Moving America Forward: Why this Latina Engineer will be Voting Nov. 8th

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Blog writer, Diana Marquez-De La Torre

From a young age I was aware, from personal experience, of issues of inequality within communities. My first civic engagement action happened in middle school. At church, our priest spoke about a group of families that had recently arrived from Oaxaca without knowing anyone. They were living in tents by the river with their children. The next day at school, I organized a food and clothing drive for these families. I had my parents driving me around from business to business to ask for donations. I had my classmates join me in asking their parents and neighbors as well.

However, it wasn’t until I was older that I began to understand how essential it was to be involved in more formal civic engagement to have a greater impact. I helped start a program in our district to help bridge the gap between first-generation, Spanish-speaking middle school students and high schools, so the transition to a new environment would be easier, and would, hopefully, have a positive effect on academics.

I joined the School Board as a student trustee so there would be a student voice at the board level. I staged a student walk-out and protest against H.R. 4437, which tried to classify undocumented immigrants, and anyone who helped them, as felons.

It was thanks to these experiences, and the involvement of some fantastic educators and my supportive parents, that I started seeing how much you leave at the table if you don’t get involved. If you care about your community, getting involved in nonprofits, volunteering, or local politics is one of the most effective ways to bring about change.

This election is particularly important because I can’t think of another in my lifetime where more was at stake for Latino communities and many other communities.

That’s why this Election Day, I am voting.

I am voting because if I don’t, someone else will be voting against my interest.

I am voting because the presidential candidates won’t be the only thing on the ballot this November—there will also be education, tax, health care, and campaign reform measures that affect the community.

I am voting in this election because unless our communities get out to vote on November 8th we are giving up and letting others dictate what kind of policy and culture we have in the U.S. for the next 4 years.

I am voting because the next president will get the choose the next Supreme Court Justice. We risk losing the progress we’ve made as a country in Women’s Rights, Immigration Rights, Voting Rights, and many, many more issues.

California will always be my home. California is much more than LA and San Francisco. California is dozens of small hard-working communities that feed half the nation. California is beaches, redwood forests, deserts, snow-covered mountains, vineyards, all within driving distance. California is progressive and innovative, it evolves quickly, and isn’t afraid of change. It is a driving force of this nation, and I will make sure I am part of moving it forward this November 8.

To join Diana in voting this election, register to vote online by going to www.latinos-vote.com or text LATINOS to 384-387 to register! It only takes a few minutes.

Diana Marquez-De La Torre was born and raised in Watsonville, CA. She is a first-generation American and the first in her family to graduate from college, receiving her BA in Communication from Stanford University. After graduating, she worked as an organizer and eventually as a Senior Field Director for a political consulting firm.  However, her passion remained in education and technology, so she changed careers and is currently a software engineer for an EdTech company, Kickboard, that focuses on creating safe and happy schools through positive school cultures.  

Politics is Now Local for International Latina

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By Isidra Mencos

If Elizabeth Parrott had a magic wand, she would send all Latino youth to live abroad for a little while, because this experience changed the way she saw herself and what she thought she could achieve. Born and raised in California, the daughter of Mexican immigrant parents from humble beginnings—her dad was a gardener and her mom cleaned houses—she grew up understanding how access to great jobs and educational opportunity can impact your future.

With her oldest sister and parents’ support, the income from two jobs, and a few grants along the way, she was able to enroll in undergraduate studies at UCLA, majoring in International Relations and Economics. She decided to make a bold move and packed her bags for London to attend the London School of Economics and Political Science. It was in London that for first time in her life, when she mentioned her Mexican background, people were genuinely interested. “They were very interested in our food, our culture, and were wowed that I spoke another language and excited to learn more,” explains Elizabeth. “I realized that perhaps I had set limits on myself, based on the way society saw me in California. Now I knew that it was my right to be treated like all other young people with big ambitions.”

Elizabeth went on to have a successful career in London, where she also got married and had two kids. After 16 years living in England, she returned home to California as Director of Evalueserve, a global firm specialized in research and data analytics for financial services clients that has offices in London and San Francisco. “Going to the UK allowed me to leave some negative experiences behind, but I also left my community behind,” says Elizabeth. “I had a big hole that I needed to fill. I wanted to speak Spanish, eat our food, talk with other people who shared my experience of having immigrant parents. I wanted to raise my children in this society.”

