The topics that make the heart of Latinos pulse every day, and the progress of issues that matter to you, your family and your community.

Lessons learned from the Civil War and Juneteenth as a Latina immigrant

As we celebrated Juneteenth yesterday, I reflected on my recent visit to Richmond, VA for personal reasons. I thought it was a great opportunity to know more about the history of the Confederates’s Capital, and readily planned to visit the American Civil War Museum.

My visit was short as I was just staying for one night, but it was enlightening to know more about the horrors of the war, and the involvement of soldiers as well as civilians -even children- in the fight. Everybody took a stand, and they were determined to win.

Like in every war, there was a winner, and the war ended with President Abraham Lincoln issuing the Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 1863, freeing the enslaved people in all the rebellious parts of Southern secessionist states of the Confederacy.

However, Texas’ slave masters did not comply with the proclamation until it was enforced by the announcement of General Order No. 3 by Union Army general Gordon Granger on June 19, 1865, proclaiming freedom for enslaved people in Texas (theories are debated about what happened and why this happened but that is a topic for another story).

Juneteenth American Civil War

Pictures taken on site https://acwm.org

And thus, the origin of this new Federal Holiday in June 2021, when President Joe Biden signed the Juneteenth National Independence Day Act into law. Still, not all 50 states have adopted the Holiday as a state holiday to this day.

As a Latina immigrant, and knowing a fair amount of the history of this country -as a child, I attended an American school founded by the Methodist Church in Argentina- I found that learning from history books and living the history of a country are very different experiences.

Learn more about the American Civil War! 

After 30 years of residing in the United States as a Latina immigrant, I see that racism and discrimination continues to be present in institutions as well as in everyday life. Not because laws are in place or even enforced, it means that people will comply or change their way of thinking and acting.

Juneteenth President Lincoln

Pictures taken on site https://acwm.org

Even with the best intention, the expression “I know how you feel” is not useful in this case. Nothing compares to the actual experience of having your life “owned” by another person, your belongings, your family, and your future. We can support and educate ourselves about our bias and our shortcomings, but we will never be in “those shoes.”

Having said that, “modern slavery” can adopt a thousand faces: the pay equity gap between White males and every other minority in the workplace; the lack of access to capital for minority entrepreneurs, especially female founders, which as many leaders have affirmed, it is the last frontier of the civil rights movement; and lastly, the lack of access to key decision-making positions in political representation, corporate, and in business.

I recently attended an event at the NJ African American Chamber of Commerce and their President, John Harmon, said it clearly, that many business leaders and business organizations did not respond to their requests of building relationships with the chamber 15 years ago when he got started. “They treated us as being insignificant and irrelevant,” John said.

However, just as those who today join in to celebrate Juneteenth -despite that hardly represents the real date when freedom of slavery was proclaimed- we take what we can get, and we continue to claim what we believe we deserve.

How to tell your children about Juneteenth!

“Slavery is a scar on the history of America, but I think the acknowledgement puts us on a path to a better understanding of our history and working toward a more harmonious coexistence,” John said.

Juneteenth

Pictures taken on site https://acwm.org

Each holiday, each activity and each recognition are opportunities to celebrate, educate and take action.

As a Latina immigrant founder of Latinas in Business, I too have lived rejection or refusal to support our mission – even from organizations and leaders in my own Latinx community.

And one hundred times I have thought of giving up this effort, which I see is much needed, -numbers don’t lie, minority female founders received 0.2% of investment capital last year.

But one hundred and one times, I pick myself up and continue promoting, celebrating, recognizing, reaching out, and inviting YOU and everybody else to support our mission, to advocate for the economic empowerment of Latinas and other minority female founders.

Join us on June 24 for the 2022 Women Entrepreneurs Empowerment Lunch in NYC and help us continue our quest.

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Afro-Latina musician

Celebrating Black Music Month: 5 Afro-Latina musicians to add to your summer 2022 playlist!

June is Black Music Month and we’re celebrating by shining a spotlight on some Afro-Latina musicians to add to your summer 2022 playlist. 

Created by President Jimmy Carter in 1979, Black Music Month celebrates and appreciates the African American musical influences and contributions that comprise an essential part of our nation’s cultural heritage. The month honors the history and rich African traditions that gave birth to different styles of music such as rap, hip-hop, jazz, rhythm and blues, and more!

In the years since its creation, Black Music Month continues to honor Black musicians, singers, and contributors to the music industry, both past and present. 

Below are a few Afro-Latina musicians to check out this month and beyond! 

5 Afro-Latina musicians to add to your next playlist

 

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Combo Chimbita

Combo Chimbita is the creative unity of Carolina Oliveros (vocals, guacharaca), Niño Lento es Fuego (guitar), Prince of Queens (bass, synthesizers) and Dilemastronauta (drums), who together transcend common concepts of time and nationality. 

Their latest album, IRÉ, channels the fear, rage and empathy of a world in flames into an urgent spirit of musical dissidence. Afro-Caribbean transcendance, bewildering chants, booming drums and psychedelic distortion lay the rhythmic foundation for IRÉ. The musical group found interesting connections [between] music from Colombia and music from Africa and parts of the Caribbean. 

