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Alliance officers elected
By Kevin Milliken for La Prensa

Toledo, Feb. 14, 2013: More than 30 local Latino leaders gathered for a Thursday luncheon meeting of the Latino Alliance to elect a president who will assist carrying the cause forward and try to unite various groups and community factions to speak with one voice on issues affecting all Latino families—including education, immigration, and jobs.

Margarita DeLeón, a convener of the Latino Alliance, symbolically passed the baton to the new president after some opening and closing remarks at the meeting. The alliance has placed a new urgency on more unified political representation in the Toledo Metropolitan area over the past couple of years after some years of inactivity.

“This is a historic day for our community,” said Ms. DeLeón. “This has been a long time coming.”

Rico Neller, La Prensa Editor, also addressed the audience expressing his confidence that the alliance would be democratic and representative of the various Latino communities as pledged by the candidates for office. 

Two candidates stepped forward for the top post of president: 35-year old U.S.-born attorney Ursula Barrera-Richards and Argentine immigrant social worker Claudia Annoni, who came to the United States just over two decades ago. Both women told the crowd they possessed the proper professional experience, contacts, and perspective to organize and unite the Latino community going forward.

Anita Lopez, Mary Morales, Carlos Ruiz, Ursula Barrera-Richards and Guiselle Mendoza

Claudia Annoni and Ursula Barrera-Richards

“I mulled it over when it was first announced, then I decided with the relationships I have from being a Congressional aide and a legislative aide and having been born and raised in Toledo that I could be the right person to make this organization a catalyst for connecting the Latino community to business and the educational community and vice versa,” said Ms. Barrera-Richards.

“I’m an educator and an advocate—one of my missions in my professional life to the Latino community,” said Ms. Annoni. “Also in my personal life, I am a Latina.”

“This is something we really need. Our community needs advocates,” said Ms. DeLeon. “We need to come together. Our organizations need to leverage each other so we have a voice. There’s a lot of things going on in our community on a national level, on a state level, on a local level. We need to really work together.”

Both Latina candidates represent the next generation of community leaders. Older Latinos have tried to pass the mantle for several years with limited success. But Ms. Barrera-Richards cited the fact that there are more Latino elected officials than in recent years, including Toledo City Council member Adam Martínez and her boss Lucas County Auditor Anita López, believed to be close to launching a political campaign for Toledo mayor.

“I would agree it’s time for my generation to step up. We have some amazing leaders that have really created a solid foundation,” said Ms. Barrera-Richards.

“This generation has been reared by those who are in leadership now. I made it a choice to come back here and raise my family here. Now I think it’s time for me to give back to those who reared me and mentored me. I do think it’s time. We have a lot of people who are change agents in Toledo.”

“We bring new ideas,” agreed Ms. Annoni. “But I’m also an immigrant. So when we are talking that we want to represent, when we want to know what is going on in the Latino community—trust me, being an immigrant, I know exactly what the immigrants need.”

Ms. Barrera-Richards out polled Ms. Annoni for Latino Alliance president in a close vote.

The new president faces a tough task getting all segments of the Latino population—Mexican, Puerto Rican, and others—moving forward in the same direction and from all parts of the Toledo Metro area..

Toledo lacked a cohesive, organized group during OCHLA’s Latino Legislative Day in Columbus earlier this month [Feb. 5, 2013] but Ms. Annoni was there along with Gary Johnston from Toledo. Cleveland, Columbus, and Cincinnati have organized Latino-oriented coalitions and were represented during meet and greet sessions at the State Capitol rotunda.

“There was not that many people from Toledo,” said Ms. Annoni, who attended the event. “It is time. We have a large Latino community here. We need to have a voice. But I also think we need to be a little bit more inclusive and bring in more of the Latinos we say we represent every day. This is political and I understand that—but let’s give it a little more of a social touch.”

“You know what, next time we’re organizing car pools, because being connected to legislators and the executive branch and the agencies is vital.” declared Ms. Barrera-Richards. “We need to have a centralized voice that capitalizes on the strengths we have in the community. We have strong business leaders, we have strong immigration advocates. We have strong education advocates. We need to get those people before the decision-makers. It is absolutely vital. I think we do it the old-fashioned way—we talk, we car-pool, and we have our say.”

Ms. Barrera-Richards grew up in South Toledo near the site of the former Southwyck Mall, but now resides in West Toledo in the Westgate area. She is married with an infant daughter and a stepson. She works for the Lucas County Auditor’s office as a human resources professional, responsible for labor relations and union contract negotiations.

Ms. Barrera-Richards previously served as an aide to Congresswoman Marcy Kaptur and then State Senator Teresa Fedor [now an Ohio Representative for the 47th District]. Before returning to Toledo from Columbus, she was the public policy director at the Ohio Commission on Hispanic-Latino Affairs (OCHLA).

While Ms. Annoni was born and raised in Buenos Aires and earned a 5-year social work degree there, most of her career has been spent working with the Latino community in Toledo. She spoke little English when she arrived in the U.S. in 1990 but is now very fluent in both languages.

Ms. Annoni opened El Centro de la Mujer (The Center for Women) about 18 months ago in North Toledo to help Spanish-speaking women to assimilate into the community successfully. She also is associate editor of La Prensa and editor of the quarterly magazine La Revista. Ms. Annoni is coordinating mental health services for minorities on behalf of NAMI-Toledo.

Carlos Ruiz, a casework aide at Lucas County Job and Family Services, was elected as vice president of the Alliance. Members selected Guiselle Mendoza, program director at Adelante, Inc., as secretary, and retired Waite High School math teacher Mary Morales as treasurer.    

Editor’s Note: As of January 31, 2013, individual members of the revived alliance are:  Nicholas Abalos, Claudia Annoni, Ursula Barrera-Richards, Adrianne Chasteen, María Contreras, Rosalinda González-Harris, Raúl Hinojosa Jr., Nanette Kniffen-Nieto,  Frank Carlos Ruiz, Sarabia, Lucy Perales, José Luna, Ramón Pérez, Rev. Carolyn Eyre, Erica Portillo, Lina Barrera, Keila Cosme, Margarita De León, Louis Escobar, Mark Heller, Rico Neller, Martha Delgado, Lourdes Santiago, María Ruiz Meyer, Roberto Torres, Cynthia Gerónimo, Betty Anzaldúa, Francisco Espinoza, Carolina Phillips, Michele Martínez, and Anita López. 


Copyright © 1989 to 2013 by [LaPrensa Publications Inc.]. All rights reserved.
Revised: 02/19/13 18:37:23 -0800.




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