Who is Edward James Olmos at heart? What makes the man tick? What motivates him to do the things he does? He is everything he appears to be: intelligent, talented, warm, friendly, funny. He is wise and compassionate. He is a brilliant actor and director who has been well honored in his career. He is completely devoted to the happiness and well-being of his family. He is proud of his Mexican heritage and is a passionate supporter of Latinos everywhere. He works hard in every situation to do the right thing even when the "right thing" is not the easiest thing. And, even when it isn't easy, he practices what he preaches.
EJO spent several years helping to have created the book, video and CD entitled Americanos: Latino Life in the United States. In many ways, it was a labor of love for him.
"Why Americanos? Why would we give this title to a book on Latinos? There are several reasons. One is that too often society sees us not as Americans but as strangers to this land. We have worked hard to help build this country and we continue to do so every day. The face of America should include us. Second, as Latinos we often think of Americanos as the others in this country, not us. We, and especially our children, need to see that we are an integral and equal part of U.S. society. Third, we wanted a title that would recognize and honor our bilingual heritage and would be easily understood in both English and Spanish. And, finally, we wanted to illustrate that, much like a quilt woven intricately with many beautiful fibers, Latinos are a proud and diverse people interwoven with indigenous, Spanish/European, African, and Asian roots. We are citizens not only of the United States of America, but also of all the Americas and of the Latin American countries around the world." --
Edward James Olmos from the preface of Americanos Latino Life in the United States
:: THERE'S ONLY ONE RACE, THE HUMAN RACE ::
"...Edward James Olmos was correct in the United Nations changing its language on race... their actions were reflected in their Durban Review Conference"
In March of 2009, EJO (and other members of the "Battlestar Galactica" cast) was given the opportunity to speak at the United Nations. EJO spoke of a matter close to his heart, that of "race" versus ethnicity.
"I still find it incredible that we still use word “race” as a cultural determinant… I detest what we’ve done to ourselves. Out of a need to make ourselves different from one another, we’ve made the word “race” a way of expressing culture. There’s no such thing... I just heard one of the most prolific statements done by one of the great humanitarians, he’s really trying to organize and bring us together, and he used the word “race” as if there is a Latino race, an Asian race, an indigenous race, a Caucasian race. There’s no such thing as a Latino race. There never has been. There never will be. There’s only one race, and that’s what the show brought out. That is the human race, period."
:: THE L.A. RIOTS ::
While the 1992 so-called "Rodney King" riots was going on in Los Angeles, EJO decided that something positive had to be done to stop the violence and protect lives and property. He grabbed a broom and hit the streets. About the event he says:
"I was out on the morning that the military were scheduled to start to shoot to kill anyone left on the streets. That's why I went out. I wanted to see if they would shoot me with a broom in my hand. Then, people saw it and turned out by the tens of thousands... The riot had not stopped - not until the afternoon of the Friday we went out. [It's] funny how people think we went out after the fact. We were the fact of why the riot stopped. One person with a broom in his hands.... it just happened to be me."
:: VIEQUES ::
In 2001 EJO became very involved and concerned with the US Navy using Vieques Island as a practice bombing range. The 9,000 citizens of the island were tired of the ordinance exploded in their waters, the damage to the environment the bombing had caused, and the illnesses among them linked to the aftermath of the bombing.
EJO and nearly 180 other people were arrested for trespassing in an effort to stop a scheduled Navy bombing practice on the island. Over the next several months all were given prison sentences as punishment. Edward was sentenced to twenty days. After serving his sentence at a detention facility in San Juan, he was released on August 24th, 2001
SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico -- Edward James Olmos criticized the United States and Puerto Rico on Tuesday for not moving faster to clean up the site of a former bombing range on Vieques Island. [Officials] "have done nothing" to restore an area that environmentalists say is tainted by dangerous pollutants nearly four years after the departure of the U.S. Navy."We are not going to stop until we make them see that a (cleanup) is necessary," Olmos said at a news conference in the Puerto Rican capital of San Juan.
:: COMMUNITY ::
EJO keeps a busy lecture schedule. He speaks on a vast range of humanitarian topics that promote tolerance and understanding among all people.
"Education is the vaccine for violence."
"We have all the cultures of the world under one flag, and we let it all slip through our fingers. We have got to start with our educational systems." “
“How can children of color gain a feeling of sense, of self-worth, self-esteem, and self-respect by citing a European based history? Yet nothing is being done about changing it. While English is the global language of business, children in other parts of the world are learning to speak three or four deifferent languages. If they speak only English, your children will be behind the eight-ball.
I came from a dysfunctional family. I’m a minority. I have no natural talent, but I did it. If I can do it, anybody can do it. I take away the excuses.” The most important thing I learned to do was do the things I loved, even when I didn’t want to do them.”
"Every single person ... still uses the understanding that there is a Caucasian ‘race,’ that there is an Asian ‘race,’ that there is an African ‘race,’ and an indigenous ‘race.’ Well, I’m here to tell you, you should have never invited me if you didn’t want to learn one thing today: and that’s that there’s only one race, and that’s the human race. Period. "
"I wish that our colleges were filled with people who had come through a system of grammar school, junior high and high school that would have given them a sense of self-esteem and self-worth and self-respect. But you can’t get that in a system that is dedicated to a one-course diet."
"I am not naturally gifted, not naturally talented. I did not come out of my mother's womb saying 'to be or not to be' with a Spanish accent. I say this to you because I see that...we still have a problem understanding that the only thing that makes us the same is that we are all different. Racism is tough. It's a learned behavior, just like violence is."
"Yes, there was a conquest. Yes, it was done out of force, not out of love. America was forged out of a history of violence, but today what dominates us is love. More people live together in this country than in any country in the world."
"One day I was following my brother, who was crossing First Street. I got scared about two -thirds of the way across and turned around and almost got hit. But when I turned around I saw my sister following me. I grabbed her hand and pulled her back. From then on I knew I was being looked up to by my little sister. I would make sure I knew where she was so that I wouldn't lead her into some kind of trouble. I knew that I was an example for her; I had an understanding of that."
"We have relegated art the fourth toe of the foot on the left side. I need it badly, but I need my backbone even more. But art is the backbone.We would have nothing without art. That's why they call them artifacts -- without them we would not have known anything."
“I’ve spent my entire adult life trying to realize how in the world are we ever going to come together when we keep on using the word ‘race’ as a cultural determinant. How can we even look at one another and understand our unity of humanness when we consider ourselves different races? It’s so difficult that it boggles the mind.