“We just tell stories that we feel,” says vocalist Carolina Oliveros. “We don’t think, ‘Will people understand the words or not?’ That’s not the intention.” 

Amara La Negra 

Amara La Negra is an American singer, actress, dancer, author, and television host. Amara rose to fame after being featured on the first season of VH1’s Love & Hip Hop: Miami. Raised by Dominican parents, Amara is proud of her Afro-Latina heritage. She shares her  “no to racism” in her work and also expressed how proud she is of her race whenever she has the opportunity. 

“There is still a lot of ignorance surrounding the Afro-Latino community, and it has given me all the reason to want to keep fighting for it,” she said in a Rolling Stones article. 

Her unique style is known for “retrofitting male-centric urban Latin music” with her own feminine energy.

 

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Betsayda Machado

Betsayda Machado is the voice of Venezuela. Raised in the small village of El Clavo in the region of Barlovento, her recent rural recordings with lifelong friend Parranda El Clavo brought new attention to Venezuelan Afro-Soul genre: ‘Tambor’. 

The Afro-soul genre known as ‘tambor’ combines her vocals with danceable polyrhythms in a spirit-shaking percussion and voice fiesta, said to make dancers float.

Shop merch to celebrate your favorite Black musicians!

 

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Calma Carmona 

From her hometown of San Juan, Puerto Rico Calma Carmona got her start in 2013 when the Latina soul singer-songwriter released her first EP and opened for Beyoncé’s The Mrs. Carter Show World Tour in Puerto Rico. 

Her voice is described by NPR as “a whisper” over impassioned Afrobeats that rises to “a gritty, intimidating growl.” 

Her music blends atmospheric electronic pads, soulful guitar and bass, and Afro-Latin percussions into a vibrant, colorful array of sounds.

 

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Mabely Largacha (Mabiland) 

Mabiland has carved out a unique space in the Latine music industry that draws from neo soul, R&B, and the poetics of rap. 

Currently based in Medellín, the Quibdó, Colombia-born artist, is one of the few visible Black queer women in the Latin American music industry. 

Mabiland is making her own way in her career, challenging gendered, racial, and sexuality-based expectations. “I do not want to call myself a leader, as long as I can move and … self-lead [in order] to help others say something,” she says, in a Refinery29 article. 

You might be interested: Colombian musician Alex Le Angel shares how she overcame obstacles as a young Latina in the music industry

We hope you found some new Afro-Latina musicians to add to your summer 2022 playlist here today! Let us know your favorite Black musicians! 


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the Borinqueneers

Celebrating the untold story of the Borinqueneers this Memorial Day

This memorial day we want to celebrate and shine a spotlight on the Puerto Rican 65th Infantry Regiment, the only all-Hispanic unit in the history of the U.S. Army, better known as “The Borinqueneers.”

The courageous stories and sacrifices of tens of thousands of young Puerto Ricans enlisted to fight in World War I, World War II and the Korean War can be heard in the award-winning film, The Borinqueneers, that premiered nationally in 2007 and continues to be screened all across the country and abroad to this day.

Narrated by Hector Elizondo, the documentary explores the fascinating stories of courage, triumph and struggle of the men of the 65th through a compilation of rare archival materials and interviews with veterans, commanding officers, and historians.

The 65th Infantry Regiment was created in 1899 by the U.S. Congress as a segregated unit composed primarily of Puerto Ricans with mostly continental officers. It went on to serve meritoriously in three wars: World War I, World War II and the Korean War. The unit was nicknamed after “Borinquen”, the word given to Puerto Rico by its original inhabitants, the Taino Indians, meaning “land of the brave lord”. Their motto is Honor et Fidelitas, Latin for Honor and Fidelity.

The untold story of the Borinqueneers

Through interviews of members of the regiment that were still alive –most of them now in their eighties and nineties–, testimonies of former military officers and historians’ recounting, the documentary provides an objective unfolding of the facts while capturing the vivid memories of the veterans.

“I have never talked to anyone about these memories,” said Vet. Ervin Machado, resident of Perth Amboy, NJ. “Not even to my family,” he shared, as the recollections unfold in an emotional description of the events.

Machado was enlisted in 1951, right out of high school, and spent nine months in the Korean War.

Soldiers of 65th Infantry after an all day schedule of maneuvers at Salinas, Puerto Rico. August 1941. (Source: Wiki Commons / Public Domain)

Hear the stories of other Hispanics who made history on Audible!

“It was rainy and cold when we got there. After we were taken to the camp, we were assigned to different platoons. My mission was to recognize the field and determine the position of the enemy. Then we would go back to the trenches. The water would come down on the trenches sides, but we had to stay in to avoid the fire of the enemy,” Machado recalls.

The Borinqueneers were famous for their combative spirit and fearless actions, earning praise from General MacArthur at the time.

