Movement to Amplify Latinx Power & Impact Takes Flight
By Betty Francisco and Eneida Roman
The political ground is shifting under the Latino community across the country and right here in Massachusetts. Latinos are an integral part of communities across the Commonwealth and a crucial part of the success of the Massachusetts economy. Yet, this key demographic is woefully under-represented in the halls of power. Faced with uncertain times in our nation, now is a critical time for Latinos to increase their civic participation and representation across all sectors, including in politics.
This past June, 250 Latino leaders and over 70 partner organizations from Massachusetts and across New England convened to unleash the power and energy of the Latino community in a movement called “Amplify Latino Power and Impact” or Amplify Latinx. As a symbolic gesture, they took over the floor of the U.S. Senate replica chamber at the Edward M. Kennedy Institute, delivering passionate calls to amplify the voices of the most under-represented community in America — and challenging each other to step up to the plate.
“We’re absolutely supposed to be here,” said NPR journalist Maria Hinojosa. “We Latinos are the new pilgrims, and our stories will be written in the history books in 100 years.”
“If we’re not at the table, we might be on the menu,” warned Jossie Valentin, Holyoke City Councilor and activist.
“I see it as an obligation to serve, to do justice to my father’s immigrant story,” said Juana Matias, Massachusetts State Representative for Lawrence.”
Amplify Latinx was launched by the Latina Circle, a Boston-based network for mid to senior level Latina professionals. After the presidential election, we saw a need to convene the larger Latino community to increase our civic engagement and representation. Latinos are missing from influential positions where we can own our place at the table and work together as decision-makers to bring the critical context and innovative solutions that move us forward. And that’s why the Amplify Latinx initiative was born.
In Boston, Latinos are the fastest-growing population, accounting for 92 percent of the city’s population growth since 1980, according to a recent report by the Latino Legacy Fund at the Boston Foundation. One in five Boston residents are of Hispanic origin, and the community contributes $9 billion to the city’s gross domestic product.
Yet the faces of our communities are not reflected in city leadership — which remains predominantly white. The Greater Boston Latino Network released its Silent Crisis II Report in June 2017, revealing that Latinos continue to be missing from city government executive roles, boards and commissions.
Nationally, Latinos comprise 17 percent of the population, yet hold only 5 percent of U.S. congressional seats and 4 percent of state legislature seats. A mere 38 (7%) of the 104 women serving in Congress in 2017 are women of color: 18 are Black, 10 Latina, 9 Asian American/Pacific Islander and 1 multiracial. Recently, U.S. Representative Niki Tsongas recently announced her retirement, which means there is an open election for a MA Congressional seat in 2018. Of the potential candidates being named in the press, there are no Latinos and few women. Juana Matias, a State Representative from Lawrence is the second Latina to be elected to the Massachusetts Statehouse in its history. A woman of color is an important successor to this seat and Rep. Matias is a strong potential candidate who should be considered amongst the dozen or so names already out there.
While our vote matters, there are not enough Latino elected leaders. Part of the issue is that we don’t often engage in the political process. Only 42% of Latinos eligible to vote in Massachusetts are registered.
This has got to change. The Amplify Latinx movement is committed to taking action to significantly increase Latino power by providing civic engagement opportunities for young people and positioning more Latino candidates to run for office and for appointed positions in government.
Amplifying Latino voices is the start. Yet, we need full representation in the halls of power to create sustainable change. Given the growth of the Latino community within Boston and beyond, we know Latino voices are needed if we are going to move our Commonwealth and our country forward.
Diversity and full inclusion is needed at all levels of government. We make better decisions when the people whose lives we’re impacting have a seat at the table. By working together across sectors and parties, we can create powerful alliances to create access and equity and achieve the representation that will help our entire region prosper.