Ruben’s Story

Ruben was born with a cleft palate and a hand deformity. He had previously been referred to and was attending a program for students with special needs, but his parents felt that he was not being challenged intellectually since most of his peers had varying levels of developmental disabilities.

A family friend mentioned their positive experience at El Centro de la Raza, so the family applied and Ruben qualified for the free part-day ECEAP program. He started in the José Martí Child Development Center in September 2017.

When Ruben first started at the age of 3, he was very shy and introverted, cried frequently, and he didn’t want to try anything by himself. After observing Ruben, the teachers developed an Individual Learning Plan and encouraged his social-emotional development through culturally-relevant activities in his first language (Spanish). As his self-esteem grew, Ruben became more confident in his abilities and self-help skills, such as using the bathroom on his own, and the social emotional support really helped Ruben develop the confidence needed to grow in other areas of development.

Now, after seven months in the program, Ruben happily participates in class, socializes with his peers and shows initiative in trying and completing different activities. He practices fine motor activities and is able to write his own name and cut different shapes with scissors. Ruben loves to sing and dance; and after an operation on his tongue, his language abilities continue to advance as he pronounces sounds well for his age level and uses increasingly complex sentences.

Ruben’s parents are also very happy with the changes they have seen in their child. They support his development at home by providing him with puzzles and other challenging activities, and they encourage his independence and confidence to complete tasks on his own.

Ruben continues to receive physical therapy, so in conjunction with our dual-language, culturally appropriate curriculum, Ruben is supported in all areas of development, and after the second developmental assessment of this school year (one more to go), Ruben has already made significant growth and/or is meeting widely-held expectations for his age group in almost all areas of development. Ruben has one more year of preschool before kindergarten, but at the rate he’s going, Ruben is on track for success in kindergarten and beyond.

Sabor Delicioso’s Story

When two people have a passion for cooking, they start their own business. That was what LuLu and Hilda did. They have always wanted a food establishment to call their own. To learn what it would take to become successful owners, they turned to the Business Opportunity Center at El Centro de la Raza.

The Business Opportunity Center (BOC) introduced the concept of a food cart to LuLu and Hilda. Without a formal foundation of building a business, the BOC guided them through the grueling application process of applying for a permit. Some time after submitting their comprehensive blueprint design to the City of Seattle’s Health Department, LuLu and Hilda started their business on April 1, 2018.

However, the endeavor of LuLu and Hilda was not without sacrifices. While their pursuing a food business has opened doors for them, they are challenged by striking a balance between working and spending time with family during the evenings. When inquired about other adversities, they shared a look of mutual respect for overcoming unseen challenges as a team: from responding to public demand and competition from other cart vendors, to abiding by the Department of Health’s guidelines, to tracking their operating costs, and to facing the exposure of Seattle’s weather conditions.

In spite of those trials and tribulations, for the first time in a long time, LuLu and Hilda feel like they are investing in their economic access, opportunity, and stability; but more importantly, in themselves. They feel proud to be contributing back to their households and having their families’ unwavering support. Along the way, they also grew more confident in their use of technology to promote their business.

When asked what is next for them, their eyes glowed, and they said with dignity: a restaurant. (Currently, they offer catering services.) For now, stop by their food cart at Plaza Roberto Maestas and get your fill of Mexican street food. They make their dishes from scratch, including the popular huarache and nachos dishes (for $8!). When you support people like LuLu and Hilda, you are also touching the lives of their families.

Check them out on Uber Eats and Facebook!

Volunteers for Pregones de mi Tierra

The Movimiento Afrolatino Seattle (MAS) is looking for volunteers to assist with their spring concert called “Pregones de mi tierra” on Saturday, June 9, from 4 PM to 8 PM at Plaza Roberto Maestas. Click here to learn more about the available volunteer opportunities.

MAS activates and empowers communities through art by raising awareness about the history and cultural contributions of Latinos of African descent. This free event is sponsored by 4Culture and supported by El Centro de la Raza.

Rest in Power

Rev. Dr. Samuel B. McKinney was a trusted pastor, civil rights advocate, and visionary leader. During his lifetime, he recognized many injustices facing communities of color and was moved to take action. Dr. McKinney was compelled to give his fellow community members a stronger voice by protesting peacefully. He saw the civil rights era as a more prominent movement to promote stronger protection rights for all people. We are an extension of Dr. McKinney’s work because our community members continue to face social, political, economic, and legal injustices. However, his passion for and legacy of social justice remain a source of inspiration to us. We continue to keep his loved ones in our hearts and thoughts. Read Dr. McKinney’s obituary, here.

We March for Workers like Aureliano

Aureliano arrived at El Centro de la Raza where he initially requested assistance for translation services. He had received a box from CenturyLink though never subscribed to such a service himself. Could it be that someone was using his identity?

One of our case managers at El Centro de la Raza then called CenturyLink on Aureliano’s behalf to inquire about the unsought box. It turned out that CenturyLink had dispatched the equipment in advance of obtaining Aureliano’s signature. While someone had used Aureliano’s identity to acquire telecommunication services, he was free of any liabilities.

That case manager identified another opportunity to further assist Aureliano by asking him about his experience with pulling credit reports, a management tool to track his credit history. Aureliano had yet to request one. With his consent, the case manager proceeded to help him obtain his first credit report on the spot.

