NYC Mayor de Blasio’s Puerto Rican Heritage Event at Gracie Mansion

I was invited to the Puerto Rican Heritage Event celebration hosted by the New York City Mayor’s Office. Below are videos and pictures of the event, held at Gracie Mansion in Manhattan. Mayor Bill de Blasio gave a passionate speech about the plight of Puerto Rico. Honorees included Olympic Gold Medalist Laurie Hernandez and actress Lauren Velez.

Mayor de Blasio speaking about the problem in Puerto Rico. He was quite passionate, moving, and made some very important points.

City Council Speaker and the Mayor present Olympic Medalist Laurie Hernandez with a Proclamation.

Actress Lauren Velez accepts her Proclamation from Mayor de Blasio.

NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio speaking at the Puerto Rican Heritage Event at Gracie Mansion.

 

NYC Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito at the Mayor’s Office Puerto Rican Heritage Event at Gracie Mansion.

 

Actress Lauren Velez is presented with a Proclamation by Mayor Bill de Blasio.

 

Laurie Hernandez accepting a Proclamation from Mayor de Blasio and Speaker Mark-Viverito.

 

Puerto Rican Heritage Event at Gracie Mansion.

 

 

 

 

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If You Hate Hillary or You’re Terrified of Trump, There are Other Options for President. Just Vote on Nov. 8!

From left to right: Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump, Jill Stein, Gary Johnson. (Photo courtesy of IndianExpress.com.)

Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump may be the least liked presidential candidates in United States history. Each is so disliked to the point that millions of Americans are considering skipping the 2016 U.S. presidential election, which is scheduled for November 8th. However, deciding not to participate in the political process may have disastrous repercussions for years to come.

Many Americans have given up on the upcoming presidential election, regarding it as one where the voter must choose between the lesser of two evils. It should be noted, there are four candidates running for President of the United States. Prominent politicians and the media in general, highlight just the two major political parties: Democrats and Republicans. Notwithstanding, there are two lesser known political parties that have candidates running for president.

If you just cannot vote for Clinton or Trump, instead of sitting out this election, check out Jill Stein of the Green Party and Gary Johnson of the Libertarian Party. Jill Stein was the Green Party’s 2012 candidate for president. She is a medical practitioner and an activist. According to Dr. Stein’s website, she holds the current record for most votes ever received by a woman candidate for President of the United States in a general election. The Libertarian Party’s candidate, Gary Johnson, was elected twice Governor of New Mexico as a Republican in an overwhelming Democratic state.

Some politically “savvy” people will say that a vote for a Green Party or Libertarian Party candidate is a lost vote because we live in a major two party system. But with the ineffectiveness of Congress and the crazy electoral process we’ve just witnessed with the Democrats and Republicans, it might be time to seriously consider a competitive third party be added to our election options. Only time will tell which party will rise as a viable third party.

Others worry that if Americans throw their votes behind a third or fourth political party, it will take votes away from Clinton or Trump. I understand this concern. I am an adamant supporter of Hillary Clinton and will be casting my vote for her. If Clinton loses the election because too many people voted for a Green Party or Libertarian Party candidate, I would be quite upset.

At the same time, I believe everyone should participate in the political process and all voices should be heard. Therefore, if you are not happy with the status quo in politics, get involved to change it. I have been a lifelong Democrat and that is not changing anytime soon. But if you are feed up with either the Democrat or Republican Party, know that there are other options. Do your research and cast your vote for President of the United States on Tuesday, November 8th.

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Movie Review: VIVA – The Film

I watched a screening of the new film VIVA, which opens on April 29th, and experienced an array of emotions. The powerful film made me laugh and cry. At times I also found myself angered and other times amused. As a Latino, I connected with the cultural aspects of the movie, which is set in the slums of Havana, Cuba. I also related to the father/son dynamic and the personal search to find oneself.

VIVA stars Héctor Medina as Jesus, a young hairdresser working at a Havana nightclub that showcases drag performers, who dreams of being a performer himself. His father then re-enters his life causing chaos and the two struggle to understand and accept each other.

I enjoyed the development of characters in the film and the even pace of the movie, which beautifully showcases the majestic island nation. The main character’s journey is the focal point of the film and Medina does an outstanding job as Jesus. I highly recommend this film, which is entirely in Spanish with English subtitles.


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Why Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump Have Strong Support (Guest Blog Post)

Photo courtesy of CNN.com

Photo courtesy of CNN.com

I am desperately starved to find, read and hear where the media reports – what is so painfully obvious through the rank and file electorate – that the phenomenon of Donald Trump’s and Bernie Sanders’ success is not only due to their straight-shooting, no BS measured talk, but the majority weight of their success, of being the favored flavor, is the FACT that WE the People are fed up with how Washington does NOT work for US – the people; and Americans are thoroughly displeased/disheartened with how our elected officials do not work for US and seem to be purchasable by any Interest that can best line their pockets.

