Archive for the ‘Thought Leader Series’ tag
“Education is the vaccine for violence.”
I remember at the end of a meeting, a colleague asked me once if I was an academic or an activist. I was struck by the question, for at the heart of it, there seems like there should be a separation of the two. That they are somehow incompatible or at the very least, capable of distorting each other so that neither can be truly a reliable performance or identity. I wonder what Edward James Olmos would say if asked whether he is an actor or activist? After all, do those two terms not come from the same linguistic root?
Olmos’ early life was framed by the forces of the barrio in which he lived in East LA and a passion for baseball which would teach him the values that he would need to escape a common fate of most of the barrio brothers – life in a gang. As Olmos told a reporter from Time, “Inside this world, everyone was the same. We were all poor. And the only way to survive it was through a constant struggle of trying to be better today than you were yesterday.” To improve his own chances of getting out of poverty, Olmos would form a successful rock band, attend East Los Angeles Community College during the day and study during set breaks when they played the clubs at night. He would also fall in love with acting and yet, start a business delivering antiques to make enough money to live. Once the band broke up, he would deliver furniture during the day while working in experimental theatre at night, building his path to the TV shows and movies — the actor –he would come to be known as — Zoot Suit, Miami Vice, Stand and Deliver, The Ballad of Gregorio Cortez, Selena, American Me and others as he continues his performative work. Much of this work would reflect his values and commitments to the Hispanic community, especially its youth, and their future (the activist). By his own account, 94% of his time is spend working for free – trying to make life better for others.
Named by Hispanic Magazine as the nation’s most influential Hispanic American, Olmos is a U.S. Goodwill Ambassador for UNICEF, a national spokesperson for the Juvenile Diabetes Foundation, and Executive Director of the Lives in Hazard Educational Project, a national gang prevention program funded by the U.S Department of Justice. As he recently told Hispanic’s Katherine Diaz, “I would hate to look back on my life and only see myself as a person who made lots of money and was a star and made Rambo and Terminator movies. I have made my body of work something that I am proud of and that in 100 years, my great-great-grandchildren will go and see my work and say, ‘well, grandpa really did some extraordinarily different kinds of work.’”
Actor or activist? It seems more important to commit yourself to causes in which you believe and work to make your work serve them. We hope you will join us for what promises to be an extraordinary evening with Edward James Olmos entitled, “We’re all in the same gang”, on Tuesday April 28th, at the Lincoln Center Performance Hall, starting at 7pm. Tickets are $10 adult, $8 students/seniors (60+). A limited number of seats are available for a special Meet the Speaker ticket which includes preferred seating and a reception with the speaker afterwards.
Wherever you go, there you are.
There is much talk in globalization circles that we are moving closer and closer to the eradication of the nation-state and the rise of a global society and world system. It would be easy to say that those who propose such ideas are fantasists, yet there is no doubt that the world faces global issues, on a global scale, with no easy global solutions at hand. Many of these global issues have been wrought by the movements of people, their belongings, their cultures, their food and their homes. It’s funny what kinds of cultural diversity we celebrate and which ones we deem catastrophic. The Politics of Open and Shut.
Last year, as I tended to my garden at the University Village, my Indian neighbor was educating me on what he was growing in his plot. I asked him where he got the seeds to grow the spices and vegetables fundamental to his native cuisine. He said, “oh you know, my friend’s cousin sent them from India and we all shared them around.” He then told me how to cook them, what they are used with in the cuisine of Goa where he was from and later that afternoon, I went home and wrote my Indian colleague in New Zealand to learn some more. The Politics of OPEN.
This weekend, my colleague shared a story with me about a scholar who had lived in the Village for several years with his family (3 children, one an infant), and who at the end of his stay had tried to return to his home in Gaza, only to arrive in Egypt to find he did not have appropriate documentation and the border was closed under current circumstances. The family was then sent to Austria who did not know what to do and sent them to Jordan where they remain in a refugee camp and hope to return home one day. The Politics of SHUT.
Seeds travel. Stories travel. Images travel. People travel. Homes travel and sometimes unravel. My thesis research was conducted on the border of Arizona and Mexico, in a small town called Douglas on the US side and Agua Prieta on the Mexican side. Every day I would conduct fieldwork at the local high school, the soup kitchen and the post office (amongst other places). I watched people come across that border to get their mail, do their shopping, get something to eat and go to school. Then I saw them go home. My friends would tell me of the tunnel that ran under the border where drugs ran both ways. Holes you could drive a truck through. Packages of food and clothes left by charitable folks on either side for those who risk their lives to cross. They would also tell me of shootings in the alleys and disappearances; always calm, always matter of fact. This is what it means to live on the border, they would say. Borders. Outer edges. Lines. La Frontera…where you walk the line between life and death, figuratively and literally.
