Journalist and media exec Julio Ricardo Varela offered students an inspiring talk about finding their voice in Chapel earlier this month.
“He speaks from the heart about issues of justice and inclusiveness for all Americans and people everywhere,” said School Minister James Chapman — a friend of 30 years and former colleague at Houghton Mifflin Publishing — while introducing Varela to the campus community on December 1.
A native of Puerto Rico who grew up in San Juan as well as in New York City, Varela addressed students about the ways he found “the doors shut because of representation and institutionalized racism” early in his journalism career and how he learned “to always believe in your voice.”
Varela, the 2015 winner of the National Association of Hispanic Journalists’ DALE Award (given to an individual or company that “steps up and goes above and beyond to ensure Latinos are fairly and accurately represented”), told Brooksians his work “has always been one about fighting … the doubters.”
“I believed that the world would become more bilingual. …We knew the future of this country,” he said detailing how he founded Latino Rebels, a digital media site covering Latino life and issues, in 2011 after 15 years working in the press.
“I saw the issues of representation in front of my face in the Latino community and I saw that what digital media was going to was democratize voices in the space — and if you can push representation, you could actually change media,” said the Harvard University graduate, whose work has been published in the New York Times, Washington Post and The Atlantic, among other outlets.
Varela created Latino Rebels “thinking, ‘I want my community to be represented,'” he said. The following year, he was on TV “talking about the Latino vote” in 2012.
Earlier this year, Varela became a president of Futuro Media, which focuses primarily on Latino issues and shortly afterward, the outlet won a Pulitzer Prize for their podcast series about juveniles in the U.S. criminal justice system.
“Now, when I look at the last ten years of [my] journey, I think that if I’d given up and thought ‘Life is unfair,’ I wouldn’t be talking about the fact that we won a Pulitzer.”