Back in the US, Elizabeth felt a need to give back to the Latino community immediately. That’s why she joined the Latino Community Foundation’s (LCF) Latina Giving Circle of San Francisco, a philanthropic community that inspires Latino donors to get involved and then connects them to Latino non-profits and to the broader political arena. This year, Elizabeth was part of LCF’s Latino Equity Summit in the state’s capitol, where she participated in meetings with Latino legislative leaders and their staff. These experiences helped to open Elizabeth’s eyes to how important local issues and local leadership really are. “When I was much younger I was a political news junkie, but I tended to think at a high level: foreign policy, the direction of the Supreme Court, the national elections,” explains Elizabeth. “Today it’s more about the local issues that affect our schools, parks and the economic progress of our communities. It’s also about leadership, how can we get more Latinos at the decision-making table?”

The Latino Community Foundation campaign Yo Voy a Votar ¿Y Tú?, which aims to register 10,000 new Latino voters, resonates very deeply with Elizabeth. “Regardless of who wins or loses, what I hope comes out from the voter registration drives is that the Latino vote will be measured and will be recognized so that politicians will walk away with the sense that this is a community that needs to be consulted and supported, and that they need to work for us,” she states. “There’s going to be a lot of value coming out of registering Latino voters.”

Please register to vote and encourage others to do the same by sharing this link: www.latinos-vote.com

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Why Civic Engagement Matters

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Writer, Christian Arana

By Christian Arana

As a public policy graduate student at UC Berkeley, I spend a great deal of time combing through statistics on subjects ranging from crime and education to health care and housing. But during last month’s Mobilize the Latino Vote event hosted by the Latino Community Foundation, I learned of a surprising and troubling statistic: Only 17% of California’s 7 million eligible Latino voters are likely to vote in this election.

As a state with a long history of social movements – from immigrant rights to farmworkers – this is not acceptable.

At an early age, I acquired real-world lessons on the importance of civic engagement. In high school, my best friend’s mother invited me to Sacramento to advocate on behalf of AB 405, a bill banning the use of experimental pesticides in California’s public schools. A fight that began when one of her sons experienced an asthma attack from pesticide use at his school, I joined this cause by speaking with legislators about why I believed the use of these toxins would negatively impact my education and the education of millions of students.

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Warning of toxins sprayed at a school

As a result of our efforts, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger signed AB 405 into law and later proved as one of the most consequential bills in protecting children’s health in the state of California.

What I gained from that experience has stuck with me to this day. Realizing change in your community can only happen by getting involved. If Latinos aspire to representation in the democratic process and seek improvement in our communities, then we will have to do better than 17% of us voting. This means not only voting in elections at all levels of government, but also encouraging our friends and family to register to vote too. It is only here where we can achieve a democracy that is representative of our needs.

That process begins tonight when former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and businessman Donald J. Trump take the stage at Hofstra University in the first of three presidential debates. What they will say or not say will matter immensely for Latinos. As a community, we should attentively watch and listen yet we should never forget that civic engagement necessitates action as well. This is why I am voting and encouraging others to join me in this cause.

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Democracy Cannot Be Taken for Granted

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Un Centro por la Memoria. Contra la represión de ayer y de hoy, Adolfo Luján

by Isidra Mencos

I narrowly escaped a police beating once. Franco, the right-wing dictator that had muzzled Spain for the last 36 years, had just died. His successor, King Juan Carlos de Borbón, promised a transition to a pluralistic society, but it was slow. Demonstrations demanding amnesty for political prisoners and a faster pace towards democracy were frequent.

I had the “brilliant” idea to attend a protest with clogs, which were fashionable at the time. I was in the middle of the Ramblas, in the heart of Barcelona, with a crowd of several hundred. We started marching towards Plaza Cataluña, arms linked, and bellowing slogans: ¡Amnistía, Libertad!

All of a sudden we saw police jeeps rushing to a stop on both sides of the Ramblas. Dozens of policemen in their grey uniforms stormed the street, batons in hand, a plexiglas mask attached to their helmets covering their features. “¡Los grises! ¡Los grises!”.  We sprinted in all directions, amidst terrified yelps and the thump of batons methodically crashing into backs and heads.

My feet kept slipping out of the clogs and I couldn’t run fast. I foolishly stopped for a second to put a clog back on, when I felt somebody grab my arm and propel me forward like a rocket. It was Joan, a friend from college. I looked back for a second and saw a policeman running towards us, baton raised over his head, a mere five feet from my back. It was only then that it dawned on me that this was real, not just an exciting exercise of youthful rebellion. With Joan anchoring me, I ran the fastest I have ever run. We turned a corner and barged through an open door and up the stairs of an apartment building until we reached the terrace. From there we could smell gas and see the police charging and beating as students scattered like flies when you try to swat them.

