Latino LGBT Groups Rally for Marriage Equality: A Personal Account

Posted on 05/09/2015 @ 12:45 AM

Tags: education, intern

By: Victor G. Martinez, LULAC Lambda Council #11125, President

On April 28, LULAC National Staff and LULAC Lambda Members (Council #11125) joined hundreds of people rallying on the steps of the U.S. Supreme Court during oral arguments for Obergefell v. Hodges, a case that could potentially pave the way for nationwide marriage equality.

Along with a variety of religious, civic, and LGBT rights organizations, LULAC forms part of the Unite for Marriage Coalition. The Coalition includes LGBT flagship organizations like Human Rights Campaign and The National LGBTQ Task Force, alongside a strong Latino contingency, including the Latino GLBT History Project, National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health, and Familia: Trans Queer Liberation Movement. I was proud to see such a strong Latino presence at the rally, but even more proud to see LULAC with the largest number of Latino supporters.

LULAC has been on the forefront of advocating for LGBT rights at both the local and national level. Since 2008, LULAC National has issued member-approved resolutions supporting the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, endorsing a fully-inclusive Employee Non-Discrimination Act, and supporting hate crimes legislation. LULAC’s strong showing at the rally demonstrates yet another example of its unwavering support for inclusive, equitable policies for all Latinos. This support has given rise to five LGBT LULAC councils found throughout the United States.

Supporting marriage equality is a natural next step for LULAC because Latino families do not fit a specific mold or fall into one category. Our families are diverse and include daughters, sons, cousins, uncles, and aunts who identify as LGBT. These family members should not face discrimination when they want to marry the person they love, and it is great to see LULAC embrace their LGBT members and commit to ensuring they receive the same civil rights protections as everyone else.

Through this lens, we will move ever closer to accomplishing LULAC’s mission of advancing the economic condition, educational attainment, political influence, housing, health and civil rights of all Latinos, regardless of the labels others may utilize to divide us.

Victor G. Martinez is the President of LULAC Lambda Council #11125. He is a bilingual Teacher Fellow at Mundo Verde Bilingual Public Charter School in Washington, DC. Previously, Martinez worked in education and behavioral health research at American Institutes for Research. He received his Bachelor of Arts in Sociology and Communication from the University of California- Davis, and a Master of Education in School Counseling from the University of Southern California.

Increasing Latino Access to Higher Education

Posted on 05/08/2015 @ 12:45 AM

Tags: education, intern

By: Mary Janet Ramos, LULAC Federal Affairs Intern

As a first generation Latina in the United States, I have been fortunate enough to have the opportunity to pursue a college degree in one of the most diverse universities in the country. I cannot express how proud I am of this accomplishment; knowing that I will be the first one in my family to obtain a college degree from a four-year institution. Having this opportunity is indeed a privilege many Latinos in the country do not have, due to socioeconomic issues such as high poverty rates and lacking the necessary resources to provide for a substantial and innovative education.

Latinos today represent approximately 17% of the U.S. population, which translates to 54 million Latinos, yet only make up 9% of bachelor’s degrees recipients. This low rate of higher educational attainment should be a call for immediate intervention from other Latinos like me to take action and help increase the number of Latinos obtaining college degrees. I believe that having the opportunity to pursue higher education comes with a social responsibility. Education is fundamental to ensuring that everyone has an equal opportunity to succeed, but most importantly an education helps people become more socially conscientious, a transformation to which I can personally attest.

My passion for education is driven by my personal background. At the age of seven my parents decided to move their family back to their native state of Oaxaca, Mexico which became my home for six years. While living in my parents' community, I noticed the lack of educational opportunities for young adults to pursue a college education not only because the nearest university was four hours away, but financially speaking, it was almost impossible to afford.

I also noticed how men were more likely to pursue a college degree, while women were more likely to stay in my hometown to learn how to become housewives and eventually get married. However, due to limited financial resources, many would migrate to other cities or embark upon a journey to the United States in search of better opportunities.

I knew at a young age that I wanted my future to be different, and I made it my goal to pursue a higher education in order to eventually give back to my community. At the age of thirteen I migrated back to the United States with my family, and driven by my desire, I decided to push myself academically to fulfill my dream of obtaining a college degree. I went from taking English Language Development (ELD) classes, to taking college level classes in high school, to currently being a month away from graduating from the University of California, Riverside.

I cannot say I have achieved all this on my own. I have been blessed with mentors for most of my educational endeavors. Teachers, peers, and friends have guided me in achieving my educational goals because they have truly believed in my ability to succeed. Most importantly, it has been my parents' encouragement that has driven me to accomplish my dreams. Without the support network that I have had, I do not know if my educational attainment would be different. From my own experience I know that mentors and educational guidance can truly make a difference.

