How visible or invisible is the Latinx community?

Carl Lavender, Chief Equity Officer, Foundation for a Healthy St. Petersburg and Jessica Estévez, co-founder of Estrategia Group

BY C. PINEDA, Staff Writer

ST. PETERSBURG — The Hispanic/Latinx community was recently invited to attend the ¿y dónde está mi gente? LatinxinVisible online event sponsored by the Foundation for a Healthy St. Petersburg and organized by the Estrategia Group on Oct. 24 via Zoom.

According to the event organizers, their goal is to open the Latinx community to conversations on achieving health equity and eradicating inequality, a goal of the Foundation since its inception five years ago.

The Foundation has fast become a leader in confronting inequity issues the local community faces in housing, education, medical care, food, employment and wealth-building.

Carl R. Lavender, Jr., chief equity officer of the Foundation, shared the need for a race equity movement to build health equity.

“We cannot advance race equity in a smart way unless we have our Latin brothers and sisters cocreating plans with us,” said Lavender.

The term Latinx is being used to identify people with origins in Latin America.  The Latinx label is growing in popularity by organizers and the media in the United States, although it is not widely used by Latino/Latina/Hispanic individuals to self-identify.

The event commenced with upbeat Latin rhythms. There were introductions by Lavender, Kelly Kirschner of Eckerd College and Randall H. Russell, CEO of the Foundation for a Healthy St. Petersburg.

Host, Jessica Estévez of the Estrategia Group, welcomed all participants with energy and music.

“I want to invite you all to be listening for what helps you feel seen and heard,” Estévez said to the audience.  She invited each participant to share what makes them feel valued and gives them a sense of belonging.

The Latinx community is one of the fastest-growing populations in the US, according to Pew Research Center. Estévez commented on the community’s need to come together to become thought partners in conversations regarding equity.

Notable speakers included the keynote, Paul Ortiz, professor of history at the University of Florida. He is the author of An African American and Latinx History of the United States.

Ortiz highlighted the Latinx community’s commonalities, such as a strong belief in family, mutual aid, cooperation, and solidarity. He connected Latinx history directly to African-American history.

In his conversation, Ortiz talked of the alliances between the indigenous peoples and African Americans in their shared resistance against enslavement.  Ortiz’s history lesson included the impact of the Haitian and Mexican revolutions in the fight against brutalization by European colonizers.

He touched upon Florida Statute 1003.42 that states Florida public schools “shall teach efficiently and faithfully, using the books and materials required that meet the highest standards…the history of African Americans.”

Ortiz stressed the importance of funding this statute to understand our ancestors’ struggles as we push for an anti-racist curriculum and racial equity in our schools.

“The old narrative… is not good enough anymore,” said Ortiz.

The event continued with presentations discussing the disparity in education, immigration, and health.

Rita Vasquez of Pinellas County Schools gave insight into education.  Guadalupe Pimentel of the Indianapolis Foundation spoke on immigration, and Abraham Salina Miranda of USF Health talked about health disparity in the Latinx community.

“I know there are lots of points of pride in our community, and I want to elevate that,” said Estévez.

Estévez invites the public to stay engaged to increase and fuel the voices of the Latinx community to “eradicate inequality, achieve health equity and improve population health.”

The entire event is now available to view online in English and Spanish.

To reach C. Pineda, email cpineda@theweeklychallenger.com

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