek through the wide world of sports.

Edelman won an Academy Award last year for the documentary O.J.: Made in AmericaVarietyreports he will now direct a feature biopic on Puerto Rican baseball icon Roberto Clemente, who played 18 seasons in Major League Baseball (MLB) for the Pittsburg Pirates and was the first Latino to be inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame.

On New Year’s Eve 1972, Clemente died in a plane crash while delivering aid to earthquake victims in Nicaragua. He was 38.

Edelman will work on the film with first-time screenwriter, poet and sports columnist Rowan Ricardo Phillips, who will adapt the script from author David Maraniss’ book “Clemente: The Passion and Grace of Baseball’s Last Hero.” The studio behind the project is Legendary Pictures. It named Giselle Fernandez and Sandra Condito executive producers.

This is will not be Edelman’s first experience on the diamond. He won a Sports Emmy Award in 2007 for his HBO documentary Brooklyn Dodgers: The Ghosts of Flatbush as part of the cable network’s award-winning 30 for 30 series. He also made documentaries on the rivalry between two NBA legends, Los Angeles Lakers’ Magic Johnson and Boston Celtics’ Larry Bird (Magic & Bird: A Courtship of Rivals) and on MLB player Curt Flood (The Curious Case of Curt Flood), who famously refused to be traded to another team in 1969 – a decision that he ultimately lost when the case went before the Supreme Court to challenge baseball’s reserve clause.

Continue onto Remezcla to read the complete article.

Sphinx Organization Secures Exclusive Corporate Support of All-Black and –Latino Orchestra

LinkedIn

Mercedes-Benz Financial Services to present the Sphinx Symphony Orchestra in 2018

Detroit – Mercedes-Benz Financial Services has enhanced its long-standing partnership with the Sphinx Organization, a national nonprofit dedicated to transforming lives through the power of diversity in the arts, as the presenting sponsor of the Sphinx Symphony Orchestra for the 2018 season. This new support of the symphony complements Mercedes-Benz Financial Services’ long-standing sponsorship of the Sphinx Competition Audience Choice Award.

“We are thrilled to expand our existing partnership with Mercedes-Benz Financial Services,” stated Afa Dworkin, president and artistic director of the Sphinx Organization. “Their continuing support allows us to highlight the importance of inclusion in the field of classical music, both in our communities and the around the globe.”

The Sphinx Symphony Orchestra is the world’s first orchestra comprised of America’s top Black and Latino classical musicians. The ensemble includes past and present members of nearly a dozen of the nation’s oldest and most prestigious orchestras, as well as faculty members of leading music institutions in the country. Some of the organizations represented include:

  • Atlanta Symphony Orchestra
  • Baltimore Symphony Orchestra
  • Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra
  • The Cleveland Orchestra
  • Detroit Symphony Orchestra
  • Los Angeles Philharmonic
  • Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra
  • New York Philharmonic
  • Orchestra of the Metropolitan Opera House
  • Louis Symphony Orchestra
  • Puerto Rico Symphony Orchestra

In addition to performing, the musicians of this ensemble fulfill a unique role. The orchestra members serve as mentors to young musicians and teachers through master classes and lectures. Plus, the group promotes works by Black and Latino composers.

“At Mercedes-Benz Financial Services, we aim to provide rewarding, life-changing opportunities in the communities where we live and work,” said Mary Beth Halprin, director of Corporate Communications for Mercedes-Benz Financial Services.

“In the 14 years we’ve been partners, the Sphinx Organization has impacted thousands of individuals across the nation. We are pleased to be able to continue to grow that impact globally through our sponsorship of the Sphinx Symphony Orchestra.”

Mercedes-Benz Financial Services has been a supporter of Sphinx and its mission since 2004 – previously providing support for Education and Access, Artist Development and Performing Artists programs. The company’s philanthropic efforts are rooted in long-term partnerships with organizations committed to creating positive social change in four focus areas: Education; Community Enhancement; Arts & Culture; and Diversity & Inclusion.

