The 'War' Against Ken Burns/PBS' 'The War' is Not Over

Why the Latino Community Can't Let This Matter Rest

Aug 20, 2007, 01:00 ET from Defend the Honor Campaign

    WASHINGTON, Aug. 20 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The Latino "war" against
 Ken Burns' upcoming documentary, "The War," to be aired on PBS is not over.
 Despite recent press statements, key Latino organizations and leaders
 across the country today publicly announced that the issue is far from
 resolved and that they will continue pressing for a respectful resolution.
     Latino organizations and leaders called on Ken Burns and Florentine
 Pictures to meet with a representative cross-section of the national Latino
 leadership to explain in detail the changes they have made to the film, how
 they plan to include the Latino experience in their future projects and how
 they plan to include Latinos on the Florentine team. They also call on PBS
 President and CEO Paula Kerger, as well as WETA-TV's CEO and president,
 Sharon Percy Rockefeller, to explain the measures that will be taken to
 assure that such a gross exclusion of the Latino community does not occur
 again in their current and future programming, and how they will supplement
 The War with other programming and activities to include the Latino
 experience, in particular with the educational programming.
     At the urging of a corporate sponsor, Burns met with two Latino groups
 in early May and reiterated that he would include interviews with some
 Latino veterans in the 14.5-hour documentary, without offering many
 details. This was a commitment that he and PBS had already made publicly.
 Citing the results of this meeting, Burns and PBS officials at both the
 national and local levels have declared the issue closed.
     "Ken Burns cannot choose to make a secret deal with only two of the
 many Latino groups that were involved in this issue and in discussion with
 him and PBS, and then claim that the matter is resolved," explains Marta
 Garcia, co-chair of the New York Chapter of the National Hispanic Media
 Coalition and one of the founders of Defend the Honor, a Latino grassroots
 mobilization that first raised the alarm about Latino exclusion from this
 PBS documentary at the beginning of this year. "He must bring closure to
 this issue by paying the Latino leadership of this country the respect,
 respeto, of meeting with us to explain himself and his future relationship
 to the Latino community."
     Some progress had been made on the issue over the past several months
 in that Burns has added interviews with two Mexican American veterans and
 one Native American to the 14 hour-28 minute documentary. "But make no
 mistake," said Ivan Roman, executive director of the National Association
 of Hispanic Journalists, "we will withhold judgment on how meaningful that
 additional material is -- whether it truly speaks to the Latino experience
 and whether it is reflected in the companion book and educational
     In subsequent statements to the press, Burns has been dismissive of the
 arguments that the inclusion of Latinos is about historical accuracy rather
 than political correctness.
     "It is unfortunate that Ken Burns continues to see this issue as one of
 politics and rhetoric that he must rise above," said Dr. Maggie
 Rivas-Rodriguez, the University of Texas journalism professor who co-chairs
 the Defend the Honor Campaign. "It has nothing to do with politics and
 everything to do with historical accuracy and inclusion."
     Rosa Rosales, national president of LULAC, said that it was crucial for
 the Latino organizations to publicly challenge statements in the press by
 Burns and PBS that the issue had been resolved. "As Ken Burns travels
 across the country as part of the $10 million promotional effort by PBS, he
 still characterizes this as a terrible misunderstanding," Rosales said.
 "It's no misunderstanding. We understand perfectly that he only added the
 new interviews under pressure and, right now, it looks like he's not very
 proud of that new material."
     Another sticking point are the discrepancies between the National
 Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) grant proposal that provided federal
 funding for the film, and what he and PBS have said in recent months. For
 instance, Burns has said repeatedly in news interviews that in the more
 than 6 years of production, "no Latinos came forward" to be interviewed
 about their WWII experiences. But he apparently excluded Latinos from the
 beginning: in the NEH grant proposal submitted in 2004, Burns and
 Florentine Films said that the film "will celebrate American diversity" and
 that it will be about the "diversity of wartime America . . .
 African-American, Japanese American and white."
     "This is certainly very different from the way he discusses his film
 today in defending himself against Latino criticisms," observes Jess
 Quintero, president of the Hispanic War Veterans of America.
     That documentary will shape how Americans view WWII, and if short
 shrift is given to the Latino contributions, there will be a reinforcement
 of the widespread ignorance of the Latino contribution to the building of
 the U.S. "Ken Burns and PBS are playing recklessly with our history, both
 as Latinos and Americans," observes Gus Chavez, one of the co-chairs of the
 Defend the Honor. He concludes, "This is something every American should be
 upset about."
     "We are very uncomfortable with taking Burns and PBS' word that they
 have addressed the Latino community's concerns before actually seeing the
 product," Armando Rendon of Defend the Honor Campaign of Northern
 California adds. "The anger in the grassroots Latino community continues
 unabated by the manner in which he and PBS have handled this matter."
