Thursday, November 29, 2012

The Latino Artist Fight to Be Included in the Kennedy Center of Performing Arts Honors Event

This weekend is the 35th annual honors at Kennedy center. An annual ceremony hosted by the president of United States where a group of honorees are given recognition by the center for their  contributions to American arts. For 2012, the list of honorees included David Letterman,  Dustin Hoffman, Led Zeppelin, Buddy Guy and Natalia Makarova. The very exclusive event is usually attended by big political donors with tickets to the event costing up to $5.500.

In its 35 years history, only 2 Latinos have made it to the honorees list: Placido Domingo and Chita Rivera prompting some Hispanic organizations to become more vocal about the lack of inclusion of more Latinos in  the honorees list.

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On September, an incident between Felix Sanchez, chairman of the National Hispanic Foundation for the Arts and Michael Kaiser, the president of the Kennedy Center, where an agitated Kaiser tells Mr Sanchez " Go F@ck yourself" and then slammed the phone down, after Sanchez request for more inclusion of Latinos in the honoree list, became a subject controversy with over 30 of the most important Latino organizations in the U.S. showing support for Mr Sanchez.

A letter of apology from Mr Kaiser followed two week later.

The episode became a top subject in the agenda of the National Hispanic Leadership Organization, a coalition of over 30 Latino groups nation wide. They put blame on Geoge Stevens Jr who is the producer of the event and the co-chairman of the presidents committee on the Arts and Humanities, for continue exclusion of Latino artist in the event.

                                                 The 2011 ceremony featuring Yo-Yo Ma 

The center gets close to $37 million in federal funds each year. Some had suggested that congress should suspend funding until the controversy has been settled.
Mr Sanchez thinks the Kennedy center is in clear denial about what they had done wrong. With the Hispanic population in the US at 17%  of the total population, the very low participation of Latinos seem discriminatory says Mr Sanchez.
With participation of Latino  leaders in congress Mr Sanchez has sent a letter to David Rubenstein, the chairman of the Kennedy Center, requesting specific action on Michael Kaiser and the appointment of an outside group with experience in diversity, to review the procedures of the honors selection process.

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