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“The pandemic caused much struggle for small business owners and we need to repair”, say Brooklyn2Bogota founders

Rosario B. Casas and Felipe Andrés Forero Hauzeur are the founders of Brooklyn2Bogota, a digital incubator for Hispanic business owners. Rosario is an award-winning women-in-tech advocate and serial tech entrepreneur. Felipe is an author, entrepreneur, engineer and veteran.  

The married couple founded Brooklyn2Bogota with the mission to close the digital divide post-Covid for business owners and entrepreneurs by focusing on empowerment, digital transformation, and business growth through a variety of activities and mentor lectures. 

In the fifth installment of the National Leaders for Latinx Advancement Series, Latinas in Business President and CEO, Susana G Baumann sat down with Rosario and Felipe to discuss the incubator program and how Latino businesses can grow post-pandemic. 

The pandemic push that launched their dream 

Brooklyn2Bogota leaders Rosario B. Casas and husband Felipe Andrés Forero Hauzeur. (Photo courtesy Rosario B. Casas)

The husband-and-wife duo first began envisioning Brooklyn2Bogota sometime in 2015. At the time they were living in New York City and Felipe was working as a diplomat for the community. Together, they began wondering how else they could help the Hispanic community, especially immigrants. They wanted to help the community in other ways, aside from the legal work Felipe was already doing at the time. 

As an entrepreneur, Rosario began imagining ways to help Latino business owners and entrepreneurs succeed and grow their businesses and soon the seeds for Brooklyn2Bogota were planted. She quickly began reserving the name ‘Brooklyn2Bogota’ across various sites and platforms with her early vision in mind. Over time, Rosario and Felipe continued to develop this idea of an incubator program that would nurture entrepreneurs and small business owners on their journeys. 

“We had planned to launch more or less for 2022,” said Rosario. “But then the pandemic happened, the crisis happened, and we knew we had to launch early. The pilot plan was launching the first cohort. Today we are in the third cohort.” 

The pandemic caused much struggle for small business owners, especially in minority populations such as the Latino community. In the past year since Brooklyn2Bogota’s lauch, three cohorts have provided resources, assistance, and mentorships to Latino entrepreneurs and business owners. Covid-19 brought many things into focus, such as the impact of technology in our lives and the importance of community and working together. 

“When you speak of unity, you have to understand the numbers and the power that we have,” said Felipe, speaking about the vast and growing Latino population in the US. “Hispanics are now almost 25 percent of the population of the United States.” 

As such a large population, the Hispanic community has the potential to impact the economy and the country’s businesses. However, for too long, minority communities have struggled to gain the resources and knowledge necessary for success and growth. This is where Rosario and Felipe stepped up to help through Brooklyn2Bogota’s programs. 

Closing the digital divide for Latino businesses post-Covid 

Brooklyn2Bogota’s program is based on three fundamental pillars: Leadership, Product and Growth. As a tech entrepreneur, Rosario understands the importance of technology when it comes to running a business. Since the pandemic, the digital divide has become more obvious. Many business owners struggled to shift online during the pandemic and their businesses suffered. Rosario and Felipe want to close that divide so that every entrepreneur may succeed. 

The incubator program focuses on helping non-tech entrepreneurs and business owners who are unfamiliar with the world of tech. They offer information, resources, and mentorship to accelerate and promote digital learning. 

Many past videos of lectures and mentor sessions available online for free and the information is delivered in Spanish. This was important to Rosario and Felipe, since language barrier is often a barrier for knowledge. There is a plethora of resources in English but not as much in Spanish for Latino business owners and entrepreneurs, the couple explained. Many Latinos also prefer to learn in their native language, especially when the concepts are new or complicated. 

women-in-tech

Rosario at TEDxTalk. (Photo courtesy Rosario B. Casas)

In the 10-week cohort entrepreneurs receive theoretical sessions and panels of specialized topics, dictated by carefully selected mentors. Focusing on the three pillars: Leadership, Product and Growth participants work to accelerate their growth in digital world post-COVID. The thematic mentoring sessions between members and participants provides them expert knowledge and guidance as they move through the program. 

You might be interested: Rosario B. Casas shares how the pandemic has accelerated technology and tech trends to keep an eye on

Finally, the program provides participants with a private network that brings together the mentors and participants who complete the program. This network allows for further connection, collaboration, and exchange of ideas in the future and continued growth for entrepreneurs and business owners. 

The fourth cohort is tentatively set to begin in April 2022. For more information and to apply, visit Brooklyn2Bogota.com

LUCA founder Shirley Acevedo Buontempo, how the pandemic has impacted Latino college enrollment

Shirley Acevedo Buontempo is the founder of Latino U College Access (LUCA), a social impact nonprofit organization that helps Latino families with access to college. Born in Puerto Rico, Shirley is a first-generation college graduate herself, making the issue of college access for Latino students very close to her heart. 

Shirley Acevedo Buontempo

Shirley Acevedo Buontempo, founder, Latino U College Access (Photo Courtesy)

Through LUCA, Shirley helps to achieve educational equity and opportunity for Latino youth and empowers low-income first-generation Latino students on their journeys to and through college so that they can fulfill their potential.

