RIC Diversity Week presentation on pioneers in Latino and Black media

Almost one third of the United States is made up of non-whites, but when you look into newsrooms across the nation, less than one percent of the news staffs are non-white, said Anthony Galvez at a Rhode Island College forum.

Galvez, an assistant professor of communication at RIC, presented “Pioneers in Latino and Black Media in the U.S.” on Oct. 5. in Whipple Hall as part of RIC’s annual Diversity Week.

Anthony Galvez
Media shapes how we view the world, and minority groups have been marginalized and unfairly represented by dominant society in the media throughout history, said Galvez. Once this happens to a specific group, they have less of a voice and don’t get to experience the same benefits of democracy, he added.

“We don’t always get the full picture from mainstream media,” he said. “The more we talk, spread and disseminate critical ideas, the stronger our democracy will be.”

Marginalization and misrepresentation of minority groups gives media consumers a single story, and prevents them from seeing the “full picture.” To avoid this, we must go into other forms of media to see different angles, said Galvez.

Galvez mentioned several pioneers in Latino media from the twentieth century, including Rodolfo Hoyos – a 1930s broker broadcasting from Los Angeles – who purchased blocks of time on the radio to play music, discuss local events and bring the community closer together.

Pedro J. Gonzalez, a 1920s broadcaster for KELW Burbank, played music on air with his band, Los Madrugadores, and talked about issues of public interest. He was fired from KELW after openly criticizing “Operation Wetback” – a 1954 operation by the Immigration and Naturalization Service to remove illegal immigrants – while on the air.

Gonzalez’s voice, representative of a minority, is one example of marginalization by the dominant culture, said Galvez.

Contemporary Latino pioneers include Cristina Saralegui known for The Cristina Show, a Spanish television program similar to The Oprah Winfrey Show that won 11 Emmy awards before its cancellation in 2010.

Chris Gifford, Valerie Walsh Valdes and Eric Weiner, creators of Dora the Explorer – an animated series on Nickelodeon where characters speak English and Spanish – were also acknowledged during the forum.

Galvez spoke of several pioneers in black media, including Frederick Douglass, advocator for equality and the abolition of slavery in the mid-nineteenth century, and Ida B. Wells, a crusader against oppression and segregation who famously argued against the lynching of black men in the late nineteenth century.

Modern pioneers include Robert Johnson, the founder of Black Entertainment Television (BET), Bill Cosby, the first African-American man to lead a popular primetime show and Halle Berry, the first and only African-American woman to have won the Academy Award for Best Actress.

The conflict between media as entertainment and media as news was also discussed. While both function as conduits of information, Galvez said, both have the power to generalize and create stereotypes as well.

What we see in the media shapes our views of the world, Galvez said. While the future of black and Latino media is unclear, he added, acknowledging its pioneers will allow minority voices to be heard, avoid marginalization of minorities in the media and create a path for more efficient methods of communication for the future.