The Latino forum’s purpose was to discuss collaboration opportunities, but more than anything it exposed a growing chasm among the community’s leadership as it struggles to address long-standing problems such as lagging educational achievement, health inequality, and immigration-related issues.
The forum hosted last week by Adelante, the Latino and Community Resource Center, drew more than 100 Latino leaders and community activists to the Sofia Quintero Art & Cultural Center in South Toledo.
Toledo City Councilman Adam Martinez said that because state and federal funding is shrinking, Latinos’ best strategy to promote community projects and programs is to “start talking to our state legislators and representatives before funding decisions are made.”
“I hate to rain on anyone’s parade, but there’s only so many dollars out there,” said state Sen. Edna Brown (D., Toledo), who also addressed the Latino community during the meeting. “We have excellent projects submitted, but we can’t fund all of them. So, we want to see if some of these things can be combined.”
Several longtime Latino leaders rebuked Mr. Martinez and Senator Brown.
Community activist Margarita De Leon reminded Senator Brown, who is African-American, that she is always lobbying to ensure the black community gets funding.
“There’s a ton of money out there; but we never get any,” Ms. De Leon said with a glare toward the senator. “... The symphony, orchestra and other mainstream organizations always get funding. What we ask for is a pittance. We just want a piece of the pie.”
Baldemar Velasquez, president of Toledo-based Farm Labor Organizing Project, told those in attendance that it was time for the Latino community to become more aggressive in speech and actions.
“I’m tired of this mentality of ‘What are we’re going to do?’ ” he said. “We’re not asking for handouts, we’re asking for what’s rightfully ours as taxpayers.”
Mr. Velasquez, one of Lucas County’s most respected Latino leaders, also publicly reprimanded many of the Latinos gathered at the meeting.
He questioned many of those who call themselves “leaders” and asked, “What have you done that makes you a leader?”
“I’ve been organizing protests and marches and rallies for decades, and I’ve never seen most of you at any of them,” Mr. Velasquez said. “Exactly who do you lead?”
He encouraged the Latino community to get on boards such as the United Way and other organizations where they can effect change.
Contact Federico Martinez at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6154.