San Jose Artists to Tourism Agency: Outsourced Anthem Doesn’t Capture City’s Spirit

A song promoted by San Jose’s tourism bureau as the city’s new official anthem has been widely panned on social media this past week for being so out of touch with the local culture. Called simply “San Jose,” the pop-country tune was penned by a New Zealand teen and parlayed into a frothy music video bankrolled by Team San Jose and shot by an out-of-town production company.

The lyrics name-check Willow Glen and the VTA light rail, but the video does little to reflect San Jose’s identity as one of the most culturally diverse cities on the planet. That, and the fact that Team San Jose excluded homegrown talent from a project that sought to capture the city’s essence, prompted a public rebuke from a group of local artists.

In an open letter to Team San Jose CEO Karolyn Kirchgesler, the Multicultural Arts Leadership Institute urged the tourism agency to do better. Here’s what they wrote.

Dear Ms. Kirchgesler:

Unfortunately, we are compelled to reach out to you again. After San Jose’s multicultural community encouraged the production of Team San Jose’s tourism video “Where Cultures Shine” in 2016, we dared to hope that Team San Jose would choose to highlight the creative legacy and cultural diversity of San Jose. Yet, with the release of “San Jose” by New Zealand-based, Grace Kelly, it is apparent that Team San Jose is not interested in celebrating its own homegrown talent and vibrancy.

The Multicultural Arts Leadership Institute (MALI) is comprised of 200 people, including local artists and small business owners of color. We want to highlight our collective disappointment and indignation about this latest Visit San Jose video. We find your choice of Kiwi, Grace Kelly, as the face and voice of an advertisement promoting San Jose to be deeply offensive and dismissive of San Jose’s creative and artistic culture.

To be clear, our issue is not with Ms. Kelly, who is a talented musician and singer. Rather, we take exception to the notion that, in order to promote San Jose, we needed to outsource musical talent and creative production. We are left with the disturbing impression that Team San Jose would rather use local talent as silent props while showcasing a young, white woman as the hostess and global ambassador for our beloved city to visitors. In her song, Kelly belts out “San Jose—my second home.”

Where are the voices of those who call San Jose their first and only home? We hope that you and your Team San Jose colleagues did not willfully overlook and discount our local, award-winning artists, like the Bangerz, Amy Dabalos, and Cellista.

Ms. Kirchgesler, we question how many San Jose natives and people of color are in the room to help inform your decisions and assist in framing how to present our city to the rest of the world. Authentic representation—both on screen and at the decision-making table—is absolutely necessary to capture the essence of what makes San Jose worth visiting, and also, worth fighting for.

We would like to invite you to a conversation with our extended creative community at a time that is best for you. We hope that you will accept our invitation.

Sincerely,

Jessica Paz-Cedillos
Executive Director, School of Arts and Culture at MHP

Demone Carter
Senior Program Manager, School of Arts and Culture at MHP

Ron P. Muriera
Owner/Arts & Culture Consultant, RPM Consulting

Anjee Helstrup-Alvarez
Executive Director, MACLA/Movimiento de Arte y Cultura Latino Americana

Quynh-Mai Nguyen
Quynh-Mai Productions, Sonido Clash

Usha Srinivasan
President, Sangam Arts

Allen Johnson
Owner, Needle To The Groove Records

Juan Carlos Araujo and Jennifer Ahn
Owners, Empire Seven Studios

Erin Salazar
Executive Director, Exhibition District

Trami Cron
Executive Director, Chopsticks Alley

Elizabeth Gonzalez
Silicon Valley De Bug

Chris Esparza
Principal, Giant Creative Services

Thomas Ramon Aguilar
Minister of Operations, Universal Grammar

Tamara Alvarado
Arts Advocate

Omar Rodriguez
Owner, Kooltura Marketing

19 Comments

  1. People, we should support our local and California talent. We do not need world’s talent because we have the world here in San Jose. People from all corners of the world have grown and created their talent here. SANTA Clara county has also contributed to this outsider and “talent” recruit. SANTA Clara County has contracts with Stanford and PAU. What about San Jose State University? Vote Liccardo and the supervisors out!

