DENVER–Actor and Activist America Ferrera and Voto Latino paid a visit to Auraria Campus Oct. 26 to discuss the significance of voting and participating in the 2016 Election.
The rally was sponsored by Metropolitan State University of Denver’s Student Activities, the University of Colorado Denver’s Student Life and the Community College of Denver’s Student Life programs.
Launched in 2004, Voto Latino started as a PSA project with Co-Founder and Actor Rosario Dawson. Over the years, it has received major support from celebrities and musicians like Pitbull, Jessica Alba and America Ferrera. Voto Latina has worked in Denver since 2007.
Ferrera is an actor known for her role in the ABC sitcom, “Ugly Betty.” She plays Amy in the NBC sitcom, “Superstore” and is also the executive producer of the show. Ferrera has worked with Voto Latino for several years.
María Teresa Kumar, the CEO and president of Voto Latino, took the stage and discussed how Voto Latino reached out to millennial voters.
“One of the things that we do is we register voters through radio DJs,” Kumar says. “DJ Chonz was in the house back in 2008 and was completely faithful to us. We learned and we exported what we learned all the way around the country.
“In the last six years Voto Latino registered close to 13,000 Coloradoans,” continues Kumar. “I’m happy to say that Voto Latino, as of yesterday, has registered 177,000 voters in five huge states. We’ve been able to take chances and communities have taken chances on us, so I want to thank you.”
The crowd roared in cheers and applause as Ferrera stood at the podium and took a group selfie with everyone.
Ferrera briefly described her life in Los Angeles, California. Her parents immigrated to America from Honduras, Mexico. Ferrera lived with five siblings and her single mother.
“My mom worked day and night to provide for us and it wasn’t always easy. Sometimes I’d only have a meal in school because there were programs that somebody voted for,” Ferrera says. “That was the difference between me having something to eat in the middle of the day or not having something to eat in the middle of the day.”
“I’m not standing here as a celebrity. I’m here because I am one of you,” continues Ferrera. “I am as deeply impacted today by the issues that I grew up with than I was then. I’m not standing here as an actor saying, ‘Go vote. It’s cute!’ I’m saying, my life depended on people like you paying attention and caring.”
Ferrera recalled a memory she had of the 1994 Election. It was about Proposition 187 for California. This proposition said illegal aliens were ineligible for public benefits. It was approved, but never enforced.
“I don’t remember much about it then,” Ferrera says. “But I do remember being dropped off at school and my mom pulling me aside and saying to me, ‘If anyone asks you questions about where you’re from or whether you’re American or why your parents speak Spanish or tease you about the color of your skin, you did nothing wrong.’
“I went to school with kids who were first-generation Arab, first-generation Filipino, first-generation Chinese. You name it,” continues Ferrera. “We all went home to parents who yelled at us in a different language and cooked something else for dinner. But when we came to school and pledged allegiance to the flag, we were American because of our diversity, not in spite of it.”
Ferrera frowned upon the idea of sitting out and not participating in the election.
“I’m here more than anything to let you know that doing nothing and sitting it out is not an option,” Ferrera says. “If you don’t use your vote, you are leaving a vacuum for somebody else to come make the decision for you. The decision about the access you will have to exercise your right to health, to exercise your right to vote, to exercise your right to clean air and clean water.
“The next president could appoint up to three Supreme Court Justices,” continues Ferrera. “That is not about the next four years. That is about the next four decades, people. That is about the rest of your lives.”
Ferrera mentioned that voters should find one thing on the ballot that impacts them.
“If you’re not inspired by either of the top candidates representing the parties, that’s not the only thing to show up and vote for,” Ferrera says. “Find one issue. If none of those other things move you, find one issue that affects you or that affects somebody you love. Understand how that issue stands to either move forward or move backward by this election.
“Your voice matters and even if I’m only one of 1,000 people in your lifetime who tell you that, know that it’s coming from the bottom of my being,” Ferrera continues. “You guys have the power to shape what this country is gonna look like. I hope you believe that and I hope that you feel it.”
“The chair is set up at the table for us,” Ferrera says. “It’s whether or not we choose to show up and take our seat.”
This article first appeared on the Metro Post-Telegraph