The Norman Transcript

June 16, 2013

Hollywood helps spark awareness of political power in Latino community

Immigration reform at forefront

By Michael Kinney
The Norman Transcript

NORMAN — Rosario Dawson couldn’t have been more excited Jan. 20, the eve of President Barack Obama’s inauguration.

The New York City-born actress and activist was decked out in a sequined party dress and surrounded by fans at one of the many galas hosted over the weekend. It would have been easy for her to just enjoy the atmosphere that comes along with a Hollywood lifestyle.

However, Dawson (“Men in Black II,” “25th Hour,” “Sin City,” “Clerks II”) was still focused on what the re-election of President Obama meant and the tidal wave of change she saw on the horizon.

“It means the culmination of a lot of work, a lot of incredible people,” Dawson said. “I think it means more work to come. These four years went by very quickly. We have another four years to get a lot of stuff done. People voted across the board for a lot of issues. I think the great thing about this administration, as we have seen, is they can multi-task.”

On that night, Dawson was one of several celebrities who were already talking about passing an immigration bill during Obama’s second term. It seemed like the only way it would get done was if Hollywood made a movie about it.

But now, five months later, the prospect of passing an immigration bill has become a definite reality.

It’s something Wilmer Valderrama of “That ’70s Show” saw coming as a record number of Latinos (71 percent) turned out to vote for Obama.

“I think it’s exciting to celebrate the turnout of the Latino community,” Valderrama said. “I think that, for us, we mobilized a lot of Latinos this election. The fact that we showed up in record numbers is a big tribute, not just the agenda, but it’s time for everyone to get involved. It’s a tribute to a community really wanting him to finish his agenda.”

But Dawson said the Latino community is concerned with things more diverse than just focusing on immigration. She believes it’s not just up to the president and politicians to tackle these issues. The new generation has to stay involved in the struggle and fight for what they believe.

“They can take on big hurdles, including something as big as health care, which has taken so many presidents to try and get to,” Dawson said. “I think we can tackle immigration reform. We can have gun control reform. We can start really looking at the environment. I think we can still really look at reproductive health, mental health issues. So many things in a bigger and broader way that’s going to be much more helpful to our communities. That’s what I’m excited about.”

U.S. Rep. Joaquín Castro, of Texas, is one of those who has played a role in getting immigration moved to the forefront of political discussion. While he’s not part of the Hollywood elite, he and his twin brother, Julián Castro, became famous during the last election cycle.

Like Dawson, Joaquín Castro believes there are many issues the country is now suited to address.

“In terms of what I’d like to see, particularly as a member of Congress, I want to make sure we do comprehensive immigration reform, we deal with the nation’s fiscal situation and we do something about gun safety,” Castro said. “But I think there are other issues in the long term during the president’s second term we should address. They include poverty, human rights. These things we really need to attend to as a country.”

But Dawson believes the re-election of Obama proved it’s a different time in American politics and that the scale of influence is starting to tilt back to a new generation and the people.

“I think the people who have been divisive are completely out of touch with what is actually happening on the ground and in our communities,” Dawson said. “I think the reason why we are celebrating this moment right now is because of how incredibly potent and powerful our organizing has been.

“The people have spoken. They have come together. We are not going to be dissuaded. We’re not going to be bought. Let me look for a different future.

“Anyone who is trying to do anything else is out of touch. And we are about to replace them. It’s about time.”

Michael Kinney

Follow me @eyeamtruth

mkinney@normantranscript.com