Simply, whether Independent, Democrat or Republican Americans feel that their elected politicians have gravely failed them by NOT representing them in their best interests, with the implied necessary concern/need of “getting things done”, keeping us moving forward and contributing to make US the manageable Democracy that we are set up to be. Not the current house of discord, distrust, malfeasance and dysfunction that we have become.  By and large, our elected officials have failed US and WE are fed up with their lies, their misleading directions and most of all their refusal to collectively – “Make America Great Again” – work together rather than their current petulant, obstructionist, moribund behavior.

Every day Americans go to work to earn a living and work hard to make as much as they can – most with great sacrifice and familial logistical planning just to make a day’s work possible – and in the course of these working days Americans have long learned not only how, but TO work with their fellow workmates to “get the job done”. Americans, male and female, of working age from all ethnicities, cultures, races, creeds, healthy and disabled with varying political beliefs, WE work hard every day TOGETHER to get our jobs DONE!

We ask: Why can’t the same be executed in Washington?
Why can’t the politicians in the United States respect, preserve and mimic what WE Americans do every day to make this country work? – With the result being a functioning United States of America of which WE are all proud to be a part of?

Why?

The message at this point in this presidential election process IS about Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders and ALSO the sounding rockets they are to bells’ pealing with the palpable sense of despair and letdown Americans are feeling.

Please report it for what it is, Fourth Estate, do not let us down.

Sincerely,
Joe Craven
New York City

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#MoreThanALabel – Why I Stand Up for Immigrant Rights – #DumpTrump

I am participating in #MoreThanALabel: Immigrant Stories, Simmons College’s online MSW Program’s campaign to promote transcending labels. My participation in the campaign includes sharing my take on the immigrant story and how I believe we can shatter the stigmas often attributed to immigrant communities.

The United States has always been a country of immigrants and I do not see that changing any time soon. I was born in Brooklyn and raised in the Bronx. My family is Puerto Rican. I have never had to worry about my citizenship, but I know the discrimination my Latino brothers face every day. Immigrants in the U.S. are not just Latino, they are Asian, African, European, Middle Eastern, etc. Latinos happen to be the most visual immigrant group, however there are many immigrants from all over the world who come to the United States for a chance to live the American Dream.

I once worked as a human resources administrator for a restaurant in Brooklyn and met and worked with many immigrants, mainly Latino, who were committed staff members with excellent work ethics. They were the backbone of the business and I gained a great deal of respect for my fellow Latinos working hard for their families and contributing to society.

However, as Donald Trump sees America, immigrants are mainly Mexican who are bringing in the drugs, crime, and are rapists. Mr. Trump has gained much traction on his presidential bid because unfortunately there are many Americans who share his warped image of today’s immigrant.

Currently, there is a group of Latinos protesting NBC’s decision to have Donald Trump host Saturday Night Live. I support this protest wholeheartedly and applaud Congressman Luis Gutiérrez for his strong support of the Dump Trump movement.

“Having Donald Trump as a guest on every news and entertainment program is one thing, but allowing him to host Saturday Night Live is another,” said Rep. Gutiérrez in a press release.  “It is a level of endorsement that says to America that every hateful and racist thing Donald Trump has said since the moment he launched his campaign is acceptable and no big deal.”

Not all immigrants are Latino. Not all Latinos are immigrants. I’m a proud Latino citizen of Puerto Rican descant and I stand with my undocumented brothers and sisters and support strong immigration reform.

Immigrants built this country and deserve more recognition for their contribution. There is strength in diversity and I truly hope we can collectively lessen America’s anti-immigrant ripple before it becomes a worrisome wave.

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Unfriended – A Horrible Horror Film

If you are into corny horror films with some good one liners, you might enjoy Unfriended opening in theaters Friday, April 17th. I attended a screening of the movie in the East Village last Wednesday. The film targets millenials by showcasing their extensive use of social media while creating a cyber horror story for our time. Audience viewers experience the entire movie as if they were staring at a computer screen. Overall it is an innovative concept for a horror film, however there is no substance to the story and I was left feeling like I had just wasted an hour and a half of life.

The highlights of Unfriended are the pretty good young actors who portray the tormented teens and really funny reactionary one liners that did make me laugh. There were some traditional gruesome scenes but for the most part your eyes will race through all parts of the screen to follow the story and you will be somewhat entertained by the relationship of the characters throughout the film.

If you are looking for a profound movie with a message this is definitely not the one. If you are a huge fan of horror films then I would say check out Unfriended for a different take on the genre.


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Four Tips to Crack the American Latino Market in Hollywood

Guest Blog Post by Erick Castrillon

As a millennial American Latino I grew up in a whirlpool of ideas that have radically influenced who I am and how I perceive my surroundings. Like me there are millions. Yet we feel rare, underrepresented, misrepresented, like hazy reflections or even worse, like vampire reflections (as Junot Diaz puts it). Not there at all!

