Letter from HF President: Let's Get to Work!
I can’t say that I ever thought we would find ourselves here. The presidential campaign was filled with vitriol and ugliness and attacks on much of what I value, personally and professionally. As if that weren’t bad enough, I have been paying close attention to the parade of President Trump’s cabinet nominees and I alternate between thinking, “they’re dangerous” and “they’re unqualified.” Suffice it to say, these have been some pretty dark weeks.
But you can’t live in the darkness. You can’t plan in the darkness. You can’t envision a different America in the darkness. We need the light. We need the light to help us mobilize. To help us strategize. To help us see where there are points of collaboration and where we must resist. The question for me is: how do we do all of these things? As the leader of one of the nation’s most important Latino organizations, how do I navigate Hispanic Federation through these dangerous political waters? Here are three ideas:
Build the Capacity of our Network: Hispanic Federation was founded more than 25 years ago as an organization that would build the capacity of Latino community-based organizations in its footprint. Their work is as important today, if not more so, as it was back then. Working with our partners and allies we aim to increase the amount of capacity-building grants we awarded last year. That means giving more than $2.6 million to organizations to do things like advocacy training and understanding community-based direct action. Our member agencies are the ones on the front lines of the coming battles and making them stronger is one of the best and most important investments Hispanic Federation and its allies can make.
Don’t Tune Out, Tune In: It’s easy to look at the election results from this year and be disheartened. I understand. Some of the people elected to office this year have expressed biases and ideas that pose a threat to Latino communities from New York to Florida to California. But if this year confirmed something for me it is that we need more civic engagement, not less. It’ll be tempting to sit on the sidelines over the course of the next four years but that’s a mistake. When Latinos are deeply engaged in the political process—when they register to vote, when they know the issues, when they hear directly from the candidates—they are as excited by the electoral process as any other American. We have important races coming up this year—mayoral contests New York City and Orlando and a gubernatorial race in New Jersey—and we are ready to double down on our civic engagement work this year. What’s more, we already have our eyes on the important midterm elections of 2018, when we hope to change the historical underrepresentation of Latino voters in a number of key states.
Challenge the Narrative, Spread the Word: One of the most frustrating aspects of this last election cycle was the stream of misinformation about our communities. From immigration to criminal justice, there were so many duplicitous narratives about Latinos that it was difficult to keep track. We must fight back. We can’t allow the political discourse in the nation to be framed by fake news and “factually-challenged” assertions. We have a story tell about our families and businesses, our veterans and teachers, our children and our elderly. These are profoundly American stories and as lawmakers debate policies that will affect us—often disproportionately so—they should understand facts, not fictions. Hispanic Federation will partner with media outlets—in line with the radio-based work outlined elsewhere in this issue of Piñata—to get our message out. Just as importantly, we’ll be working in coalition with other civil rights groups who have similarly been smeared and purposefully misunderstood.
I know that what I have outlined above won’t be easy, but democracy never is. I hope you’re ready to fight for our country. We sure are.