In the fouth installment of the National Leaders for Latinx Advancement Series, Latinas in Business President and CEO, Susana G Baumann, spoke to Shirley to discuss initiatives for the advancement of Latino students seeking higher education. 

How the pandemic has disproportionately affected Latino college enrollment

The pandemic has created additional hurdles for Latino students, whose families and communities have been disproportionately impacted. For many Latino students, their parents were the frontline workers, restaurant workers, or employees who lost their jobs. As a result, many students that were thinking or planning to go to college have had to make a change in their plans. 

According to LUCA, Latino enrollment in college and applications for financial aid has decreased in the last two years, dropping 20% in the fall of 2020 and about 6%, in the spring of 2021. Financial aid applications have gone down by 10%  and Latino youth are not going to college at the same rates that they were prior to the pandemic. These setbacks are motivating LUCA to continue its efforts in helping Latino students advance in their pursuits for higher education. 

https://us02web.zoom.us/j/83886323762?pwd=dTNKQW1yVy94T0gxMFJNRkZzVThjZz09

 

LUCA initiative programs to guide first-generation students through college

To help students and their families through the challenging process of college applications and beyond, LUCA’s three pillars of programs create a long-term path where students are supported for six years with access to resources and advocates as they navigate their journey through college. 

“When you’re first-gen, you have every desire and ambition to pursue your college education, but oftentimes you’re going through the process alone. Your families came to this country seeking an opportunity for themselves and for you, and as a first-gen student, you know that education is the path forward, especially here in America. However, when you’re first-gen, you don’t have the information, the resources, or the experience to understand and navigate this complex process of admissions and financial aid. And even once you get into college, you’re often feeling like you’re alone in that process. That’s why we stay with the students for this long period of time.”  

LUCA’s Community Information Sessions is one of its programs that help families understand and navigate the college application process. These hour-long presentations are conducted completely in Spanish and are culturally relevant, covering important topics such as Pathways to College, Applying to College, and Paying for College, followed by Q&A time so that families can get as much information as possible. 

“Since I launched the organization nine years ago, over 6000 parents and students have come to these presentations,” said Shirley. “When you welcome the Latino community in their language, and they know that this information was designed to be relevant to them, our families are thirsty for this and want this information.” 


The second pillar program LUCA offers is the Latino U Scholar program. This program provides intensive, one-on-one mentoring to students from the end of junior year through senior year of high school. To participate in this program, qualifying students are nominated by their guidance counselor to become a scholar in their junior year. Nominated students must demonstrate high academic potential with a 3.5 GPA or higher, be a low-income student, and demonstrate that they are the first in their family to go to college in the US. 

“We do have a lot of families whose parents maybe were college graduates in their native country, be it in South America or in the Caribbean, but because they cannot transfer those degrees here to the US they’re working as taxi drivers or housekeepers. So their children are still considered first-generation. The scholar’s program gives students one-on-one support in every step of the process,” said Shirley. 

You might be interested: So-called ‘good’ suburban schools often require trade-offs for Latino students

Finally, the third program LUCA offers is the First Gen Forward program, a success and career readiness program that supports students in the transition to college, adapting to college, and helping students remain in school so they graduate on time. The program provides mentorship and resources for first-generation students as they move through their four years of college. The program also helps students prepare for their future careers by providing resume writing workshops, interview prep, and matching students with internship opportunities. 

LUCA’s methods have proved to be successful. By continuing to support Latino students long-term, students have had higher rates of success and 99% of LUCA students remain on track to graduate. That number is significant because nationally, only 46% of students remain in college among the Latino community. 

“When you’re first-gen, getting into college is only the first half of the battle. Staying in college, graduating, and being ready for careers are the next stages. And many times, first-gen students will drop out of college in the first two years, not because of academics, but because of other social or financial issues. And so our goal is to make sure that our kids remain on track,” Shirley concluded. 

latino students

So-called ‘good’ suburban schools often require trade-offs for Latino students

Gabriel Rodriguez, an educational researcher who focuses on suburban-urban education, interviewed Latino and Latina students about their experiences of belonging at suburban public high schools.

Many Americans think of the suburbs as exclusive enclaves for white, middle-class people. Yet reality paints a different picture. In recent decades suburbs across the country have rapidly become more socioeconomically, ethnically and racially diverse.

In fact, since 2010 most people in the U.S. – including people of color – call suburbia home.

Pew Research Center notes that 175 million people live in suburban and small metropolitan areas, while 144 million live in either rural or urban counties. The Latino community has played a pivotal role in spurring these changes.

As an educational researcher who focuses on suburban-urban education, Latino education and racial inequality in schooling, I have interviewed Latino and Latina students about their experiences of belonging at suburban public high schools. Their reflections shine a light on how schools can better support these youth and other students of color.

Opportunity gaps

One in four public school students in the U.S. is Latino, with 40% of Latino students attending a suburban public school. Yet much of what researchers know about Latino students is based on urban schools.