There is this collective sense of shame I have identified time and again amongst my Latino compadres.  The shame I’m talking about is subtle but lethal like a ninja fart: the Hollywood myth. The subservient landscape worker. The hyper-sexualized chonga. The stoner homie. The brainless thug. The exotic Othello. The evil gangster. The incompetent leader . . . Ah! I start to hear the bongos of my ancestors. Los del maíz. My jungle savages. Yes. I start to feel the color of my skin . . .

This phenomenon is at its worse whenever I travel. Many times when I establish contact with foreigners all they know about me is the resounding name of Pablo Escobar—because I was born in Colombia. Folks joke about it. But it’s difficult to make them understand it ain’t funny, actually. I have to try extra hard every time to prove I’m not the reputation of my country. Familiar with this feeling?

Regardless of this BS, talks, data, and trends of the emerging American Latino demographic point at one thing that’s for sure: we have become a relevant “consumer force.” Yet why isn’t the media catering to what we want to watch and the way we want to be perceived? As a Latino USC MFA alumni, Film Independent Fellow, and head of creative development at Scratch & Sniff Pictures, I have come up with four ideas that serve as a guideline for those of bicultural descent whom are inspired to construct masterly told Hollywood narratives about underrepresented people.

1.    KNOW THE CRAFT AND ACHIEVE INSPIRATION

In preparation for writing a screenplay you must be familiar with the language of cinematic film. Start by reading screenplays of your favorite movies. Let the masters’ ideas seep into your pores. Your goal is to create something as beautiful and impacting as the thing they’ve made.

For this, you will have to be rigorous and demanding with yourself and those who choose to collaborate with you. Read books and screenplays. Attend talks. Form a writer’s group. In short, BE A WRITER ACTIVELY. Find like-minded collaborators. Watch films. Dissect scenes. Find out why is that scene is interesting to you. What function does it serve for the rest of the story? Notice what makes you feel suspense in movies. What evokes laughter in you? What evokes anger? Sadness?  This is the beginning of your idea. So make sure to nurture it with top-of-the-shelf inspiration!

2.    CHARACTERS SHOULD BE AS SMART, COMPLEX, AND SPECIFIC AS YOU ARE

I was one of a handful of non-white candidates in my M.F.A. class. What I learned at USC was that my instructors and classmates were most interested in my work whenever I explored situations that had to do with my family, close friends, and relatives. Over and over I got remarks from people saying how they had never encountered characters in the media quite like the ones I was creating.

I was only writing about what I knew using cinematic tools that I had been learning there. I was having fun with my voice, always trying to amuse myself first. I was truthful about how complex my people really are. I invented character as smart, sophisticated, funny, brave, non-victimized, and flawed as the true heroes in my life.

That’s your real challenge. Hollywood is interested in innovation—your way to innovate is by constructing amazing stories with universal human themes about people whom are rarely portrayed in the media—using modern cinematic language that all audiences can and will be able to understand.

3.    BE AS IRRESISTIBLE AS A CRÈME BRULEE

As a filmmaker your goal is to entertain an audience and move their emotions. Many of us have fallen into the trap of wanting to change the world by showing a glimpse of “reality.” Unfortunately it is often true that reality doesn’t make for great drama.

As a fiction filmmaker one must understand that the important messages that one feels like communicating will only be transmitted successfully if that message is delivered in a way that provides entertainment value. This means that you have to create a spectacle first, so well timed and so well constructed that your audience will have no choice but to be mesmerized by it. Think about those movies that held you in awe and attempt to do something similar with characters that come from your own life. Imagine if instead of Sandra Bullock on Gravity, Your tía Chavela (who makes a mean tamal) was the one servicing the Hubble Space Telescope in orbit. Okay that’s one idea that you can take or leave if you liked Gravity, but you get my gist. Give awesome roles to your non-white leads.

4.    ENGAGE WITH YOUR COMMUNITY

You will be surprised at how many minorities are in on the struggle for fair representation. So tap into that vein. Your people want to help you make your film. You are the vessel with the message they want.

You need to be heard. Why, though?

Tell your community the value of what you are trying to achieve. Let the people that surround you know that your work carries with it their shared hopes and fears. Let them know that you are the person who will represent them in the eyes of popular culture.

You are the one responsible for doing the legwork to improve how we are perceived in the eyes of America and the rest of the world. You are creating our community’s heroes for today and for the future. So be prepared to deliver should you be given the opportunity to shine!

Erick Castrillon  – USC M.F.A. graduate in Writing for the Screen & Television, Film Independent Project Involve Fellow, Head of Creative Development at Scratch & Sniff Pictures.

Follow us in the making of our upcoming short film BLAST BEAT, an uber-metalized Latino adventure that’ll kick your ass back to the Y2K.

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