Last month’s Season 4 finale of NBC’s Superstore featured a shocking and powerful storyline that ended in ICE pursuing fan-favorite Mateo, played by Nico Santos (Crazy Rich Asians), through the Cloud 9 store and ultimately detaining him.
While heartbreaking, this storyline is so important and it’s one that Define American has been working closely with Superstore’s creator and writing team to develop over the past three years. We’ve pitched storylines, read scripts, and done legal consultations, and visited the writers’ room to help develop over 10 episodes featuring Mateo’s story as a central character who is undocumented and Filipino.
Both Justin Spitzer (the show’s creator) and Nico Santos (the actor who plays Mateo) have been very vocal about this story arc and Justin, in particular, has been very vocal about working with Define American even going so far as to state in a recent interview that Mateo’s character was in part based on Define American founder, Jose Antonio Vargas.
“The fact that he’s undocumented I think we’ve talked about at least in part [is] inspired by Jose Antonio Vargas. He’s Filipino also and discovered late in life that he was undocumented and he’s an advocate and he started this organization, Define American, who we’ve talked to a lot and they’ve been really helpful.” Justin Spitzer
Superstore is a brilliantly written, light-hearted show that touches on these delicate issues with levity and humor. But it is also uniquely important as a show that reaches a mainstream audience, including a large swath of America’s heartland where we have tremendous opportunity to win over hearts and minds to support immigrants. We look forward to our continuing work with the writers’ room on this important storyline.
The Define American Chapters Program, launched in late 2015, has quickly become the largest and fastest-growing Chapters program in the immigrant justice space. To date, we have nearly 70 affiliates across 26 states, with leaders from each of them working every day to create a campus, community, and country that is safe for and inclusive of everyone. Now, with many of our leaders preparing to graduate and take the next step in their lives and careers, we are thrilled to launch the Define American Alumni Network to continue to engage with and support these next-generation changemakers.
Through the Alumni Network, Define American alumni will build relationships and a sense of camaraderie among the alumni network and mentorship program. They will continue to actively promote the Define American mission through the power of their intersectional stories, values, and strengths to create change in their professional and personal lives.
The alumni network gives me the opportunity to stay connected to the Define American mission so I can continue to foster positive culture change surrounding the identity and immigration narrative of our country. Its mentorship role will allow me to keep making an impact by helping other students bring the conversation to their campus communities. I look forward to continuing my relationship with Define American through the alumni network so I can collaborate with others on humanizing the conversation around what citizenship means. -Danya Dominguez, UC-Merced ‘19 Graduate
Calling Out Lazy Reporting
Define American encourages the media to write their own headlines, not copy Trump administration talking points.
It’s not what you say, it’s how you say it. That’s what our #WordsMatter campaign is about when you get down to the brass tacks. Sure, any reporter can make the claim that there has been an increase in the number of individuals coming to the border legally seeking asylum. But what do you call that increase? A wave? A surge? Chaos? How about a horde? These are the types of dehumanizing, inflammatory terms we see being used by members of the Trump administration every day, and it’s the kind of language we’re going to call out.
So we called out The New York Times specifically because they were one of the most egregious offenders of this. Yes, in many cases they are doing excellent immigration reporting, uncovering many new details every week. But all of this can be undone by copying and pasting from Trump’s tweets, which is where many of these words and phrases come from.
They responded, acknowledging that “in all things, words matter, and the emotions they convey can be powerful.”
We saw also saw the Associated Press falling for another Trump administration talking point, that financial resources have been “strained” by the ongoing asylum backlog. We have encouraged reporters to stop parroting this phrase, as it masks the true nature of the current situation: a squandering of resources, and priorities placed on a wall, not reuniting families.
Lifting Up Immigrant Stories with The Sun is Also A Star
“By going to the movies, and because of other things, too… I became a lot more open-minded than the heritage I was born into might have suggested.” – Roger Ebert
For many of us, film & tv are our first introduction to different people, experiences, communities, and cultures. And the way films and tv shows portray marginalized communities has a direct impact on how people from these communities are treated in wider society. So we at Define American were thrilled when we heard the great news that one of our favorite books The Sun is Also a Star was being turned into a movie starring friend of Define American Yara Shahidi. The book follows Natasha, an undocumented Jamaican-American girl, and Daniel, a first-generation Korean-American boy, as they fall in love the day before Natasha and her family are set to be deported.
Define American worked with Warner Bros. Entertainment, Shahidi, and the film’s director Ry Russo-Young, to promote the film’s themes around immigration, American identity, and the first-generation American experience to audiences across the country. We hosted a Twitter Q&A, shot exclusive videos with the star, arranged free screenings for our chapter members, created a discussion guide, and even went to the red carpet premiere of the film!