Resiliency and the desire for the American Dream are what contribute to the success of an entrepreneur in our country. Thank you to the Fort Worth Star Telegram for featuring our director of program development, Julian Martinez, and his entrepreneurial family lineage breaking barriers for Latino entrepreneurs in last Sunday’s edition of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. Click here to view the full story.
Ignacio Salazar, President, and CEO of SER Jobs for Progress National, Inc., issued the following statement to celebrate Juneteenth, 2022. This day is the first anniversary of this historical event as an official federal observance authorized by President Biden last year. The origin of Juneteenth dates back 156 years to June 19, 1865, when enslaved Black people in Galveston, Texas, were finally freed, two months after the end of the U.S. Civil War. Federal troops were sent to free the enslaved people from those who vowed to keep them until armed Union troops arrived. Only then did the former owners comply with the Emancipation Proclamation issued by President Abraham Lincoln.
“SER National is proud and honored to join with millions of people across the United States and Puerto Rico in reflecting on the true meaning of this day. Juneteenth holds a special place in our hearts because it reminds us of the inherent yearning for freedom within each of us. This freedom is rooted deep in our human spirit and enables us to be uplifted, strengthened, and capable of enduring even the most challenging events in our lives. More than a century later, we can learn from the moving accounts of men, women, and children who held together after the end of the costliest war our nation has ever faced. They continued even after learning they were free while their owners kept them in shackles. Rather than rebel and be killed, these formerly enslaved people drew from the spiritual freedom within their hearts. They resisted through the resilience of their unwavering faith, knowing that release was near.
At SER National and throughout our SER Network of Affiliates, we sincerely believe that every individual has the inherent capacity to achieve, given opportunity, training, and effort. Like those courageous black Americans tasting freedom officially for the first time in their lives, the more than a million people we serve yearly experience the rewards of their resilience and perseverance. Many are free economically for the first time in their lives with new skills and purpose. They can begin to plan their futures for themselves and their families with nothing and no one to hold them back. Today, as in 1865, we stand at the edge of unlimited possibilities with the opportunity to break free from fear of the pandemic and work together to confront historical challenges. Also, our labor pool of willing workers is growing steadily, and our elected leaders are reckoning with issues that affect all of us, including public safety, economic stability, racial justice, and gender equity and equality.
Juneteenth, 1865 did not cure all our nation’s ills overnight. It would take time before formerly enslaved people broke through economic and social repression to achieve notable outcomes, like five who became elected leaders. Today, America is blessed to have advanced much farther, and we can celebrate and protect our freedoms for all.”
President Biden is naming Julie Chavez Rodriguez to serve as a White House senior adviser, putting her on par with some of his most senior and longest-serving aides and making her the first Latina to ever hold a top West Wing staffing role.
Rodriguez currently serves as director of the White House Office of Intergovernmental Affairs and the White House is set to announce Wednesday that she will retain that position and become a senior adviser and special assistant to the president, serving alongside other longtime Biden aides Mike Donilon, Steve Ricchetti and Anita Dunn, who recently returned to the White House.
Rodriguez will now be part of a wider clutch of aides, including chief of staff Ron Klain, deputy chief of staff Jennifer O’Malley Dillon and communications director Kate Bedingfield, who consult with the president daily on a wide range of domestic, foreign, communications and political issues.
When the president consults his senior team in the Oval Office, there’s a 22-inch-tall bronze bust of Cesar Chavez peering at them. Chavez is the late civil rights and farm worker leader who founded the union that eventually became known as the United Farm Workers — and Julie Chavez Rodriguez is his granddaughter.
That she’ll be sitting in on big meetings with the likeness of her grandfather watching “is pretty remarkable and speaks to both what I see as the important opportunities in this country but also that this administration continues to create,” Rodriguez told CBS News on Tuesday night. “That in two generations we can go from a farmworker to a senior adviser in the Oval Office sitting together.”
Her new role comes amid other staff changes set to be formally announced Wednesday, including the addition of Keisha Lance Bottoms, the former mayor of Atlanta, who will lead the White House Office of Public Engagement, a job recently vacated by Cedric Richmond, who is now serving as an outside political adviser to the president.