The 21st Annual Sphinx Competition, presented by DTE Energy Foundation and hosted by the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, will be held from Jan. 31 to Feb. 4, 2018 at the Max M. Fisher Music Center. Details related to acquiring tickets to attend the Finals Concert on Sunday, Feb. 4, may be found at www.DSO.org.

###

About the Sphinx Organization

The Sphinx Organization is a Detroit-based, national organization dedicated to transforming lives through the power of diversity in the arts. Sphinx programs reach more than 100,000 students, as well as live and broadcast audiences of more than two million annually. Sphinx works to create positive change in the arts field and in communities across the country through a variety of programs organized into four main principles: Education and Access, Artist Development, Performing Artists and Arts Leadership. Read more about Sphinx’s programs at www.SphinxMusic.org.

About Mercedes-Benz Financial Services USA LLC

Mercedes‐Benz Financial Services USA LLC, headquartered in Farmington Hills, Michigan, with Business Center Operations in Fort Worth, Texas, provides brand‐specific financial products and services for Mercedes‐Benz and smart automotive dealers and their retail customers. In the U.S. trucking industry, it conducts business as Daimler Truck Financial and provides flexible financial products and services for Daimler Trucks North America commercial vehicles branded Freightliner, Western Star, Thomas Built Bus and Mitsubishi Fuso Truck of America, Inc.

Mercedes‐Benz Financial Services USA LLC serves as the headquarters for operations in the United States, Canada, Mexico, Argentina and Brazil, and has approximately 2,242 employees throughout the Americas. It is a company of the Daimler Financial Services Group, headquartered in Stuttgart, Germany, which does business in 40 countries and has an employee base of approximately 12,062 people worldwide. Daimler Financial Services is one of the leading financial services organizations worldwide and was ranked fifth out of 25 on the list of the World’s Best Multinational Workplaces by the Great Place To Work Institute in 2016. Mercedes-Benz Financial Services USA LLC was also named one of the 100 Best Workplaces for Millennials in 2015 and 2016, and one of the 100 Best Workplaces for Women in 2016 by Great Place to Work and Fortune.com. For more information, please visit www.mbfs.com/corp or www.facebook.com/mymbfs. For more information about Daimler Truck Financial, log onto www.daimler-truckfinancial.com.

With the Hirings of Alex Cora and Dave Martinez, Has MLB Finally Embraced the Latino Manager?

LinkedIn
Alex Cora and Dave Martinez

As recently as three weeks ago, there was just one solitary Latino manager in Major League Baseball. Since that time, the league must have started to truly pay attention to under-representation of Latinos in manager roles, because things have changed quickly. Normally, teams keep a low profile during the World Series but this year’s Fall Classic was a little bit different. Both the Boston Red Sox and Washington Nationals decided to get a head start on what should be another busy offseason for baseball.

They did so by giving two Latinos–both former players and recent assistant coaches–a chance to be managers in the big leagues for the first time. The Red Sox hired Alex Cora–who just won the World Series as the bench coach for the Houston Astros–to be their next manager, while the Nationals lured Dave Martinez away from last year’s world champion Chicago Cubs to run their dugout. They, along with Chicago White Sox manager Rick Renteria, now bring the number of Latino managers in MLB up to three.

Both men are baseball lifers who came up through the ranks, paid their dues, and earned their way into their new jobs. Cora, 42, was born in Caguas, Puerto Rico. He’s the younger brother of respected second baseman and coach Joey Cora, and was an infielder in his own right from 1998 to 2011. During his career, he wore the uniforms of the Los Angeles Dodgers, Cleveland Indians, Boston Red Sox, New York Mets, Texas Rangers, and the Washington Nationals before retiring with a career slash line of .243/.310/.648 with 35 career home runs, 286 RBI’s, and 47 stolen bases.

He also suited up for Puerto Rico during the 2006 and 2009 editions of the World Baseball Classic, going a combined 3-for-23 at the plate. After retiring from the field, Cora became the general manager of Puerto Rico’s national team, which finished second in both the 2013 and 2017 editions of the WBC. From 2013 to 2016, Cora also worked as a baseball analyst for ESPN and ESPN Deportes, where he impressed millions of viewers on a weekly basis with his insider knowledge of the game. Finally, this past offseason, Cora was hired by the Astros to be their bench coach as they marched to their first World Series title in franchise history.