The broader research on students of color attending suburban schools, however, highlights academic and social trade-offs they face. For example, students of color at predominantly white suburban schools must contend with opportunity hoarding – when those with privileged backgrounds build upon their advantages by accumulating more of them. This takes shape, for example, when white parents push to get their children into high-level courses or hire private tutors.

While parents want what is best for their child, these actions can expand inequality, as not all families are able to navigate schools with the same confidence or ease as parents with racial and socioeconomic privilege.

This has led to Latino high school students being viewed as less capable by peers and teachers, being excluded from honors classes and enduring frequent microaggressions.

For example, Claudia, a Latina student at a racially diverse high school in a working-class community outside of Chicago, shared, “I wish people knew more about us beyond stereotypes.” She recalled peers saying, “Oh, you’re Latina? You don’t look like a Latina.” As Claudia noted, comments like that treat Latino students as a monolith.

Pressure to assimilate

Another challenge that students I spoke with frequently cited was feeling like they had to downplay parts of their identities to fit in and succeed academically.

Research highlights that this is a result of teachers and school leaders trying to change or “fix” Latino students and other students of color. Alternatively, schools could empower students to be proud of their cultures and home languages.

latino students,

Photo by Keira Burton from Pexels

On the social front, Latino students often find refuge with other Latino students. “I feel more comfortable with Latino students because I’m not competing with anyone,” said Michelle, who attended a predominantly white and well-funded school outside of Chicago. “It’s just easier to talk to them because they’re not gonna judge me ‘cause they know the things I’ve gone through.”

When students of color congregate with one another, teachers and administrators can struggle to understand why they self-segregate, often away from white students. However my research shows these decisions are often acts of self-perseverence and opportunities to be their authentic selves.

Silenced by whiteness

Roberto, a classmate of Michelle’s, spoke about how the whiteness of his school created moments where he silenced himself.

“Sometimes teachers would see someone who is quiet, someone who kept to himself,” he said. “But then at other times they would see someone who is intelligent, someone who speaks his own mind. Someone who does whatever he wants.”

Teachers may view silence as disengagement from learning, but for students like Roberto, being silent can be an act of resistance and survival. Being in a mostly white school was difficult, and he felt his perspectives were not always valued.

For example, he and other students in my research spoke about teachers seeking to motivate them to do better academically but at the same time implying they were not trying hard enough.

Students like Roberto also wrestled with stereotype threat – when negative stereotypes about their race, gender or other identity increases pressure on them to perform academically. Latino students spoke about having to represent their Latino community, and how making a mistake in class could confirm negative perceptions about them.

‘We have hella stories’

The young people I interviewed also spoke about moments they perceived to be treated differently than their white counterparts. As Mia put it, “Special treatment has to do with the power white students have.”

Mia’s experiences taught her that white students were valued and believed over Latino students. This is supported by research, which illustrates the power white students and families wield in schools.

[Insight, in your inbox each day. You can get it with The Conversation’s email newsletter.]

latino students,

Photo by Yan Krukov from Pexels

The students also wanted their peers and teachers to acknowledge their complex lives and ambitions. As a student named Claudia put it: “We have hella stories. I’m sorry to say, but we do.”

Samuel spoke about his teachers not understanding his need to work a job after school. “Teachers say you decide school or work,” he said. “Some get mad at us for not doing the [school]work and thinking we’re lazy.”

While there’s growing recognition of the importance of grit – the ability to persevere in difficult situations – research finds that Latino students and other students of color often already possess it, and educators should consider making things easier for them instead.

Many of the students highlighted their appreciation of their teachers’ efforts to support them academically and socially. In talking about one teacher, a student named Chris noted, “She really likes talking about what’s happening in the world right now. She even asks us about the school: ‘Do the teachers treat you right?’ I know that she cares about us.”

Listening to Latino students can guide teachers and policymakers on how to enact culturally relevant practices that combat educational disparities and build upon young people’s cultural and linguistic assets.The Conversation

You might be interested: 3 Latina teachers in their toughest moments face complex cultural challenges


Written by Gabriel Rodriguez, Assistant Professor, Iowa State University

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

Hurricane Ida leaves vulnerable communities in ruin

This past week, Hurricane Ida devastated communities throughout Louisiana and surrounding states, sweeping in on the 16th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina. Now, residents are dealing with the aftermath and the long road ahead. For many, the damage is the least of their worries as city-wide power outages threaten the health of residents. 

In New Orleans, a major transmission tower collapsed, resulting in residents of the city and surrounding western suburbs waking without power on Monday morning, the Washington Post reported.

Ida aftermath deepens the poverty gap among vulnerable communities 

As residents anxiously await power to be restored, many have been left to mourn the loss of their homes with no plan for the future. 

Carmen Girton, 43, a resident of Shady Nook Mobile Home Park in LaPlace, Louisiana, told The Washington Post that her trailer had been completely “shredded” in the storm. Girton lived there with her boyfriend, children, and two grandchildren.  