The changes come as the White House is staffing up again for what is poised to be a rocky season for an increasingly unpopular president trying to stave off widespread Democratic Party losses in the midterm elections. Several senior staffers, many of whom worked on Mr. Biden’s 2020 campaign or with him during the Obama administration, have departed for the private sector in recent weeks, others are expected to continue shifting into new roles and others may eventually move to the president’s 2024 anticipated reelection campaign.
Rodriguez’s current role keeps her in constant touch with lawmakers and the nation’s mayors, county executives and governors regarding Biden administration policies and in the aftermath of natural disasters or other emergencies.
Much of her work has focused on selling and explaining the bipartisan infrastructure plan and the American Rescue Plan, and how local and state leaders can apply for or reap the benefits of the record levels of federal funding established by the laws. But colleagues also noted that she relaunched the White House Working Group on Puerto Rico and ensured that her office’s director for Puerto Rican affairs was someone born and raised in Puerto Rico.
In the new role, Rodriguez said she expects to focus on those same issues, plus immigration reform and “the important impact that we’re having in the Latino community and making sure that that impact is understood and felt in communities across the country.”
Rodriguez served as deputy of the intergovernmental affairs office during the Obama administration after working on the Obama-Biden 2008 campaign. She credited the office’s then-director, Cecilia Munoz, who “served as a mentor and adviser to so many people like me that are continuing to impact and influence both government inside and outside in remarkable ways.”
As the Obama administration ended, Rodriguez was hired by then-Sen. Kamala Harris to serve as the new senator’s state director. She later worked on the Harris presidential campaign as a traveling chief of staff, a connection that eventually brought her back to Biden.
While there are four Latinos in the Biden Cabinet — the most to ever serve a president concurrently — Rodriguez will be the first Latina to hold such a senior role on a president’s West Wing staff.
It’s a decision likely to help assuage at least some concern among Latino lawmakers and civil rights organizations — usually expressed only privately but often directly to the president’s top aides — that Mr. Biden is missing valuable and important real-world and political perspective by not placing more Latinos in senior roles.
Luisana Pérez Fernández
Director of Hispanic Media
The White House
For 20-years, Alex Fajardo and El Sol Neighborhood Center (El Sol) have been quietly working every day, transforming society one person at a time. The SER National Network Affiliate is located in San Bernardino, California. It trains men and women passionate and committed about serving their communities into becoming Influencers, energized, powerful promotoras, and promotores. The two Spanish words are gender-specific translations for the word Community Health Workers. Yet, the catch-all generic English term does not do justice to the impact being seen from the work of these highly skilled community leaders, most of whom are women. Nor does it adequately convey the respect and influence their title commands when a promotora trained by El Sol Promotores Training Center arrives and helps lead the community in tackling a local issue. To mistake them for people simply passing out flyers at corners or door-to-door is like comparing ordinary ketchup to pico de gallo spiked with habanero chiles and thinking they are the same because they both contain tomatoes.
“We are recruiting people from their community to lead from where they live,” says Fajardo. “These are men and women in the neighborhoods who speak the language of their area. Also, they have the heart, passion, and spirit to serve. They are effective because they know the challenges firsthand of their community, so no one can deny that when they speak. For example, a woman may be going through one of our domestic violence programs, and maybe she has gone through this herself. So, we try to recruit her to become a promotora who can help reach and empower other women going through that experience to seek and accept help to free themselves. Bottom line, our promotores face and live the same conditions and convey that truth when they are face-to-face with a politician or policymaker. El Sol develops the skills in promotoras to do the work of transformation. We are making leaders from the community who can create their own changes in their neighborhoods. The victory is when the community does not depend solely on outside services to improve their lives. They are sustainable when they find their solutions also,” adds Fajardo.
Another reason why El Sol’s approach to its mission is successful is because the template of local promotoras leading transformation can be applied to any issue that residents are facing in their community. Today, areas with significant Latino populations continue to confront chronic challenges in health and education to environmental needs. These can be as simple yet critical as even access to safe pathways to and from school or clean drinking water.
This was the lesson learned in Adelanto, California, located in the high desert, an hour-and-a-half northeast of Los Angeles. The city of 32,000 people, two-thirds Latino, is one example of a community where El Sol promotoras are making a significant difference. Nearly one-in-three residents live in poverty, and El Sol initially went into Adelanto to help families with basic programs, including mental health services. Then, they made a discovery that changed their focus entirely.
