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Hispanic Roundtable reception reveals results from Convención Hispana 2013

By Kevin Milliken, La Prensa Correspondent

The Cleveland-based Hispanic Roundtable celebrated its recent successes from Convención Hispana 2013—held Oct. 19—and announced some new initiatives during a reception that drew 60 attendees on Thursday, Jan. 23, 2014 at the Battery Park Wine Bar, 7524 Father Frascati Ave., Cleveland.  

San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro and NPR’s Dave Barnett

“That’s evidence of the commitment our volunteers have. This was a night where wind chill was below zero and it snowed,” said José Feliciano, a Cleveland attorney and Hispanic Roundtable president. “I was encouraged and very pleased by the turnout.”

Mr. Feliciano explained that Convención Hispana is geared to move the Latino community forward in the areas of “empowerment, education, and economic development,” and as illustrated in press materials furnished by Co-Chair Magda Gómez of Tri-C.


He stated the group’s mission going forward is to “defend and advocate for the bilingual ballot” in Cuyahoga County. A consent decree ends in March, so the plans of the Hispanic Roundtable are to lobby the county’s board of elections to continue to use such a ballot during the May primary and 2014 November general election. The group also will continue a massive voter education and registration drive.

“We have forcefully advocated with the board of elections, the Justice Dept. [DOJ], and the U.S. Attorney’s Office that it is absolutely critical that we keep that,” said Feliciano. “We led that effort before, leading it now and hopeful everyone will do the right thing on that.”

On the election front, the Hispanic Roundtable fought off an effort to break up a predominantly Latino city council ward during a redistricting process last year. Feliciano stated the group threatened to go to the DOJ, alleging a violation of the federal Voting Rights Act with the way maps were redrawn. Ward 43 remains a largely Latino-based city council district, “although not a majority,” he said.

The goals for improving the educational attainment rates of young Latinos are lofty—but the Hispanic Roundtable president called them crucial nonetheless.

“We really need to work hard to get our graduation rate up to 75 percent and double the number of kids in the Cleveland Public Schools [CMSD] who are going on to college,” said Feliciano of education initiatives.

Magda Gómez



On the economic development front, the Hispanic Roundtable president said the group will “advocate that every public company use the Rooney Rule.” Taken from the National Football League policy for interviewing minority head coaching candidates, the organization is pushing for company leaders to interview at least Latino for any chief executive or board opening that may become available. Every public university is being pressured to have at least one Latino on its board of trustees.

The Hispanic Roundtable also will continue to push the agenda for comprehensive immigration reform and pressure Northeast Ohio officials to address health disparities within the Latino community.


One of the bright spots to emerge from last fall’s Convención Hispana were the number of free screenings offered at the event’s Community Resources and Health Fair, which included 100 organizations. Latinos received 24 mammograms, 5 sickle cell screenings, 40 HIV screenings, and 150 flu shots. There were 8 blood donors (Red Cross).

“I thought it was very positive that people were doing that and now we have to follow up with it,” said attorney Feliciano. “I was surprised at how many people we did test.”

In fact, the Hispanic Health Committee of Convención Hispana has been selected to receive the 2014 Minority Health Community Action Leadership Award from the Ohio Commission on Minority Health for such efforts.

Job Fair

25 employers and 150 attendees participated in the Yo Hablo Español Job Fair, including CINTAS, Home Depot, and Cleveland Metroparks. Of these attendees, 50 percent were called back for a 2nd interview. 

Immigration Reform

Convención hosted an immigration debate moderated by Michael K. McIntyre from the Plain Dealer. The debate was between Rep. Bill Patmon (D-10) and Rep. Matt Lynch (R-Bainbridge).

While the Hispanic Roundtable president is pleased to see the community rally around the cause of Ricardo Ramos in an effort to keep the Lake County father of three from being deported to México, the attorney called comprehensive immigration reform “more complicated than that” on a number of levels. But he did call the Ramos situation “a human tragedy.”

“First, there’s how many people you let in at the top, the middle, and the bottom,” said Feliciano. “Secondly, you have to deal with the 11 or 12 million people who are here. So the reform has to be comprehensive. It is an enormous policy question. It is an enormous economic development question. It is an enormous political question.”

The Cleveland attorney stated he is “cautiously optimistic” that “there will be progress” in US Congress on immigration reform yet this year, which happens to be a midterm election for most incumbents in the House of Representatives. The growing number of Latino voters certainly got the attention of both major political parties during the 2012 election cycle. Feliciano underscored that his group and others “will need to keep it a top agenda item for the Hispanic community in America.”


The situation seems to be improving for some Latinos in Metro Cleveland—including a recently-announced agreement to increase the number Latino students attending STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) programs in the Cleveland Metropolitan School District (CMSD). The agreement between the school district and the Office of Civil Rights within the federal Dept. of Education requires district officials to track the number of Latino students in those programs and make specific efforts to encourage Latino students to use the district’s specialized STEM programs.

“We are in complete accord with that,” said Feliciano. “This new superintendent—I have a very high opinion of him. The system as a whole, I think the message was right. I was delighted that the (Office of Civil Rights) came out with that.”

The Northeast-Ohio Latino education advocacy group Esperanza, Inc. helped challenge the status quo on STEM education in Cleveland. However, the Hispanic Roundtable used Convención Hispana to improve the college readiness of Latino students. More than 100 high school students attended college workshops put on by staff from Cuyahoga Community College (Tri-C) and Kent State University.

An essay contest also was held for high school seniors and undergraduate college students, inviting them to submit a 300-word composition on the topic: “I am Latino. I am American.” The top three finalists won prizes of up to $1,000, read their inspiring stories at the Convención, and were photographed with the gathering’s keynote speaker, San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro.

Overall, Convención Hispana is a one-day community organizing event that also sets the stage for a three-year process of moving various initiatives forward. At each Convención, four committees put together goals and objectives in their respective areas that will be accomplished prior to the next Convención Hispana.

The 2013 Convención was attended by about 2,500 people, big enough that organizers may look to make it more than a one-day event in 2016 and invite participants from across northern Ohio.

“It is a process. The Convención is not an end in itself; if anything, it is a platform for us to work on these issues—the agenda-setting. We work on these goals and three years from now, we report back and see how we’re doing,” explained Feliciano. “The volunteers are the ones who do it.”


Copyright © 1989 to 2014 by [LaPrensa Publications Inc.]. All rights reserved.
Revised: 01/28/14 23:06:58 -0800.




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