“It’s scary,” she said. “I’m so afraid. It’s devastating, having no home. We don’t know what we’re going to do. We don’t have insurance. None of us have insurance out here. We worry. What are we going to do?”

In Lafayette, Elsa Lopez, along with dozens of family members, congregated at her son’s Duson home to take shelter. Much of the family lived in mobile homes and Reynieri Castro was the only one whose home had a solid foundation, Indystar reported

Castro opened up his home with open arms, not only to the family but to the Latino community at large. “Yesterday, I was announcing that anyone who needed refuge or help, we would be available for them, supporting the Latino community,” said Castro. 

However, the Lafayette community was lucky, with much of the community being spared by Hurricane Ida. 

Still, devastation and wreckage throughout Louisiana and surrounding states will require communities to come together to support and rebuild.

Power outages leave communities vulnerable to rising heat 

Hurricane Ida

Hurricane Ida on August 29 as a powerful category 4 major hurricane. Date: 29 August 2021. Source: National Aeronautics and Space Administration.

Currently, it is estimated that power could take anywhere from seven to 10 days to be restored, according to Entergy, the region’s main energy provider. Though other areas may face longer delays as much as three weeks. Without power, residents could face health emergencies as heat rises throughout the week. 

This summer, the US has seen record-breaking temperatures, resulting in an increase in heat related illnesses and in extreme cases, death–such as the migrant farmworkers who have died working the fields recently. These cases, unfortunately, are more likely to affect low-income communities and communities of color who, historically, have been disadvantaged. Wealthier communities will be able to get by on generators or have already evacuated and relocated. Meanwhile, those who have been left behind in the aftermath face the threat of the oncoming heat.

For ethnic communities, such as Hispanics and Latinos, the statistics reveal a startling disadvantage. According to the Environmental Defense Fund, “extreme weather driven by climate change can also make the pollution burden worse for Latinos. For example, after Hurricane Harvey, the petrochemical industry reported releasing 320 tons of extra toxic pollution in Houston, nearly all of it concentrated within four miles of a neighborhood that is 98% Latino.” 

You might be interested: A world on fire: How to survive the rising heat

Additionally, Latinos are 21% more likely than whites to live in “urban heat islands.” These heat islands can be “up to 22 degrees Fahrenheit hotter than rural and suburban areas because a large portion of city surfaces are covered in pavement and concrete and lack tree cover.” 

A local weather advisory following Hurricane Ida read, “Heat is one of the most deadly weather hazards — don’t underestimate it.” 

The Washington Post reported that giving residents “access to power-charging stations, cooling stations, oxygen, and other needs” is the focus right now according to New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell (D). 

Latino population powerhouse: 2020 Census data reveals huge diversity growth

2020 Census data reveals that Latinos account for over half of the country’s population growth in the past decade. 

Latinos are a powerhouse population that are only growing to new heights. In both business and population, recent data shows that Latinos and Hispanics are an integral and vital force with the power to make great shifts in the U.S. economy and political landscape. 

Photo by Roberto Vivancos from Pexels

Earlier this year, the 2020 State of Latino Entrepreneurship Report conducted by Stanford Graduate School of Business in collaboration with the Latino Business Action Network revealed that the number of Latino-owned businesses has grown 34% over the last 10 years compared to just 1% for all other small businesses. Were it not for the growth in the number of Latino-owned firms, the total number of small businesses in the U.S. would actually have declined between 2007 and 2012.

Now, the results of the 2020 Census data reveal similar growth among the U.S. Hispanic population. The overall U.S. population grew by 7.4% over the last decade to reach 331 million. The rate of growth was the slowest since the 1930s. However, just over half of that total growth was due to increases in the U.S. Hispanic population. 

Latinos are a powerhouse population

According to the census data, the Hispanic population reached 62.1 million, or 18.7% of the total population in 2020, compared to 16.4% in 2010 and 12.6% in 2000. In contrast, the U.S. white population alone is shrinking, while people identifying as white in combination with another race has grown by 316 percent. 

Photo by Keira Burton from Pexels

These changes in population revealed by the 2020 Census will have a great impact on the country’s political landscape. The result of the census will be used to draw new voting districts for next year’s midterm elections. With a growing diverse population, we undoubtedly will begin to see changes in the coming elections as diverse communities will be likely to elect diverse leaders. 

In California, the Hispanic population became the largest in the state in 2020. Currently, more than 39% of Californians identify as Hispanic or Latino, compared to the state’s white population which only amounted to 35% according to the 2020 Census data. 

Census data also revealed a drop in the number of Hispanics who identify as white. In 2010, 26.7 million identified as white, while now only 12.6 million identify as such. 

2020 Census, Latino population

Percentage Distribution of the Hispanic of Latino Population: 2010 and 2020. (Graphic source)

In an article with NBC News, Thomas Saenz, president of the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, said, “Today’s data release from the 2020 Census demonstrates that the Latino community is a huge and increasing part of our nation’s future.”

These numbers will help shape the nation in the years to come. Not only will the census data help redraw voting districts, but these numbers will also be used to divide federal funding to community programs, determine divisions for city council and other boards such as school districts. 