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Monumento a la huelga de la construcción de 1970 (Granada), Landahlauts

I continued attending demonstrations. They became huge, with over a hundred thousand people marching down the streets.

In June 1977, almost two years after Franco’s death, Spain held its first election in four decades. I was proud to vote in that election, to support the democracy so hardly won, not just by us, but by the previous generations who had suffered and plotted a comeback from exile, from prison, from clandestine political meetings, who had dedicated their lives to giving a voice to every citizen.

That’s why I consider voting not only a right and a privilege, but also a duty. It’s the reason I became a US citizen, after several years living here. I wanted to vote. I wanted to join the growing force of the Latino community and help build their political power.

The statistics are sad. Millennials make up the largest portion of eligible Latino voters. Yet, only half are registered to vote. Out of those registered, only 40% cast their ballots. How can that be?

Democracy can’t be taken for granted. We forge our democracy in every single election, when we go to the polls and express our opinion, when we choose the candidate that best reflects our vision for our future and our children’s future.

Latinos have a lot riding on this election. From immigration reform to subsidized college education, there are issues at stake that can open or block a pathway for our youth to have a better future.

Even if you don’t have a candidate you love, you can support the one whose positions align the most with your personal values. Your voice and your vote are part of keeping our democracy alive.

Please register to vote and encourage others to do the same by sharing this link: www.latinos-vote.com.  Your opinion matters. YOU matter.

As Issues Arise on Men and Boys of Color, a Group of 34 Bay Area Men Answer the Call

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When Andres Connell immigrated to the United States as a young 13 year-old boy, he experienced first hand the trials and tribulations that many other young Latino boys raised in low-income households face– the continuous struggle to make ends meet, the lack of community resources, and the need for proper personal guidance. Years later, determined to be an “agent of change”, Andres is doing his part to ensure that the American Dream is accessible for young Latino boys and men in the Bay Area and surrounding areas. Andres and 33 other Bay Area Latinos are part of the SF Latino Men’s Giving Circle. On September 13, they awarded $36,000 worth of grants to four deserving organizations: Educa2, Inc of San Mateo, Homies Organizing the Mission to Empower Youth (HOMEY) of San Francisco,  Communities United for Restorative Youth Justice (CURYJ) of Oakland, and Fathers and Families of San Joaquin of Stockton.

“We are immensely proud to be part of the Latino Men’s Giving Circle family. We believe that together we can build a world where our youth are treated as sacred and they can re-learn and re-root ourselves in our traditions where justice love and peace are embodied in all our relations!’ said Sammy Nuñez, Executive Director of Fathers and Families of San Joaquin.

These financial contributions are just the beginning. This philanthropic movement is about empowering men, both individual donors and community leaders, to grow this work together. LCF enables members to engage with the organization in deeper ways. Donors offer their expertise to these grassroots non-profits and oftentimes assume leadership positions as Board members.

“As a young Latino boy growing up I never realized how important our gente were. I was taught that we were less than, and that we would never amount  to anything but prison and the barrio,” Raymond, a program participant of grantee organization Fathers and Families of San Joaquin, recalls. However, through his participation in the organization and his experience speaking with the SF Latino Men’s Giving Circle, he now says, “I have never been prouder to say somos Latinos, and we are somebody! We are to be recognized! And we are of importance!”

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The SF Latino Giving Circle, founded in 2015, is part of the Latino Community Foundation’s larger Latino Giving Circle Network, a group of 233 individuals invested in improving the lives of Latinos in California by funding grassroots non-profits often overlook by traditional philanthropy. Each member pledges to donate at least $1,000 a year. Together, members define the issues facing the communities that they want to invest in. After hearing from experts and organizations, they choose their grantees.

“There is plenty of work to be done and we need all hands on deck. All of us bring our talents and networks to the table, and by doing so we are creating a powerful movement within our Latino communities. Philanthropy is for everyone and by joining our group you will become an active participant in this movement,” Andres Connell reminds us.

To join this movement and one of the circles that make up the Latino Giving Circle Network, email Sara Velten at svelten@latinocf.org.

