This is Hispanic Heritage Month and as the wider community recognizes the significant contributions of Latinos across the country – here in Arizona I was proud to return to the broadcast airwaves to take part in a history-making event.
KTAR News hosted a two-hour community roundtable with one hour broadcast entirely in Spanish, becoming the first English-speaking radio station in Arizona history to do so.
I moderated the first hour in English. Talented and well-respected journalist Mary Rabago moderated the second hour in Spanish.
Our community panel included Dulce Juarez, a young activist and advocate for human and migrant rights in Arizona. She has always impressed me. But spending time with her and hearing her perspectives made me even more convinced we need more strong voices like hers. She is an ASU-educated DREAMER who now, as a U.S. resident, works in outreach and advocacy for the American Civil Liberties Union of Arizona.
Enrique Medina Ochoa has a long history of work in city government in Arizona, Texas and California and is the current Executive Director of the Arizona Fair Housing Center. He believes we need more Latinos in decision-making positions if we’re going to continue to see progress in Arizona.
James Garcia is someone I affectionately call a “numbers guy” because he is like a walking encyclopedia when it comes to facts and figures about Latinos in Arizona. He’s a journalist, a playwright and media and communications consultant who brings a wealth of knowledge to any table.
We had a lively and informative conversation about everything from the cultural landscape of Latinos in Arizona to the rise of Hispanics in local and state politics and the educational gap we all agree must close.
The future is now and what the group made clear is that we need to encourage more civic engagement among our youth and use our respective leadership positions in the community to serve as mentors. It takes a village and the village is all of us working together.
Education is something the panel seemed to agree is probably the most pressing issue in our community. We need to make sure we’re reaching our Latino youth sooner than later so they’re not only prepared for college, but the idea of going to college isn’t a question – it’s a given. We need to reach and educate the entire family so parents are equipped to navigate the process with confidence.
The face of Arizona is changing. More than 30% of Arizona’s population is Latino and that number will continue to grow. In two hours we only touched the surface of the discussion that we all agree should be happening on a regular basis. As Juarez so aptly pointed out, we need to work together, embrace diversity and create more seats at the tables of power for those who have a voice – and for those who don’t – but should.