Clarissa Martinez de Castro, vice president of UnidosUS, the country’s largest Latino advocacy group, said that the increase in diversity is the source of the nation’s strength. However, she notes that, “Despite our contributions to the country, the realities of our lives aren’t always recognized and worse, in too many cases, we are actively demonized.” 

You might be interested: Death in the fields: U.S. Migrant farm workers are dying as extreme heat rises

The new data is a reminder of the power the Latino and Hispanic population hold. As the largest growing population, Latinos can no longer be ignored. 

Damaris Diaz

Damaris Diaz shares pandemic stories and how COVID has impacted the Latino community

In our most recent National Conversation with Latina Leaders event, Latina Small Business Post-Covid Recovery: Resources and Trends, correspondent and TV personality, Damaris Diaz joined the conversation in a fireside chat with Latinas in Business Inc. President and CEO, Susana G Baumann.

Damaris Diaz

The free event sponsored by Prudential took place virtually on March 19 from 12:00 pm to 2:00 pm EST streaming on Zoom and Facebook Live, featuring two panels of Guest Speakers, including Damaris, and with Keynotes Speaker Stacie de Armas.

Don’t miss our next event! Meet&Greet: SOCIAL MEDIA HACKS AND TRICKS

During the fireside chat, Damaris shared stories of her own experience in the pandemic as well as the stories of others she has encountered throughout her work as a journalist and TV correspondent.

Born in La Vega, Dominican Republic, Damaris moved to the U.S. with her family as a young child, residing first in New York, before settling down in New Jersey as an adult. A Seton Hall graduate, Damaris focused her studies on communications and criminal justice. Now, as a journalist, correspondent, and TV personality, Damaris has had the opportunity to interview countless people and share their stories with larger audiences.

Born in La Vega, Dominican Republic, Damaris moved to the U.S. with her family as a young child, residing first in New York, before settling down in New Jersey as an adult. A Seton Hall graduate, Damaris focused her studies on communications and criminal justice. Now, as a journalist, correspondent, and TV personality, Damaris has had the opportunity to interview countless people and share their stories with larger audiences. 

Some key topics Damaris spoke about were the impact the pandemic has had mentally on the Latino community, essential workers, business owners, and families who have suffered unexpected losses, including her own family. 

Biggest lessons learned during the pandemic 

Susana G Baumann 4:23

I would like to ask you, you know, what, what lessons have we learned from the pandemic? You know, this unexpected devastation? I know you have been covering a lot of personal stories of family, emotional and financial distress.

Damaris Diaz 4:54

That’s right, Susana. It’s been you know, it’s been a whirlwind…So many of us have been affected on so many levels. I have friends who say to me, ‘Oh, wow, you know, I haven’t gotten COVID. And my family’s all okay.’ And I’m like, wow, God bless you, you know that that’s not my story. My story early on, my cousin’s parents both fell ill in the hospital. Here in a local hospital in New Jersey, just two days apart. Ambulance came for the mom, ambulance came to the dad, the next day, within a week…And you know, nobody was prepared for that nobody was prepared for a loss in the middle of a pandemic, where you can’t even congregate with your family and be there for them and hold their hand and be a part of their pain.

And, you know, we all know the same way we’re born, eventually, someday we’re going to die. But to kind of have to face this in the middle of a crisis where we don’t even know like: Is there a cure? Well, you know, what’s the medication? What’s going to happen with our families? And then you start seeing the stories…on a daily basis of young people, people in their 20s, children of all age,  and so we are living with this fear, not knowing ‘At what point am I going to get it? And how is my system going to react to it?’

I think that the lessons we learned, one of the biggest lessons learned here is: you’ve got to be prepared. How do you prepare for this kind of thing? You know, we kind of go through life on a day to day thinking, ‘Okay, I need to prepare for today. What’s my, what’s my assignment for today, I’m going to call and get a permanent release. And I’m going to get my cameraman lined up, and I’m going to get my editor ready, and we’re going to do this.’ We’re preparing for the now, for the now. But there’s, you know, tomorrow and the day after that, and the week after that and the month after that, and there’s so many things that we don’t think about, but this pandemic has put it in our faces, you know, hit us on the forehead, like, ‘Hey, wake up, wake up! Are you ready? Are you ready for this?’ Nobody was ready for this. And we’re like reinventing the wheel every day as we go along, trying to figure out our lives in the middle of this health crisis that’s just not here in the U.S., but it’s in the entire world.

Susana G Baumann 7:54

Correct. Yes. One thing that you mentioned was really, very, very powerful on the inability to be there for your losses, for the people who are passing. I know personally, friends who lost their parents. And like you said, they were not able to even say the goodbyes…rituals are important in any society, and this pandemic put us totally on hold for those very traditional rituals that help us cope with the losses. 

Two sides of the pandemic: from despair to hope 

Damaris then shared various stories of individuals in the pandemic, from the hardships of being an essential healthcare worker to how a small business owner found hope and success helping others. 

