Actress, Activist Promotes Minorities’ Voting Rights
Published: Tuesday, September 25, 2012
Updated: Tuesday, September 25, 2012 02:09
Actress and activist Rosario Dawson spoke about voter participation, women’s and minorities’ rights and her career in Gaston Hall Friday.
The Georgetown University Lecture Fund sponsored the event with support from the Cuban American Student Association, the Latin American Student Association, the Center for Social Justice and the Center for Latin American Studies.
Dawson shared memories of growing up on the Lower East Side of Manhattan in abandoned buildings that her parents and neighbors made habitable.
“The community came up because of people moving in, daring to be against their poverty and striving for themselves by putting sweat equity into the community that they were in,” she said.
Photographer Larry Clark discovered Dawson while she was standing on a stoop in her front yard and asked her to audition for his movie “Kids,” an offer that jumpstarted her career.
Since “Kids,” Dawson has held leading roles in many films, including “Men in Black II,” “25th Hour,” “Rent,” “Sin City” and “Fire with Fire,” which will be released Nov. 6.
Dawson said she prioritizes message over money and chooses to depict real women in her films.
“Not every woman that needs to be portrayed needs to be perfect, and not every story that needs to be told has to have a happy ending, because that’s not life,” Dawson said.
In addition to acting, Dawson associates herself with social justice and women’s causes.
In 2004, she started Voto Latino, an organization that encourages people to vote and educates them about the importance of voting.
“In March 2003, Latinos became the largest minority in the country, and we wanted to address the wave that was 50,000 young American Latinos turning 18 every month,” Dawson said. “We started Voto Latino because it’s not just a Latino issue — it’s an American issue — and if we care about the direction of this country, it’s important that we reach out to that demographic as strongly and clearly as possible.”
According to Dawson, 18 million people have lost their homes since the last election and will be disenfranchised at voting booths if they do not re-register with their temporary residence cards. Because of this problem, Voto Latino has teamed up with over 700 organizations to make Sept. 25 a national voter registration day.
“When I register people to vote, as soon as they do it, they realize they’re a part of a bigger story,” Dawson said.
Dawson also supports One Billion Rising, a global initiative asking for one billion people to rise up and dance on Valentine’s Day in response to the one billion women who are raped, beaten or killed every year as a result of domestic violence.
“We want to make the earth shake, make it be the largest movement the world has ever seen. … We can do it for women, and we can do it for girls, and we can do it for all the men, like my dad, who are amazing human beings and who are not the ones who are hurting women,” Dawson said. “It is very important for all of us to be a part of this conversation.”
Dawson’s experiences and personal confidence inspired many in the audience.
“As a Latina college student, I found it powerful to feel a personal call to action from a fellow Latina who uses her voice to lead and serve,” Naomi Fierro (COL ’15) said.