Willie Velasquez documentary is a lesson for Latinos on the importance of voting

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From: Lydia Camarillo <lcamarillo>
Date: September 2, 2016 at 9:04:42 PM MDT
To: SVREP Camarillo <lcamarillo>
Subject: Willie Velasquez documentary is a lesson for Latinos on the importance of voting

Willie Velasquez documentary is a lesson for Latinos on the importance of voting

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By Mercedes Olivera

Dallas Morning News

Staff Writer

Published: 02 September 2016 09:40 AM
Updated: 02 September 2016 11:55 AM

If Willie Velasquez were alive today, he would have some choice words about this presidential election and the Latino vote.

But, especially, about Donald Trump, whose polarizing rhetoric on immigration this week angered both Latino Democrats and Republicans alike.

“Latino voters are going to take him to the woodshed.”

That’s what Willie would say, said Andy Hernandez, whom Velasquez hired in 1974 — the year he founded the Southwest Voter Registration Education Project in San Antonio.

Back then, Velasquez had a small office with nothing in it, except a folding table, two chairs, and a telephone, Hernandez recalled this week.

And though the beginning of the nation’s oldest and largest nonpartisan voter participation organization today had very humble origins, it had mighty aspirations.

“Voting will make a difference in your life and in the lives of the people you care about,” he would say.

1472834985-WILLIE_SPEECH_SOUTHWEST_VOTER_AND_EDUCATION_PROJEC_52737177.JPGMore than 40 years later, the organization has educated and registered millions of Latino voters and trained and developed hundreds of Latino leaders to become active in our nation’s political process.

He coined the organization’s motto, “Su voto es su voz (Your vote is your voice).”

His life and work are the subject of a documentary, Willie Velasquez: Your Vote is Your Voice, which will be shown at two venues in Dallas and Fort Worth this month. The film is a co-production of Galan Inc. and Latino Public Broadcasting, with major funding from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

KERA-TV (Channel 13) will host both screenings of the film, which will be followed by panel discussions with scholars and community advocates.

In Dallas, the screening will be from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Sept. 22 in the Performance Hall at Mountain View College.

In Fort Worth, the screening will be from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Sept. 29 at the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth.

Lydia Camarillo, vice president of the Southwest Voter Registration Education Project, will be on the panel in both cities.

She said the organization will be registering people to vote at both events.

“We’re going to use the opportunity to encourage people to watch the film on PBS on Oct. 3, which we’re calling National Willie Velasquez Latino Registration Day,” she said.

“Watch the movie and make sure you’re registered to vote.”

She has also been busy visiting the D-FW area as the organization gets ready for its fundraising dinner in Fort Worth in the Red Oak Ballroom, Norris Center at Sundance Square on Friday, Sept. 9.

D-FW is one of five areas in the state where Southwest Voter will be conducting voter drives. She said the goal is to register 5,000 to 10,000 Latino voters over four to six weeks ahead of the election in November.

“The Latino electorate will be crucial in three state House races in this area,” she said, “and there’s excitement among Dallas and Fort Worth Latinos.”

Hernandez said that the numbers of Latinos registering to vote will continue to climb every year, but that Trump has been especially motivating for them this election season.

And Velasquez, who died in 1988, would have known this, he said.

“He would see Trump as a great lesson in how not to disrespect our vote,” Hernandez said.

“Willie understood that the only way you get large-scale social change is through political involvement. You should go vote because other people shouldn’t decide how you’re going to live.”

Twitter: @molivera79

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