Pocho Joe & Silverstein: As American As It Gets

“We’re just as American as everyone else,” Joe Hernandez-Kolski said.

That should settle any race issues and allow Hernandez-Kolski and Joshua Silverstein, aka Pocho Joe and Silverstein, to pursue their craft — an award-winning multimedia mix of rhythm, commentary, music, news, comedy, dance — but it doesn’t.

They identify as Latino, black, Jewish and white and ask: how do you get any more American than that?

Even if Silverstein identifies as black, he gets dumbfounded looks and a follow-up questions: You’re black? You don’t look black?

Hernandez-Kolski thought he wouldn’t be Latino enough if his Spanish wasn’t fluent or his skin wasn’t the requisite shade of brown. But he knows that problem is not his. The ethnicity box is one you can define for yourself and is not reserved for those squares on some government form.

“My goal is to be the Glinda the Good Witch of the North for ethnically ambiguous munchkins, so I can encourage all of those people who are hiding that it’s OK, you can come out,” Hernandez-Kolski said. “The wicked witch is dead. Come out, enjoy your native life.”

So, they take their show where it leads them. The 14-year collaboration includes the live act, So Fresh and So Clean.

Courtesy of Joe Hernandez-Kolski

Silverstein’s beatboxing goes back to the age of five or so, but his pro career got legs in the late 90s working with a variety of jazz and hip-hop musicians, including Cal Bennett and Doug E. Fresh around his Los Angeles hometown. Silverstein also spent three years with Declare Yourself, a campaign founded by TV producer and writer Norman Lear to encourage young adults to vote.

“First we need to empower young people to believe in themselves before they can even feel their vote counts. They have to believe their voice counts,” said Silverstein.

The passion to get the younger demographic to vote still burns for Silverstein.

“For me it’s one of those things like, I’ve been voting since I could vote and I do it because my grandparents worked for the party and it’s instilled in me,” Silverstein said. “It isn’t a second thought. It’s just something I do.”

Courtesy of Joshua Silverstein

It is this strong conviction of who they are that helps to fuel both of these men, not only for their own identities but to empower those who might otherwise feel marginalized by the mainstream.

Because, as they see it, they are the mainstream. They are Americans.

“I represent America more so, in my opinion, than those who think they represent America,” Hernandez-Kolski said. “So racists, and sexists and homophobes, I want to pat them on the head and go, ‘Aww. You guys are so cute. You really think you know what you’re talking about. You really don’t.’ And we believe that we do.”

WATCH: Pocho Joe & Silverstein Episode 1

Pocho Joe & Silverstein Episode 2

Pocho Joe & Silverstein Episode 3

Pocho Joe & Silverstein Episode 4

Pocho Joe & Silverstein Episode 5

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