“Once the missions were assigned, yes, you would feel fear… I was a kid… but then, on the field, the fear will disappear, and we did what we had to do,” Machado said. “Another division within the army called ‘the Greek’ used to say, ‘If the Borinqueneers go, we’ll go,’ because they trusted that we would never let them down.”

A change of events

In the fall of 1952, the regiment fell into a chaotic turn of events, when dozens of Borinqueneers abandoned their positions. The truth of discrimination, segregated treatment and unjustified exposure to danger came out publicly during the largest court martial of the war. Almost one hundred men were court martialed.

“The Borinqueneers were an elite unit that made its mark particularly in the Korean War and represented the pride and fighting spirit of Puerto Ricans,” said Figueroa Soulet. “In a military culture that often discriminated against them, they found strength in their common cultural roots and language.”

Painting depiction of the U.S. 65th Infantry Regiment’s bayonet charge against a Chinese division during the Korean War. (Source: Wiki Commons / Public Domain)

Figueroa Soulet recognizes that as a Puerto Rican, she had little knowledge of the 65th regiment’s existence until she came across films such as Saving Private Ryan and others that vividly portrayed the horrors of the war. “Latinos were ‘missing in action’, but I knew there had to be untold stories,” she said.

You might be interested: Honoring and remembering the Latina heroes of the past this Memorial Day

“Despite their limitations as restricted citizens of the United States –residents of the island cannot elect the President of the United States, their Commander-in-Chief–, the regiment served with extreme patriotism. To this day, their sacrifices have had little recognition,” she said.

Borinqueneers Congressional Gold Medal

The Borinqueneers CGM Alliance, a group of individuals and organizations sponsored by the 65th Infantry Veterans Association of Puerto Rico, requested from Congress the recognition of the prominent role the regiment played during three international conflicts.

The unit participated in nine major campaigns, earned numerous commendations and medals including ten Distinguished Service Crosses, 258 Silver Stars, 628 Bronze Stars and over 2700 Purple Hearts.

“Other minority veterans that served in segregated units have been awarded with the Congress Gold Medal,” said Figueroa Soulet.

the Borinqueneer

Borinqueneers Congressional Gold Medal design. 2016. Source: usmint.gov

In 2013, the bill to confer the Congressional Gold Medal on the 65th Infantry Regiment, was introduced in Congress. It was later signed by President Barack Obama at a ceremony on 10 June 2014. 

On 13 April 2016, leaders of the United States House and Senate officially awarded the Congressional Gold Medal to the 65th Infantry Regiment. Since 2021, National Borinqueneers Day is celebrated on April 13.

This is an updated republication of an article written by Latinas in Business President and CEO, Susana G. Baumann.


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latinas in politics

5 Latinas who made political history 

Latinas throughout history have paved the way for Latinas in leadership today. These five Latinas are just a few of many trailblazers who were the firsts in their positions, making it possible for greater Latina representation in politics.

In our world today, we need more diverse leaders so that all populations get represented and Latina issues are heard by leaders. 

Let us celebrate some of the Latinas who made political history and inspire future generations of Latinas to become our next leaders. 

Soledad Chacón 

Soledad Chacón , Photo source: Unknown author, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

Soledad Chacón, nicknamed Lala, was the first woman elected to be the Secretary of State of New Mexico, and the first Hispanic woman elected to statewide office in the United States.

She served as acting Governor of New Mexico for two weeks in 1924 when Governor James F. Hinkle traveled to New York for the Democratic National Convention. The lieutenant governor had died in May, leaving Chacón as next in line for the highest position in the state, making her the second woman to act as chief executive of a U.S. state.

In 1934, she was elected to the New Mexico House of Representatives. In this position she served on several committees, including as chair of Rules and Orders of Business. 

Ileana Ros-Lehtinen

Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Photo source: United States Congress, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

In 1989, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen became the first Cuban American elected to Congress. She was also the first Republican woman elected to the House from Florida. Previously she had served as Florida’s first Hispanic woman to serve in the State House of Representatives in 1982 and the first to serve in the Florida Senate in 1986.  

In 2011, she gave the first Republican response to the State of the Union address in Spanish in, and gave the third in 2014. Throughout the course of her career she was elected to fourteen full terms, never winning with less than 58%.

Aida Álvarez

Aida Álvarez, Photo source: latinocf.org

Aida Álvarez is a Puerto Rican businesswoman, journalist and politician. From 1997 – 2001, she served as the 20th Administrator of the Small Business Administration under President Bill Clinton and was the first Latina ever to serve in a Cabinet-level position. 

Prior to her role as Small Business Administrator, Aida served as the first Director of the Office of Federal Housing Enterprise Oversight, appointed by President Clinton in 1993.

Sonia Sotomayor 

Latinas in politics

Sonia Sotomayor, Photo source: Collection of the Supreme Court of the United States, Steve Petteway source, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

Sonia Sotomayor is currently an associate justice of the Supreme Court. In 2009, she was nominated by President Barack Obama becoming the third woman to hold the position and the first Latina, and first woman of color to serve on the Supreme Court.

