LOS ANGELES – A 24-hour Native cable TV network has been a decade-long dream of Joanelle Romero. And without the help of any television executives – just her friends and supporters – Romero launched the Red Nation Web Television Channel on May 1. But if anyone’s visited www.rednation.com and run into some glitches, be patient: you are not alone.
Romero, 48, founder and creative director of the fledgling channel, said the response was so overwhelming it crashed the system. “It’s a positive thing,” she said about the response, adding that the web channel will be up and running within the next several weeks.
Born of Apache, Cheyenne and Jewish descent, Romero said she has received more than 200 entries for the network from Native filmmakers, actors and producers, and various entities to shape its around-the-clock programming of films, music videos, music specials, documentaries, pilots and drama series.
“We’re not on MTV, VH1, prime time television, and we’re not being heard on mainstream radio; but now we can be heard, watched and experienced on Red Nation Web Television Channel,” she said.
Meanwhile, the channel will feature the first Native drama series in the United States: “Home, Home on the Rez,” starring Romero, Larry Sellers, Elaine Miles, Elizabeth Sage and Conroy Chino. Romero said the series is about a Native female attorney who leaves her big-time city job to return to her reservation to help children and teens in crisis.
Plans are also in the works to produce a Native-themed children’s show, similar to “Sesame Street,” called “Turtle Mountain.”
The first documentary slated for Web airtime, “American Holocaust: When It’s All Over I’ll Still Be Indian,” juxtaposes the haunting similarities between the Holocaust in Germany starting in 1930s and the massacre of North American Indians by white settlers starting in the 1800s.
Released in 2000, it received a humanitarian award and was considered for an Oscar nomination. Romero directed, produced, wrote and scored the music, and Ed Asner narrated the half-hour documentary.
“This channel carries so much hope because not only our generation and our elders are going to be able to say, ‘Look, there we are and we are a part of this now,’ our youth are going to be able to identify very strongly,” she said. “They’re going to have a voice with this television channel, and they’re going to be able to relate and have an image of themselves every single day.”
In 1995, Romero said that when she pitched the concept of starting a Native cable TV station to television executives, they told her that her plan was ahead of its time and to come back 10 years later.
When she readdressed the concept to executives, exactly 10 years later, she felt the brushoff once again and decided to take matters into her own hands.
“It’s time for our industry to wake up to what’s happening right now,” she said. It’s about taking action, words are just words and action speaks louder than words. To make this happen, everyone needs to be involved.”
Romero has the experience in the entertainment industry to be a mover and shaker in both Hollywood and Indian country. She starred in her first leading role at age 19 in the television movie “A Girl Called Hatter Fox,” the first Native woman cast in a leading role. She later went onto to star in “Powwow Highway” and numerous other roles in both television and film.
Born in Albuquerque, N.M., Romero was 3 when she moved with her parents to Los Angeles. Her mother, whom she fondly calls one of “Elvis’ girls,” danced around the “King of Rock ’n’ Roll” in his films and later appeared on “The Red Skelton Show.” She credits the long hours that she spent in studios as child, absorbing the skills of actors and filmmakers, for her diverse talents in the entertainment industry.
If one had to sit down and make a list of all the projects and accolades racked up by this accomplished actress, singer, producer/director, philanthropist and single mother of two, that list would take up numerous pages.
Romero is the founder of the award-winning Spirit World Productions, the Annual Red Nation Celebration Concert Series, the Annual Native Women in Music, Red Nation Records, the Annual Warriors Against AIDS Awareness Concert, and the Annual Red Nation Film Festival in Los Angeles during Indigenous Nations Heritage Month in Los Angeles.
Although the network is in its infancy, Romero said she has been in negotiations with television executives about bringing Red Nation to cable TV. She is currently seeking submissions for all types of Native programming, in addition to advertisers and investors.
For more information, e-mail Romero at firstname.lastname@example.org.