Maryland Latinos Unidos: One year of work and counting!
Gabriela Lemus, Executive Director of Maryland Latinos Unidos
September is an important month for Maryland Latinos Unidos (MLU). It marks many important milestones: the beginning of the fall season, Hispanic Heritage Month, and for MLU specifically, our one-year anniversary. In September 2020, our founder Veronica Cool started this project together with Maryland Nonprofits. What a journey it has been so far!
In 2020, MLU launched a series of important conversations related to the Latino community and the nonprofit world in the state of Maryland, from the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on our community, to the economic contributions that we make not only to Maryland, but to the country.
We also explored the intersection of climate change and public health, and held policy discussions with elected officials including Senator Chris Van Hollen, Del. Joseline Peña-Melnyk, and Del. David Frasier Hidalgo. We brought national experts to the table and interwove them with local community leaders to broaden critical intersectional discussions about race, equity, and inclusion.
MLU also launched the Mid-Atlantic Latinx Vaccine Equity Coalition (MALVEC) together with Johns Hopkins University, George Washington University, the City of Annapolis, and our beautiful community partners – CASA, Center of Help, and the Community Health Empowerment, Education and Research Center (CHEER). On October 30, 2021, MALVEC will partner with the Maryland Department of Health and the University of Maryland to launch “International Vaccine Day”, to make sure that nobody is left behind during this new stage of the pandemic.
So far we have raised over $700,000 to help the Latinx community to be resilient against COVID-19, to make it aware about the impact of the virus, as well as to educate leaders to better serve their communities.
As we enter MLU’s second year, we also celebrate National Hispanic Heritage Month under 2021’s theme “Be Proud of Your Past, Embrace the Future”. This is an invitation for Hispanics to embrace our backgrounds and to be proud of who we are and where we came from, while encouraging our community to embrace the future. And this, we will.
This Fall we will launch our new Member Policy Series beginning with an open conversation about What’s Next?, on September 30, followed by the session on October 28, Let’s do the Math. The MD Latinx Count post-Census 2020. During the fall, MLU will also introduce, ¿Qué pasa? Cafecito Virtual, a Spanish-language conversation with community leaders from around the state, as well as the Executive Director Quarterly Meeting, a short series of roundtable discussions to address equity in county and state government systems.
As we look forward to 2022, we have many more plans on the horizon. The 2020 Census results indicated that Latinos drove the country’s demographic growth, increasing to 62.1 million, up from 50.5 million in 2010. It also demonstrated how every county in the state of Maryland saw decreases in the number of people identifying as white alone, while the percentage of the population identifying as Hispanic or Latino increased from 8.2 percent in 2010 to 11.8 percent in 2020. What does that mean for Maryland nonprofits, small businesses, and public systems of education and healthcare? How can they better serve this growing community?
A key part of MLU’s purpose is the legislative and advocacy efforts that we conduct on a national, state, and local level. All across these levels, our work demonstrates how critical it is for Latinos to engage in their communities in order to build community power.
During Maryland’s 2022 legislative session, we will support paid family and medical leave bills, combat anti-immigration measures, support infrastructure development that is inclusive, and seek out environmental protection for the Latino and immigrant communities.
We are excited about the work ahead and look forward to collaborating with all of you. Stay tuned to our new calendar of events as well as updates on our website page and social media platforms. We hope you will join us, and we invite you to be part of our journey for a better, more inclusive Maryland: juntos podemos más, together we can do more.