In an elegant ceremony at the Los Angeles River Center & Gardens, University of Michigan professors John J. Valadez and Carleen L. Hsu from the college of Literature, Science, and the Arts received the prestigious Ruben Salazar Award for Excellence in Broadcast Journalism. The award was presented by Latino Journalists of California for their PBS documentary American Exile.
The film - which aired on prime-time national television last November - tells the tortured sojourn of two brothers, Manuel, and Valente Valenzuela - both Vietnam combat veterans - who faced deportation fifty years after they came home decorated and traumatized by their wartime experiences. The brothers become reluctant activists when they realize there are thousands of veterans – many with distinguished records - who have been deported after serving honorably in Afghanistan, Iraq, and other conflicts.
While making the film, Valadez and Hsu testified as part of a congressional briefing on Capitol Hill in Washington D.C. before lawmakers and their aides. Just before the documentary aired, President Biden responded by issuing an executive order instructing the Department of Homeland security to bring back all deported veterans and their families to the United States. The testimony, the brothers' activism, and the film all played a critical role in changing national policy.
The award has special significance because it is named in honor of the legendary Chicano journalist Ruben Salazar. A well-known columnist for the Los Angeles Times and the news director of television station KMEX, Salazar was killed by Los Angeles police in 1970. While covering a protest - the Chicano anti-Vietnam War Moratorium in East Los Angeles - a Sheriff’s deputy fired a tear gas projectile which struck the reporter in the head, decapitating him.
At the time, Salazar had been preparing a major expose about Los Angeles Police officers and sheriff’s deputies who planted evidence on Mexican Americans and had brutalized others. In the weeks leading up to the Moratorium, colleagues remember Salazar was visibly shaken, expressing to co workers and friends that he believed the police were targeting him. No one was ever held accountable for the killing of Ruben Salazar.
This image was taken on August 29, 1970, just moments before a Los Angeles County Sheriff killed journalist Ruben Salazar.
Today, Salazar is an icon among Latino scholars, journalists, and within the Chicano community, for his courage, and for his commitment to truth, social justice, and the advancement of democratic principles.
Above text and images extacted from LA Press Release, November 19, 2022