Edward James Olmos, live on stage
I love living in a university town. We walk three blocks from our back door and get to hear Edward James Olmos on stage, talking about his passions, about biotechnology, about what the future means for humanity, about race, about Battlestar Galactica and Miami Vice and Blade Runner, and about creative control in drama. I learned how amazing he is on stage: an exuberant, confrontational and hilarious story-teller. He’s sixty-four years old and I don’t think I’ve ever seen a talk by a higher-voltage live wire.
He started out by saying how proud he was to be a Chicano. Well, actually Chicano meant Mexican born in the United states and with some indigenous and some European – in his case Hungarian ancestry. So he was really proud to be Mexican and he was very proud to be European. But then he found out that indigenous peoples came to this continent forty thousand years ago from Asia so he’s Asian, right? And then he finally started to understand, he said, that we all came out of Africa. “So I’m African… but I’ve just been away from the homeland a really, really long time!”
He didn’t use the word “multiculturalism” but he did talk about what a tragedy it is we really only teach our kids about one culture and everything else is “also”. What if you only gave your child one vitamin their whole lives until they were 18? What if you only fed them only hamburgers? “Our kids don’t have what they need to be healthy, to survive.”
“There is no such thing as the Caucasian race. There is no such thing as the Latino race. An African race does not exist. There is no Asian race. There is only one race: the human race. If you take home only one thing, if you only get one thing from this evening, make it this: that you will never again use race as a cultural determinant. Never again.”
Olmos grew up in LA and has been heavily involved in gang prevention work there. He has addressed the United Nations on reconciliation. He spent 20 days in jail for protesting the bombing the island of Vieques, Puerto Rico. He co-founded a Latino literacy foundation.
Earlier in the day he gave a talk at Milner Library, and both before and after the show he was in the main atrium meeting people – including Diane whom he gave an air-kiss which she appeared to enjoy very much. I shook his hand and thanked him for coming to ISU.
Geez, I wish you could have been there; what a wonderful evening we had.
- Daily Vidette: Olmos discusses race, culture, past roles at keynote speech
- Pantagraph: Actor Olmos talks about reducing gang violence