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 April 10, 2000

News Anchor Urges Latinos
To Take Pride in Culture

From his work as founder and chairman of the Young Lords Party - a 1960s Puerto Rican civil rights group in New York and Chicago - to his position as the first Puerto Rican news anchor on a network broadcast for WNBC, Felipe Luciano has spent his life breaking down barriers. In order to succeed, Luciano had to come to terms with his culture and himself and he demands the same of other Latinos.

"Stop thinking you are inferior, that is the first sin," Luciano said on Monday, during his keynote speech at the opening ceremony for Latino Awareness Month that also marked the start of the University's week-long period of reflection known as metanoia. This year's metanoia focuses on issues of diversity.

Luciano said that in many Latin cultures, the people that colonized the country are glorified. That idiosyncrasy isn't seen in other cultures, he added.

"We are the only people in the history of the world who will put a statue of the colonizer in the middle of our capital," Luciano said. "Colonialism is our major malady."

As Latinos have adopted the beliefs of their colonizers, they have rejected signs of their own culture. Many Latinos now see light skin, thin women and straight hair as the ideal, Luciano said. Those aesthetics demand that Latinos reject their African heritage, he said.

"We put the b in black and yet we run from it and run from it and run from it," Luciano said. "How dare you say you are not African?"

Latinos must recapture their heritage in order to succeed, he said. For some, that may mean returning to their ancestor's homeland or spending time with others from the same background.

"Whatever it is that you need to reconnect, reconnect," he urged.

It is important that students take advantage of their time at the university to rediscover their heritage, because they may be prevented from doing so once they graduate, Luciano added. "It's a big game out there, and it's called divide and conquer."

To prevent such efforts from being successful, Latinos must learn and appreciate their rich history, he said: "People have died to get you here. Remember your ancestors."

Latinos must also remember their contemporaries, he added, urging his audience to help others in the community and beyond.

"You have to interact," he said. "You should become an internationalist."

In addition to forming the Young Lords Party, Luciano was also a member of the Original Last Poets, one of the first hip-hop groups. He is currently president and founder of Luciano Productions Inc. and is a consultant on an HBO film now in development about the Young Lords.

Latino Awareness Month will continue through the month of April.

Allison Thompson