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Edward James Olmos visits UTB/TSC to talk chess

BROWNSVILLE, TEXAS – FEBRUARY 17, 2010 – Actor and activist Edward James Olmos visited Brownsville on Tuesday, Feb. 16, to generate support for a film project on the development of chess in this border city.Edward James Olmos

He represented the Pasadena, Calif.-based Foundation for Advancements in Science and Education to discuss the “Kings of Brownsville” documentary being produced by High Ground Entertainment. The film will include interviews and footage from Brownsville Russell Elementary School’s chess students winning in local, state and national tournaments.

“It was an inspirational moment in time,” Olmos told about 400 students, staff and area residents at an evening lecture at the Student Union – Gran Salon.

He said the development of chess at Morningside Elementary School and its spreading to other schools has helped make Brownsville one of the top producers of chess players in the nation.

Olmos said chess is a beautiful game that can inspire.

“You are there and do one thing only – to see how much you know about this game,” said Olmos. “It’s a game that challenges the player and opponent. It never gives you a break.”

Olmos said he wished he played chess as much as baseball when he was growing up in East Los Angeles.

“It’s more conducive to exercising the mind more than the body,” he said.

J.J. Guajardo, a former coach of Brownsville Russell Elementary School’s chess team and now a social studies coordinator for the Mission Consolidated Independent School District, said Olmos’ visit gave legitimacy to the documentary project.

“It showed that this is a true and worthy enterprise and that what the students, the parents, the University and the community as a whole have been able to accomplish are much more than just success; it’s about a community exceeding all expectations and going beyond the norm,” said Guajardo, a UTB/TSC alumnus. “And, this is a phenomenon that should be celebrated, acknowledged and recognized in its proper context.”

Olmos also gave insights to audience questions at his evening lecture:

On science fiction films receiving attention from the Academy Awards: “’District 9’ is a very interesting and important film, especially when you are talking about integration and other people’s opinions toward one another.”

On advice for Hispanic film makers: “Don’t ever stop now. Now is the best time to get into this art form.”

Lecture attendee Abel A. Guerra III, 24, a criminal justice major from Brownsville, saidEdward James Olmos he cherished the opportunity to see Olmos.

“We are not used to seeing actors in Brownsville,” Guerra said. “I take every opportunity to come to such events of this caliber.”

Earlier in the day, Olmos spoke to area media at a press conference at Brownsville – South Padre Island International Airport and appeared before board members of the Brownsville Independent School District.

Olmos, a California native, began in music when he was a teenager but studied acting while in college. His stage and television roles have included El Pachuco in the musical stage production “Zoot Suit” and as Lt. Martin Castillo on “Miami Vice” in the mid to late 1980s. He most recently played Admiral William Adama on the science fiction show “Battlestar Galactica.”

Olmos has also been successful in movies, with roles in “Blade Runner,” “Stand and Deliver” and “Selena.” He will play the role of Michael Axford in “The Green Hornet” set for release later this year.

Some of his work has gone beyond the camera. Olmos is a United States Goodwill Ambassador for UNICEF and is involved in the UCLA School of Film and Theater, the Southwest Voter Registration Project and the Miami Children’s Hospital. The National Council of Space Directors has a literary scholarship fund in his name.


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