Parent Engagement Saves Lives

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By: Lucia Diaz, CEO, The Mar Vista Family Center

I came to Mar Vista Family Center (MVFC) in 1981 as a parent looking for child care. As a young mother with two children, 3 years old and 12 months old, I used to walk to there with my children in a shopping cart. I will always remember when my daughter was 4 years old. She told me that when she grew up, she wanted to clean houses like me. It was a wake-up call. That’s the day that I realized that I was a role model for my kids

Later as a parent leader at MVFC, I learned to organize through the Shared Responsibility Curriculum Model. The model helped me to understand the importance of parents getting together, and feeling supported to help their children. I also learned that I wasn’t just there for my children, but for myself, my family and our community.

As a community organizer, I recall one day I was leading a community meeting and a young guy came to the door. This guy was dressed all in black wearing a red bandana on his head and black sunglasses. At that moment everyone in the room got very quiet. I walked up to him and invited him to come in and join us for the meeting. No answer came from him, he just shook his head. He sat there for a while and then left.

Later I found out that he was one of the main gang members on the street. I did not hear back from him, until one day, two guys came to my office. One of them approached me and asked if I remembered him. He said, I am here to thank you for being the first person in my life, who opened the doors and welcomed me to be part of a group. That was John. I remember him saying, “I wish my mom had the opportunity to be in a place like Mar Vista when I was little. My life could have been different.” That’s when I realized that parent engagement and support at a critical time saves lives.

At Mar Vista Family Center, we know that parent engagement is transformational. Now we need to prove that by sharing the responsibilities with others, we can transform whole Latino communities.

I am so proud to say that this organization has functioned for 39 years with the support and hard work of many people; including preschool alumni, past and present youth whom serve as leaders in current programs, and parents who wear different hats every since day to make sure that Mar Vista moves forward –  with its mission of Latino families building communities.

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Press Advisory: The Latino Community Foundation Honors Hispanic Heritage Month by Empowering Leaders of Today with a Month of Action Focused on Two Key Civic Engagement Initiatives

PRESS ADVISORY
Press Contact: Masha V. Chernyak
Vice President of Programs and Policy
mchernyak@latinocf.org
cell: 415.533.9697
cell: 646.465.3464

The Latino Community Foundation Honors Hispanic Heritage Month
by Empowering Leaders of Today with a Month of Action Focused on
Two Key Civic Engagement Initiatives

The Campaign: YoVoy a Votar ¿Y Tú? and
the Expansion of the Latino Giving Circle Network empower the leaders of today

Latinos are the largest ethnic group in California. They have the power to shape its future. The Latino Community Foundation (LCF) is honoring Hispanic Heritage Month by remembering the leaders of the past and by empowering the leaders of today through two civic engagement campaigns: Yo Voy a Votar ¿Y Tú? and the expansion of the Latino Giving Circle Network.

Yo Voy A Votar ¿Y Tú? Campaign Only 17% of California’s 7 million eligible Latinos are likely to vote, a statistic that LCF is committed to changing. LCF has launched a multi-media and grassroots campaign to reach 1M Latinos and to register 10,000 new Latino voters. LCF partnered with three grassroots Latino-led organizations —SIRENFathers and Families of San Joaquin, and Mi Familia Vota— to recruit, train and deploy 100 bilingual canvassers at five concerts in San Jose, Stockton, and Los Angeles. Canvassers will help register Latino voters at five concerts with music icons Marco Antonio Solís, Marc Anthony, and Gloria Trevi. “Our democracy depends on the civic and political participation of our citizens — every single one of them,” says Jacqueline Martinez Garcel, CEO of the Latino Community Foundation.

The Latino Giving Circle Network (LGCN) combines the power of giving through dynamic philanthropic circles. Members choose which Latino-led organizations will receive their funds. Launched in 2012 with 14 members, LGCN now has 230 members in 10 circles and have invested $248,000. The Fresno and Los Angeles Latino Giving Circles will launch during Hispanic Heritage Month“The Latino Giving Circle Network is igniting a movement of change agents committed to unleashing the power and talent of the Latino community in California,” says Sara Velten, VP of Philanthropy. 

How to get involved in the LCF Month of Action to honor Hispanic Heritage Month:

  • Yo Voy a Votar ¿Y Tú? Campaign – Register to vote and encourage others to do the same! Volunteer to register voters at concerts or other upcoming registration drives. Learn more about the campaign at: http://latinocf.org/mobilize_latino_vote.html
  • Latino Giving Circle Network – Join a Giving Circle and work with inspiring Latino leaders on improving the lives of our community in California. Membership rate is $84 a month and 100% of the funds raised are invested back into the Latino community. Email Sara Velten at svelten@latinocf.org.

