Wednesday April 14 will be a landmark day for ensuring the equality of all voices in the American public sphere.  It is the day that Ugly Betty, the popular ABC series chronicling a young Mexican-American woman’s adventures of beating the odds in the Big Apple, will come to an end after four seasons. That same evening, The Opportunity Agenda will convene artists, advocates, and media makers in New York City for conversation and collaboration on the power of arts, culture, and media activities in promoting the dignity and human rights of immigrants in the United States.  What do these two events have to do with each other and the broader fight for equality in America? Everything.

Giving equal respect to the stories and voices of all who live here is an essential democratic value and critical to expanding opportunity in America. Since 2006, Ugly Betty (starring actress America Ferrera) has confronted such hot-button subjects as body image, gay teenagers, and, notably, illegal immigration without becoming expressly political or polarizing. When the first season revealed that Betty’s father, Ignacio Suarez (Tony Plana), was undocumented and could be deported, the show received both cheers and jeers for touching such a sensitive issue at the height of the immigration debate during the Bush administration.
Yet, the story was handled masterfully with both drama and comedy, showcasing the talent of the show’s on- and off-screen teams (the show is executive produced by Salma Hayek and Silvio Horta). At its best, Ugly Betty demonstrated the true power of arts and media to impact hearts and minds, along with provoking dialogue around important issues. Its absence will certainly be felt in the lack of leading roles for people of color on television (the series also co-starred Vanessa Williams), but this void also presents an opportunity for artists and advocates concerned with immigrant rights to continue the momentum with meaningful and collaborative work.

It is essential that shows like Ugly Betty reach the mainstream, but there is also urgent work to be done on the ground to create lasting change for the integration and fair treatment of America’s immigrant communities. The Opportunity Agenda presents Immigration: Arts, Culture & Media 2010 – A Timely Conversation with Artists and Advocates this Wednesday as a major step in this direction. We believe that while advocates can provide powerful arguments and compelling data, it is artists and media makers who create a window into the possible.

By creating spaces for collaboration, developing a shared vision, and coordinating strategies to achieve it, we aim to strengthen the work of advocates and empower those in the creative professions to make a significant impact on the issues that matter to them. What visionary ideas will get seeded when award-winning writers and visual artists connect with organization leaders and those who have access to key policy makers? We will find out at this Wednesday’s event!

As we have received a tremendous response to the event, our guest list is currently full. We do, however, expect some spaces to be made available, so please consider joining our waitlist. RSVP details for the event can be found at See here for information about our special guest attendees.

Connect with The Opportunity Agenda on Twitter and Facebook! Follow updates about the event and the broader Immigration: Arts + Culture initiative by using the Twitter hashtag #ImmArts. If you are in the Los Angeles area, check out information about our Immigrants in America: A Hollywood Perspective event on May 3 here!

(Photo Credit: ABC)