Today I have the opportunity to intern for the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC), which has given me the opportunity to observe a team of dedicated individuals who incessantly work toward advancing the educational achievement rates among the Latino community. One of the many ways LULAC accomplishes this is through the implementation of various initiatives such as the Ford Driving Dreams Through Education Program, a partnership with Ford Motor Company. The objective of Ford Driving Dreams is to help reduce the dropout rate of Latino high school students by supporting local councils to execute local initiatives that address the educational needs of their communities. Local councils are given flexibility to design and develop their own educational programs through a variety of grant opportunities.

Another LULAC initiative ¡Adelante! America Program, encourages underrepresented youth to become actively engaged in community service projects, simultaneously affording them with opportunities to develop leadership skills. LULAC’s commitment to the educational attainment of the Latino community makes me proud to intern for an organization that focuses on helping Latinos succeed in their educational endeavors.

After I complete my internship with LULAC, I plan to return to my community and work as a community organizer because I firmly believe that if we organize as a community, we can influence and shape policies that positively affect Latino communities. Working at a grassroots level gives everyone the chance to become engaged and fight together for a common cause.

Grassroots efforts, however, are not enough. Support must come at the policy level from Latino leaders who understand the struggles plaguing our community. In the future I would like to create a community center that focuses on providing educational resources to the Latino community that would span a variety of topics like education, immigration, and access to health care.

I understand that I alone cannot change the world, but I can take steps to create a positive impact in my community by empowering and encouraging other individuals to become active participants in their communities. As Cesar Chavez once said, "We cannot seek achievement for ourselves and forget about progress and prosperity for our community...Our ambitions must be broad enough to include the aspirations and needs of others, for their sakes and for our own.”

Mary Janet Ramos is the Federal Affairs Intern for the League of United Latin American Citizens. She is currently an undergraduate student at the University of California, Riverside, where she is pursuing a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science with a concentration in International Affairs. She is also a current participant in the University of California D.C. Internship program. She aspires to open a community center in Southern California to address the needs of the Latino immigrant community.

Not Just a Baltimore Problem: Latinos, Racial Profiling, and Police Violence

Posted on 05/06/2015 @ 12:45 AM

Tags: policy, intern

Photo Credit: Jim Bourg/Reuters

By: Tyler Crowe, LULAC National, Policy and Legislation Fellow

“That said, my greater source of personal concern, outrage and sympathy beyond this particular case is focused neither upon one night's property damage nor upon the act’s group but is focused rather upon the past four-decade period during which an American political elite has shipped middle class and working class jobs away from Baltimore and cities and towns around the US to third world dictatorships like China, and others plunged tens of millions of good hard working Americans into economic devastation and then followed that action around the nation by diminishing every American's civil rights protections in order to control an unfairly impoverished population living under a an ever-declining standard of living and suffering at the butt end of an ever-more militarized and aggressive surveillance state.” – Peter Angelos, Owner, Baltimore Orioles

In the midst of Baltimore’s worst riots since 1968, Peter Angelos cut right through the smoke and gunshots: our city’s past has created problems in the present. Central to the riots lies the case of Freddie Gray: a 25 year old African-American man who was brutally taken into police custody, slipped into a coma with a severed spinal cord, and ultimately died. The coroner’s cause of death: homicide by severe trauma. With these events, yet another chapter is added to the national conversation about excessive police force directed towards communities of color.

Although now catching the attention of the mass media, we must remember that police violence is not isolated to Ferguson, New York, or Baltimore and not solely directed toward the black population. In March of this year, LULAC urged the Justice Department to investigate the deaths of Antonio Zambrano-Montes in Pasco, WA and Jessica Hernandez in Denver, CO. They, like so many black men across the country, were victims of racial profiling and excessive police force. Even though cases of police violence receive strong public condemnation, these cases continue happening. Just last month another unarmed Latino teen was killed by a police officer in Long Beach, California.

As a civil rights organization, LULAC strives to help Latino communities across the country. In light of the cases in Denver, Pasco, and Long Beach, we have realized that our community is not exempt from violent confrontations with the police. Police violence affects Latinos too – and as an organization of action we stand with the Baltimore protesters’ calls for justice in the death of Freddie Gray.

Simultaneously, we must recognize the value of carefully studying the past in order to improve Latino lives in the present and future. Growing up, visiting family, working, and even driving around Baltimore has helped me to understand our city’s difficult past. It’s a story that stretches all the way back to the Civil War, when many Maryland residents were Confederate sympathizers and slaveholders. In the wake of the War, many Baltimore residents were motivated by the same race-based agenda as their neighbors down South. In 1911,the Baltimore City Council passed the first ever housing segregation law, leading to the passage of similar laws in cities like Atlanta, Louisville, and Richmond. Although eventually struck down by the Supreme Court, they were replaced by an informal series of codes designed to contain poor minorities within certain neighborhoods.