Damaris Diaz 8:41

One of the first stories that I covered that really hit hard for me and for so many viewers was a nurse in New York City. She works as a nurse, and so you know, a lot of our first responders were the first ones to get COVID because they had to work there without masks without, you know, the gloves without all the safety precautions because the hospitals weren’t prepared. And so she got COVID, she had to isolate herself, her kids were sent somewhere else. Her mom would leave her food, along with other relatives, at her doorstep. And she’s thinking, ‘Oh, my gosh, what’s going to happen to me? What’s going to happen to my mom, if she gets it? What’s gonna happen to my children? When can I see them?’ So when she finally got clear to go back to work, she drives across –she lives in Jersey– she drives across the George Washington Bridge, and she said, it was like this magnetic pool, just trying to pull her back to New Jersey, like ‘Go home, don’t do this. And she said, you know, she kept thinking, I have a duty I have to do this. So she said, ‘Oh, God just helped me get past the bridge. Once I get past the bridge, maybe when I get to the parking facility, maybe I’ll have the courage to go.’ 

So she’d park in her car and cry. She’d walk to the hospital and she’d still feel that magnetic pool saying to her, don’t do this go home and just be with your family because the world as we know it has changed and you know, and our lives could end tomorrow. And that’s when she heard the applause. Her shift started when the applause began every night around 7pm. And she says those applause were the ones that got her through, got her through those doors, got her to, you know, to her posts and helping people day after day. But she said she cried, every single day  she drove to work. And you know, now it’s almost a year later, and she’s still working as a nurse, and she probably still feels conflicted. But she’s got a duty, you know. 

I think that when I got into journalism, I thought, I just want to tell happy stories. There’s so many things that are happening in the world that are going to make us sad, that are going to make us feel crushed, I want to tell happy stories. And I’ve been very fortunate to travel the world, to interview celebrities, and movie sets, sports figures, artists, on red carpets, I’ve had the blessing and the luck to do that. But you know, the reality is, that that’s not everything. We suffer through sadness, we suffer through loss, we suffer through pain. And there are a lot of stories out there to be told, you know, of very strong women that have a voice and deserve for their stories to be told. 

So for me, that was such an honor to be able to tell her story, even though it broke my heart. And even though my voice is cracking, as I was interviewing her, you know, as a Latina, you’re, you’re raised to be strong, like, don’t shed a tear. And if you shed a tear, don’t let anyone see you. And so you know, it’s like, wow, this, this pandemic has taken a couple layers off of me, off of the way I’ve allowed the world to see me.

Susana G Baumann 11:31

This has been tremendously challenging for all families, and especially for women. So what are the good stories? Because also, the pandemic has brought, you know, some fantastic ways that he has transformed our lives for good. What do you think they are? 

Damaris Diaz 12:39

Oh, wow, telling good stories is something that I could do with my eyes closed, because it just makes me feel good. And I know that that’s the effect that we have on people when we tell these stories. 

So recently, I interviewed a– una Dominicana de Nueva York, who started her own business before the pandemic. She learned how to make these beautiful, like balloon arrangements. And she said, ‘You know what, we need to celebrate everything, you know, it’s not just a birthday, or Mother’s Day, let’s celebrate everything, let’s make people happy.’ So she learned how to make these balloons, she started to make them and deliver them and she said, ‘I was bringing joy to people. And then the pandemic happened. And it was like we weren’t allowed to be happy. Because everything has to be canceled, celebrations were canceled. We couldn’t even have a barbecue and get together with our family.’  So she started to do these courses online to help people to learn how to make them and she’d send them all the links, ‘You need to buy the supplies. And these are the cheapest ones. And I’m going to give you a whole how-to, right here right now virtually.’

And she said it’s so important to continue to celebrate our children, especially. Kids that are now being homeschooled, that, you know, who knows how their futures are going to look with this experience. This is a traumatic experience for so many children, you know, forget the fact that ‘Oh, you can’t hang out with my friends and I can’t do my extracurricular activities.’ But a lot of them had to see their grandparents die, you know, their loss of their parents, loss of the other relatives, loss of friends. And so you know, their lives are being formed right now. And this woman said, ‘It’s so important to celebrate them. So I wanted to teach parents how to make these beautiful balloon arrangements.’ And so her business went from starting out to nothing to online to now helping other people.

You might be interested: Stacie de Armas on breaking stereotypes and advocating for Latinas 

There are so many beautiful stories to be told. Yesterday, the Despierta America live, we were at a vaccination center in the Yankee Stadium. It’s open 24 seven, right? So you would think the line would wrap around the entire block considering we’ve been anxiously waiting for this vaccine. But what’s happening? Our Latinos, our African American brothers and sisters are having so much trouble having access to the vaccine. First of all, you go online, and it sends you from one thing to the other to the other, and you can’t figure it out and you think you have an appointment, just to be evaluated to see if you can get the vaccine. And you never even had an appointment for that. 

covid-19 vaccine

Photo by Hakan Nural on Unsplash

And there’s this woman in Pennsylvania, her name is Bibi, and online, she started to help people have access to the vaccine. So if you if I called her and said, ‘Listen, girl, I can’t figure this out. My mom needs a vaccine. I know I’m not a priority right now. But she is,’ she will go online, help walk you through the steps, and the next phone call or email you get from her is: Hey, your appointment for your vaccination is on Tuesday, April, whatever. And she’s doing this in her free time. This is an entrepreneur, her little business is suffering. She’s a mother of two, she’s homeschooling her two daughters, she’s got her husband, she’s got to take care of her family and her life. And she’s taking all of her free time to help people that need this service. 