Before the Astros made history however, Cora made history of his own. After the Boston Red Sox were eliminated from the 2017 playoffs, they parted ways with manager John Farrell–despite the fact that he led the team to the 2013 World Series and three American League East titles. Cora was one of the first candidates to interview for the job and, just before the Astros took the field against the Los Angeles Dodgers in game 1, the Red Sox officially made Cora the 47th manager–and the first Latino manager–in Boston history.

Continue onto Remezcla to read the complete article.

8 Afro Latinos Who Made Important Contributions to US History

LinkedIn

Nearly 100 years ago, historian Carter G. Woodson established a week-long commemoration of Black achievements and history.Through that initiative, Woodson lay the groundwork for what would eventually become known as Black History Month. In the United States, the month of February is a celebration of Blackness, paying tribute to those who fought for racial and social equality. The month serves to highlight the existence of the African Diaspora in the United States, and in school, turned our civics and history classes into necessary discussions about their contributions. However, many times this history is incomplete.

While we commonly learn about imperative African-American figures like Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X, Rosa Parks, Harriet Tubman, Maya Angelou, and many others, we don’t often hear about the importance of Afro-Latinos in the United States. Because Black and Latino are incorrectly seen as mutually exclusive, Afro Latinos find themselves overlooked.

As we acknowledge and honor Black heritage, here are eight Afro Latinos whose important contributions to US history should not go unrecognized during Black History Month or the rest of the year.

1. Miriam Jiménez Román

Miriam Jiménez Román’s influence is expansive, but perhaps nothing is as strongly felt as her book, The Afro-Latin@ Reader: History and Culture in the United States. Jiménez leads the AfroLatin@Forum, which is dedicated to raising the awareness of Afro Latin@s in the US. She has used her own experiences as a Black Puerto Rican to educate the world on Afro Latinidad and to bridge the gap between the presence of African-Americans and Latinos in the US.

She created spaces and outlets for Black Latinos that previously didn’t exist and addressed issues that often go ignored. Along with her co-editor, Juan Flores, Román conducted informative workshops with middle school students and discovered that many had a hard time understanding Afro Latinidad.

That’s why she knew crafting a book like The AfroLatin@ Reader was essential and something that should have always existed. “I said I wanted a book that addressed some of the concerns I felt when I was young,”  Roman told Los AfroLatinos. “This kind of book should have been around when I was a kid because Blackness was equated with being African-American. This limited view left me concerned about my Blackness because I grew up as a Black Puerto Rican, and I’m very conscious how race and ethnicity have both impacted my life.”

2. Piri Thomas

Down These Mean Streets, a memoir written by author Piri Thomas, is a noteworthy work on Afro Latinidad in the United States. Discussing the racism, identity issues and poverty he experienced during his lifetime growing in Spanish Harlem in NYC, the Cuban-Puerto Rican poet created a piece of literature that shone a light on his own community.

As a darker-skinned Latino, he faced discrimination, both from his family and society as a whole. His father reportedly preferred his lighter-skinned children, according to The New York Times. During his youth he used and sold drugs and ended up in prison after he hurt a police officer. During his seven years imprisoned, he finished high school and turned to writing. The work he created was so trailblazing that his editor told him that with Down These Mean Streets, Piri created a new genre, one where “everybody speaks like themselves.

He also became involved in his community and advocated for at-risk youth. In Carmen Dolores Hernández’s Puerto Rican Voices in English: Interviews with Writers, Piri said that if people wanted to know what he had done after writing his novel, all they had to do was to “ask the communities, the schools, the universities, and colleges.”

Piri is remembered as an influential voices of the Nuyorican Movement, which captured the experiences of Puerto Ricans in New York through the discrimination and marginalization they faced.

Continue onto Remezcla to read more about these revolutionary Afro- Latinos.

