Christina Aguilera Among Celebrities Urging U.S. Senators to Stop Gun Violence Now

Christina Aguilera is calling for politicians to take action on the issue of gun reform

The 40-year-old half-Ecuadorian American Grammy-winning singer has joined a roster of celebrities who’ve signed an open letter to U.S. Senators urging them stop gun violence now.

Christina Aguilera

Five years ago, amidst a string of deadly attacks at live music venues including the horrific mass shooting at Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Fla., on June 12, 2016, the cover of Billboard‘s July 2016 issue featured an open letter to U.S. Congress signed by 200 artists and music industry executives calling for gun reform.

Unfortunately, the need for reform has only grown stronger as shootings have continued around the country at a terrifying rate.

So now, five years later, as venues prepare to reopen after their pandemic shutdown and music fans ready to return to concerts and festivals, we stand again with the music community to ask lawmakers to take swift action to stop the violence. — Hannah Karp, Billboard editorial director

An Open Letter to Senators: Stop Gun Violence Now

As leading artists and executives in the music industry, we are adding our voices to the chorus of Americans demanding change.

Music always has been celebrated communally, on dance floors and at concert halls. But this life-affirming ritual, like so many other daily experiences — going to school or church or work — continues to be threatened, because of gun violence in this country.

The one thing that connects the tragedies like the shootings in Boulder, El Paso, Las Vegas, Parkland and so many other places in America, to the one that happened in Orlando five years ago this June, is that it is far too easy for dangerous people to get their hands on guns.

We call on the Senate to do more to prevent the gun violence that kills more than 100 Americans every day and injures hundreds more: Take action on background checks.

Billboard and the undersigned implore you — the people who are elected to represent us — to close the deadly loopholes that put the lives of so many music fans, and all of us, at risk.

Sincerely,

Christina Aguilera, Tori Amos, Sara Barielles, Aaron Bay-Schuck, Tony Bennett, Selim Bouab, Rob Bourdon, Scooter Braun, Cortez Bryant, Michael Bublé, Vanessa Carlton, Joseph Carozza, Steve Cooper, Tom Corson, Lee Daniels, Ellen DeGeneres, Brad Delson, Diplo, Mike Easterlin, John Esposito, Melissa Etheridge, Fletcher, Luis Fonsi, Becky G, Kevin Gore, Julie Greenwald, Josh Groban, Horacio Gutierrez, Joe Hahn, Halsey, Billy Joel, Craig Kallman, Alicia Keys, Kid Cudi, Carole King, Elle King, Adam Lambert, Cyndi Lauper, Kevin Liles, Dre London, Jennifer Lopez, Macklemore, Zayn Malik, Carianne Marshall, Ricky Martin, Paul McCartney, Julia Michaels, Guy Moot, Jason Mraz, Gregg Nadel, Yoko Ono, Mark Pinkus, Gregory Porter, Prince Royce, Bonnie Raitt, Dawn Richard, RMR, Paul Robinson, Maggie Rogers, Kelly Rowland, Mike Shinoda, Sia, Matt Signore, Britney Spears, Rob Stevenson, Sting, Barbra Streisand, Justin Tranter, Sir Trilli, Sharon Van Etten, Aimie Vaughn-Fruehe, Eddie Vedder, Andrew Watt.

If you’re interested in signing the letter, you can email guncontrol@billboard.com.

Juani Feliz Lands Recurring Role on Amazon’s Comedy Series “Harlem”

Juani Feliz is heading to Harlem

The Dominican actress has landed a recurring role on Amazon’s Harlem, the comedy series from Tracy Oliver, Amy Poehler’s Paper Kite Productions and Universal Television.

Juani Feliz

Feliz joins a roster of new cast additions that include Andrea Martin, Robert Ri’chard, Kate Rockwell and Sullivan Jones.

They’ll join previously announced Whoopi Goldberg and Jasmine Guy, who also recur.

Created, written and executive produced by Oliver, Harlem, formerly the Untitled Tracy Oliver Project, is a single-camera comedy following the lives of four black women, friends from their college days at NYU, as they navigate sex, relationships and chasing their dreams.

Feliz is Isabela, a local politician on track to beating AOC’s record as the youngest member of U.S. Congress and a new friend of Quinn’s.

Feliz was a series regular on the ABC pilot, Until the Wedding. She has also recurred on CBS Blue Bloods and NBC’s Shades of Blue.

On the film side, her credits include the thriller Canal Street, The Purge: Election Year, The Polka King and indie feature Quiet In My Town.

Alex Padilla Sworn In by Predecessor Kamala Harris as California’s First Mexican American & Hispanic U.S. Senator

Alex Padilla is officially representing the Great State of California

Democrats took control of the U.S. Senate for the first time since 2015, as Vice President Kamala Harris swore in the 47-year-old Mexican American politician as her appointed successor, as well as Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff, who won their races against Republican incumbents in Georgia his month.