Preparing for the unexpected with Prudential

Lastly, Susana and Damaris discussed the importance of life insurance, especially in such an uncertain time such as now. Culturally, many older Latinos still live by old norms, expecting their children will be around to take care of them in their old age. But this pandemic has opened our eyes to show us that tomorrow is not guaranteed and one never knows when a crisis or health emergency might strike which is why families need to plan now and have these conversations now to be ready for whatever may come in the future. One of the ways to prepare is through life insurance. Prudential 

Susana G Baumann 17:01

So what makes you believe that a company like Prudential can lessen these effects of the devastation of Latino families, especially, you know, those that worry about their finances, and don’t know if they’re gonna make it to the end of the pandemic?

Damaris Diaz 19:01

Well, Prudential, first of all, speaks our language. So whether you’re bilingual or not, Prudential speaks our language. So they’re there to help us and they are experts in this field. I mean, they’ve been around since 1875, before you and I were ever on this planet, and it’s the largest insurance carrier in the United States. So they are the go to place….They understand our community, our values and they know what matters. Like you said, culturally, as we get older, we’re thinking our kids are going to take care of us, right? My mom still has that hope. She still has that hope that my sister, my brother, and I are going to care for her in her older years, because that’s what she was taught. And that’s what my grandparents believed. My grandfather was taken care of by all of his children, seven children, and all of the grandchildren and great grandchildren, until the day he passed about a year and a half ago. We were by his bedside. And before that he, you know, in hospice, every single day, my aunt was there taking care of him, 24/7. 

That’s a full time job and not a full time job, like a 40 hour, you know, full time gig that we would have. Twenty-four seven. And so you know, what we need to plan financially for those situations. 

And those are conversations that we don’t want to have, especially, as a younger person, it’s like, I’m not gonna think about that I have my whole life ahead of me. Really? Something could happen to me tomorrow, and I could be bed bound, God forbid, you know? Tomorrow is now. Like, we have to plan now. And so that’s when a company like Prudential steps in. Prudential understands that  we have different stories. It’s not a one size fits all situation. And so when you speak to one of the experts at Prudential they come knowing what our struggles are.They understand that we speak a different language. It’s not just that hablamos español, we speak a whole different cultural language.

You know, 52% of Latinos do not have an emergency savings.” (Photo by Micheile Henderson on Unsplash)

When my father passed, he was 61 years old, and he passed after a heart attack, years ago, that was like the eye opener for me. I would have never thought about life insurance until that happened. But I remember growing up and hearing them talking about that, and I used to think these people are crazy. They’re planning their death, like they’re buying life insurance….But you know, that’s just the ignorance in a person like myself at that age where I didn’t want to think about tomorrow.

We have to think about tomorrow, we need to have emergency savings, and not just for a month or two months. As hard as that may seem….You know, 52% of Latinos do not have an emergency savings. And that’s proven. And so many people are worried, like ‘how are we going to do this?’ 

It’s not too late. Yes, we’re in a pandemic. Yes, a lot of people have lost their jobs. Yes, we’re in a huge economic crisis, but it’s not too late. Prudential believes that one of the best ways to feel empowered and supported is to learn, educate ourselves, on our finances, have these conversations as hard as they may seem. 

Susana G Baumann 25:00

Thank you so much for your time. We know that’s a challenge for us, for Latinos, for small businesses and uh, but we need to learn to talk about money. We need to talk about money with our children, with our families, with our parents and to plan for the future. 

For more information and resources from Prudential, visit www.Prudential.com/tuSumas

COVID-19 vaccine

NYC data reports racial and ethnic disparities in distribution of COVID-19 vaccines

COVID-19 has revealed many of the racial and ethnic disparities in healthcare faced by people of color and ethnic groups. From suffering from higher disproportionate rates of infection and death, to disproportionately being more likely to end up in the hospital, communities of color and ethnic minority groups have been hit harder by the virus than white populations. Now we are seeing further disparities in the distribution of COVID-19 vaccines. 

COVID-19 vaccine

The COVID-19 vaccine is here. But which groups are being prioritized? (Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash)

Racial and ethnic disparities in distribution of COVID-19 vaccines

As the vaccine begins to roll out across various states, new data shows that there are already disparities among recipients. In New York, data revealed that while 24% of the city’s residents are Black, only 11% of Black residents received the COVID-19 vaccine. Meanwhile, White residents have received a disproportionate share of vaccines. 