Why does this matter? Today Baltimore is often referred to as a “City of Neighborhoods” despite the fact that it’s one of America’s most segregated cities. As middle class families and capital began to move to the suburbs in the 1950s and 60s, Baltimore’s decline accelerated racial and economic segregation. Good schools, jobs, infrastructure, businesses, and communities are bolstered by stable households – something Baltimore just doesn’t have much of anymore. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, Charm City has a 23.8% poverty rate – more than twice the national 9.8% average. Today, the few white areas in Baltimore stay white thanks to insulated neighborhoods and private schools. Meanwhile, poor minority areas – like Freddie Gray’s Sandtown-Winchester – suffer from violence, troubled schools, and urban decay.

In a city of such stark divisions, it was only a matter of time before riots broke out. That, of course, is not an admission of defeat in the struggle for justice. Sure, Baltimore is my city – it’s Freddie Gray’s city too – but if you look hard enough, you might see something: your streets, your neighbors, and your problems. We must stop looking at the current events in Baltimore as a "black issue," but rather an issue affecting all communities of color throughout the country. If anything, we should let these events be a catalyst for reflection and action.

Tyler Crowe is a Policy and Legislation Fellow at the League of United Latin American Citizens in Washington, D.C. He specializes in issues related to the economy, resources, and good governance. He received a BA in Chinese Language and Culture and a Certificate in International Agriculture and Natural Resources from the University of Maryland-College Park.

LULAC's Commitment to Giving Students a "Head Start"

Posted on 04/30/2015 @ 12:45 AM

Tags: education, intern

By: Francisco Castaneda, LULAC National, Policy and Legislation Intern

Since its conception in 1929, LULAC has advocated on behalf of Latinos who have been marginalized on the basis of ethnic discrimination, as evidenced by LULAC’s mission to advance the economic condition, educational attainment, political influence, health and civil rights of Latinos.

I can attest personally to the benefits LULAC has offered many Latinos as I myself participated in the Head Start program birthed from the Little School of 400 under the LULAC Education Fund in 1957 in Ganado, Texas.

The Little School of 400 was an attempt to provide Latino children with a basic understanding of 400 English words that would prepare them to succeed in public schools. The program was very successful in helping increase the academic performance and educational attainment of Latino children who frequently fell behind due to a lack of basic English skills, in addition to discriminatory school policies in place at the time. The success of the program was so apparent to then-Congressman Lyndon B. Johnson, that during his Presidency in 1965, he decided to implement the program nationally as part of his War on Poverty.

Even today, fifty years after its conception, the program remains a critical service for low-income Latino families whose children attend underperforming schools in their respective underserved communities. This program also functions as a subsidized day care center with a primer in education, allowing parents to work without worrying about the safety of their children.

The Head Start program helped me and my family improve our lives in San Diego, California by providing educational services to me and my siblings and employment to my mother, who began working there in 1997. I started at Head Start in 1996 when I was 3 years old, and the program provided me with the necessary tools to succeed in school from kindergarten to my time in college.

Head Start taught me the fundamentals of early education, such as how to differentiate colors and shapes by their names as well as how to count to one hundred. Although I already spoke English, the program taught some of my non-English speaking peers basic English language skills such as vocabulary and grammar. This knowledge reinforced the lessons and material taught to me in kindergarten and better prepared me for my future educational endeavors.

Thanks to the “head start” that was given to me, I was able to excel in school and eventually attend the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), one of the top public universities in the world. As a direct result of LULAC’s continual commitment to improving the educational attainment rates of Latino children, I became the first in my family to attend college and will be graduating from UCLA in June 2015.

LULAC continues to fight for more educational opportunities for Latino students with its programs under LULAC National Educational Service Centers (LNESC). LNESC has sites across the nation that provide computers and internet access to students in underserved communities. Additionally, LNESC also provides support for students pursuing STEM careers and provides scholarships for high-achieving Latino students pursuing higher education.

LULAC’s legacy has touched many Latinos, including my family. With the aid of its members, LULAC will continue to fight for the civil rights of Latinos and their commitment will continue to advance the plight of Latinos in the U.S. I will always be grateful for the legacy of LULAC because it has positively affected my personal and professional endeavors, from my early years in Head Start to my current advocacy efforts as an intern at the National Office in DC.

Francisco Castaneda is a Policy and Legislation Intern for the League of United Latin American Citizens. He is currently an undergraduate at the University of California, Los Angeles, where he is pursuing a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science, with a concentration in International Relations, and minoring in Public Policy. He is also currently attending the Center for American Politics and Public Policy Quarter in Washington Program where he is conducting his own original research on Black and Latino coalition politics in municipal settings.

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