Rosie Perez and New York Rep. Nydia Velazquez Hit the Streets with Miami's Hispanics for Obama

11/13/2008 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011
  • John Hood Miami-based columnist/correspondent

MIAMI: Duos don't get much more dynamic than Academy Award nominee Rosie Perez and New York Rep. Nydia Velazquez.

Alone, each is a formidable force - Perez and her nearly two decades on stage and screen; Velazquez and her 15 years serving New York's 12th Congressional District in the U.S. House of Representatives.

United they are unstoppable.

That would seem to be the big idea behind the duo's whirlwind tour through the battleground states of Ohio, Pennsylvania and Florida on behalf of Hispanics for Obama. And if their reception in Miami was any indication, it's an idea whose time is right now.

Like the infinite array of Obama-supporting splinter groups (Hipsters for Obama, anyone?), Hispanics for Obama has but one goal: to see that Barack reaches the White House. Unlike most of those groups, however, their impact could make or break the election. That's not to belittle anybody's efforts, mind you, but when a group represents the fastest growing bloc of voters in the country, well, you get a little extra credit.

So to the road go Rosie and Rep. Velasquez. In Florida that means a Hispanic Canvassing Event in Tampa Bay, Festival del Sabor in Ybor City, the Osceola (County) Voter Protection BBQ in Kissimmee, and a Hispanic Small Business-Owners confab in Orlando. In Miami it's a couple of neighborhood health clinics (Wynwood and Boriquen), and a canvassing event at the inner city Allapattah campaign office, where Rosie and Rep. Velazquez took to the streets to meet and greet the people who just may be deciding who our next president will be.

This also happens to be where HuffPost's OffTheBus caught up with the winsome tag team; here's some of what they had to say:

HuffPost's OffTheBus: You're about to conclude your battleground states tour, what kind of response have you been getting?

Rosie Perez: We've been getting a great response. When we went to Ohio I was actually rather apprehensive - you know, Ohio's a tough state - and it seemed that people were so hungry to have [someone] hear their concerns, and have [someone] articulate what's needed for change and when somebody comes along like Congresswoman Nydia Velasquez and [she's] hitting them hard with the issues, and she's just breaking it down, they are quiet. You could hear a pin drop in the room.

People aren't messing around anymore, are they?

Nydia Velazquez: No, they know that this is about them, and this is about their families, but more importantly they can connect the dots and they understand that this is about our nation. When they look at how the economy is so bad, how many jobs we are losing, the mess we are creating on Wall Street. And everything is connected to the failed policies of the last 8 years, to the lack of oversight and regulation. People are angry and they know that they need to bring about change and that Barack Obama is the type of leader who will bring that change. But they want to know what they can do and how they can make a difference.

Rosie, you're no stranger to activism, right, in fact you've been in the game for 25 years, so this must be a natural progression for you.

RP: No, it's not a natural thing for me. I have never campaigned for a politician, let alone a presidential candidate before, and I've had some of my activist friends call me up and say "You can't do this; you're not going to be as effective. What happens if you have to fight the person that you're campaigning for?" And I said, "so then I'll fight." But right now, all bets are off. All the rules had to be broken because it's so disgusting out here. Now some of my activist friends are showing up at fundraisers. And it's incredible.

When I saw Joan Baez break the activism line, I remember sitting at home watching it and I started to cry. I started to cry! Because I had [it in my] heart to do something, but I didn't know whether to do it or not. I was struggling - 'I don't know if I should, I want to; I don't know if I should...' Now that I am doing it, the buzz is out [about] our dynamic duo! And everybody wants to jump on the bandwagon.

I went to a Maxwell concert and there were the who's who in the music industry and they're like "Rosie, can you call Barack and tell him I want to campaign!" And I said 'No, I can't call Barack, he's a senator!'

Have you had a chance to meet with the senator?

RP: Yes, I got to meet him when Nydia brought me down to Washington D.C. and presented me with [the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute's Medallion of Excellence]; McCain and Obama were supposed to show up, but only Obama [did]. [McCain] said he didn't get the memo.

So in my acceptance speech I said 'Thank God, Obama got the memo!

Was this before or after the Palin anti-community organization speech?

RP: It was after and I killer her!

NV: It was great!

RP: I was so angry. And what's ironic is that's the reason why [Barack] is winning, because he has used his community organization skills. And that's what kills them.

I have to tell you also that during these times when were shaking hands and taking pictures with people, I've had women hold me close and whisper in my ear, almost on the verge of tears, 'Thank you.'

And now you two are in Miami spreading the word.

NV: It is important for Floridians to understand that there is an opportunity to elect someone who will bring faith back to government, for people to feel good about their government. Right now people are disillusioned, they are cynical, but the important thing is to instill a message to the people that 'we can form a government that will be there working for them and their interests.' But we need them to make that change, to help us bring that change, and the only way we can do it is by winning in Florida.

Florida is one of the most important states in the nation. If we win in Florida, we win the presidency.