Northern Illinois University

NIU Office of Public Affairs

News Release

Contact: Tom Parisi, NIU Office of Public Affairs
(815) 753-3635

September 24, 2007

Latino Heritage Month features visits from
well-known Chicano author, motivational speaker

DeKalb, Ill. — Author Luis J. Rodriguez, one of the nation’s leading Chicano writers, and motivational speaker Carlos Ojeda Jr. will visit Northern Illinois University as the keynote speakers for Latino Heritage Month.

Rodriguez will present a public lecture titled, “The Rhythm of Growth: Keeping the Spirit of Learning Alive,” at 8 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 29, in the Carl Sandburg Auditorium of the Holmes Student Center. The talk will focus on contributing to the betterment of community and the role of higher education in discovering one’s potential as a future leader.

Rodriguez is best known for the 1993 memoir of gang life, “Always Running: La Vida Loca, Gang Days in L.A.” The memoir was designated a New York Times Notable Book and garnered a Carl Sandburg Literary Award and a Chicago Sun-Times Book Award.

Written as a cautionary tale for the author’s then 15-year-old son, who had joined a Chicago gang, the memoir is popular among youth and teachers. Despite this, the American Library Association in 1999 called “Always Running” one of the 100 most censored books in the country.

Rodriguez also has published award-winning works of fiction, nonfiction, children’s literature and poetry. His books include a novel, “Music of the Mill,” and a poetry collection, “My Nature is Hunger: New & Selected Poems, 1989-2004.”

Rodriguez also is known for helping start a number of prominent organizations, including Chicago’s Guild Complex, one of the largest literary arts organizations in the Midwest, and the publishing house of Tia Chucha Press. He is one of the founders of Youth Struggling for Survival, a Chicago-based not-for-profit community group working with young people.

Ojeda, the second keynote speaker of Latino Heritage Month, has been called one of the most dynamic young speakers in America today. His talk is open to the public and will begin at 8 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 16, in the Regency Room of the Holmes Student Center.

Ojeda’s remarkable journey began in the streets of Newark, N.J., and later in Reading, Pa., where his immigrant parents saw opportunities for themselves and for their first-generation Puerto Rican children. Ojeda’s drive, passion and dreams led him to overcome educational obstacles in his youth and become the first person in his family to graduate from college with honors. He has since become a published writer and poet and sought-after speaker, determined to promote education, social activism and entrepreneurism.

The events are sponsored by the Latino Resource Center, a unit of the Division of Student Affairs. A full calendar of events for Latino Heritage Month is online at