Entertainment

Jorge Diaz Is All About Owning Your Latino Identity

You might remember Jorge Diaz from “Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones” or as Paulie on “East Los High.” Now, Diaz lends his voice to Disney’s “Elena of Avalor” as Gabe and he couldn’t be more excited to me a part of the cast for a show featuring the first Latina Disney princess. mitú spoke with Diaz about being a Latino in media and being part of bringing the first Disney Latina princess to life.

Jorge Diaz has built a solid career telling stories of Latinos from a Latino point of view, but that was not his intention.

Jorge Diaz / Facebook

“I kind of consider myself a blue collar actor. I’m not just here to tell stories like, ‘Who wants to hire me? I’m here to tell your story.’ It just happened to be that case [of doing several Latino stories] which is, now looking back at it, it’s been pretty beautiful to be part of these projects that are pioneering new faces that you don’t see in the media too often,” Diaz told mitú. “To be part of ‘Elena of Avalor,’ I remember as soon as I read that, the first Latina Disney princess, I was like, ‘Woah. That sounds amazing. It’s about time. I hope I get to be a part of it.’ Now, here I am.”

“I just look for projects that ring true to my heart and if it’s a story I want to tell,” Diaz told mitú.


Diaz feels like “Elena of Avalor” is one of those projects. As a Latino in media, Diaz is proud of his name and of the work he has done to get more new faces on the screens.

For Diaz, “Elena of Avalor” is more than just a kid’s show, it’s validation for an entire group of people who have not been prominently featured in media.

I'm a toy! ? #elenaofavalor

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“Suddenly, your experience becomes normal and accepted,” Diaz told mitú about the importance of young Latinxs watching the show. “If you see something like them eating pozole or them mention tamales and they’re doing posadas in the episode then it’s just like what we do. Suddenly the psychological effect it has on children is that their experience is completely normal and they are good enough and they are enough and who you are is beautiful.”

And a huge part of his pride comes from the dolls because of what they represent in the grand scheme of things.


Diaz remembers seeing the Doll Test video that went viral on Facebook. The video, if you haven’t seen it, shows young children at a table with a white doll and a black doll. They were asked which was bad and which was nice and many of the children chose the darker doll as the bad one. But now, with “Elena of Avalor” dolls, Diaz thinks things are changing.

“Now I see this doll when I go into the Disney store and I see it all around, and it’s not just for Latina children. It’s for a little boy. Like, this little 10 year old white boy was like, ‘That’s my favorite show, man,'” Diaz recalled to mitú. “Seeing this little brown doll up there that’s gorgeous, that’s a leader, that’s compassionate, that’s thoughtful and has a beautiful family and is courageous. That’s what it’s about. At the end of the day, that’s what it’s about and it’s a reminder to me and it’s a reminder to other artists that we have the ability to tell these stories and to have it have a beautiful effect on the next generation.”

This is something he credits several other actors and entertainers before him, especially Gina Rodriguez.

Happy birthday to this lil magical pumpkin unicorn being of Light @hereisgina ????

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“A woman I really respect and she happens to be one of my best friends is Gina Rodriguez,” Diaz told mitú. “She’s done so much just in the past two years and her career has taken off, but what she’s going to do is going to be so beautiful and she’s handled it with such grace. To be the lead of a series, it’s crazy hours. It’s insane hours and she handled it with such grace and she’s so warm to every single person on set, outside, on the street. She carries herself with so much love, so much grace, so much professionalism, so much class and it really inspired me.”

But Diaz doesn’t forget to remember and thank actors from the generation before him who really did break down walls.

Guys, so I'm a DISNEY Character. I know right!?! Although I may only be 1/4 a stud that this dude is, I've always had childhood dreams of voicing cartoons, and this is finally premiering TOMORROW! So grab all the kids in your fam and watch tomorrow night because (1) it's SO adorable & fun (2) there's amazing songs & music you'll be singing all week long (yes, you will be hearing me sing this season ? watch out, Michael Buble) (3) there's a SHLOAD of AWESOME people behind this & amazing humans guest starring all season long aaaand (4) because it's The FIRST LATINA PRINCESS EVER!!! And she's empowering & relatable & positive & a leader. What a great image for young girls everywhere, right??? So, Tomorrow on @disneychannel #ElenaOfAvalor #Disney #DisneyChannel ?

