The Afro-Latino Connection

Can this group be the bridge to a broadbased black-Hispanic alliance?

corporate world for the world of television. Now, Perez-Brown is a successful television producer. Among her credits is creating and producing Gullah Gullah Island, which ran for six years and was named one of the Top 10 television shows for children by TV Guide in 1996. She was also the creator and executive producer of Taina, a comedy series that aired from 2001 to 2002 on Nickelodeon about a 15-year-old Latina caught between two cultures: that of her traditional Latino family and the modern world of her school and friends. Perez-Brown uses her insight into both cultures to breathe life into characters that are believable and real.

“Sometimes you look at Latino shows and Latino characters in American television and you have a Jewish writer from the Upper East Side or from Los Angeles purporting to write what he thinks is a character that’s Latino,” she says. “What results many times is an insulting and very offensive stereotype of a character. At no point did they think it was important to find an authentic voice to write that character, or to integrate their writers, which is a pet peeve in my industry.”

If African Americans and Latinos were to form lasting alliances via the Afro-Latino connection, Perez-Brown believes perception is the first thing that needs to be addressed. “The moment you start creating an image that these two groups are separate and have separate interests, you start creating a rift that allows people to divide and conquer,” she says. “We can have, wield, 25% of the population–that is huge political power. That is a huge economic force that could make a much bigger difference than we could separately.”

EMBRACING HIS HERITAGE
Though he’s a BE 100s executive, Frank Mercado-Valdes remains rooted in the Latino community. The CEO of The Heritage Networks (No. 61 on the BE INDUSTRIAL/SERVICE 100 list with $61.5 million in revenue) often laments the fact that with the exception of baseball programming, Afro-Latinos are nearly non-existent on television–even on Latino programs.

“In Latino broadcasting we’re invisible because Latino broadcasting is Mexican-centric and Mexicans really don’t have many blacks–they have certain pockets of Mexico where there are black populations who have been there a long time,” he says. “But for the most part, you won’t see black people in anything Mexican.”

The son of Cuban and Puerto Rican parents says blacks in Latin America have an even lower standing socially than African Americans did prior to the Civil Rights Movement. “There never was a Dr. King, a Malcolm X, or a Stokely Carmichael,” says the Bronx native. “So some of them come here and shed their identity and what happens is they merge with the greater white Latino community rather than with the black community.”

His Latino heritage has influenced his business decisions. “My business niche was the African American community at first,” he recalls. “I’ve changed the name of my company from The African Heritage Network to The Heritage Networks because I wanted to get into the perpetuation of English-language Latino programming.” The

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