What is the Defend the Honor Campaign?
The Defend the Honor campaign is a grassroots effort representing thousands of individuals and members of dozens of organizations working for a more fair and accurate inclusion of Latinos and Latinas in our nation’s consciousness. The issue is serious and the implications are substantial not only for today, but for our future, as the country’s Latino population continues to grow. We’re streamlined and we want to stay that way: no staff, all-volunteer, just a website and periodic emails about important issues, exhorting Defenders of the Honor to write letters, watch a documentary or movie, create a dialogue. Our only loyalty is to the truth about our greater Latino community.
The 2007 Ken Burns/PBS documentary is only one in many other examples of Latinos being excluded or stereotyped negatively in the entertainment and news media. If one is to look at our history books, one will find a staggering number of omissions of Latino contributions as well as inaccurate references to several issues and events related to Latinos. To counter that exclusion and misrepresentation, Defend the Honor continues to send out emails to its lists to address specific issues concerning the inclusion and respectful treatment of Latinos and Latinas. We not only will tell you about them; we’ll give you a plan of action, who you can write to, a petition you can sign, a protest march you may take part in. We are not victims if we are taking action. We invite you to stand up and be heard—exercise your First Amendment rights in the cause of justice.
Since 2007, DTH has addressed several other issues, including:
- The 2009 decision by Humanity in Action and the Washington D.C. Sixth and I Historic Synagogue have Ken Burns to speak about a topic on which he is an anti-authority. His speech, before President Barack Obama’s inauguration, was entitled: “Vision of Race.” Neither Humanity in Action nor the Sixth and I Historic Synagogue responded to requests to address the issue.
- The creation of a “Civil Rights Oral History Project,” a joint effort between the Smithsonian Institution and the Library of Congress to collect oral histories of those involved in the Civil Rights Movement. Latino civil rights efforts were NOT part of that oral history plan.
- Burns’ 2009 speech at the Chamizal, a national park in El Paso, of all things, to tout his public parks documentary. But the tone-deaf Burns talk was entitled: “Public History and the Hispanic Heritage.”
- The successful campaign to get Lou Dobbs, a rabid anti-immigrant commentator, off CNN, in 2009.
- The slap on the wrist given to the murderers of Luis Ramirez, a 25-year-old Mexican immigrant residing in Shenandoah, Pennsylvania. Ramirez was beaten and stomped to death by a group of teens as he walked through the town on July 12, 2008. Witnesses overheard anti-Mexican and ethnic epithets shouted by his assailants during the violent attack. On Friday, May 1, 2009, a jury in Schuylkill County, Pennsylvania, found two defendants not guilty of third degree murder and ethnic intimidation.
If your organization would like to be involved, or if you as an individual would like show your support, please Contact Us.
Lead organizers of the DTH include Gus Chávez, a veteran, and a volunteer with the U.S. Latino & Latina WWII Oral History Project. Chavez served as director of the Office of Educational Opportunity/Ethnic Affairs at San Diego State University, for 28 years, before retiring in 2003. He has served in a number of professional and community organizations, including the Moviemento Estudiantil Chicano de Aztlan (MEChA), MEC hA Central de San Diego County, the Brown Berets of San Diego, and the American G.I. Forum, to name a few. Chávez is a U.S. Navy veteran who served as a hospital corpsman from 1962 to 1966. He has received numerous awards, including the Outstanding MEChA Faculty/Staff Award, California Educational Opportunity Program Directors Service Award, and the Cesar E. Chavez Social Justice Service Award.
Maggie Rivas-Rodriguez, project director, and an associate professor of journalism at the University of Texas at Austin. Rivas-Rodriguez has a Ph.D. in communication from the University of North Carolina, a masters in journalism from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, and a bachelors in journalism from the University of Texas at Austin. She was a journalist for over 17 years (UPI, Boston Globe, WFAA-TV, and the Dallas Morning News).
NATIONAL HISPANIC MEDIA COALITION (NHMC) (From the organization website)
The Defend the Honor Campaign is also led by representatives of the NHMC, a non-profit organization established in 1986 in Los Angeles, California. The organization has grown to have statewide chapters in New York, NY; Chicago, IL; Phoenix, AZ; Sacramento and San Diego, CA; Atlanta, GA; and Detroit, MI.
Our mission is to 1) improve the image of American Latinos as portrayed by the media; 2) increase the number of American Latinos employed in all facets of the media industry; and 3) advocate for media and telecommunications policies that benefit the Latino community.
Another organizer of the Defend the Honor Campaign is Angelo Falcón, president of the National Institute for Latino Policy, and co-chair of the New York Chapter of the National Hispanic Media Coalition. The NILP is a nonprofit and nonpartisan policy center that focuses on Latino issues in the United States. Falcón established the Institute for Puerto Rican Policy (IPR) in New York City in the early 1980s. The IPR is now the National Institute for Latino Policy, and Falcón serves as president. He is also an Adjunct Assistant Professor at the Columbia University School of International and Public Affairs (SIPA). Falcón, between 1986-1990, was one of the co-principal researchers (along with Rodolfo O. de la Garza of the University of Texas at Austin, F. Chris Garcia of the University of New Mexico, and John Garcia of the University of Arizona) of the Latino National Political Survey (LNPS), one of the largest privately funded social surveys of Latino political attitudes and behavior ever conducted in the United States. In the mid-1990s he was one of the key organizers of the Boricua First! march on Washington, DC and in the early 2000s of the Encuentro Boricua Conference in New York City, among other national initiatives.