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Neighborhood activist reaches out to Latino teens via YouTube

By Kevin Milliken for La Prensa


Ramón Pérez is used to reaching out to Latinos and others as a neighborhood organizer for United North. But Pérez, 55, is now targeting teens through technology—with a series of YouTube videos they can see on their computers.


The first video involves encouraging young people to register to vote. Pérez even draws some high school students into the presentation, which can best be described as informal and on their level. Pérez even colors his presentation with a little slang and Spanglish to remain relevant.


The video was shot in a local art studio. Pérez hopes to feature a different local Latino artist in each monthly presentation. The whole idea is to give local and regional Latinos “a voice,” by making the videos interactive and inviting feedback from viewers on future episodes, topics, even naming the YouTube series.


The idea came to Pérez during his involvement with the Latino Youth Forum, a spinoff of the Hispanic Strategic Alliance. The project involved neighborhood canvassing, community meetings, and other outreach efforts.


“Hearing from the folks talking in the neighborhood, especially the young people, about having some sort of an outlet to communicate with other Latino communities and others in general,” he explained. “It’s just a way to promote what we’re thinking, what we’re feeling, and making it fun and informing people about different issues.”


The long-time neighborhood activist pointed out that protestors of the Arab Spring movement in the Middle East communicated via social media, such as Facebook, to gather, demonstrate, and demand change in their countries, such as in Libya and Egypt. In the U.S., the Occupy Wall Street demonstrations communicate in much the same fashion.


“It’s just another new venue for doing what people want to see and hear,” said Pérez. “It’s a good vehicle for finding out what Latinos are thinking and feeling. I’m excited about it.”


Pérez described the first YouTube effort as “real rough” and “experimental.” The video series is as yet unnamed, even though he joked that a friend calls it “Ramon’s Rant.” Pérez is asking for suggestions, then may put it to a viewer vote with the top two or three ideas.


“I just need to get it out there and get it started, force me to do the next one,” he said, chuckling. “So hopefully, in the next month-and-a-half I’ll have the next one ready and hear the input from those who do watch it and care to respond to it and give me input. The idea is to invite them to be a part of it—help develop it, to be on it, to say what they want to say.”


The idea comes at an opportune time: at the onset of the 2012 presidential campaign, as well as the unrest involved with the Occupy Movement across the country. With so much economic and political turmoil, Latinos will want to get involved and have their say. Many political pundits even believe the Latino community will decide who will become the next president, if they show up at the polls in large enough numbers.


With that in mind, Pérez demonstrated with the help of two teens how quick and easy it has become to register to vote—at a local library, the bureau of motor vehicles, and other locations.


“We just need to get ourselves in those places,” Pérez said. “Read about them, learn about them, then have something fun, creative, provocative, whatever—to say about it, respond to it. Maybe this is the vehicle to do that. I want to give them a format and a forum to do that.”


Traditional neighborhood organizing involves good old-fashioned, grass-roots, face-to-face contact. But Pérez attended a recent conference where social media and other forms of communication are becoming the new strategy to reach a wider audience with a message.


“There is new technology, new resources that have actually been out there for a while—a lot of us are just now catching up with it and realizing it’s a very powerful tool,” he said.  “A lot of people are starting to get hip to it, including me.”


The United North organizer stated the key to making the project work is to keep it open-ended and interactive, so that people discover its relevance and respond.


“It’s going to be a lot of fun. It’s going to be a whole lot of good, bad, and ugly,” Pérez said with a laugh. “I’m excited about it.”


The “Ramon Show” YouTube video can be accessed at this link: http://youtu.be/aSlEKIC4o7U.


Copyright © 1989 to 2011 by [LaPrensa Publications Inc.]. All rights reserved.
Revised: 11/08/11 13:09:34 -0800.





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