A post shared by Jorge Diaz (@iamjorgediaz) on


“I am friends with so many of those actors that are like 10-15 years older than me, and they’re just like, ‘You know, this isn’t my real name, by the way. I had to change my name because I was tired of playing gang members, I was tired of playing a prostitute, I was tired of playing a maid.’ I was like, ‘Wow. I didn’t know that,’” Diaz told mitú. “My name is Jorge Eduardo Diaz. That’s as Latino as they come and I can’t change that. Part of me, when I was younger, I was thinking about that because I was like, ‘Should I change my name? Should I just make it George D. or something like that.’ That came across my mind but then I was like, ‘No, man.’ I’m just going to do this and I’m going to do it as Jorge Eduardo Diaz.”

And he has some advice for any other Latinxs considering a career in entertainment.


“The advice I have for anyone trying to pursue acting, you really have to fall in love with the art of it. If you’re trying to be famous, if you’re kind of attracted to celebrity life or what you see on TV, it’s all fake glamor,” Diaz told mitú. “Just train and put yourself out there. Know that your time will come ultimately. I’ve been doing this for years before I got to a point where I was working consistently. Right now is such a beautiful time in the industry. There are going to be more and more doors opening and there are more artists coming up and they are opening more doors and I feel like it’s going to continue to change.”


READ: ‘Elena Of Avalor’s’ Big Secret Will Finally Be Revealed In This Flick

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The Rise of the Rainbow Coalition Is Reignited in ‘Judas and the Black Messiah’

Entertainment

The Rise of the Rainbow Coalition Is Reignited in ‘Judas and the Black Messiah’

At the dawn of Black History Month the timely release of “Judas and the Black Messiah” echoed the cries of injustice following a summer of civil unrest. In what was considered the largest multicultural protest of the 21st century, the words of Deputy Chairman Fred Hampton ferociously chanting “I AM…A REVOLUTIONARY!” continue to resonate.

The timely Civil Rights film, available to stream on HBO Max, follows the life and betrayal of The Illinois Black Panther Chairman (played by Daniel Kaluuya) at the hands of a party member and FBI informant William “Bill” O’Neal (played by Lakeith Stanfield). Kaluuya’s captivating performance as the charismatic Hampton received widespread acclaim and his first Golden Globe win for Best Supporting Actor in a Motion Picture.

For some audience members, this film will be their first introduction to Chairman Fred Hampton and an extension of the Black Panther Party. While the film is relatively accurate, the brief inclusion of the original Rainbow Coalition is pertinent to Hampton’s legacy. You can see its relation to the rise in multicultural youth-driven activism we see today.

In February 1969, Hampton and other Panther members met with Young Lords leader José “Cha-Cha” Jimenez after the Puerto Rican street organization shut themselves in the 18th District police station. The protest was calling attention to the police harassment of Latinx residents in Chicago’s Lincoln Park.

The Young Lords started as a turf gang in Chicago’s Lincoln Park neighborhood in 1960. By 1968, the Young Lords became a Civil Rights organization. The Illinois chapter and Young Lords formed the original Rainbow Coalition in April 1969. Jimenez referred to the coalition as a “poor people’s army” in an interview with Southside Weekly. Shortly after, the coalition grew to include the Young Patriots Organization a white, southern working-class group from Northern Chicago.

The Rainbow Coalition fought against police brutality and institutional racism in Chicago while working to uplift their local communities. The organization, consisting of people in their teens and early 20s, offered free breakfast programs and child daycare centers funded by donations from local businesses.

“It is impossible to make revolutionary change without the people,” Jimenez said in an interview with FightBack! News on the 50th anniversary of the coalition’s foundation.

“The Rainbow Coalition was more than just a gang of activists or folks trying to gain one or two small victories,” he told FightBack! News. “Each of our groups were already small revolutionary armies connected to the people’s struggle and trying to create a People’s Army to win the battle.”

Hampton and Jimenez were both sent to solitary confinement at Cook County Jail for their activism. In another incident noted in the film, Hampton was once sentenced after taking ice cream pops from an ice cream truck to pass out to neighborhood kids.

Supporters claim that it is a consequence of their street organizing and a threat to government authority for their Marxist-Leninist views.

The tension between the Chicago Police Department and the Black Panthers failed to cease, and the FBI was closing in on silencing Hampton. On December 4, 1969, the Cook County’s State Attorney Edward V. Hanrahan conducted an overnight raid on Hampton’s apartment with a warrant to search for illegal weapons.

Police barraged into Hampton’s apartment shooting gunfire wounding several Black Panthers and killing Black Panther security chief Mark Clark. Hampton was asleep in his bedroom next to his pregnant fiancée Deborah Johnson (who now goes by Akua Njeri) when he was struck by the gunfire, killing him.