I would get on a bus to travel back to Tempe to see my advisor. “Make sure you carry your documents”, she would say. See, I’m an immigrant too. At Bisbee, or before, the bus would stop for a siren. Armed men would get on the bus, we would all produce our tickets and our papers; those of us who had them, that is. Every time, 3 or 4 people would leave the bus and get into a van, arms handcuffed behind their backs. I would watch them from my window as we drove away. Me, with my white face, shaking like a leaf.
Immigrant tales. They are as diverse as the people from whose tongues they roll. I admire people who have a clear position on immigration because my immigrant life has no clear position. That’s what makes discussing immigration difficult. But on Tuesday, April 21, at 7pm at the Lincoln Center, we hope to try and hear diverse voices on this most human and global of topics — the Politics of Open and Shut. Frank Sharry, of America’s Voice, a nonprofit communications organization dedicated to winning immigration reform and previously of the National Immigration Forum of Washington DC, one of the nation’s leading immigration policy organizations will engage our community in a lively dialogue on fresh perspectives on immigration as the 5th presenter in Beet Street’s Thought Leader series. Frank Sharry, himself, while pro-immigration reform, is the first to admit there is no easy answer to the country’s immigration challenges and he is accustomed to his views being contested. Described by some as a common sense voice of reason and by others as a controversial radical, we hope you will join us to entertain your brain and make up your own mind about this extraordinary speaker and topic. For more information about Frank Sharry and other Finding Home events, visit Beet Street.
We would love to hear what you think of the event afterwards! Just post a comment below…:)
Home is where they understand you.
“Infamous con shares advice on life, security and family”– The Collegian, March 11, 2009
” Out of the shadows: Speaker divulges security secrets learned during life of crime” – The Coloradoan March 11, 2009.
Infamous Con. Life of Crime. Are we talking about the same Frank Abagnale, FBI educator, family man, security genius and all round authentic, humble, extraordinary man with an extraordinary American story? These headlines do not do justice to the extraordinary thought leader that graced the stage of the Lincoln Center last night, telling tales of his 5 year life of crime and his 35 year life of repaying every penny he stole and quest to keep people safe from those that would steal their identities and lives. They do not do justice to a man who credits his wife with saving his life, who didn’t tell his children of his life until he felt they were ready to read his book entirely, a man who commutes from Tulsa, Oklahoma to Washington DC every week to go to work. Nor do they do justice to a man who in one night, gave his audience invaluable advice on keeping themselves safe financially, told kids in the audience to think about what they do and the consequences of their actions, not just when they are 20 but when they come back to haunt them when they are 40, and who states that ‘life is not short; life is long and we live with the consequences of our decisions all the days of our lives’.
We thought we knew who Frank Abagnale was before he stepped on the stage. We had done our homework, we had seen the movie. But the Frank Abagnale at the Lincoln Center last night surprised many people with his humility, honesty, story telling, and his willingness to stay until the last audience member left, signing autographs and posters, answering questions and dispensing advice. His story is a family story, of a boy told to choose between his divorcing parents at age 16 and who runs away to avoid this hurtful decision. Of a boy forced to live by his wits until he faces his inevitable capture and imprisonment. Of a man who lives for his family and his country and believes that every child deserves a mother and a father. A man far more interesting in the flesh than any tale of his life.
And, what’s more, he could have been your neighbor! Little known fact - 28 years ago, Frank Abagnale and his wife put a bid in on a house that was being held by the Feds after a major embezzlement rocked Fort Collins. The Feds never responded to their bid and so the Abagnales went to live in Tulsa, where they have been since. So close!
With advice from using only your credit cards to purchasing micro-cut shredders, Frank Abagnale, thought leader extraordinaire, shared many a gem of wisdom with the 700 odd members of the audience last night. But perhaps his most enduring message is about how your family can really save your life and how a life dedicated to the safety of others is perhaps one of the most rewarding. Fort Collins thanks you, Frank, for your generosity of spirit and time last night! (Remember you can come back here, any time!)