Alex Padilla

On December 22, 2020, California governor Gavin Newsom appointed Padilla to succeed Harris in the Senate, after Harris was elected as vice president. He’s the first Mexican American and Hispanic senator from California, the first senator from Southern California since 1992, and the first male senator to represent the state since 1993.

“I need to catch my breath, so much is happening,” said Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY), who now is the new majority leader.

Alex Padilla

The Senate split is 50-50 now, but Democrats will have the edge because Harris has a tie-breaking vote. That might be needed, as Joe Biden tries to usher through a series of legislative priorities, including a $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief package and immigration reform.

Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) will be the president pro tem of the Senate, which is third in line for the presidency following the vice president and Speaker of the House.

With Democratic control of Congress and the White House, there is some expectation that legislation will face legal challenges, as Donald Trump was able to appoint more than 200 judges to the federal bench, including three Supreme Court seats.

U.S. Senator Bob Menendez Celebrates Passage of Legislation to Establish National Museum of the American Latino

Bob Menendez is celebrating a big win for Latino history in the United States.

Congress has passed a massive legislation package that green-lights the establishment of a long-awaited Smithsonian museum dedicated to American Latinos.

Bob Menendez

The 66-year-old Cuban American politician, currently serving as the U.S. Senator from New Jersey, was the lead sponsor of the U.S. Senate bill.

Menendez, a longtime advocate for a Latino museum said that the museum’s passage is the “culmination of decades of hard work, advocacy, successes and setbacks in the movement to recognize Latino contributions to America’s history, economy and culture.”

Though the museum could take years to conceptualize, curate and build, U.S. Congress‘ approval is a victory for the museum’s advocates whose efforts date back decades.

The American Latino museum will “illuminate the story of the United States for the benefit of all by featuring Latino contributions,” decades after the Smithsonian issued a report finding that it displayed a pattern of “willful neglect,” excluding and ignoring the presence and contributions of Latino Americans in both its workforce and exhibition halls.

“With this vote, Latinos and Latinas across our nation will finally have their stories, struggles, and impact on our country validated by the United States Congress,” Menendez said in a statement.

Menendez said he “cannot wait until the day when I can take my granddaughters to visit the National Museum of the American Latino in our nation’s capital.”

Half of the museum’s funding will be provided by federal funds and the other half from private donations. The museum has two years to designate a site.

In 2011, a 23-member presidential commission estimated that a “Smithsonian American Latino Museum” would cost $600 million divided between private donations and congressional appropriations.

The Democratic-led US House had approved the bill to establish a Latino museum in July by voice vote.

In the US Senate, however, passage of the bill by unanimous consent was blocked by Utah Senator Mike Lee, who argued that the country doesn’t need “separate but equal museums.”

The Smithsonian Institution “should not have an exclusive museum of American Latino history or a museum of women’s history or museum of American men’s history or Mormon history or Asian American history or Catholic history. American history is an inclusive story that should unite us,” Lee said in remarks made earlier this month.

Teresa Leger Fernandez Becomes First Woman Elected to New Mexico’s Congressional District 3

Teresa Leger Fernandez is celebrating a historic win on election night…

The 60-year-old Latina American attorney and first-time politician defeated Republican Alexis Martinez Johnson in New Mexico’s Congressional District 3 to become the first woman elected to the seat that is currently held by Rep. Ben Ray Luján.

Teresa Leger Fernandez

Luján chose to seek election to the U.S. Senate seat that’s being vacated by Sen. Tom Udall. Luján was declared the winner of the Senate race on November 3.

“It was so emotional to actually realize that I am going to be going to Congress,” Leger Fernandez said during a virtual Democratic Party watch party.

But the history doesn’t end there…

Leger Fernandez and fellow winners Republican Yvette Herrell and Democratic U.S. Rep. Debra Haaland all won in New Mexico, making it the first state to elect all women of color to Congress, according to The Hill.

Ritchie Torres Elected as First Openly Gay Afro-Latino Member of Congress

Ritchie Torres is heading to Washington D.C. after a historic win…

The 32-year-old New York-born half-Puerto Rican politician, a New York City Council member, overwhelmingly defeated Republican Patrick Delices, to win a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives in New York’s 15th Congressional District.

Ritchie Torres

In the process, Torres has become the first openly gay LGBTQ Afro-Latino member of the U.S. Congress.

“Tonight, we made history,” he tweeted. “It is the honor of a lifetime to represent the essential borough, the Bronx.”

“I hope I can represent the possibility that a poor kid, a kid of color, a LGBTQ kid from a place like the Bronx, can overcome the odds and become a member of the United States Congress,” he said.

