Latino Alliance reconfigures, reconvenes
By Kevin Milliken for La Prensa
April 28, 2012: The Latino Alliance is reinventing itself, as it continues to advocate for issues held near and dear to Toledo’s Latino community. The group held what could be dubbed a “reorganizational” meeting Friday at the Sofia Quintero Art and Cultural Center.
Approximately ten members of the alliance attended a meeting last Friday at noon, representing a number of different organizations including Adelante, Inc., the Farm Labor Organizing Committee (FLOC), and the Northwest Ohio Hispanic Chamber of Commerce; members also include Keila Cosme, Gary Johnson, EricaPortillo, Louis Escobar, and Alliance Convener Margarita DeLeón.
The main purpose of the meeting was to prepare for Ohio Hispanic Legislative Day, which will be held May 9 at the Ohio Statehouse in Columbus. The day-long event will feature a keynote speech by the U.S. Department of Labor Secretary Hilda Solis. That event is being co-sponsored by Hispanic chambers of commerce across the state and the Ohio Commission on Hispanic/Latino Affairs.
The annual legislative day is designed to bring Latino leaders together with Ohio legislators to discuss important public policy issues and foster a dialogue about the needs and opportunities of Latino Ohioans. More than 150 Latino leaders across the state participated last year.
“Some of these folks are going to that (event),” said Margarita DeLeón, who called the alliance together. “They’ve asked communities to come with three top issues, so I wanted to make sure anybody going from the Toledo area would take our top three issues.”
Those top three issues, predictably, turned out to be immigration, education, and jobs.
“I think the alliance can be stronger. We need new members, younger members and we need to become more active,” said Ms. DeLeón. “I think what we need to do is to leverage relationships we have with Latinos in other communities and work together that way.”
Alliance members also discussed future membership in the group, as well as try to elect a board of directors to run the organization. To date, it has not achieved not-for-profit status yet. The alliance will decide whether to pursue fundraising and host a community forum.
“In particular, to talk about immigration and how it’s impacting our area,” said Ms. DeLeón.
The U.S. Supreme Court is expected to issue a landmark decision on immigration this summer, which could have a long-lasting impact on immigration policy and whether it is considered a federal mandate or a states-rights issue. Both presidential and congressional candidates have shied away from the hot-button issue during their political campaigns so far.
Alliance members have seen similar coalitions of Latino groups form in other Ohio cities.
“We have conversations across—especially with the Lorain/Cleveland area, because of personal, because of business, because of government,” she said. “There are all kinds of alliances already going on at different levels. I think we’re stronger if we advocate in partnership with other communities, absolutely.”
The alliance was active in the opening months of Toledo Mayor Mike Bell’s term, advocating for, among other things, more Latino faces in leadership positions within the city administration.
With the recent appointments of Lourdes Santiago as the director of the Department of Neighborhoods and Rosalinda Contreraz as the head of the city youth commission, that request has been visibly satisfied.
“We did get a number of things from that conversation and we did revisit it several times with him,” said Ms. DeLeón.
What may not be so apparent is the number of Latinos who now serve on city boards and commissions, which tend to do their work under the radar of public scrutiny. But Ms. DeLeón stated she was satisfied about the fulfillment of that request, too.
But Ms. DeLeón sees much work ahead, locally and statewide, for the members of the alliance, especially if members are able to continue networking with other Latino leaders.
“I think individually, within their own organizations, they do a lot of advocacy,” she said. “But I think we need to do a better job collectively.”