Afro-Latinas Are Kicking Down Doors And Stepping Into Political Office Ready To Fight For Us

Women are leading the charge for political change — this year’s Women’s March alone attracted more than 1 million protestors — and Latinas in particular are coming strong. Over the last year, Mexican-American Catherine Cortez Masto became the first Latina in the U.S. Senate while the state of Virginia elected its first Latina delegates, Peruvian-American Elizabeth Guzman and Salvadoran-American Hala Ayala. More women of color, who look like us or who’ve had similar lived experiences as us, in elected offices is reason to celebrate, but as we are cheering these political wins, it’s also important to recognize that, like our leading ladies in entertainment, they tend to be lighter-skinned. But there are several Afro-Latinas killing it in politics whose names also deserve to be known.

While there’s a serious dearth of Black Latinas in the federal government, on the local and state level, these women have proven to be some of the fiercest public leaders throughout the country. Ahead, some of the Afro-Latina politicians you should know about — because you can’t be what you can’t see.

1. Joseline A. Peña-Melnyk

Preparing for @narfehq #MD04 Candidates' Forum starting now! #MDPolitics

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Democrat Joseline A. Peña-Melnyk has represented Prince George’s and Anne Arundel Counties as a Maryland state delegate for 11 years. Born in the Dominican Republic, Peña-Melnyk moved to the Bronx, New York as a child and went on to study criminal justice at Buffalo State College before receiving her law degree at the State University of New York at Buffalo. The dominicana worked as a defense attorney for several years before transitioning to politics, first as a member of the College Park City Council and then as a delegate in 2007. A member of of the Legislative Black Caucus of Maryland and the Women Legislators of Maryland, Peña-Melnyk is a major champion for LGBTQ rights, gun control, climate justice and racial and gender equality.

2. Dr. Herminia Palacio

Dr. Herminia Palacio is New York City’s Deputy Mayor for Health and Human Services. In her role, the cubana oversees the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, NYC Health + Hospitals, the Human Resources Administration, the Department of Homeless Services, the Administration for Children’s Services, the Office of Chief Medical Examiner, the Office to Combat Domestic Violence and the Office of Food Policy. If it sounds like a lot, it’s because it is — but with 25 years of experience across the health, education and social service fields, she’s well-prepared for the job. Mayor Bill de Blasio appointed the Bronx-born Palacio as deputy mayor in January 2016, making her the first Afro-Latina to hold the position in the city of New York.

3. Maria D. Quiñones-Sánchez

Democrat Maria D. Quiñones-Sánchez is a Philadelphia councilwoman representing the Seventh District. In November 2007, the puertorriqueña made history, rallying grassroots support to help her garner 80 percent of the vote and become the first Latina on Philly’s city council. She has held on to that position for three, four-year terms. Winner of awards like “Best of Philly” and “Most Influential,” Quiñones-Sánchez has proven to be a beloved leader in her community, advocating for housing rights, immigrant rights and racial equality in the workplace. Quiñones-Sánchez — who serves City Council as Chair of the Committees of Appropriations, Chair of the Committee on Licenses and Inspections, Vice Chair of the Committee on Streets and Services and Vice Chair of the Committee on Public Health and Human Services — also sits on the Board of Directors of the Pennsylvania Women’s Campaign Fund, a statewide political action committee that works to elect progressive women to the State Legislature.

4. Juana Matias

Massachusetts State Rep. Juana Matias is a political newcomer taking her state by storm. The Dominican Republic-born, Lawrence-raised Democrat became the first Latina to represent the 16th Essex District when she unseated a longtime incumbent and won the election in 2016. Also one of the youngest members of her party in office, Matías has championed reproductive rights and immigrant rights, called for reforms to public schools and the criminal justice system and has fought against domestic violence, homelessness and unemployment. With this track record, the 30-year-old announced last year that she is running for the Congressional seat in Massachusetts’ District 3.

5. Julissa Ferreras-Copeland

In New York, fellow dominicana Julissa Ferreras-Copeland was also a history-maker. The Queens-born Democrat served in the New York City Council from the 21st district — the borough’s first Latina elected official — from 2009 to 2017, when she decided to not seek re-election in order to spend more time with her family. During her time in office, however, she became the first Latina, and person of color, to chair the Finance Committee, the most powerful committee of the council. A champion for public education, immigrant rights, and women’s and family rights, Ferreras-Copeland was a front-runner to replace former city council speaker, Melissa Mark-Viverito, before stepping down.