Torres will assume office on January 3, 2021

Torres will succeed Democratic Rep. Jose Serrano, who is retiring after 30 years in Congress. Torres told CNN that his “highest priority” is “the affordability crisis” in housing, and would work to expand the child tax credit to alleviate child poverty.

He said if Democrats take the White House and Congress, they would have a “once in a century opportunity to govern as boldly in the 21st century as FDR did in the 20th century.” Torres wants to “rebalance” the Supreme Court with additional justices and said if Puerto Rico votes in a referendum this November for statehood, then Congress “will have an obligation to act upon what the people voted for.”

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Routs John Cummings to Earn Second Term in U.S. House of Representatives

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is heading back to The District

The 31-year-old New York-born Puerto Rican politician, handily defeated Republican John Cummings in her bid for re-election as the U.S. Representative for New York’s 14th Congressional District.

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez

AOC, as she’s known, took 68% of the vote, while her opponent, a former NYPD officer, scored 31% of the vote to earn a second term in the U.S. House of Representatives.

In 2018, the self-proclaimed Democratic socialist won the seat with nearly 80% percent of the vote, defeating Queens County Democratic Party leader and longtime Congressman Joe Crowley in the primary. She swept her way into the U.S. Congress with a historically diverse midterm group of freshman, including 36 women and 24 people of color.

Ocasio-Cortez currently sits on the House Financial Services Committee and Oversight and Reform Committee.

AOC has racked up several memorable moments in her relatively short time in Congress, including a searing takedown over the summer of Rep. Ted Yoho after he called her “crazy,” “disgusting” and a “f*cking bitch” on the steps of the U.S. Capitol within earshot of a reporter.

In a moving address to the House, she attacked deep-seated sexism and misogyny. “I want to thank him for showing the world that you can be a powerful man and accost women. It happens every day in this country,” she said, adding, “I am someone’s daughter too.”

Previously, AOC, whose parents are of Puerto Rico descent, was targeted by an infamous President Donald Trump racist Twitter tirade that urged her and Reps. Ayanna Pressley, Rashida Tlaib, and Ilhan Omar to “go back and help fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came.” The four became known as The Squad, and all four won re-election on Tuesday night.

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Among the Real-Life Heroes Celebrated in DC Comics’ “Wonder Women of History” Graphic Novel Anthology

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is getting illustrated

DC Comics has unveiled the new young adult graphic novel anthology Wonder Women of History, which celebrates real-life heroes, including the 30-year-old Bronx-born Puerto Rican politician who currently serving as the U.S. Representative for New York’s 14th congressional district.

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez

Ocasio-Cortez, or simply AOC, as she’s known, drew national recognition when she won the Democratic Party‘s primary election for New York’s 14th congressional district in June 2018, defeating Democratic Caucus chair Joe Crowley, a 10-term incumbent, in what was widely seen as the biggest upset victory in the 2018 midterm election primaries. She defeated Republican opponent Anthony Pappas in the November general election.

Taking office at age 29, Ocasio-Cortez is the youngest woman ever to serve in the United States Congress. She has been noted for her substantial social media presence relative to her fellow members of Congress

Female and non-binary writers and artists tell 17 stories of those “who take up Wonder Woman‘s iconic mantle” in their respective fields of science, sports, entertainment, politics, social justice and more, according to the DC Comics blog. 

New York Times bestselling author Laurie Halse Anderson edited the collection after recently writing the original graphic novel Wonder Woman: Tempest Tossed.

In addition to Ocasio-Cortez, Wonder Women of History also spotlights singer-actress Janelle Monáe, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, Rep. Rashida Tlaib, Iskwew Air CEO and Founder Teara Fraser, LGBTQ+ rights activist Edith Windsor, transgender activist and Stonewall uprising figure Marsha P. Johnson, Parkland shooting survivor and gun control advocate Emma Gonzalez, disability rights activist Judith HeumannNASA‘s first Hispanic female astronaut Ellen Ochoa, deputy director of Wuhan Institute of Virology and China’s “Bat Woman” Dr. Shi Zhengli, 23-time Grand Slam winning tennis player Serena Williams, stand-up comic Tig Notaro, actress Keiko Agena, and the first African American gymnast to win an individual Olympic medal Dominique Dawes.

The graphic novel will officially hit bookstore shelves everywhere on December 1. The anthology will also include portraits of illustrators Weshoyot Alvitre, Colleen Doran, Agnes Garbowska, Bex Glendining, Ashley A. Woods, and Safiya Zerrougui.

Wonder Women of History is already available for pre-order here.

Joaquin Castro & Congressional Hispanic Caucus Urge Equal Employment Opportunity Commission to Update Diversity in the Media Report

Joaquin Castro is calling for a more diverse media…

In a letter to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the Congressional Hispanic Caucus (CHC) – chaired by the 45-year-old Mexican American politician and U.S. Representative for Texas’ 20th congressional district – is urging the commission to update its “Diversity in the Media: A Chart Book for Selected Industries” report, which hasn’t been updated since 2004.