     Preliminary signatories to this statement include the following, with
 additional signatures to be added through Sept. 22, 2007.
     -- Afro-Latino Project, Queens College (CUNY), Flushing, NY
     -- APITO Centro Cultural de Puerto Rico (ACCPR), San Juan, Puerto Rico
     -- Defend the Honor
     -- Latino Literacy Now, Los Angeles
     -- League of United Latin America Citizens (LULAC)
     -- Lic. Rudy L. Ramos Civil Rights Chapter of the AGIF, San Antonio,
     -- National Association of Hispanic Journalists (NAHJ), Washington, DC
     -- National Association of Latino Independent Producers, (NALIP)
     -- National Hispanic Media Coalition (NHMC)
     -- National Institute for Latino Policy (NiLP), New York, NY
     -- National Latino Council on Alcohol and Tobacco Prevention (LCAT), New
        York, NY and Washington, DC
     Individuals (affiliations for identification purposes only):
     -- Vicente "Panama" Alba, New York, NY
     -- Dr. Frances Aparicio, Professor, Latin American and Latino Studies,
        University of Illinois at Chicago
     -- Luis Aponte-Pares, Boston, MA
     -- Louise Bonanova, Civil Rights Investigator (Retired), Office for Civil
        Rights, United States Department of Education, San Francisco, CA
     -- Maria Caban
     -- Grissele Camacho, Esq.
     -- Ed (Gato) Castillo-Rubio -- Commander, Viet Nam Veterans of Foreign
        Wars (VFW) Post 9305 of Imperial County
     -- Maria Elena Cepeda, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, Latina/o Studies,
        Williams College, Williamstown, MA
     -- Evelyn Collazo, New York, NY
     -- Edgar De Jesus, AFSMCE East Region Area Organizing Director, and
        National Bronx Member, Labor Council for Latin American Advancement
     -- Minerva Delgado, Bronx, NY
     -- Dra. Rosalina Diaz, Associate Professor of Education, Medger Evers
        College (CUNY), Brooklyn, NY
     -- Martin Espada, Professor, University of Massachusetts, Amherst
     -- Jaime Estades, Brooklyn, NY
     -- Myra Y. Estepa, Brooklyn, NY
     -- Dolores M. Fernandez, Ph.D., President, Eugenio Maria de Hostos
        Community College (CUNY), Bronx, NY
     -- Ricardo R. Fernandez, Ph.D., President, Herbert H. Lehman College
        (CUNY), Bronx, NY
     -- Juan Flores, Ph.D., Visiting Professor of Social and Cultural
        Analysis, New York University, New York, NY
     -- Cynthia Garcia Coll, Ph.D., Charles Pitt Robinson and John Palmer
        Barstow Professor Professor of Education, Psychology & Pediatrics,
        Brown University, Providence, RI
     -- Jessica Gonzalez-Rojas, Queens, NY
     -- Gabriel Haslip-Viera, Ph.D., Chair, Department of Sociology, City
        College of New York, City University of New York, New York, NY
     -- Hilda Hernandez-Gravelle, MSW, Ed.D.
     -- Tanya K. Hernandez, Professor of Law and Justice, Frederick W. Hall
        Scholar, Rutgers University School of Law, Newark, NJ
     -- Dr. James Jennings, Ph.D., Professor, Tuft University, Boston, MA
     -- Miriam Jimenez Roman, Afro-Latino Forum, New York University, New
        York, NY
     -- Francisco J. Gonzalez, Cottage Grove, MN
     -- Aldo Lauria Santiago, Ph.D., Rutgers University
     -- Raul Madrid, Ph/D., Department of Political Science, University of
        Texas at Austin
     -- Miguel "Mickey" Melendez, New York, NY
     -- Carlos Molina, Ph.D., New York, NY
     -- Edwin Karli Padilla, Associate Professor of Spanish, University of
     -- Franklyn Perez, Esq., Hostos Community College, Bronx, NY
     -- Luis O. Reyes, Ph.D., New York, NY
     -- Eugene Rivera, Clinical Coordinator, Hill Health Center, Middletown,
     -- Dr. Clara E. Rodriguez, Bronx, NY
     -- Luz Rodriguez, New York, NY
     -- Carlos Rodriguez-Fraticelli, Ph.D., University of Puerto Rico, Rio
     -- Placido Salazar, San Antonio, USAF Retired Vietnam Veteran, State
        Veterans' Affairs, Officer of The American GI Forum of Texas
     -- Carlos Sanabria, Ph.D., Coordinator of Latin American and Caribbean
        Studies, Eugenio Maria de Hostos Community College, City University of
        New York, Bronx, NY
     -- Izzy Sanabria, publisher, Latin NY Magazine;
     -- Dr. Jose Ramon Sanchez, Chair, Department of Urban Studies, Long
        Island University, Brooklyn, NY
     -- Nelson Sierra, Albany, NY
     -- Hector Soto, Esq., La Resurreccion UMC Social Justice Committee,
        Bronx, NY
     -- Candida Tapia
     -- Donato Tapia, JD, San Francisco, CA
     -- Esteban Torres, former U.S. Congressman, California
     -- Gloria Tristani, former Commissioner, Federal Communications
        Commission (FCC)
     -- Luis Urrieta, Jr., Ed.D., Department of Curriculum & Instruction,
        University of Texas at Austin
     -- Richard Valencia, Ed.D., Department of Educational Psychology,
        University of Texas at Austin
     -- Angela Valenzuela, Ed.D., Dept. Curriculum and Instruction and
        Educational Administration, University of Texas at Austin
     -- Armando Vazquez-Ramos,Ph.D. , Chicano & Latino Studies Department,
        California State University, Long Beach
     -- Emilio Zamora, Ph.D., Department of History, University of Texas at
     Rosa Rosales, president, League of United Latin American Citizens,
     (210) 733-5454 or
     Maggie Rivas-Rodriguez, Co-chair, Defend the Honor campaign
     (512) 471-0405 or
     Gus Chavez, Co-chair, Defend the Honor campaign,
     (619) 807-8938 or
     Armando Rendon, Esq., Defend the Honor Campaign of Northern California,
     (510) 219-9139 or
     Jess Quintero, president, Hispanic War Veterans of America,
     (202) 439-8028 or
     Marta Garcia, National Hispanic Media Coalition,
     (212) 965-9758 or
     Further information:
     Defend the Honor Campaign Website

SOURCE Defend the Honor Campaign