Letter from HF President: Rising to the Challenge
At the end of 2016, I wrote to you—our friends, supporters, and network of agencies—laying out Hispanic Federation’s vision for 2017. The election of 2016 had ushered in a new era in Washington that we knew would be challenging, to say the least. And it has been. From protecting our immigrants and the environment to promoting greater health care and racial and ethnic comity, it seems that everything we work for has been under attack.
But in the face of these new and urgent challenges, Hispanic Federation has responded by significantly increasing its reach and impact locally and nationally. As you will note in this mid-year issue of Piñata, our work has focused on a number of key priorities including: agenda setting, building and strengthening coalitions, growing community programs, expanding public education campaigns, and institution building.
Let’s start by focusing on our work strategizing around a common Latino agenda and building and strengthening coalitions. The truth is we knew that in order for us to be effective in setting a Latino agenda, we needed to carry out an institutional-wide focus on bringing together our brothers and sisters in the African American, Asian, Muslim, LGBTQ and other communities in common struggle. As you will read in this issue, we have strengthened our ties to our political and community allies in Washington D.C. and in localities throughout the country.
We have launched an education coalition with an impressive array of diverse community leaders to focus on the particular challenges facing Latino and other under-served students. Similarly, we have brought together social change advocates to create a People of Color Agenda both in New York and nationally. And earlier this month we launched our boldest effort to build a nationwide coalition of immigrants’ rights groups in our history. Our Immigrants: We Get The Job Done Coalition, launched in part thanks to the generous support of Lin-Manuel Miranda, brings together twelve multiracial and multiethnic organizations from across the United States working to provide immigrants with legal representation, advocacy and social services to immigrants, refugees and asylum seekers.
We have also organized congressional briefings in our headquarters, policy days in state capitals, advocacy trainings, large-scale conferences and summits, and worked with our grassroots leaders to advance our agenda for change, unity and progress.
This year has also been an important one in terms of program expansion. There are two programs in particular that I’m especially happy to report on. The first is that we have expanded our successful CREAR Futuros program to Rhode Island this year. Those of you who know me well, know how excited I am about CREAR and its ability to improve Latino educational success in higher education. Based on our experience in Florida, New York and Connecticut, we know that Latino undergraduates benefit from having a holistic set of supports that help them in the classroom and outside of it. This fall we’re bringing that model to Rhode Island College, the state’s oldest public college, where Latino students are an expanding part of the student body.
The other program that I’m very excited about is our new Immigrant Legal Defense Project that will provide legal assistance and other ancillary services to immigrants in New York State. We have worked on immigrant education and integration since the earliest days of Hispanic Federation. But given the difficult and, frankly, dangerous anti-immigrant rhetoric and policies coming out of Washington, we needed to expand our work. The Legal Defense Project will help protect our immigrant workers and families at a time when they need it most.
In order to raise awareness, educate and energize our community around these issues of social justice, we have also invested a great deal of time and energy this year in carrying out public awareness campaigns. Thanks to these efforts, we have reached hundreds of thousands of Latinos in our footprint.
Finally, we continue to expand and strengthen Hispanic Federation by building our institutional capacity. I am thrilled that we have already provided nearly $2 million dollars in support to our network of agencies and continue to provide critical professional development trainings to our leadership through our Entre Familia Learning Series. And we have just created a new funding vehicle, the Latino GROW Fund, to support the burgeoning Latino nonprofit sector in Florida.
I know that, if you’re like me, the last several months have been difficult ones. We are seeing a vision of America that is inconsistent with our values and our belief in diversity, inclusion and community. It’s an ugly and often bleak vision. But here’s the thing, we know that we’re on the right side of history. That there is great hope and promise in what we’re doing. That by working together we can continue to build a more just, hopeful and prosperous nation for all of our people. Thank you for standing with us, and continuing to make our work and mission possible.