Joaquin Castro

The call to action furthers Castro and the CHC’s efforts to increase diversity in media and entertainment and to have a baseline of data for transparency and ultimately greater accountability in the industry.

The letter is addressed to EEOC Chair Janet Dhillon, as well as EEOC Commissioners Victoria A. Lipnic and Charlotte A. Burrows and discusses the importance of having a baseline of data for transparency and ultimately greater accountability.

The 2004 report lays out data on the diversity in media in three major categories: broadcasting, publishing and cable.

With the advent of streaming and the surge of digital content, the CHC points out that the media industry has “drastically changed” since the report was released over 16 years ago and it’s time that revisions be made.

Castro and the CHC requested the EEOC update the report no more than 60 days from the receipt of the letter. They also are looking for updates every 30 days until the final report is released.

The CHC broke it down and requested that the new report include:

  1.  Disaggregated data on race, ethnicity and gender by individual industry rather than the grouping format used in 2004.
  2.  New industries such as digital content and streaming provider
  3.  Updated data for all positions in each industry from entry level up to and including Executive level positi
  4.  When possible, data on salaries and wages disaggregated by race, ethnicity and gender for each of the employee categories, including Executive level positions for each industry.

“While discrimination and lack of equal opportunity for underrepresented groups is present in many fields, the media industry is unique in its ability to influence the broader culture and shape the perception of entire groups,” the letter stated. “When Latinos do not have the opportunity to shape the media’s depiction of our communities, it ultimately emboldens a misunderstanding of our communities that weakens the social fabric of American society. The CHC views greater transparency around employment data through publicly available information as critical to increasing representation for Latinos and other underrepresented communities.”

An updated report would hopefully help move the needle further as Hollywood tries to become more inclusive when it comes to talent in front of and behind the camera — specifically in a time when the country is seeing a social and civic reckoning.

It also comes after a blatant lack of Latinx representation when it came to Emmy award nominations, even though the television landscape was filled with Latinx-led shows like Vida, One Day At A Time and Gentefied.

Pose has been an Emmy favorite and although star Billy Porter was nominated, there was no love for show co-creator Steven Canals or series stars Mj Rodriguez and Indya Moore, who’ve delivered stellar work on the FX drama.

The new ABC comedy United We Fall features Latinx characters but with the cancellation of The Baker and the Beauty, there’s a glaring absence of shows with a majority Latinx cast on a major network.

Last fall, Castro led a congressional delegation to Los Angeles where the CHC met with several studios and streamers, talent agencies, as well as union and guilds. Congress has worked to include this language in almost all of the major funding bills during the Appropriations process and in the National Defense Authorization Act. The CHC has regular conversations with stakeholders regarding the state of the industry. Most recently the CHC had meetings with Amazon Studios and the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences as they develop their new 2025 diversity initiatives to ensure that Latinos are included in these goals on diversity.

The letter was signed by Castro, Robert Menendez (Co-Chair, Diversity Taskforce), Tony Cárdenas (Co-Chair, Diversity Taskforce) as well as members of Congress José E. SerranoRuben GallegoGilbert R. Cisneros, Jr.Juan Vargas and Nydia M. Velázquez.

Lin-Manuel Miranda is Getting Lyrical About John Bolton’s Book Title

Lin-Manuel Miranda is getting political…

The 40-year-old Puerto Rican star and Hamilton creator has weighed in on John Bolton’s lift of a lyric from his Tony Award-winning musical for use as the title of his memoir The Room Where It Happened.

Lin-Manuel Miranda

Since the former national security adviser announced the title last year, Hamiltonfans have taken notice of the reference to the musical’s song “The Room Where It Happens.” 

Earlier this year, the show’s producer, Jeffrey Seller, told a California newspaper, “I don’t even know how to describe it; it’s just strange.”

And now Miranda has just chimed it… by adding a lyric to another Hamilton number, “Who Lives, Who Dies, Who Tells Your Story.” 

He tweeted – with the additions in brackets – today:

Let me tell you what I wish I’d known
When I was young and dreamed of glory
You have no control
Who lives, who dies, who [borrows your song title to write a cash-in book when they could have testified before Congress]
tells your story…

Bolton’s book is set for release on June 23, and while his portrait of President Donald Trump is far from flattering, Miranda calls him out for not stepping up and testifying before Congress during the impeachment hearings.

Seizing the moment, Miranda provides a link in his tweet to Fair Fight, an advocate for fair elections in Georgia. Miranda’s link opens to a page that says, “Sign up to volunteer and help us build a more inclusive Georgia, where every vote is counted and every voice is heard.”