Hampton was 21 at the time of his death.

The assassination of Fred Hampton left Coalition members distraught and fearful for their own lives as leadership slowly diminished. By 1973, the Rainbow Coalition had officially disbanded.

The embodiment of radicalized thought, in a sea of young revolutionaries, adorning their berets of black and purple. The roars of unapologetic protest against racism persisted and the legacy of youth-driven advocacy for the unified equity of all peoples vehemently lives on.

“Ours is not about individuals but a people’s struggle led by the common folk,” Jimenez said to FightBack! News. “Ours is a protracted struggle that will take years and we must prepare ourselves for the long run via structured community programs specific to the revolution.”

READ: Filmmaker’s Short Documentary Shines A Light On Woman Who Fought For Cuban Revolution

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Filmmaker’s Short Documentary Shines A Light On Woman Who Fought For Cuban Revolution

Entertainment

Filmmaker’s Short Documentary Shines A Light On Woman Who Fought For Cuban Revolution

Filmmaker Celina Escher wanted to capture a historic moment in the Caribbean through the eyes of someone you might not expect. As an assignment from the Escuela Internacional de Cine y TV (EICTV), Escher was tasked with finding a compelling character to cover. Her response was a woman who fought for the Cuban revolution and her excitement for President Barack Obama’s historic visit to Cuba in a film titled “Verde Olivo.” CiNEOLA is bringing the short documentary to the U.S. audience to have a peek into this historic moment.

“Verde Olivo” captures one of Cuba’s most historic moments through the eyes of a revolutionary soldier.

Escher wanted to speak to someone from the Cuban Revolution because of the influence it had on her own home country: El Salvador. The filmmaker wanted to see the people who encouraged the guerilla fighters she learned about growing up. Her search led her to Teresa, a woman who fought for the revolution and has maintained her unwavering support for Fidel Castro and his vision.

“When I met Teresa we spoke about her life and the woman’s role in the Cuban Revolution. On one occasion, Teresa mentioned that she needed to repair her television for the arrival of Obama,” Escher says. “It was a historical moment for Cubans, and especially for Teresa who had devoted her life to the revolution. I was inspired by her and it was then I began to film Teresa’s preparation process.”

Escher appreciated that Teresa and her husband were getting their television repaired in order to watch President Obama’s visit. Cubans are known for maintaining old cars and appliances because of the scarcity of stuff available on the island.

“In Cuba, what is broken is repaired. The Cuban people don’t throw away what is broken and replace it with a new one, like most other western consumerist societies,” Escher says. “Cubans found a way to survive and thrive despite the U.S. embargo. In this precarious situation, the Cubans have been forced to be creative, to repair and recycle.”

“Verde Olivo” shows the resilience of some in Latin America to retain socialist ideals.

The documentary, according to Escher, is important to highlight the strength some in Latin America have maintained against “U.S. imperialism.” Despite the U.S. embargo, life has continued to go on in Cuba after the revolution.

“There have been numerous U.S. military interventions and coups d’etat throughout Latin America where left wing leaders have been replaced with authoritarian military regimes,” Escher says. “There are 76 U.S. military bases in Latin America and the Caribbean with the purpose of securing their economic and political interests. It’s remarkable how Cuba managed to survive all the aggressions and violence.”

The civil war in El Salvador is a strong example for Escher. She grew up knowing of the violent civil war the killed tens of thousands of Salvadorans. The civil war was funded in part by the U.S. government and adds to the overall narrative of U.S.-backed coup d’etats in Latin America.

President Obama’s visit was a wonderful experience while on the island.

Escher remembers that the island was electric as the Cuban people waited for President Obama’s arrival. He was the first president to visit the island in decades and created a renewed hope in cooperation between the two countries.

“It was as if a superstar was arriving. The streets of Havana were cleaned, streets were closed for his arrival, and overall the Cubans were very excited,” Escher recalls. “First of all it was the first U.S. President to arrive in Cuba since 1928, and it happened to be the first Black U.S. President. There has never been a Black president or comandante in Cuba which added to the excitement of many Cubans.”

Despite the visit, many of the Cuban people remained frustrated and disappointed with the overall impact. Escher spoke with Teresa, and her husband Orlando, after the visit. The couple has soured a bit on the visit because the embargo remained and Guantanamo Bay remained occupied.

You can watch the full documentary through CiNEOLA here.

READ: Cuban Embassy Reopens. Cigars, Protests and Food Ensue

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