The city’s demographic data is still incomplete, with many vaccine recipients not reporting their race or ethnicity. Currently, the race of about 263,000 people who received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine is not known. 

However, of nearly 300,000 city residents who received one dose and whose race was recorded, about 48 percent were white, 15% were Latino, 15 percent were Asian and 11% were Black. Latino and Black residents were underrepresented: The city’s population is roughly 29% Latino and 24% Black.

The disparities were even more striking among city residents aged 65 and up: Only 9% of the roughly 125,000 older New Yorkers who received the COVID-19 vaccine were Black.

Mayor Bill de Blasio said he was frustrated that New Yorkers in communities of color were not getting vaccinated. 

“Clearly we do see a profound disparity that needs to be addressed aggressively and creatively,” Mr. de Blasio said at a news conference.

racial and ethnic disparities

Only 11% of NYC’s nearly 300,000 vaccine recipients were Black, data reveals. (Photo by CDC on Unsplash)

One key factor is the racial and ethnic disparities is the complex scheduling system which many in underserved communities struggle to navigate. Residents have complained about the complicated process for scheduling appointments, long wait times on phones, and sudden appointment cancellations. Younger people have been helping their older relatives navigate the system, but the issue still needs to be addressed from the top especially since data reveals that white New Yorkers are navigating the vaccination system more easily than other populations. This signals that there is an accessibility issue, preventing certain communities from navigating the system. 

Mr. de Blasio has since pledged to address the problem by improving the appointment scheduling system and increasing outreach in more languages to make the system accessible to diverse communities. 

Still many elected officials have come out to criticize and blame the Mayor for failing to reach the city’s Black and Latino residents. 

Brooklyn borough president, Eric Adams, deemed the city’s response to the virus as having “turned into our Katrina” — a reference to the 2005 hurricane that hit New Orleans and overwhelmingly devastated Black residents.

“We know who is most at risk and who is suffering the most — and they are mostly Black and brown,” he said. “They have been abandoned and they are dying because of it. That must end today.”

Andrew Yang, the former presidential candidate, said the racial and ethnic disparities shown in the data was “a scathing indictment of how broken the system is.”

NYC vaccination sites prioritizing out-of-city residents over local communities

In addition to the accessibility and outreach issues, many of the city’s vaccinations have been going to people who live outside of the city. 

It’s been reported that at least 94,000 people who live outside the city have received the COVID-19 vaccine in New York. The mayor has defended this saying that many of those vaccinated work in the city. However, the racial divide among out-of-city vaccine recipients is even greater: 59% of recipients were white while only 7% were Black. 

racial and ethnic disparities

Racial disparities among out-of-city vaccine recipients is even greater: 59% of recipients were white while only 7% were Black. (Photo by CDC on Unsplash)

One vaccination site was recently called out in a report by The City for prioritizing outsiders over the community’s local population where over 70% of residents are Latino. The Armory Vaccination Center in Washington Heights has since agreed to prioritize residents from the local community and give new vaccines to New Yorkers only. 

Commenting on this inequity, Mayor Blasio said, “If a site is in a community, particularly a community hard hit by COVID, it should be all about reaching out to that community and bringing people in.”

Mark Levine, a city councilman who chairs the Council’s health committee, has called for several measures to close what he called the “vaccine equity gap,” including giving residents of local ZIP codes scheduling priority in communities of color.

“We need to take action now to fix yet another egregious case of inequity in this pandemic,” Mr. Levine said.

The city’s public advocate, Jumaane Williams, and comptroller Scott Stringer, have also called for critical changes to be made, calling the vaccine roll-out “almost criminal” and a “national embarrassment.” 

They are calling for Mayor Blasio to stop vaccinating people who live outside the city, to fix the confusing scheduling system, and provide paid time off for essential workers to receive the COVID-19 vaccine. 

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Disparities across states and dwindling supplies

New York City is not the only city facing racial disparities in the distribution of COVID-19 vaccines. In New Jersey, about 48% of vaccine recipients were white, and only 3% were Black, despite the state’s Black population being 15%, according to state data. In Chicago, similar numbers were reported: only 15% of vaccine recipients were Black white 53% were white.

In addition to the racial disparities preventing the vaccine from reaching all demographics equally, vaccine supplies are also dwindling. 

In New York City, about 600,000 people have received a first dose of the vaccine since mid-December. Mayor Blasio has repeatedly said that the city is running out of doses and cannot accelerate the rollout without a greater supply. On Sunday, the city had only about 53,000 first doses left.

Currently there are more than 150 million people — almost half the U.S. population —eligible to be vaccinated. Each state determines who goes first, though, and currently the nation’s 21 million healthcare workers, three million residents in long-term care facilities, and high risk residents with medical conditions are top priority. 

Adults in the general population are at the back of the line and distribution issues will continue to push back eligibility unless federal and state health officials can clear up bottlenecks in distribution. If supply and distribution issues are remedied, everyone 16 and older may be eligible to receive the vaccine as early as this spring. 

To stay up-to-date and for more information on COVID-19 vaccine policies in your area, visit your state’s health website.