March 23, 2007

The Public Forum . . . El Foro Publico

Hispanic Groups Reject the PBS-Ken Burns film

The American GI Forum of the United States, a National Congressional Charter Hispanic Veteran’s organization with over 500 chapters nationwide and Puerto Rico, adopted a resolution showing a rejection of the Ken Burns WWII documentary because of its exclusion of Hispanics.

Hispanics have contributed to the defense of this nation since its inception over 230 years ago. Our role in WWII is constantly overlooked and/or ignored by major media networks such as NBC’s Tom Brokaw’s “Greatest Generation.” Now a publicly funded network adds insult to injury by setting aside its responsibility to the nation’s largest minority by relegating responsibility to local stations to correct a total injustice to the Hispanic legacy of contributions to WWII.

The American GI Forum of the United States calls for assistance and support from its Congressional representatives, National Hispanic organizations, Veteran service organizations, Native-American Veterans, Corporations and others who donate to PBS to demand that PBS correct this injustice to our community. Donors should question the discriminatory practices of the present administration of PBS.

* The American G.I. Forum calls for an immediate boycott of PBS and its 354 affiliate stations across the nation until such time that the Latino experience is included in Ken Burns “The WAR” PBS WWII documentary that is scheduled for release on September 23, 2007

* The American G.I. Forum calls on all Latinos/Latinas and concerned others in the nation and Puerto Rico to withhold all membership and monetary pledge donations to PBS and affiliate stations until the Ken Burns “THE WAR” documentary is inclusive of the Latino WWII experience

* The American G.I. Forum calls for an immediate Congressional investigation of PBS funding and grant awarding process to determine if existing review standards for all existing and proposed new programming is non-discriminatory and inclusive of the Latino experience in the country

* The American G.I. Forum calls on all American Corporations to refrain from making future monetary contributions to PBS until such time that the Latino experience is included in the Ken Burns “THE WAR” PBS WWII documentary

* The American G.I. Forum calls on PBS and affiliate stations to refrain from airing Ken Burns “THE WAR” PBS WWII documentary on September 23, 2007 until such time that the Latino experience is included in the documentary

* The American G.I Forum calls on all Latino/Latina organizations in the nation to join us in our fight to DEFEND OUR HONOR and rightful place in recorded history. WE ARE ALL AMERICANS.

Antonio Gil Morales, National Commander
American GI Forum of the United States

To: Paula Kerger
PBS President and Chief Executive Officer

As the Chair of the National Latino Media Council (NLMC), a national coalition comprised of 15 of the largest Latino advocacy, civil rights groups in the nation, I share with you our dismay at your March 13, 2007 letter to Latino leaders. The letter states the unwillingness of the Public Broadcasting System (PBS) to correct the record in Ken Burn’s THE WAR documentary, even though it neglects to cover the Latino story.

  As you might be aware, an estimated five hundred thousand Hispanic Americans served their country proudly during World War II. Many of our fathers and uncles died for this country and their sacrifice and service has earned them the right to be included in any documentary relating to this war. PBS will disrespect our community if it broadcasts THE WAR and omits the patriotic participation of the American Latino in that struggle.

We question PBS’s record of embracing diversity. Your response to our leaders request for inclusion in this series confirms the belief in many parts of our community that PBS is intended only for the elite and not for everyone else, especially the disenfranchised.  PBS’s current diversity efforts are irrelevant if, when it comes down to what is really important to the Latino community, which is our historic contributions to this country, PBS is unwilling to stand up for the truth. At a time when Latinos are often used as scapegoats in the media for all society’s ills, it is imperative that public television be willing to include the Latino patriotic contributions to this country. If it does not, there is no reason for it to continue to be funded by our tax dollars and we are forced to consider advocating for PBS to be defunded.

Congressman Esteban Torres (Retired)
National Latino Media Council Chair

President Kerger:

As Members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus (CHC), we want to express our concern with your upcoming World War II documentary produced by Ken Burns titled “The War.” We are concerned that this documentary, scheduled to air fall 2007, may not accurately depict Hispanics and their contributions in World War II. We believe any documentary produced on World War II that does not include the contributions of Hispanics is incomplete. We hope that you agree and address this issue.

It has been brought to our attention that this documentary plans to air without a mention of the roles played by an estimated 500,000 Hispanics who were an integral part of the armed forces during this time. Although we hear the documentary is not about any one particular ethnic group, African-American and Japanese-American accomplishments are included—and rightfully so. However, we feel that Hispanics are also among the “ordinary men and women,” and that they too tell the “history and horror of World War II” through their experiences and stories.

PBS is a non-profit media enterprise that serves 354 television stations, reaching nearly 90 million people each week. We know that you pride yourselves on providing diverse view points and educating the public. Moreover, we realize that many Americans rely on PBS to supply them with educational programming. As such, the Hispanic Caucus encourages PBS to include the Hispanic viewpoint in this documentary.

Hispanic soldiers have earned more medals of honor on a per capita basis than any other ethnic group. Twelve Hispanic soldiers that served during World War II won Medals of Honor. Hispanics now make up more than 10 percent of active duty enlisted forces, and our representation in the armed services has doubled since the 1980s. Given this exemplary record, it astounds us that in a seven-part series there is not one mention of Hispanic contributions. For PBS to air a documentary without this mention would be a disservice to its viewers and the Hispanic community. Should this be the case, as Members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, we encourage PBS to not air this documentary until this omission is corrected. We would welcome the opportunity to discuss this further.

The Congressional Hispanic Caucus

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