In a fight for much-needed green spaces, these Latino advocates bring a winning formula

LinkedIn

Viviana Franco attended high school in an affluent Southern California neighborhood that had tree-lined streets, walking trails and parks.

When she went home at the end of the day, she was greeted by a starkly different neighborhood that had liquor stores, broken sidewalks, potholed streets and no green spaces.

Franco grew up in Hawthorne, California, a city in Los Angeles County that was transformed by the construction of Interstate 105, an east-west highway that runs between Los Angeles International Airport and the city of Norwalk. The project left a number of vacant lots along the freeway, including one on the corner of 118th and Doty where Franco and her friends would play baseball and tag.

The lot was 13,000 square feet and was consistently littered with debris such as old couches, used condoms and syringes, Franco recalled, making it unsuitable for kids to play on.

“But we did,” she said. “We had no other choice.”

It was Franco’s experience with that particular vacant lot to which she credits as the catalyst for a non-profit she established in 2007 called From Lot to Spot (FLTS), which is dedicated to developing green spaces in low-income communities.

Since its inception, FLTS has opened and organized four parks, including Bicentennial Park, as well as five community gardens, one bicycle trail and one large urban tree canopy in the greater Los Angeles area.

“In these neighborhoods we have so many of these vacant lots that no one takes care of, nobody takes accountability for, so we have no parks,” she said.

Noticing all the neglected spaces in her community, Franco asked: “Why don’t we make a park here?”

Franco is among Latino advocates across the United States fighting to increase parks and enhance accessibility to green and open spaces for Hispanic communities, which struggle to access these spaces that are available in many other neighborhoods, according to a 2015 report by Hispanic Federation.

In Los Angeles County, where Franco’s organization is based, the disparity in park space is significant. According to a 2016 report from the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health, the city of Malibu has 55.5 acres of park space per 1,000 residents, versus 0.7 acres in East Los Angeles. The racial makeup in both areas is also significantly different: in Malibu, about 93 percent of the population is white, while East Los Angeles is approximately 97 percent Latino, according to U.S. Census estimates.

Green spaces and parks have been linked to a multitude of positive outcomes including better health, less stress and stronger communities. But in neighborhoods where these places aren’t available or easily accessible, residents aren’t able to enjoy these benefits.

Continue onto NBC News to read the complete article.

Claudia Sandoval Helps Telemundo Launch MasterChef Latino

LinkedIn

Reality competitions have worked well for Telemundo. The network is now hoping it has a new hit with MasterChef Latino. To spice up its chances, it named Claudia Sandoval – the winner of MasterChefSeason 6 – as one of the three judges of the U.S. Spanish-language version of the cooking reality show, bringing with her the optimism of success and a positive attitude.

“One of the biggest lessons I learned while on MasterChef U.S. was that the sky is the limit,” says Sandoval. “The chefs there push you beyond your own boundaries and teach you to harness and use your creative ability to create dishes you wouldn’t have otherwise!”

She hopes to inspire the contestants, attract viewers to the show, no matter the language, and bring awareness to the wealth of Latino cuisine.

“My hope for this season of MasterChef Latino is that we are able to harness the love that goes into Latino cooking and elevate it to the level of MasterChef. Cooking and food are a universal language. Fans of MasterChef can watch this show using closed captioning and can learn about the diversity that is Latino cooking. So I’m excited for people to see Latino food as something more elevated than just tacos, burritos, and enchiladas.”

The San Diego native and single mother can relate to the MasterChef Latino participants, all of whom have personal stories of struggle, loss and survival, looking to fulfill their dreams.

“Being in that competition offered me the opportunity to not only change my life but inspire others to follow their dreams,” she says. “I can’t believe that now two of my dreams have come true! My feet haven’t quite touched the ground since winning! Cloud 12 feels amazing!”

Those two dreams she refers to are buying her own home and publishing a best-selling cookbook with her family’s favorite recipes called “Claudia’s Cocina: A Taste of Mexico.”

Continue onto Forbes to read the complete article.