During her time on the Supreme Court, Sotomayor has championed for social issues and been identified with concern for the rights of defendants. She has called for reform of the criminal justice system, making impassioned dissents on issues of race, gender and ethnic identity.

Listen to your favorite books by Latinas on Audible today!

You might be interested: Supreme Court Judge Sonia Sotomayor teaches children how to build a better world in her new book

Catherine Cortez Masto

Official portrait of Senator Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nevada) Date 9 January 2017. Source: senate.gov/

Catherine Cortez Masto is an American lawyer and politician serving as the senior United States senator from Nevada since 2017. A member of the Democratic Party, she was the 32nd attorney general of Nevada from 2007 to 2015. 

She became the first woman elected to represent Nevada in the Senate and the first Latina elected to serve in the upper chamber, taking office in 2017. Later, in 2019, she became Nevada’s senior senator. 

“I think there’s an important role for women to play. And I’m all about tearing down those barriers,” she said in 2017 to NBC News. “I have always said it’s important to have diversity in the United States Senate.”

These Latinas are just a few of many who have broken down barriers to pave the way for greater representation of Latinas in politics. 

According to LatinasRepresent, an initiative led by the National Hispanic Leadership Agenda to increase Latina participation throughout the civic engagement continuum, Latinas currently only makeup 2.6% of Congress. With Latinos making up over 18% of the US population, with 26 million being Latinas, this group needs more leaders representing them. 

Let us continue to support and make room for Latinas in politics and elect them to government positions so that the powerhouse population that is Latinas has their voices heard.


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reproductive rights

NJ Governor Murphy delivers remarks on reports of the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade 

Roe v Wade, 410 U.S. 113, was a landmark decision of the U.S. Supreme Court which ruled that the Constitution of the United States protects a pregnant woman’s liberty to choose to have an abortion without excessive government restriction. 

Roe fueled an ongoing abortion debate in the United States about whether or to what extent abortion should be legal, who should decide the legality of abortion, and what the role of moral and religious views in the political sphere should be. 

This debate continued even after the Court’s ruling on January 22, 1973, where the Supreme Court issued a 7–2 decision in favor of “Jane Roe” (Norma McCorvey) holding that women in the United States had a fundamental right to choose whether to have abortions without excessive government restriction and striking down Texas’s abortion ban as unconstitutional.

Roe v Wade, reproductive rights, abortion

Norma McCorvey (Jane Roe) and her lawyer Gloria Allred on the steps of the Supreme Court, 1989. (Photo attribution: Lorie Shaull, on Flickr.)

However, this past Monday, on May 2, 2022, Politico obtained a leaked initial draft majority opinion penned by Justice Samuel Alito suggesting that the Supreme Court is poised to overturn Roe v Wade. Chief Justice John Roberts confirmed the authenticity of the leaked document in a statement released a day later, although he noted that “it does not represent a decision by the Court or the final position of any member on the issues in the case

Read about Women of Color Reproductive Rights

In response to this news, New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy issued a statement yesterday, May 3, 2022, regarding the future of reproductive rights in New Jersey.

New Jersey Governor

NJ Governor Phil Murphy. (Photo source: Phil Murphy on Flickr)

“I want to briefly address the reports that the U.S. Supreme Court has voted to overturn the long-standing precedents of both Roe v Wade and Planned Parenthood v Casey and eliminate the federal protection of a woman’s reproductive freedom.

Quite frankly, while enraging, this news is hardly surprising. This is exactly why we took the step we did earlier this year in enshrining every New Jerseyan’s full reproductive rights into state law. 

Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. ( Photographer: Steve Petteway / Public domain)

When I stood with lawmakers in October 2020 to introduce the Reproductive Freedom Act, it was just six days after Donald Trump selected Amy Coney Barrett to replace Ruth Bader Ginsburg on the Supreme Court. 

 It was as clear then as it is now that this Court, stacked with Trump appointees, could not be trusted to protect women’s reproductive rights.

 If the Court takes this awful step, this decision will have no impact on New Jersey state law or the full right to reproductive freedom under our state law. This remains fully intact, because here in New Jersey, instead of hoping for the best, we prepared ourselves for the worst.

Throughout my governorship, I have fought for a single, basic principle: this must be a decision made between a woman and her doctor, period.

If a right-wing Supreme Court cannot recognize this simple truth, our elected officials in Washington must take matters into their own hands. 

Congress must immediately pass federal legislation protecting the reproductive rights of all Americans, everywhere across this nation. If that means reforming the filibuster, then we need to reform the filibuster.  

We must ensure that every American woman has the freedom that every New Jersey woman has.

And if this Congress won’t protect reproductive freedom, America needs to elect a Congress in November that will.”

As we wait for further developments regarding the state of reproductive rights on the federal level, all eyes are on the Supreme Court.

3 Latina environmental organizations to support this Earth Day

This Earth Day we want to amplify the voices of Latina environmental organizations that are advocating for our planet and communities affected by climate change.

