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Ohio leaders attend Latino Inaugural Gala, strengthen coalitions

By Arooj Ashraf, LaPrensa Correspondent

Washington, D.C., Jan. 18, 2009: The Latino Inaugural Gala hosted 3200 guests from around the nation at Union Station. Elected officials, Hollywood stars mingled with Latinos from every walk of life at an exuberant party. Tickets sold out at $200 per person, and all proceeds raised were donated to the vision of a National Museum of the American Latino in Washington D.C.

Linda Mazón Gutiérrez

Linda Mazón Gutiérrez, C.E.O. of Hispanic Women’s Corporations said there has to be a place to preserve the vibrant Latino culture and the contributions the community has made in building and maintaining the United States of America. 

The event celebrated President Barack Hussein Obama’s election and the significant role Latino vote played in the 2008 election. “Our voice will not fall on deaf years with this administration,” said Angelita Bridges-Cruz, Director of Operations/General Counsel for the Lucas County Auditor, Toledo, Ohio. She was impressed with the represented diversity of the Latino community and said the community needs to present the same united front on issues of immigration, education, and health care.

Promise of change
“The Obama administration needs to follow through with the promises made during the elections,” she said. Bridges-Cruz said there is power in numbers and as the Latino community extends partnership with other minority communities statewide and nationally movements will flourish and solutions will be implemented.

“We have benefited from the civil rights movement and for us not to acknowledge that is naive,” she said.

Charles Johnson, Microsoft’s General Manager of Manufacturing and Resource Sector the Gala demonstrated how well African and Latino communities work together and hoped the friendships will mean stronger coalitions for tomorrow. “We celebrate tonight but let’s get to work tomorrow,” said the Toledo native.

Rick González, a Lorain, Ohio native now lives in Virginia and worked on behalf of the Obama campaign. He said there are tough challenges ahead, but Pres. Obama is the right man for the job and will work steadily to address them. “It takes time to turn a big ship around,” he said, adding: “it is not impossible.” 

Roll up your sleeves
Bridges-Cruz was stuck by Pres. Obama’s speech, saying it struck a balance between optimism and reality.

Sonia Troche, Executive Director of Adelante, Latino Resource Center, Toledo, agreed and added the inauguration speech emphasized the need for grassroots movement that granted him victory. “Unless we are willing to roll up our sleeves nothing is going to get done,” she said.

Troche said the energy and excitement was electrifying and hoped the promises and partnerships forged will translate into actions that will improve the state of Ohio.

“Elementary education needs to be a top priority in our community, especially at the elementary level,” she said. Troche said the state needs to improve on English as a Second Language services and can benefit from Latino chartered schools that provide bilingual education like César Chávez School in Wisconsin.  She said national issues are all afflicting Ohio. “We need to look at success stories from other communities and figure out how we can make our cities vibrant again,” she said.

Troche is originally from Cleveland.

Improve communication and access to community leaders
Troche said Latino leaders need to step out of their comfort zones, take advantage of the momentum, and rally citizens into action by effectively communicating their visions.

“Show people you really care, be hands on, go knocking on doors, talk to people at the ground level, and be accessible,” she said adding that is how the Obama campaign earned its success. “We can’t expect change unless we make it happen at a local level,” she said.

Puerto Rico Gov. Luis Fortuño
with Richard Romero

Tony Ortiz
, Wright State University's Director of Athletic Training and Sports Medicine has been on the front lines of election 2008 Ohio campaign stops. He met Pres. Obama, Senator McCain and even witnessed the nomination of Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin in Dayton.

Pres. Obama’s education plan won Ortiz’s vote. “I liked that he wants to make parents more accountable for their child’s education,” he said. Ortiz hopes to replicate a Californian pilot nine-week program that teaches parents the best practices in talking to school administration, staying involved with the progress of their pupils.

League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC), main sponsor of the gala, is setting up offices in Lorain and Ortiz said it will provide greater access to scholarships, intensive career training programs.

He said many national organizations are working toward improving education and opening doors but there is a lack of coordination and communication prevents Latinos from taking advantage of the programs.

He said social networks like Facebook and MySpace remain untapped by organizations, whose target demographics spend a significant time surfing the internet. “If I want to grab my student’s attention or have them organize, I post on Facebook,” he said.

Ortiz also emphasized the need for more centers that provide access to computers and basic literacy training. He is hopeful Pres. Obama education initiatives will give Ohio the necessary boost.

United we stand
“The face of the nation has changed,” said Bridges-Cruz, who feels a bi-racial president will unify the ethnic communities and truly personify U.S.-America’s melting pot. She feels her bi-racial children can now find a strong identity in both the African and Latino communities.

Editor’s Note: See the inaugural comments of Richard Romero, President of the Board of The Ohio Latino Affair’s Commission at:  https://laprensatoledo.com/Stories/2009/012309/Romero.htm

Shown above are: Cindy Geronimo, Anita López, Richard Romero, Angelita Cruz Bridges, and Jonathan Bridges in D.C.





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