Kennedy Center President Apologizes to National Latino Groups and Dialogue Now Begins

Sep 28, 2012
10:41 PM

It looks like the Kennedy Center finally got the message.

Yesterday the National Hispanic Foundation for the Arts (NHFA) received an apology from Kennedy Center President Michael Kaiser for his unprofessional response about why the center hadn't honored that many Latinos in the history of its organization. Kaiser had initially told the NHFA's Felix Sanchez to "f•ck off" when Sanchez raised the issue. The Kennedy Center has not honored a Latino in the last decade, and has only honored one Latina (Chita Rivera) and quasi-Latino (Plácido Domingo) in the last 35 years. (UPDATE: Yeah, we got schooled for our snarky comment about Domingo, see below. We are very aware of his contributions to the world and hos beloved he is in Mexico. Our point was a lame attempt at sarcasm, since we were speaking to the issue that even when the Kennedy Center honored a Latino, it felt a bit too safe and mainstream for us. We were not questions Domingo's identity and if some people took it that way, we are sorry.)

This year, the Kennedy Center chose the following 2012 Kennedy Center Honors winners: Dustin Hoffman, David Letterman, Buddy Guy, Natalia Makarova, and the surviving members of Led Zeppelin. Granted, such news didn't sit well with many national Latino organizations like NHFA. So instead of staying quiet, NHFA and the National Hispanic Leadership Agenda (NHLA) led the effort in getting Kaiser and the Kennedy Center to pay attention. After some initial responses that led to non-apologies, a coalition of 30 organizations asked for a formal apology. And it finally happened. Here is what NHFA posted tonight on its Facebook:

A story from The News Tribune in Tacoma describes how the apology came about:

But angry Latino groups won a round Friday when Kennedy Center president Michael Kaiser finally agreed to send a written apology this week to Felix Sanchez, founder of the National Hispanic Foundation for the Arts, for using profanity against him in a recent phone call about the awards.

Sanchez also will meet with Kennedy Center chairman David Rubenstein next week to discuss the concerns about the awards shared by about 30 Hispanic organizations.

“I think the apology was genuine,” Sanchez said…

The story concludes:

In an interview, National Hispanic Leadership Agenda chairman Hector Sanchez (no relation to Felix Sanchez) called the selection process “secretive.” In a letter to Rubenstein, he said the absence of Latino honorees was “condemnable, and using profanity to escape responsibility is despicable.”

Felix Sanchez said that Kaiser had resisted efforts by Latino groups over the last two years to push for a meeting, saying that the honors could not be the object of lobbying for any individual. Felix Sanchez said they were not pushing for any one performer, only those of Hispanic heritage.

“I assure you that the concerns raised by Mr. Sanchez were heard and will be given serious consideration,” Kennedy Center spokesman John Dow said in an email.

The Washington Post also covered the story yesterday. Here is the link.