Nosotros is the oldest Latino arts advocacy organization in the United States. The organization was founded by Hollywood legend Ricardo Montalbán in 1970 on the notion of unity. Its mission – to serve as a strong voice for Latinos in media.
Before the pandemic, one of the biggest issues in the news cycle was that systemic racism once again reared its ugly head, as actors of color were yet again passed over for Academy Award nominations. Like many across the globe the pandemic changed the world’s focus. Yet, in the words of M. Scott Peck “Problems do not go away. They must be worked through or else they remain, forever a barrier to the growth and development of the spirit.” In May of 2020, the killing of George Floyd once again exposed the root problem of systemic racism that pervades society with the entertainment industry being no different.
It also reminded folks that the mission of groups like Nosotros are as important today as they were 50 years ago when the organization was founded. ‘LLERO had an opportunity to chat with President of Nostros, Joel Gonzalez who spoke of the need to keep Nosotros alive, what they have in store in terms of future programing and his future vision for the organization.
‘LLERO: Thanks for taking the time to chat with us. While at Sundance you made a very telling statement. ‘Unity comes in waves; we’ve seen this before. Our life is defined by our impact not by our intentions.’ Is that a result of what you’ve seen in your travels?
Joel Gonzalez: The short answer is yes [laughs]. I’ve been with Nosotros for about 10 years, serving as its President, even before then participated to be a voice. The point I make with that, is when we do reach that level, we need to be prepared for the responsibility. For the celebrities and influencers that speak out, that’s great, but there is a responsibility to follow through on those things. Not naming names or saying everyone, but it [needs] to go beyond the photo op, beyond I’m taking a picture and speaking on behalf of this, but what are you actually doing to move things forward? With the advent of social media and advanced tech we have the tools to keep the message flowing and it doesn’t have to be just one person carrying the message forward. It’s us together collectively. So that’s essentially the point I am trying to make with that statement.
‘LL: That seems to dovetail into the mission of Nosotros. Could you speak to the actual mission and programming its undertaking?
JG: We work with ABC, CBS and NBC with the different workshops they offer. As a Nosotros member you get priority registration. Aside from that we do our monthly mixers, which can range from a film screening, to panel discussions and we do that every month consistently, not just to throw a party. Because we are Latinos and love our parties [laughs]. But seriously, we do it because I want out members to come together monthly to build that community. If you know the community, you’re in the trenches with, then you have the confidence to speak out, to know you can do this. So that monthly mixer at the Ricardo Montalbán roof top is not so much about an event but bringing the community together monthly so they can check in with each other.
Other than that, we our have our monthly master class. It’s a more intimate environment, we’ve partnered with NBC where we go to their lot and bring professionals from business, to finance, casting and agents to give you a real idea and insight to look at yourself as a brand when you are an actor or content creator.
We also do JumpStart. We help fundraise and finance programs for children. We also participate in different programs such as acting, improv or sketch comedy. Were not necessarily trying to churn out actors but are course that build confidence. When a child is confident in who they are they can withstand a lot. Our flag ship event is the Golden Eagle Awards and an event called ‘Ya Tu Sabes’. It’s a different look at a showcase, its more underground environment.
‘LL: You spoke of the Golden Eagle Awards, what do you have in store with for this year?
JG: At its height it was on par with the Oscars and BET Awards. The goal this year is to bring together as many people who were a part of it over the past 50 years. Whether they were celebrities, show runners, executives because it wasn’t just artists, but people in the community receiving this award. [We] certainly will honor Ricardo, by having people that knew him speak. But the main thing is to just continue the vision.
‘LL: You made mention of vision. Nosotros seems to have been reenergized over the past few years, from programming to use of social media and flagship events. Where would you like to see Nosotros in the next five years?
JG: Honestly, my sincere hope is not for the organization itself but for the whole – for a huge coalition of all the organizations and Nosotros to serve as one of the central gatherer’s. And obviously to continue to share Ricardo’s vision. So not so much the goal for the organization but all of us coming together. So, we are not secondary anymore or an afterthought when Hollywood thinks of Latinos. When we are all working together and not making it about ourselves or our own organization, I really think we are going to see that change happen.
‘LL: In all of your years of service in the industry. What have been some of the best experiences.
JG: Sundance stands out. We had all one central place where we came together. As Latinos we come in all different colors, shapes, sizes. So, it was great for us to have a space to all come together and be able to speak on the subjects, not spoken about. Such as diversity and inclusion. A great energy and one of the best experiences I’ve ever had.