Philly's Juan Antonio "Tony" Leon Jr.: R.I.P.

IT TOOK demonstrations, political pressure and perseverance for Latinos to break into the mainstream media in Philadelphia.

There were no Latinos either in front of or behind the TV cameras, despite the fact that Philadelphia had a large and thriving Latino population. Latino news rarely got reported, either on the air or in the local newspapers.

Juan Antonio "Tony" Leon Jr. and a few other activists set about to change that. In the late '60s they protested outside television stations, charging employment discrimination, and negotiated with station officials for jobs.

"That small knock on their door opened the door for a few of us to be hired at WPVI," Tony wrote in a reminiscence last July.

He went on to become a highly regarded cameraman, documentarian, producer and editor - first for WPVI-TV, Channel 6, and later for KYW-TV, Channel 3 - as well as a dedicated activist in the Latino community.

He died Thursday after a long fight against cancer. He was 56 and lived in Fishtown.