Rural and indigenous communities are especially vulnerable to the harsh effects of climate change, with poverty and lack of resources negatively impacting the quality of life for these communities. Organizations Azul, Atlantic Climate Justice Alliance, and Her Justice are working to amplify voices, advocate for underserved communities, and push for reform and legislation to protect the environment and vulnerable populations.

Azul 

Founded by Marce Gutiérrez-Graudiņš, an environmental justice advocate who began her career in the commercial fishing and aquaculture fields, Azul is a grassroots organization working with Latinos to conserve marine resources and bring Latino perspectives and participation to ocean conservation.

After experiencing how mainstream ocean conservation efforts and campaigns were leaving Latinos out, Marce decided to start Azul to engage her community in protecting coastal resources and marine life.

“Long before things like canvas bags were in vogue at organic markets, our abuelitas used their reusable bags to shop en el mercado. We believe our culture can lead the way and inspire our conservation efforts.”

Through her work, she has helped design and implement a statewide network of marine protected areas as well as a sustainability and marketing program for local California fisheries.

As a leader in the campaign to ban single-use plastic bags in California, she has worked to reduce marine pollution and protect ocean wildlife. In addition to the single-use plastic bag ban, Azul has been instrumental in policy victories such the Shark Fin Ban which bans the sale and possession of shark fins in California and establishing the right for the Coastal Comission to impose fines to private property owners who illegally block access to beaches.

 

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“We treasure the life-sustaining force of the ocean, as well as the physical and spiritual nourishment it provides us. We are a Gente powered and led effort, focused first on celebrating our rich Latino conservation traditions and connecting them to current solutions. Our work is based in authentic engagement, community building, and collaboration.”

Atlantic Climate Justice Alliance

classroom inclusion environment, climate change,

Maria Santiago-Valentin, speaker at climate change rallies in New Jersey

Former Latinas in Business board member, Maria Santiago Valentin is the Founding President of Atlantic Climate Justice Alliance (ACJA), whose mission is to  “[apply] the power of deep grassroots organizing to win local, regional, statewide, national and international shifts” regarding climate change and unjust exposure of marginalized communities to its damaging effects.

The organization is committed to building and strengthening a wide culture of diversity, inclusion, and equity issues affecting communities of color. 

“ACJA is very personal to me. I wanted for so long to alleviate conditions of communities of color impacted by climate change in many states, including Puerto Rico,” said Maria Santiago Valentin. 

Through a variety of projects and campaigns, the non-governmental collective of rural and urban community-based organizations focuses on education and advocacy of underrepresented communities, race and ethnicity, economic development, and poverty alleviation — all with the wider aim of addressing climate change.

Some of their projects include policy reform efforts, educational presentations, marches for environmental justice, calls to action, forums, and more. 

ACJA also has a bilingual podcast, Green Latinas Podcast, which features Latino and non-Latino leaders in the EJ and Climate Justice movement. 

Justice for Migrant Women

Through public awareness and educational campaigns, art activism, and strategic media initiatives, Justice for Migrant Women is bringing the issues and struggles of migrant women to the forefront of national conversation and advocating for their rights.

The organization was founded by Mónica Ramirez, a long-time advocate, organizer, social entrepreneur, and attorney who, for over two decades, has fought for the civil and human rights of women, children, workers, Latinos/as, and immigrants.

One of the organization’s many projects focuses on amplifying the voices of farmworkers, who historically have been undervalued and negatively impacted by climate issues.

Photo via Justice for Migrant Women on Instagram.

Farmworker Awareness aims to raise awareness about farmworker conditions and to honor their important contributions to us every day. In partnership with Student Action with Farmworkers, Justice for Migrant Women hosted a virtual celebration for farmworkers to initiate the week of action for national and local partner organizations.

“Part of my mission has been making sure that these stories are heard, but largely my mission has been focused on doing all that it is in my power to change these conditions so that we can remove the barriers,” said Mónica Ramirez.

The Humans Who Feed Us is another campaign that focuses on sharing the stories thousands of individuals who work across the food supply chain ranging from agricultural workers, restaurant workers, grocery store employees, truck drivers, meat and poultry workers, and so many others.

Immigrant community members are among those who help to feed us through their work. Many of these workers are often invisible to people and the communities where they work and live even though they touch our lives every day through their life-sustaining labor.

Magadalena and Efrain from The Humans Who Feed Us, an initiative by Justice for Migrant Women. (Photo courtesy Justice for Migrant Women)

The Humans Who Feed Us campaign seeks to center these workers, their stories, their contributions, and their priorities. The project humanizes workers across the food supply chain, shows the interdependence among businesses, the workers they employ and consumers, and fosters a sense of belonging for these incredible community members in the places where they live and work.


These Latina environmental organizations are doing their part to spread awareness and uplift Latino and Hispanic voices regarding climate change issues and the communities affected. Latino perspectives are valuable and representation is necessary in these spaces. Together we can all work to preserve our planet and protect vulnerable communities.