“Adelanto is a unique city in the region,” says Fajardo. “For example, there’s one part that has a lot of money, but then there are other parts of the town that have mobile homes, and the people who live there do not even have running water or their basic needs being met. When our promotoras were invited in, they got with the community, and we were able to, first of all, adopt safety as a priority issue,” he adds.
The Adelanto residents participating with El Sol went through a process like mapping out the branches of a tree themselves. This step helps stakeholders see what action is needed to make the necessary changes happen in their community. The people said they wanted to start with safety for their children. The promotoras learned that many of Adelanto’s boys and girls did not have sidewalks to and from school. Also, they found out the youngsters had to take a shortcut when it rained, but the shortcut was not safe. So, the parents advocated for change, and they mobilized to begin getting sidewalks built. Now, they are tackling the water issue.
Fajardo recalls when El Sol first visited Adelanto. “When we arrived, the promotoras were thinking about doing things like a class on mental health. Then we heard the people asking how we can talk about mental health or have peace of mind when we are worried about our little ones’? We are not going to be healthy until the needs of all the residents are heard by city leaders. To them, sidewalks may be something they take for granted where they live, but to our families and us, these can make a big difference in our area. So that is where the promotoras started working, and things are happening now because the people are the ones who dictate what they want to do. Our role is to help teach them how, so they learn and become their leaders.” Says Fajardo.
EL SOL has been recognized for its COVID-19 community outreach and education by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and Dr. Anthony Fauci, Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and Chief Medical Advisor to the President. El Sol is also very active in health education on chronic conditions like asthma or diabetes. Also, developing and providing data to shed light on the underlying causes of these diseases in the Latino community to attack the root causes, not just their effects. Fajardo says what keeps him motivated and working with El Sol is the reward of witnessing the transformation of ordinary, working men and women who go through the transformational training find their voice as leaders. “I recall vividly one man who works as a landscaper to care for his family between 8 AM and 5 PM, but after that, he is meeting with the Mayor and other leaders who seek out his counsel and leadership in their community. Seeing that promoter seated at the table where decisions are made inspires and keeps me going. Hopefully, having El Sol Neighborhood Center recognized and receiving this award will encourage founders to look at our model and want to support our work.”
If you would like to learn more about their work, visit their website.
Nation’s Service-Employment-Redevelopment Network Says Diversity in Our Society and Workforce Is Fueling Innovation and Imagination in the USA
SER National today issued the following statement to celebrate National Gay Pride Month. The White House proclaimed June as a time for Americans to learn the history and significance of the movement for “justice, inclusion, and equality while reaffirming our commitment to do more to support LGBTQI+ rights.”
“SER National believes deeply in our nation’s power through the tapestry of our society’s diversity,” says Ignacio Salazar, SER National Chief Executive Officer. “Across America and Puerto Rico, our affiliates open their doors every day and embrace all those who enter with heartfelt respect and appreciation, be they staff, students, or community allies. The greatest reward for us is to witness how we are a beautiful human sea of talent, dedication, and caring individuals striving to serve. I am so proud of our LGBTQI+ team members and program participants because they are all of us in common purpose, goals, and aspirations. They belong because they teach us true strength, resilience, and perseverance,” adds Salazar.
Gay Pride Month has its roots in remembering the Stonewall Riots that happened on June 28, 1969, at the Stonewall Inn in the Greenwich Village. The gay community in Lower Manhattan in New York City began spontaneous demonstrations when they were confronted violently by police who had carried out an early-morning raid on the business, a popular gay nightclub. The riots marked a turning point for gay rights in the United States, and the event is credited as the start of the gay liberation movement that continues today.
“Today, America has more than 1-million same-sex married and unmarried households, and these couples are raising nearly 200,000 children,” says Salazar. “Also, it is clear that in virtually every state, county, and city, millions more members of the LGBTQI+ community are contributing to our country’s economic strength as business owners, professionals, and employees. Collectively, they enrich our nation’s brain trust through their creativity, skills, and desire to be included and acknowledged as we all wish. They are our siblings, children, parents, friends, and colleagues. They are all of us. We can each try to learn more about one another because this is the best way to dispel myths and find what we have in common rather than fear of the unknown that drives us apart. I know with all my heart that America and Americans are better today when we unite, and National Gay Pride Month invites all of us to bask in the colors of its rainbow and be proud of who we are.”