Lemon Andersen stressed the importance of diversity in the media and shared his experiences in jail as a young Latino at the fifth 90 Minutes event on Wednesday.
Andersen, a Hispanic actor, activist, spoken-word poet and writer, said he identifies more with his class than the Hispanic community. He got the nickname Lemon because growing up, he was blond and much “whiter” than his brothers and others in the community.
“I’m not their version of my story, I’m my version of my story,” Andersen said. “I identify with a class and a culture more than I do with something Latinos want me to be… I’m interested in the urban Latino experience.”
Throughout his youth, Anderson served time on several occasions at Rikers Island, New York City’s main jail complex. He noted the normality of his experience, saying he was simply part of a statistic, like many other Latino kids he knew.
“Especially when Giuliani was the mayor of New York, he was sweeping the streets, and so one of those bids I didn’t even do the crime, I just did the time,” Anderson said. “And I was stuck with a felony the rest of my life.”
This issue is part of why Anderson said he is not “with her” this election season when it comes to Hillary Clinton. He insisted that apologizing is not enough when there are still people doing time because of legislation passed by former President Bill Clinton.
“I want to vote for somebody who I feel like is going to fix some of the problems I had going on and that’s to fix some of the problems that she created with her husband in my community.
Bill Clinton did not do my community well when he was serving,” Andersen said. “There’s a lot of recovering that has to happen from that family in my community.”
Andersen said, however, that he will be voting for Clinton because it is necessary to vote against Donald Trump.
In his work as a T.V. writer, Andersen noticed the lack of diversity in the media came from a lack of diverse writers. He said white people should not have to write diverse roles; instead, minority groups need to train and teach themselves to tell their stories well and compete with other writers.
“We have to create opportunities for young people, Latinos, blacks, to know that option exists,” Andersen said. “We have to plant a seed in our community at a younger age and let them know that this exists. It’s not happening in college because they don’t make it to college.”