Ketanji Brown Jackson

Ketanji Brown Jackson confirmed as Supreme Court justice: 4 essential reads

Matt Williams from The Conversation shares insights from legal scholars on the history and meaning behind Ketanji Brown Jackson’s Supreme Court confirmation.


The phrase “in a historic vote” gets thrown around a lot in journalism – and it isn’t always warranted. But shortly after 2 p.m. EDT on April 7, 2022, a Senate roll call confirmed Ketanji Brown Jackson as the next U.S. Supreme Court justice – the first Black woman to sit on the bench.

The elevation of Jackson to the Supreme Court will not change the ideological setup of the bench – which would continue to be split 6-3 in favor of conservative justices.

Nonetheless, it is an important landmark in the history of the court – of the 115 justices on the Supreme Court since it was established in 1789, 108 have been white men.

Race featured in Jackson’s confirmation process; so too did attempts to define her “judicial philosophy.” The Conversation has turned to legal scholars to explain the meaning of Jackson’s potential ascension to the court.

1. Realizing MLK’s ‘dream’

The Senate Judiciary Committee vote moving Jackson’s confirmation toward a final Senate roll call took place on April 4, 2022 – 54 years to the day since Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated. The significance of the date was not lost on American University’s Bev-Freda Jackson.

King’s words came up in Jackson’s confirmation hearing. Republican lawmakers suggested that his vision of an America in which people are judged “not by the color of their skin but by the content of their character” was at odds with critical race theory, a concept much maligned by conservatives that holds that racism is structural in nature rather than expressed solely through personal bias. Their implication: that Jackson believed in critical race theory and therefore rejected King’s vision.

Martin Luther King

By Yoichi Okamoto – Lyndon Baines Johnson Library and Museum. Image Serial Number: A1030-17aPublic Domain.

Bev-Freda Jackson argues that this is a distortion. “By recasting anti-racism as the new racism, conservative GOP leaders … use King’s words that advocated for a colorblind society as a critical part of their national messaging to advance legislation that bans the teachings of so-called divisive concepts,” she writes.

“Ketanji Brown Jackson is the very dream that King envisioned,” Jackson notes. “But he died before seeing the results of his nonviolent movement for social justice.”

2. On the shoulders of pioneers

Now confirmed as the next Supreme Court justice, Jackson has broken through the ultimate glass ceiling in terms of legal careers. She did so so on the shoulders of pioneering Black female judges.

University of Florida’s Sharon D. Wright Austin notes, even now, “relatively few Black women are judges at the state or federal level” – which makes the achievement of those who have made it to this level all the more remarkable.

Of the judges highlighted by Austin, there is Judge Jane Bolin, who became the country’s first Black female judge in 1939, serving as a domestic relations judge in New York for almost four decades. Later, in 1961, Constance Baker Motley became the first Black woman to argue a case before the Supreme Court. In all she argued 10 cases before the court, winning nine of them. Meanwhile, Judge Julia Cooper Mack is noted as the first Black woman to sit on a federal appellate court, having been appointed in 1975 and serving 14 years on the bench.

These women are to be celebrated and remembered. As Austin writes, “Representation matters: It is easier for young girls of color to aspire to reach their highest goals when they see others who have done so before them, in the same way that women like Jane Bolin, Constance Baker Motley and Julia Cooper Mack encouraged Ketanji Brown Jackson to reach hers.”

3. Echoes of the past

The fact that a Black female Supreme Court justice is long overdue is testament to the slow progress the U.S. has made toward racial – and gender – equality.

Margaret Russell, a constitutional law professor from Santa Clara University, saw signs of this lack of advancement during parts of Jackson’s Senate Judiciary Committee confirmation hearings.

Questions directed at the would-be Supreme Court justice were, according to Russell, tantamount to race-baiting. They also sounded eerily similar to criticisms that then-Supreme Court nominee Thurgood Marshall, the first Black American nominee to the court, faced in his own confirmation hearings in 1967.

Both Jackson, now, and Marshall, then, stood accused by senators of being soft on crime and were asked about how they intended to bring race into their legal decisions. “Are you prejudiced against white people in the South?” Marshall was asked by a known white supremacist senator. Similarly, Jackson was asked during her confirmation hearings if she had a “hidden agenda” to incorporate critical race theory into the legal system.

“I find it striking,” Russell writes, “that race has surfaced in such a major way in these hearings, more than five decades after Marshall’s nomination. In some respects, there has been progress on racial equity in the U.S., but aspects of these hearings demonstrate that too much remains the same.”

Ketanji Brown Jackson

President Joe Biden, with Vice President Kamala Harris, greet Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson in the Blue Room of the White House, after officially nominating her to the Supreme Court, Friday, February 25, 2022. (Official White House Photo by Lawrence Jackson)

4. What Jackson would bring to the Supreme Court

Jackson’s historic achievement of becoming the first Black female Supreme Court justice may distract from the fact she is also eminently qualified to sit on the highest court in her own right.