About the Latino Community Foundation
The Latino Community Foundation (LCF) inspires philanthropy, invests in Latino nonprofit organizations and unites leaders to advocate for change. Uniquely positioned at the intersection of corporate, political and grassroots power, LCF creates and nurtures relationships designed to amplify and accelerate impact in unprecedented ways. LCF connects donors to emerging leaders, community organizations with funding, and advocates with the key decision-makers. At LCF, our approach is rooted in the very essence of what it means to be Latino, with a fierce tenacity and a focus on community and relationships. For more information about LCF visit www.latinocf.org and facebook/latinocommunityfoundation

Hispanic Heritage Month of Action

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Honoring Hispanic Heritage Month with a Month of Action

We come from different countries. Speak different languages. But we are all Latino. Diverse people united by our values, our stories and our struggles. This month, we come together as one.

Will you honor Hispanic Heritage Month by taking action with LCF? Join our #YoVoyaVotar Campaign and/or be part of a Movement of Latino Philanthropists. 

GOTV: Yo Voy A Votar ¿Y Tú? Campaign Only 17% of California’s 7 million eligible Latinos are likely to vote, a statistic that is imperative to change. LCF has launched this multi-media and grassroots campaign to reach 1 million Latinos and to register 10,000 new Latino voters.

Join our Movement of Latino Philanthropists: LCF is defining a culture of philanthropy that is uniquely Latino, using the values of the community to make a difference like never before. LCF invites you to join our movement! Share your values of generosity during this month of action.

As we honor our ancestors’ leadership during Hispanic Heritage Month, let’s follow in their footsteps.Take action with LCF – empower Latinos and yourself.

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Latino Community Foundation and NextGen California Launch Voter Registration Campaign to Mobilize Voters in California

Press Contact: Masha V. Chernyak
Vice President of Programs and Policy
mchernyak@latinocf.org
cell: 415.533.9697
cell: 646.465.3464

The Latino Community Foundation (LCF) has joined forces with NextGen California and Latin Life to launch a major effort to register Latinos for the 2016 election as part of the Yo Voy a Votar ¿Y Tú? campaign.  The goal is to reach up to 1 million eligible voters who have not yet registered.

“Civic participation is the cornerstone of any democracy,” says Jacqueline Martinez Garcel, CEO of the Latino Community Foundation, “Latinos have the opportunity—and some would say the responsibility—as the largest Latino voting bloc in California to lead the way.”

“If we want to strengthen our democracy and boost voter turnout, we must engage the Latino community,” said NextGen California President Tom Steyer. “In 2014, Latinos made up 39 percent of California’s population but represented only 15 percent of the electorate. I’m partnering with the Latino Community Foundation because we need to ensure that every community has a voice this election.”

Thanks to this partnership, over 100 bilingual canvassers will be trained and deployed to register voters at music concerts of internationally known Latino artists, like Marc Anthony, Marco Antonio Solis and Juan Gabriel.  Latin Life will accompany this work with a social media campaign targeting Latino millennials.

As part of the initiative, the Foundation will work closely with Latino-led community organizations with the experience and capacity to register Latinos. The organizations include Mi Familia Vota, Services, Immigrant, Rights and Education Network (SIREN), and Fathers and Families of San Joaquin (FFSJ). All three will work closely to make sure that newly registered Latinos get out the vote on or before November 8th. Steyer and NextGen California are also partnering with the NAACP, the African American Voter Registration, Education and Participation Project (AAVREP), and the Asian Pacific Environmental Network (APEN).

The Latino Community Foundations believes Latinos have the power to shape our nation’s future. At a national level, every 30 seconds a Latino citizen turns 18 and becomes eligible to vote. In California, there are 6.9 million eligible Latino voters—the largest eligible Latino voter population in the United States. Yet, today, only 17% are likely to vote.

To learn more about the campaign visit: http://latinocf.org/mobilize_latino_vote.html

About the Latino Community Foundation

The Latino Community Foundation (LCF) inspires philanthropy, invests in Latino nonprofit organizations and unites leaders to advocate for change. Uniquely positioned at the intersection of corporate, political and grassroots power, LCF works to amplify and accelerate change that positively impacts the Latino community. LCF connects donors to emerging leaders, community organizations with funding, and advocates with the key decision-makers. Our approach is rooted in the very essence of what it means to be Latino, with a fierce tenacity and a focus on community and relationships. For more information about LCF visit www.latinocf.org and our Facebook page.