In this important election year, the vote of the American Latino will be crucial for many political candidates. It’s also important to actor and comedian Rick Najera (East Los High, MADtv), founder and host of the Latino Thought Makers Series, which will open its fourth season on Wednesday, Oct. 12, at Oxnard College.

Najera wants people to understand that Latino voters matter in the American system of democracy. “The series started with the premise that Latinos are the solution, never the problem,” Najera explained, “and there’s so much happening today in politics, almost an anti-Latino feel.”

Of course, he could have hosted this in any large city with a significant Latino population. L.A., for instance. But Najera likes the roots-in-the-soil feel of Oxnard. “I really like the community of Oxnard,” he stated. “It’s a very diverse community in a lot of ways, a great Latino community and a community that works well together.”

Najera has invited actor Emilio Rivera (Sons of Anarchy), nationally syndicated columnist Ruben Navarrette Jr. (The Washington Post), and political radio host Wendy Carrillo (KPWR’s Knowledge Is Power) to join him on stage in the series opener titled “Hollywood and Politics.” The title was selected to counter what Najera perceives as a media assault by some candidates against the Latino community. “There is a community that is propagating the thought that Latinos are the problem,” Najera observed, “that we need a bigger wall to keep out Mexicans, that we deserve to be called names.”

Even more important, he is encouraging Latinos to vote in the upcoming election. “We’re telling people to get out and vote,” said Najera. “The only thing that ever stops us is if we don’t vote. If we don’t vote, the parties won’t respect our voting bloc.”

In Najera’s view, now is the time for Latinos to assert their voting power, as candidates are openly seeking their input into political policy. “I was invited to the Democratic National Convention this year and I witnessed it,” said Najera. “I think now, more Latinos are being invited to the party. We’re needed more by the candidates, so they’re accessing us.”

This is particularly true for young Latino voters. As Najera pointed out, “Maybe politics is waking up to the fact that Latinos really do go out and vote. It’s a young demographic and population, and whatever party earns the Latino vote earns the Latino bloc.”

There’s more in store after the election as well. The Latino Thought Makers Series will present five different shows for the 2016-17 season, including a December holiday concert special featuring Broadway star Bianca Marroquín (Roxie Hart in Chicago) and an April event honoring United Farm Workers activist and labor leader Dolores Huerta. Two comedy specials will be featured as well: February’s CBS Diversity Sketch Comedy Showcase (one of the series’ most popular shows) and a Cinco de Mayo comedy special in May.

Ventura County Community College District Chancellor Dr. Bernard Luskin described the Series as “a signature program that is special in showcasing successful Latinos who share insights about their successful careers with Oxnard College students and members of the community.” It’s a unique addition to our local culture offerings — and a valuable one at that.

Latino Thought Makers’ “Hollywood and Politics” will be on Wednesday, Oct. 12, 7 p.m. at Oxnard College Performing Arts Center, 4000 S. Rose Ave. For more information and a full schedule of events for the 2016-17 season, call 986-5814 or visit www.latinothoughtmakers.com.