Alexis Karteron of Rutgers University-Newark notes that the Harvard Law-trained Jackson went on to clerk for Stephen Breyer, the retiring justice she is set to replace. She has served on the U.S. Sentencing Commission as well as acting as both a trial court and appellate judge.

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Jackson is also the first former criminal defense attorney to be nominated to the Supreme Court since Marshall. This puts Jackson in a unique position on the bench. Karteron writes that having served as a public defender “will help [Jackson] understand the very real human toll of our criminal justice system. … The criminal justice system takes an enormous toll on both the people in the system and their loved ones. I believe having a Supreme Court justice who is familiar with that is incredibly valuable.”


Editor’s note: This story is a roundup of articles from The Conversation’s archives and updates an earlier version originally published on April 4, 2022.The Conversation

Matt Williams, Breaking News Editor, The Conversation

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Grammys 2022

Grammys 2022 Recap: Latin American wins and the issue of Global diversity 

Yesterday’s 64th Annual Grammy Awards gathered stars and industry leaders to honor the best in music. Throughout the awards we had our eye on all the Latin and Hispanic artists recognized. 

In the Latin categories winning artists included Eliane Elias (feat. Chick Corea and Chucho Valdés) winning Best Latin Jazz Album, Alex Cuba for Best Latin Pop Album, Bad Bunny for Best Música Urbana Album, Juanes for Best Latin Rock or Alternative Album, Vicente Fernández for Best Regional Mexican Music Album, and Rubén Blades for Best Tropical Latin Album. 

Young Filipino-American singer-songwriter Olivia Rodrigo also took the stage for three wins for Best New Artist, Best Solo Performance, and Best Pop Vocal Album. 

Olivia Rodrigo

Olivia Rodrigo, Grammys 2022. (Photo source: Recording Academy / Grammys on YouTube)

Additionally, the night saw performances by J Balvin, Maria Becerra, Aymée Nuviola, Rachel Zegler, Silk Sonic. 

In 2020, the Grammys decided to address some of these concerns by changing the name of their “Best World Music” category to “Best Global Music.” 

A statement, the Recording Academy said, “as we continue to embrace a truly global mindset … The change symbolizes a departure from the connotations of colonialism, folk, and ‘non-American’ that the former term embodied while adapting to current listening trends and cultural evolution among the diverse communities it may represent.”

Additionally, the Recording Academy renamed the “Best Urban Contemporary Album” category to “Best Progressive R&B Album”, since the term “urban” has become outdated and is now an “inappropriate descriptor of Black music.” However, the term continues to be used in the Latin category for “Best Música Urbana Album.” 

This year’s star-studded event certainly appeared more diverse, with both winners and performers reflecting the award show’s push in recent years to be more inclusive. However, despite recent changes, the issue of diversity and representation continues to be at the forefront of conversation surrounding the award show and many continue to criticize their minimal efforts to correct years of inequality. 

These changes, especially the change to the World Music category have received mixed responses. Many find these changes to be insubstantial and some have even argued the change to “Global” music hurts international artists. 

In the article “How not to decolonise the Grammys” author Mark LeVine breaks down the issue pointing out that the new “global” category will take the focus away from celebrating cultural music with diverse roots and traditions. The new category will include any global artist, meaning diverse artists who struggled to break out in other categories will now also have to compete against global superstars.

What was once a category to celebrate diverse music outside of “Western” norms, may now become a generalized category that many fear will become saturated with pop and commercialized music. 

In an NPR op-ed, author Ian Brennan shares his views on the issue and quotes Angelique Kidjo, one of the world’s most recognized performers in the recently changed category, with multiple nominations and wins under her belt. 

 

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Angelique Kidjo shares her vision regarding the issue of diversity and representation in the Grammys, saying: “We’ve got to educate people to understand that it’s not just commercial music that is ‘music.’ We have music in the global category that is the roots of all the commercial music that people are listening to. It’s important to go back and find out where the commercial music you are listening to comes from.

“We need to bring the topic of global music to the forefront of the Grammys. We need to have a constant discussion to improve and get better. The whole world is watching.”

Latin American artists are lucky to have multiple categories just for their music, but other ethnic groups must fight for recognition in the one “Global” category the awards show offers. Instead of making categories more general, many feel creating more categories would be more beneficial to fully celebrate diverse talent. Like the multiple Latin American categories, other cultures could have their own categories as well, so that more talent can be recognized. 

You might be interested: Ariana DeBose reminds young Latinas that dreams do come true with historic Oscar win

5 Latina founders to celebrate this Women’s History Month

This Women’s History Month we want to celebrate Latina founders who are breaking barriers and defying stereotypes and biases in their industries. 

Female founders, especially minority female founders, are more likely to face challenges and barriers, from simply starting their venture to securing capital and funding to grow their companies. In fact, according to an article by Forbes, only 2.6% of venture dollars went to minorities and 2.2% went to women in 2021. 

These five Latina founders have defied the challenges and limits that often keep minority women from thriving. Their stories of success are an inspiration to any future Latina founder dreaming of starting their own venture, demonstrating that achieving success is possible and barriers can indeed be broken! 

