Looking Good, Looking Ahead: Q&A with Bobbito Garcia

By Guest Columnist Aug 21, 2009

By Ivan Maestre I had the opportunity to ask tastemaker and trendsetter and Creative Chief of Project 2050, Bobbito Garcia, a few questions earlier this week about his political thoughts and what he’s been working on. He had a few great recommendations for me and other high school aged kids on how to get involved and stay motivated while keeping your primary community concerns at heart. We also talked about some of his interests and the experiences that led him to where he is today. RaceWire: I understand you were just hired as Creative Chief for Project 2050. Can you tell me a little bit about what you’ve been up to and how you’ve been moving racial justice issues in our communities? Bobbito Garcia: I’ve spent years and years of development in the community in terms of being a positive role model for Latinos in a very diverse, exposed media avenue, so I think that in and of itself sort of alleviates the ideals of our people to a captive audience that doesn’t necessarily always look at us in a positive manner. Anytime I’m on TV–ESPN, MSG Network–or in a magazine, in Japan or France or whatever, I’m always cognizant that for the majority of people there, the image that is depicted of Latinos has traditionally been really poor, i.e. a negative criminal in a movie, or someone who is not as bright as others or things to that extent. Entertainment is extremely powerful. My thought has always been to accept roles if I’m doing a movie, or if I’m on TV, like yeah, I’ll be street and I’ll be hip hop, but I’ll also throw in some big words and show them a level of education, so people know that I, myself, am a multi-dimensional character, and that I reflect, not a minority in the Latino community, but a majority. I think that has been a long term, sort of subtle thing. I remember when I was in college at Wesleyan. This women that I met there dead up told me, “Until I met you, I thought all Latinos were rapists and thieves,” and she was like, “I’m sorry.” She was very honest. She told me she grew up in Maine and watched TV and that’s all she ever saw on TV about Puerto Ricans. That was a great moment cause, to get her to reveal something on that level is not common, I think it was a blessing. RW: Is that what made you get involved with Project 2050? BG: The 2050 founder, Phil Colon, was instrumental in the initial movement at Voto Latino, which still five years later, has been an instrumental part of improving voter registration/rights, specifically for Latinos, and that played a role in Barack Obama getting elected. Project 2050 as a whole is an “ideas and solutions” shop. We have worked with Rock Corps, which is sort of like a Peace Corps, non-profit organization that works locally in New York on voter registration as well. Basically, 2050 works as a service to brands to produce events, do project development, research, marketing, etc. and as of right now, we’re planning out a huge event in Brazil and we particularly told Nike that we want to involve the kids from the favelas. That’s part of our mindset. Any brand that we work with, we’re suggesting to them the same thing. Like with EA Sports, the other day the preliminary meeting we had, we introduced the idea of them doing outreach to up and coming high school kids that can possibly do art for video games. There’s no connect. Right now people play video games and they don’t realize that if they put their mind to it, maybe they can work for a video game producer or manufacturer. That’s what we do as a shop. Ideas, and solutions! RW: Cool, I have one more question. You have gotten to work on a lot of things, movies, commercials, sneakers, choreography, music, books, well there’s very little you haven’t done. Which of these has been your favorite? Which of these have allowed you to include your own politics? BG: I think all of them have allowed me to use my own politics. For the very same reason that anything that I do has a revolutionary mindset and this is why I’ve often told people, even in hip-hop where now a days, most of the subjects are terrible and just really shallow and materialistic and unintelligible and etc. It’s still revolutionary – in the history of our country, for the great portion of it, people of color have had no voice, right. I have a voice. I write books, I founded a magazine and I’ve hosted and anchored TV shows. I affect change on a daily basis and I’m a person of color. Forty years ago I couldn’t have done that, on the level that I’m doing that now. When I was hired by the Knicks, I was the first Latino broadcaster in their 60-year franchise history. That’s insane! That’s the premiere team in the NBA for net profits. Whether they only win 20 games or if they win 50, they gross the most amount of money of any franchise. And in New York, the capital at one point particularly for Puerto Ricans and our worldwide diaspora, and they’ve never had a Latino announcer? So those are things I think that on a continual basis, similar to how I answered your first question that those interests, are ingrained in how I’m affecting change. I can tell you more specific things, like when the U.S. Navy killed the security guard in Vieques, I was part of a youth movement that was going out to the streets to protest and make songs and create awareness for them, and when the Navy pulled out, there was a huge celebration. It was a victory for us. I still believe in the independence and the rights of sovereignty for Puerto Rico as a country. Those are things that when I’m given the forum to, I speak on. === As Bobbito said – there are many different levels of work we can be involved in that are instrumental for ensuring that communities of color are represented throughout. He mentioned groups like Voto Latino, Rock Corps and Peace Corps and groups who mobilized to remove the Navy from Vieques. Project 2050 is a continuation of one of the largest mobilizations to ensure voters rights for the Latino community. But the struggle continues – what will you do to keep it moving? To learn more about Bobbito Garcia and Project 2050, please visit PROJECT 2050: http://www.p2050.com/bobbito.pdf VIDEO BIO: http://www.youtube.com/user/bobbitogarcia DJ INFO: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Bobbito-Garcia-aka-Kool-Bob-Love/66072911092 SNEAKER DESIGNER: http://www.bouncemag.com/2009/07/02/exclusive-pro-keds-royal-flash-x-bobbito/ RECORD MAKER: http://www.r2records.co.uk/theconnection/ GENERAL INFO: http://www.facebook.com/bobbito.garcia OR http://www.somosarte.com/bobbito/ BOUNCE MAGAZINE EDITOR AT LARGE/COLUMNIST: http://www.bouncemag.com As you can see from all the links above, he’s definitely a great example on how to multi-task. — Ivan Maestre is a summer communications intern at both the Applied Research Centers NY office and Urban Latino Magazine and a sophomore at Abraham Lincoln High School in Philadelphia.