Conversation with Maria Hinojosa of Futuro Media

Futuro Media is a nonprofit news organization located in the heart of Harlem and an Art for Justice grantee partner. Team Spitfire recently had a conversation with Maria Hinojosa, founder of Futuro Media, in which she explains how Futuro Media is using its Art for Justice grant to change the narrative around mass incarceration and immigrant detention. 

Spitfire: It’s a pleasure to speak with you today. Can you tell us about the work Futuro Media is currently doing? 

Maria: When I founded Futuro Media in 2010, I chose to form a team of people who believe in my vision of an independent nonprofit newsroom, run by a Latina, based out of Harlem and dedicated to telling the stories of the America that I grew up in. A lot of our work has focused on transforming and challenging narratives as they’ve been portrayed in the mainstream. And to cover stories that most of the time other producers and editors were just not interested in.

At the same time, my commitment, as a Mexican immigrant woman journalist, has always been to elevate the stories around social justice and the search for social justice. That explains, in a bigger way, what Futuro Media does, and why we appreciate our relationship with Art for Justice.

Spitfire: Why is Futuro Media focused on mass incarceration?

Maria: There are statistics out there that show how mass incarceration is adversely impacting the African American and Latinx communities. Due to the advent of immigrant detention facilities, Latinxs are the fastest-growing demographic of people behind bars. And when I say behind bars, I mean behind prison bars, jail bars and detention bars.

For Latinxs and immigrants right now, we are, along with the African American community, the face of mass incarceration and mass detention in America. It certainly matters to me because, as somebody who has been committed to telling these stories in the mainstream, I wanted to counter the notion that the people in my community were all criminals.

Spitfire: How is Futuro Media covering the intersection between mass incarceration and the arts?

Maria: One big story we’ve been working on, which is being funded by Art for Justice, is the story of Suave. Once, years ago, after I gave a commencement speech inside a maximum security prison outside of Philadelphia, I was approached by a young man. He explained to me that he was a juvenile lifer who had been sentenced when he was 16, without the possibility of parole. Ever. “I’m going to die inside,” he told me. This young man was Suave.

“What should I do?” he asked. “I’m very motivated by hearing you. But I’m here for my whole life. What should I do?” I said to him, “You can become the voice for the voiceless inside. You can become my source.” I formed a relationship with Suave, who was one of my main sources for a piece that won the Robert F. Kennedy Award. Suave and I have been in communication since 1993. Since then, his journey has taken many twists and turns, which will be covered in the story funded by Art for Justice.

Spitfire: Are there any final thoughts you would like to leave folks with?

Maria: All of us have the capacity to have an impact. I am so inspired by the creation of the Arts for Justice Fund, because it goes to the heart of what I’m talking about. I’m one of the very lucky people who know Agnes Gund personally. She is touched by art and understands that art can be tied to fighting injustice. I’m really honored to be a part of this entire initiative.

Spitfire: Where can people go to learn more about Futuro Media?

Maria: Please go to the Futuro Media website or check out our podcasts In the Thick, Latino USA or Latino Rebel Radio.