5 Latina founders breaking barriers 

Latina Founder: Audrey McKinley. (Photo Credit: Auto Network Consulting)

Audrey McKinley

Audrey McKinley is the founder and CEO of Auto Network Consulting Inc. and MyAutoProtect.com. As a pioneer for women in the male-dominated Automotive Industry, Audrey began her journey overy 30 years ago, rising up the corporate ladder to become the Sales, Marketing, and Automotive expert she is today. Throughout her career she excelled as a contract administrator, car saleswoman, finance manager and director and developed Internet & Special Finance Departments in the early 2000’s. 

As a previous account executive for one of the big three automotive manufacturer’s, Audrey launched dealerships with products, processes and F&I development and achieved Presidents club multiple times. 

Today she is dedicated to bringing that same passion she did for herself to others. Audrey partners with dealerships as a trusted advisor, providing coaching and an array of products and knowledge. She is also a motivational speaker and empowers women by showing them how to take a leap of faith to find their purpose and pathway to success.

Latina Founder: Patty Arvielo. (Image Credit: PattyArvielo.com)

Patty Arvielo

Patty Arvielo is the Co-Founder and President of New American Funding. A self-made entrepreneur with over 40 years experience in the mortgage industry, Patty co-founded the nation’s largest Latina-owned mortgage company, New American Funding. 

A first-generation Hispanic American, Patty learned the value of hard work from her mother, who built a successful cleaning business in California. At age 16, Patty entered the workforce with an entry-level clerical position and soon landed a job at a prominent mortgage company, where she would rise through the ranks to become assistant vice president. Finally, in 2003, she decided to take the leap and launch her own mortgage firm, which is now the largest Latina-owned private mortgage company in the nation, appearing on Inc. 5000’s list of Fastest Growing Companies in America seven times.

With a focus on diversity, inclusion, and equality, the company has created and fostered an inclusive workplace environment that respects and appreciates differences among employees. Additionally, Patty created the Latino Focus and New American Dream initiatives, which aim to increase lending to underserved and minority communities. 

Latina Founder: Kristen Sonday (Image Credit: The Everygirl)

Kristen Sonday

Kristen Sonday is the Co-Founder, Paladin, an innovative platform helping to narrow the justice gap. Paladin is passionate about creating a positive impact in the world and envisions a world where everyone has access to legal and other vital services. Paladin helps provide equal access to justice through an online network connecting and tracking pro-bono programs within corporations with clients who need their assistance. It is one centralized platform that can be used to staff, manage, and follow the impact of pro-bono work. 

After graduating from Princeton, Kristen joined the U.S. Department of Justice, where she worked on international criminal affairs in Mexico and Central America. After the DOJ, she joined the founding team of Grouper (Y Combinator W’12), learning how to build startups and use technology to scale networks. These experiences motivated her to create Paladin. After witnessing the complexities of the U.S. justice system, she wanted to create a platform that would help the country’s most vulnerable find the resources and aid they need to seek justice. 

Kristen is a Fellow for Stanford’s Latino Entrepreneur Leaders Program, and a Google for Entrepreneurs Code2040 Entrepreneur-in-Residence. She is also a 2017 ABA Woman in Tech to Watch as a result of her access to justice work through Paladin.

Latina Founder: Ariel Lopez. (Image Credit: Atlanta INNO)

Ariel Lopez

Ariel Lopez is the founder of Knac, a recruiting software that uses AI to screen job applications. As a former tech recruiter turned career coach and now entrepreneur, Ariel is deeply passionate about the future of work and making the job search more humane. With over a decade of recruiting experience, Ariel has worked with thousands of marketing, advertising, and tech professionals to help them grow in their careers and find opportunities. 

Ariel created Knac to aid job recruiters and also increase diversity in hiring by using data to remove bias in the application process. 

Knac launched in 2019 with a beta version and Ariel later joined the Acceleprise accelerator, which helped further transform the company. The startup has since received around $500,000 investments, including funding from Google for Startups Black Founders Fund.

Latina Founder: Cat Perez. (Image Credit: Medium)

Cat Perez

Cat Perez is the Co-Founder HealthSherpa, a platform that helps customers attain quality healthcare coverage. In 2013, Cat participated in a Hackathon competition with an idea for an opportunity to build a user-friendly HealthCare.gov for iOS. She ended up winning first place, with a million-dollar prize. This idea would eventually become HealthSherpa. 

As a member of the LGBTQ+ community and daughter to Puerto Rican and Korean parents, Cat prioritizes diversity, inclusion, and equality in her company and focuses on aiding diverse communities find equitable healthcare access. 

Cat credited her parents’ strong work ethic for much of her success in an “It Gets Better” article. “Both of them were constantly making bets, pushing themselves, and finding an opportunity or an opening whenever they could — lessons I certainly took to heart.” 

Since 2014, HealthSherpa has over 1.4 million people enrolled in health coverage. 

You might be interested: Break the Bias: 5 Latina entrepreneurs share how they have overcome biases and work to eliminate barriers for women