6. Aidee Nieves

Democrat Aidee Nieves broke a glass ceiling last year, when the puertorriqueña became the first Latina to become president of Bridgeport, Connecticut’s city council. Nieves has been a member of the council since 2015, representing the predominantly Latino 137th district on the Lower East Side. Little is publicly known about Nieves, but her LinkedIn page notes that she previously worked at a charter school. In an article for the Connecticut Post, fellow council member Ernie Newton described Nieves as someone who understands that her office “is the people’s chamber” and she would advocate for them.

7. Juana Rosa Cavero

Los Angeles-based Juana Rosa Cavero is an elected official with the Mid-City Neighborhood Council, where she addresses hyper-local issues that have direct and immediate impact on the lives of about 50,000 LA residents with the city council. The Afro-Peruvian was first elected for a two-year term in 2014. Additionally, Cavero, who is also the executive director of the California Coalition for Reproductive Freedom, is a fervent reproductive justice activist.

8. Sabina Matos

Rhode Island’s Sabina Matos is Providence’s City Council President, the first Latina to hold the position. Born in the Dominican Republic, she moved to New York City as a teenager and soon relocated to Providence, where she would later study communications and public relations. After working as president of the Rhode Island Latino Political Action Committee, the Latina was elected to the city council, representing Ward 15, in 2010. During her time in office, she has been dedicated to improving schools, cleaning and repairing streets, and creating economic opportunities.

9. Marisol Alcantara

Also hailing from the Dominican Republic, Marisol Alcantara is the New York State Senator for the 31st District. While a Democrat, the Washington Heights native is a member of the Independent Democratic Conference, a group of eight members of the New York State Senate who were elected as progressives but are in a majority coalition with Republicans in the chamber. Chair of the labor committee, Alcantara is a longtime labor organizer who advocates for working communities and affordable housing.

10. Cynthia Mota

Pennsylvania-native Cynthia Mota is a member of the Allentown City Council. In January 2012, when she was first elected, she became the first Latina and woman of color to hold the position. Also born in the Dominican Republic, she moved to Allentown when she was middle school-aged. With bachelor’s degrees in sociology and Spanish as well as a master’s degree in human development, Mota spent years working as a counselor, for both youth and families, as well as a case manager and clinical director before stepping into politics. As a councilperson, she’s chair of Parks and Recreation, Budget and Finance, Human Resources and Administration and Appointments.

11. Bethaida “Bea” González

Bethaida “Bea” González is an Afro-Latina politician based out of Syracuse, New York. Born in Puerto Rico, she moved to New York when she was three years old, becoming the first in her family to receive a high school diploma. She went on to study political science and Latin American studies at Binghamton University and later obtained a Master of Public Administration from Syracuse University. In 1991, she was a member of the Latino Task Force, where she caught the mayor’s attention. He would later nominate González to the school board. The first Latina to hold a citywide position, she went on to break another barrier in 2001, when she was elected to the common council. She served two four-year terms before announcing her candidacy for mayor of Syracuse in 2008, a race she would later withdraw from because of her mother’s ailing health. In 2016, Gonzalez became the vice president at her alma mater, Syracuse University.

12. Grace Diaz

Democrat Grace Diaz is a State Representative from Rhode Island representing District 11 in the city of Providence. In 2005, she became the first-ever Dominican-American woman elected to state office in the U.S. Since then, she has taken on issues like education, public health and racial, gender and disability discrimination. Democratic Caucus Chair, Diaz is also a member of the House Committee on Finance Member, the House Finance Subcommittee on Public Safety Member, the House Finance Subcommittee on Human Services Member, the House Committee on Rules Chairwoman and the Legislative Commission on Child Care. Additionally, Diaz is Providence’s Minority Women Business Enterprise outreach director and the first vice chairwoman of the Rhode Island Democratic State Committee.

13. Rosa Clemente

We Out… #beach #water #sun

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Rosa Clemente is a New York-based community organizer. In 2008, former Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney named the puertorriqueña her running mate. On July 12, Clemente, a fierce advocate for Black Lives Matter, criminal justice and the decolonization of Puerto Rico, was confirmed as the vice presidential nominee of the Green Party, a major first for Latinas. On Election Day, the pair received 161,797 votes (or 0.12 percent of the popular vote).

Read: She Is A Peruvian Immigrant And One Of The New Women Running Things In Government. Meet Elizabeth Guzman

We want to hear about the Afro-Latina politicians in your city or state. 

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The Spanish ‘Star-Spangled Banner’ Is Being Shared To Honor Hispanic Workers Fighting COVID-19

No Pos Wow

The Spanish ‘Star-Spangled Banner’ Is Being Shared To Honor Hispanic Workers Fighting COVID-19

There’s no denying that the world looks a lot different now than it did in 1947. And while the list of all of the positive changes that the decades stretching between now and then have done for the world and minorities, a recent campaign is also highlighting the ways in which our current president could take some notes on certain values the United States held dear during this time. Particularly ones that had been pressed for by one of our former presidents.

