Houston media pioneer Jose Grinan speaks on being Black and Latino, stresses education, community service and awareness during these historic times
“First off, I’m a Black man and I am Latino. I am Afro-Latino.” — Jose Grinan
HOUSTON — FOX 26 anchor Jose Grinan, who was recently honored by the Houston Association of Black Journalists, spoke with African American News and Issues about his love for Houston, his humble upbringing rooted in community service and how we must move forward with awareness given the climate of America today.
Grinan is notably one of the most highly-recognizable and beloved figures in Houston news. His dark skin, mixed with his strong Latin accent, made him a standout, and someone many could relate to, no matter what ethnicity they were.
“First off, I’m a Black man and I am Latino. I am Afro-Latino. I’m very blessed to have come to a community that accepted me. I’m sure many wondered where I got my name from. A lot of folks in this country don’t realize that slavery and bondage took place down in the Caribbean, took place in Mexico, we just think it was an American thing when really, it wasn’t,” Grinan said. “To come some place and to have people consider you as someone that they have been with all of their lives is a remarkable feeling and that’s the way the people of Houston made me feel.”
It was a stroke of luck and a “sick day” from work which led Grinan, who was raised in Florida, to H-Town.
“I needed a job [chuckle]. I was working in Dallas and my contract was coming to an end. A good friend of mine was coming down to Houston for the NABJ (National Association of Black Journalists Convention) and he said, ‘Look here, why don’t you call in sick and get in the car.’ So that’s what I did,” Grinan explained.
He interviewed with Fox, auditioning with Linda Cheek-Heinrich, and the rest is history.
“Sometimes, chemistry just clicks with people,” he said.
Despite being offered lower pay, Grinan stepped out on faith and moved to Houston, where he’s remained ever since.
“I never thought I’d be here for as long as I have been, but I don’t regret any minute of being here, does that make sense?” he shared.
Many would be surprised to learn that Grinan did not take the “traditional route,” which led him to the coveted anchor chair. He does not have a degree in journalism or communications, and received most of his training in the military. When he first started out in this industry, his pay was $18,000 a year.
“You can’t say don’t think about the money, but you have to think about the opportunity as well,” he said.
And a unique opportunity is exactly what Grinan took advantage of, in fact, was perfect for, in an ethnically-diverse city like Houston. Some could say, he had been, unknowingly, groomed as a child for the career field he would later dominate.
“There are certain times I was able to take advantage of. When they needed a Latino, I could say ‘yeah,’ and when they needed an African American, I could say ‘yeah.’ I was a “two-fer” in some places. I think some stations were trying to get up-to-par with minorities during the mid-70s and I just kind of fit in,” Grinan said. “But getting in the door is one thing, staying in the door is another, so I just had to prove that I could do whatever was cast in front of me. Military trained me as a photographer, and growing up my mother and father had me in forensics, debate and original oratory public speaking. I never thought they would ever work together.”
After graduating high school, Grinan went to the University of South Florida, but was drafted into the Army before completion. The Army was where he got his first taste of journalism. Grabbing opportunities, he worked his way up the food chain, understanding there was no “instant celebrity” as far-too-many young journalists today seek. True journalism takes hard work, dedication, knowledge and awareness. It is a “learned” skill.
“Today is a different time. We didn’t have any Instagram. We didn’t have Facebook. My Google was the card catalogue in the library. There are so many different things today, but I think young people need to realize that it really isn’t about them, it’s about those they are supposed to be serving,” Grinan said. “Those folks who can’t go to a city council meeting, you are supposed to represent them. Those people who can’t go to a commissioner’s court meeting, you’re supposed to represent them. You are not the story; the story is there for you to share. A lot of millennials, and I am not trying to throw any shade on millenials because they come up with some great ideas, but sometimes they are thinking in terms of ‘me, me, me,’ rather than trying to do something to help others.”
Grinan went on to explain that his mother integrated schools in the state of Florida because she was Latina and she was Black. Watching her humbled him.
“I didn’t know I was going to be a journalist. I didn’t know I was going to be a voice for someone who didn’t have a voice, it just happened that way and I’m glad that it did because it gave me a sense of who I am and a sense of reality, and in a sense carrying on the tradition of my mother. She was silently a civil rights fighter during the 60s,” he explained.
Grinan’s mother was the first African American to be invited to join the League of Women Voters, which was a big thing down in the South. She also ran for office, in which Grinan credits to creating a political astuteness n his family.
“I’m going to paint a picture for you. A car with big wooden pockets on the side with big speakers on the hood of the car going through the neighborhood saying ‘Vote for Sylvia Grinan, School Board District D.’ That’s something you would see in an old Latino movie, people campaigning that way, but that’s what I grew up with” Grinan said. “She didn’t win [chuckle], but I think it was just the effort of making the community aware that there were people of color who were trying to get in office to improve life.”
Education, Grinan explained, is one of the most important things to him as both of his parents were educators. His father taught trades and his mother was a bilingual elementary school teacher before there were bilingual school teachers.
He recalls his mother telling him, “they can take any and everything from you except for what’s in your head. And once you have education in your head, then you can do just about anything you want.”
Because of the values his parents bestowed upon him, Grinan stresses the importance of community service.
“Once you are fortunate enough to be where you are, and in my case, because of the way I did it, there was in my mind the responsibility to give back, so if someone needed me to be the cheerleader of their non-profit organization, I’m there. If they needed me to help do certain things, I’m there. For anyone who is in any public service type of job, you should give back because those folks make sure you are where you are,” he said.
At the HABJ Media Masquerade Ball where he was honored, Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee presented Grinan with a proclamation on behalf of Mayor Sylvester Turner, designating Nov. 2 as “Jose Grinan Day.” An honor, Grinan says, he cherishes.
“The congresswoman said some really nice things. She knows some of the struggles that I’ve had, and she’s assisted me and has been one of my biggest supporters since city council before she went to Congress,” he said, further explaining why it’s great to have a cheering section. “We all need a cheerleader, and when you don’t have one in your life, you have to find inside you, your own cheer. And then when you get that cheer out, others will see that cheer and then they become cheerleaders for you as well.”
Just as much as we need a cheer, we need support- and awareness.
“You can do anything. We are in a special time in history once again. History has these cycles of optimism of reflection. Right now, I think we are going through the reflection and it may be time for some optimism because we can’t go back to where we used to be. We’ve got to look out for one another, and we can’t lose what we’ve already gained because it took a lot to gain what we have,” Grinan said. “We are at a very critical time in history, the same way I was when things were kind of changing and opening up for people of color. Now, they seem to be closing down to a certain extent. Immigration is being limited, it seems like people of color are coming under attack and that hasn’t happened in an extremely long time in this nation’s history.”
About Jose Grinan:
José Griñan joined KRIV-TV in August of 1993 and has been an integral part of FOX 26 Morning news since its inception, and is now the senior morning news anchor. In addition to his anchor duties, Grinan has produced a variety of special series reports, and hosts “The Black Voice.” He also hosted “Hola Houston” for several years. Both are weekly public affairs programs. His father was a native Cuban, his mother, a first generation Cuban-American. Grinan speaks Spanish fluently and takes a great deal of pride in his dual heritage.