  2. I have said it many times over the years… San Jose should cut all funding to Team San Jose.
    David S. Wall

  3. It’s much easier to criticize than create. If local artists and arm chair critics feel so strongly that they can do better, then go ahead and do it. Nothing is stopping them. All they need is a few hours of time, a modern smartphone, some basic instruments, and a YouTube account.

    • > It’s much easier to criticize than create.

      Very true.

      Which is WHY I criticize rather than annoy the world by insisting that my yodeling and random hacking of a keyboard is “creativity”.

      The world should be more grateful for my criticism.

  4. This is sounds more like our city song: HEY, THIS IS THE REAL SAN JOSE
    HEY, I WAS BORN AND RAISED
    SO SAD, THAT SAN JOSE, HAS LOST IT’S WAY
    THE REAL SAN JOSE IS RUNNING OUT IT’S OWN
    THE BORN AND RAISED CAN NO LONGER CALL IT HOME
    COMMUTING EACH WAY IS NOW THE NORM
    WE NATIVES, LEARN TO WEATHER THE STORM
    IT’S SAD BUT TRUE THE REAL SAN JOSE
    REFELCTS WHAT’S NEW ON THE STREETS OF MONTEREY
    HOMELESS CAMPS IN EVERY PART OF TOWN
    THE REAL SAN JOSE IS UNDER EVERY BRIDGE AND HIGHWAY
    THE PEOPLE OF SAN JOSE ARE NOT DANCING IN THE STREET
    WE ARE PROTESTING AND MARCHING TO EVERY UNFAIR BEAT
    THE REAL SAN JOSE IS NOT WHAT THE CITY COUNCIL PORTRAYS
    THE REAL SAN JOSE IS IGNORED AS PLAN AND TURN AWAY
    PRETENDING THAT THIS NEW SONG
    WILL ENTERTAIN AND HIDE ALL THE WRONG
    BUT I’TS JUST THEIR NEW WAY TO RUN THE REAL SAN JOSE

    Add a little music, and a few more verses…. sounds more like our city song to me!

  5. While I basically agree with the sentiment expressed by the author of this article, it is pretty obvious that this is petty clique politics. Hell, one of the artists dropped as an alternative isn’t a San Jose native either. Obviously, the tourism board isn’t going to promote Rey Res’s hip hop anthems as the San Jose song (although, it is better). There are plenty of better songs out there than this ditty by Grace Kelly to pay homage to the area, there just has to be a better … less nepotistic way to choose it.

  6. I swear, anything we do nowadays needs a detailed checklist making sure we hit all key points. Because maybe we will do something that has too many men and doesn’t represent all the women or has too many Mexicans and not enough other people. Pretty much people are always going to complain nowadays you just can’t do anything without some group complaining. Every night on the news there’s always two or more stories about a group of people that are offended or some race war story or something of that nature. I am seriously just exhausted and getting tired of this all. We should just all be one people we don’t need groups we don’t need to put people in boxes about race, color or gender or anything just all be one human race but everybody needs to be represented and feel special and we have to have groups for everybody everybody gets pissed off and offended. It’s exhausting and just all laughable now!!

  7. “I am seriously just exhausted…” Come on, tómalo suave chico! Porque llorar si la vida es un carnaval, a short trip! We are tired of county officials placing the SES disadvantaged out of the county’s bonanza and Licardo giving tax breaks to Google!

  8. I have posted this on another site, but I will leave it here, too: The lack of diversity is shameful as is Team San Jose’s decision not to use a local production crew. But the whole way this came to be is also just incredibly odd. This sounds more like a movie targeting teenagers than real life. A 16 year old girl from halfway around the globe sent her song to the head of Team San Jose completely unsolicited and it was decided it should be the city’s anthem? Complete with a video and news coverage? And until this song landed on the CEO’s desk they weren’t even looking for an anthem? And then what? She used her allowance to fly 6,000 miles to make the video? And during this whole process no one ever said, “you know, maybe a teenager who doesn’t live here isn’t the best choice for this”? Rather an entire board of directors signed off on it? Team San Jose has a lot of explaining to do.

    • She is connected to someone this team, Liccardo, wanted to be nice too. Or they just a group of big idiots! Either explanation is very concerning. Our tax dollars were used to finance this sh!t.

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