Washington Heights Community comes Together to help Hispanic Mistreatment

On September 26, The New York City Commission on Human Rights hosted a resource fair and panel discussion at the Isabella Geriatric Center for members of the Washington Heights community — of which they addressed the challenges Hispanic New Yorkers face in the workplace.

Multiple information tables were available for attendees to learn more about their rights.

Panelists of this event were able to share their personal experiences with discrimination and harassment and also help those seeking advice.

“I was born and raised in Washington Heights with immigrant parents,” said panelist Lisette Camilo, NYC Department of Citywide Administrative Services Commissioner. “Watching them struggle to give me a better opportunity and navigate the world when you don’t know the language, influenced my interest in really doing public service.”

Other panelists of this event included New York State Senator, Marisol Alcantara, Senior Advisor to the Mayor, Lorraine Cortes-Vasquez, and New York City assembly member, Carmen De La Rosa. These panelists are not only reflections of their community, but very well-versed in ways people can receive help.

Panelist, Carmen De La Rosa, speaks of her experiences with discrimination.

Panelist Cortes-Vasquez emphasized to the attendees that there are laws in place in order to be protected from behavior that is humiliating or abusive, and that people need to be aware of them.

Many people came from outside the immediate Washington Heights area to share their experiences.

Rene Vasquez, of Queens, came to the event after hearing about it on TV. He has been struggling through a human rights case for three years of which he lost his job from.

“Sometimes I think the biggest danger in the Hispanic community is people not wanting to help each other,” he said. “At the time when I lost my job I was looking for food stamps. When the Puerto Rican lady at the counter asked where I was from and I responded with ‘Ecuador’, she immediately said ‘no no no you are not qualified’. She did not ask me anything else and I wasn’t able to get help.”

What is important for people to know is that they do have resources at their disposal in their communities and that they are not alone in their struggles, even if they feel excluded or unimportant.

Berenice Gartner, Univision news personality and investigative reporter, and moderator of the event, uses her reputation in the Hispanic community in order to help others.

“People know me already through the news and so many times people call us before they call the city or even 911 because they know that we are going to be there and that we will try to get answers for them,” she said. “I think it’s a responsibility… we need to give back to the community. This takes a lot of work and time but it’s part of being there with the community not only on TV but there with them in person.”

Gartner said that if there is one thing she wants people to take from this event, besides attempting to memorize all of the advice given from panelists, is that people need to know that they can find information if they are unsure about issues involving discrimination or harassment. Everyone has rights and if you are not aware of them, do not be afraid to call someone and ask if you have a case or not.

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