HF Letter from the President: The First Six Months
I knew that 2016 would be an important year for Hispanic Federation. The calendar told me that we had an election on the horizon and that the election would decide a great deal about the lives of millions of Latinos in the United States. I knew that our Civic Engagement program would be running on all cylinders, registering, educating, and getting voters to the polls. I knew too that our network of community-based organizations, those agencies that are at the center of our work as an organization, would need funds from our CORE Initiative grantmaking program and support for organizational development and strengthening. I knew these things and I spent a great deal of time planning last year to accomplish much in these important program areas.
But the truth is that you can never plan for every contingency and the first six months of 2016 was filled with unexpected challenges. Other organizations, might have not have been able to respond but the truth is that I couldn’t be prouder of the way the Hispanic Federation — its board of directors, network of grassroots organizations, and staff— has risen to the occasion.
The first major issue we confronted was getting Congress to act on the Puerto Rico debt crisis. Earlier this year there were real questions about whether Congress would act to prevent a catastrophic default on the island’s more than $70 billion debt. Working with elected officials, community groups, and Puerto Rican leaders in the diaspora, Hispanic Federation was a leading voice fighting on behalf of Puerto Rico and its people. Like so many others, we were disappointed with a number of the elements of the PROMESA bill that passed through Congress but the debt restructuring authority we did get for Puerto Rico was an essential pre-condition in order to begin to stabilize the island’s economy. Over the coming weeks and months we will be working with our broad coalition of partners to make sure that PROMESA delivers on its promise to help Puerto Rico move forward without compromising the island’s autonomy.
And then there was Orlando. The Pulse Nightclub. 49 lives taken in an instant by a man filled with hate and fitted with an arsenal of destruction. Hispanic Federation has always been quick to respond to disasters. We did that earlier this year when we joined the Ecuadorian community after the earthquake that rocked the South American nation in April. But there was something about the Pulse Massacre that was painfully different. The victims of the shooting were drawn from Orlando’s Latino and LGBT communities. They were targeted because of who they were and against the backdrop of anti-Latino and anti-LGBT rhetoric in the country, we knew that this was an opportunity to demonstrate the power of solidarity. This was a chance to say, and as the great Lin-Manuel Miranda so eloquently put it, “love is love, is love, is love!” Hispanic Federation was in a unique position to help in Orlando because we had opened an office in the city a year ago and had already established important connections with the city’s Latino nonprofit sector. Our Proyecto Somos Orlando brought together all of the resources of that sector to help them help the community begin on the long road to recovery. We’ll be in Orlando for a long while making sure that the nation never forgets the victims and their families and recognizes the resilience and grace that Orlando’s residents have shown in the face of unimaginable brutality.
It is a credit to our staff that despite so much unanticipated turmoil, they have continued to build and strengthen the foundational programs that characterize Hispanic Federation.
Our Annual Gala was our most successful benefit event ever. Our Crear Futuros program is expanding to an additional six universities to help Latino students stay and succeed in college. We’ve granted over $700K to support our amazing network of community-based organizations, with much more to come. And our public education efforts have touched millions, providing them the information they need to address their needs and lead a better life.
I know that the next six months will be busy ones for us but I know that we’re ready to work. Day in and day out, Hispanic Federation is there shaping a brighter future for our community.