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Rita Moreno speaks at SI's Latin@ Summit.
Posted 04/05/2014 06:05PM

2014 Latino Summit Keynote Address: Rita Moreno from St. Ignatius College Preparatory on Vimeo.

Famed actress Rita Moreno, best known for her Oscar-winning role as Anita in West Side Story, spoke at the Latin@ Summit April 5 at SI before a crowd of 250 students from 15 schools from across the country.

The annual event, organized by SI Director of Equity and Inclusion Matt Balano, also featured a stirring performance by Juan Escovedo, of the legendary Escovedo family, whose father, Pete, played with Carlos Santana and whose sister, Sheila E., performed with Prince.

Other speakers included Michael Benitez Jr., chief diversity officer at the University of Puget Sound, and activist and artist Favianna Rodriguez, who delivered the closing remarks for the weekend conference.

This year, ALAS leadership, with support from Balano and ALAS co-moderator Yolanda Medina Zevas, chose the theme of “Reel Talk” and offered workshops that helped students examine the origin, function and power of stereotypes in the media “and how they affect virtually all aspects of life, from setting public policy and maintaining systemic oppression to the way we perceive ourselves and others,” he noted.

The conference also gave students “an affinity space for Latino youth and allies to join together to share both their common and unique stories,” added Balano.

Students from as far away as Marquette University High School in Milwaukee joined eight other Jesuit schools and six local private schools for the SI conference. The teachers and parents who accompanied these students also had a chance to gather in their own workshop, one led by Ricardo Molano Nieto, an SI parent who works as a diversity consultant for businesses and corporations.

Other presenters included journalist and hop-hop historian Davey D, who offered a workshop on media literacy and media justice. He asked students to consider why age-old stereotypes are still effective tools “in the divide-and-conquer world of marketing ad advertising,” said Balano.

Moreno, the recipient of the National Medal for Freedom and one of the few people to win an Oscar, a Tony, an Emmy and a Grammy, first met with the cast of SI’s spring musical West Side Story. She gave them pointers from her performance in the movie version and then spoke to the audience about the prejudice she faced as a Latina in Hollywood.

She shared stories with students of her struggle and moments of self-doubt as she encountered discrimination and racism in the movie industry. She also spoke about her perseverance to rise above the oppression to become an accomplished artist and activist.

Click here for more photos from the event.


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