As part of Franklin D. Roosevelt’s “Good Neighbor Policy” effort, he worked to promote positive and healthy relations between the United States in Latin American countries.

At the time Rooseveltaimed to ensure that the North, Central and South American countries avoided breaking under the influence of Axis countries during World War II. As part of this campaign, Roosevelt comissioned a Spanish and a Portuguese version of the U.S. national anthem. According to Time Magazine he also “recruited Hollywood to participate in this Good Neighbor Policy; Walt Disney went on goodwill tour of South America, hoping to find a new market for his films, and ended up producing two movies inspired by the trip: Saludos Amigos (1942) and The Three Caballeros (1944). The Brazilian star Carmen Miranda also got a boost, and her role in The Gang’s All Here made her even more famous in the U.S. And alongside these cross-cultural exchanges, the U.S. government decided it needed an anthem that could reach Spanish speakers.”

According to NPR, Clotilde Arias, wrote wrote the translation at the end of World War II, was born in the small Peruvian city, Iquitos in 1901 and moved to New York City to become a composer when she was 22-years-old. Her version of the anthem is now part of an exhibit at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C.

Now in an effort to support Latino communities affected by the coronavirus, the non-profit We Are All Human Foundation’s Hispanic Star campaign commissioned the a remake of the song.

Hoping to raise awareness of its Hispanic Recovery Plan and efforts to help to connect Hispanic small businesses and workers with resources during the pandemic, the campaign brought the old recording from obscurity.

For the song, the 2019 winner of the singing competition La Voz,  Jeidimar Rijos, performed “El Pendón Estrellado.” Or, “The Star-Spangled Banner.” 

The song has already received quite a bit of comments and support on Youtube.

Hang in there, fam. We can only get through this together.

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A 9-Year-Old Girl Was Detained By Border Patrol On Her Way To School


A 9-Year-Old Girl Was Detained By Border Patrol On Her Way To School

A 9-year-old U.S. citizen was separated from her mother for 36 hours after agents at the border accused her of lying about her citizenship.

Like thousands of students in our country, Julia Isabel Amparo Medina’s daily commute requires her to cross the U.S. border.

The fourth-grade student attends Nicoloff Elementary School in San Ysidro, California and was in a carpool to school from her home in Tijuana when she ran into traffic. Medina, was commuting to school in a car driven by her mother’s friend Michelle Cardena, Cardena’s two children and her own older 14-year-old brother, Oscar. When the long line to get into the U.S. seemed to be jampacked upon their 4 a.m arrival, Cardenas instructed the kids in her car to walk to the border. She assured them that when they reached it, she would call them an Uber to get them the rest of the way to their school.

But Medina and her never made it across the border or to school that day.

According to the New York Times who talked to a Customs and Border Protection spokesman, two Amparo and her brother arrived at one of the San Ysidro port of entry facilities for pedestrians at 10:15 a.m. last Monday.

Upon their arrival, Amparo and her brother presented their U.S. passports to a CBP officer who soon accused her of being someone else. Note: Amparo’s passport image which was taken years before so she did not look exactly like herself. They also accused her brother of smuggling.

A CBP spokesperson has said that Amparo “provided inconsistent information during her inspection, and CBP officers took the 9-year-old into custody to perform due diligence in confirming her identity and citizenship.”

After CBP officers the confirmed that her brother was a U.S. citizen, he was permitted to enter the U.S while his sister stayed behind. It wasn’t until 6:30 pm on Tuesday, that Amparo was confirmed to be a U.S. citizen as well and was released and admitted to the U.S. to her mother.

Speaking to NBC7, Amparo said she was “scared” of her detention and that she was “sad because I didn’t have my mom or my brother. I was completely by myself.”

According to Amparo’s mother Thelma Galaxia, her daughter claims that she was told by an officer that she and her brother would be released if she admitted to being her cousin. Galaxia claims that officers also convinced her son Oscar to sign a document that Amparo was his cousin and not his sister.

When Galaxia was alerted that her children had been detained she contacted the Mexican consulate.

After being notified by the consulate that her daughter would be released at the San Ysidro Port of Entry. While the family felt relieved to be grateful to be reunited with their daughter, Galaxia says the separation should never have happened.

Over the weekend, Twitter was swift to express their outrage over the incident.

Some even expressed their dismay of having a similar situation happen to them.

Many are using the incident as an example of the racial issues plaguing so many U.S. citizens like Amparo.

So many of the comments included outside opinions from those who have yet to experience the direct targetting of ICE.

Over all, nearly everyone was quick to point out the saddest aspect of Amparo’s experience.

Read: Preschool Students Are Doing Active Shooter Drills And I Guess This Is The New Normal Now

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