The Kennedy Center agreed to review the Honors selection process to reflect its acknowledgement of diversity, while it was a welcome move, Latino artistic members including Felix Sanchez believe this is the first of many steps.
Sanchez, chairman of the National Hispanic Foundation for the Arts, was one of the prime leaders concerned with the lack of inclusion of the honors show that was celebrated annually for 35 years in Washington, DC. Filmmaker George Stevens Jr. has produced the show since its creation.
“We should be conscious of diversity insofar as it doesn’t compromise excellence because without excellence, we’re not fulfilling President Kennedy’s mandate,” Stevens said of the incoming changes in the review process. “And I think we can do both.”
Felix Sanchez responds to Kennedy Center’s selection process
An estimated 180 distinguished artists from varied organizations were honored, but only two Latinos received recognition in the celebration’s 35-year history including Placido Domingo—a Spanish tenor—and Chita Rivera, a Puerto Rican actress and singer.
Sanchez responded to the changes in the review process as an important acknowledgement, but it also lends to more speculation to why Latinos were not given awards.
“They didn’t meet the excellence test,” he said, while referring to Steven’s statement. “That is why we never got acknowledged—that’s the attitudinal bloc that we suffer because people think of us as second tier or marginal.”
“That was the crux of the problem at the Kennedy Center Honors.”
The Kennedy Center announced today a formal review of the selection process by an 11-member artist advisory panel including cellist Yo-Yo Ma, Broadway actor Raul Esparza, representatives of the Latin Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences and the National Association of Latino Arts and Culture.
A Latino advisory committee will also be formed to engage with the Hispanic community.
Latino leaders say it’s a first step in the right direction
The National Hispanic Leadership Agenda (NHLA), composed of 30 Latino organizations, was also at the forefront of the debate. President of NHLA Hector Sanchez, who also led the strategy outreach, believes it’s a prime example of what can be accomplished with unity.
“We’ve been working on this issue for a number of years,” Hector Sanchez told VOXXI. “The campaign increased this year for a number of issues that happened—I think the momentum was unique, we were aggressive as a coalition.”
That same aggressiveness and unity from a number of areas, Hector Sanchez indicates, will propel them to move forward on other pending priorities such as immigration reform and lack of exclusion in the federal government, the media and Congress.
“This is part of a bigger issue that the Latino community is facing when it comes to underrepresentation, but this is a great example of what we can accomplish when we’re focused,” he said.
National Council of La Raza’s Janet Murguia also commented on the change of position that the Kennedy Center undertook as an important “step” to achieving more dialogue with the Hispanic community.
“We welcome the Center’s willingness to review its current selection process and we are confident that these changes will serve as a stepping stone to a more open conversation with the Latino community,” Murguia said in a statement.
Hector Sanchez agreed that it’s the first step in the right direction, but as a coalition they will be waiting to see who will be represented in the selection committee and what recommendations will be made that reflect the Kennedy Center’s commitment to diversity.