Moments later after downloading Aureliano’s credit report, he was staggered to discover that he was liable for $30,895 in collection debt, much to which he was not privy. He had never received any bill notifications related to the list of unfamiliar expenses. Aureliano and his case manager acted immediately by challenging the supposed debt across eleven accounts. On that same day, they prepared and submitted debt validation letters to multiple creditors.

After roughly three weeks of anticipation, Aureliano was able to breathe a deep sigh of relief as the weight of $28,000 dissipated from his shoulders. An insurance company had mistakenly billed Aureliano and thus issued a reversal notice. Aureliano’s name was no longer tied to that enormous debt.

Today, Aureliano remains on the right path towards financial empowerment. He meets monthly with his case manager at El Centro de la Raza where he has demonstrated with proficiency how to complete and maintain a budget. He continues to save despite living from paycheck to paycheck.

El Centro de la Raza’s 2017 Community Needs Assessment

El Centro de la Raza conducts a formal Community Needs Assessment every three years to summarize the current needs of the Latino community in our region. This assessment directly informs El Centro de la Raza’s organizational strategic planning process to design, improve and sustain effective programs and services that best serve the community’s needs. It’s also used to advocate for the community at the local and state level.

For this year’s Community Needs Assessment, we conducted two studies using a community-based participatory research (CBPR) approach. CBPR engages community members as leaders in planning and implementing the study as well as analyzing and creating a plan of action from the results. This approach maintains accountability to communities most impacted by the issues studied.

We found that the top three concerns in our community are in the areas of employment, discrimination, and housing. The most pressing needs are for secure, family-wage jobs; safety from interpersonal and institutional discrimination on the basis of race, language, and immigration status; and for affordable housing with access to transit, stores and businesses, and childcare. The complete report (available here) covers these findings in more detail, and includes information about the other six areas we studied (education, healthcare, financial stability, transportation, nutrition/food access, and service utilization).

El Centro de la Raza’s leadership team is developing recommendations based on our findings for service providers, funders, and advocacy work. We will release a report summarizing these recommendations later this year.

Read the Community Needs Assessment here.

Unidos in Finance Program Now Enrolling!

El Centro de la Raza is excited to announce that we are currently enrolling participants for our next cohort of the Unidos in Finance (UIF) program. UIF provides a 6-week Financial Sector training along with job readiness, money handling, and customer service skills for adults with barriers to entry in the employment system.

 We are looking for participants, basic eligibility requirements are as follows:

  • 18 years of age or older
  • Bilingual (any language)
  • Eligibility to work in the U.S.
  • High school diploma/GED
  • Six months of customer service experience

Schedule: 
We have two upcoming training series:
– October 22 to December 12 (Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday from 9 AM to 12 PM)
– January 14 to March 6 (Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday from 9 AM to 12 PM)

Contact information: 
Juanita Unger – Program Coordinator
Phone: (206) 957-4608
Email: junger@elcentrodelaraza.org

Cecilia Acosta – YAT and UIF Program Manager
Phone: (206) 957-4624
Email: cacosta@elcentrodelaraza.org

Petition to the Federal Aviation Administration on Environmental Equity

We have taken on the mantle of environmental equity for our beloved Beacon Hill community where the population is 70% people of color, 44% born outside the US with 36% not speaking English well, and one out of 5 live in poverty.

Beacon Hill is surrounded by air and noise pollution emission sources from roadways (I-5, I-90, Rainier and MLK) and airplanes that fly overhead every 3 minutes.  Road traffic is getting worse.  As to airplanes, from 2012 to 2016, flight landings increased by 33%. In 2016, 70% of ~200,000 landings flew over Beacon Hill at 3,000 feet at times 2,000 feet.  Airplane passengers will increase from 38 million in 2014 to 66 million in 2035, and international flights will double and cargo volume to triple from 2017-2021.

Air and noise pollution health impacts include asthma, reduced lung capacity, irritation of eyes, nose, mouth and throat for air pollution; and heart disease, stress and sleep disturbance for noise pollution along with many other factors.  Neighborhood residents and workers have repeatedly complained to no avail.

The last couple of years, we learned about Beacon Hill’s environmental and health situation, hosted 24 community meetings in Chinese, English, Somali, Spanish, Tagalog and Vietnamese and talked with 467 concerned community members to get their ideas and guidance for the Community Action Plan.  Noise measurement, reduction and getting mitigation funding is on the top half of the list.

We are launching a petition to Congress and the Administrator of FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) to ask them to:

  • expand communities eligible for mitigation and funding to include adversely affected communities that are not adjacent to airports such as Beacon Hill,
  • provide systematic ground measurements of noise when asked in addition to the FAA annualized average noise measurement,
  • reduce the maximum allowable levels from 65 decibels to 55 decibels to be consistent with local and US laws, and
  • host regional airport planning to mitigate undue burden on affected communities given increased regional demand.

The timing is right because FAA’s authorization will expire this March 30, 2018 and Congress needs to reauthorize FAA.

Our goal is to collect 1,000 online and hard copy signatures from concerned residents, workers and friends.

Our deadline is February 28.  Please sign the petition and help us gather online and/or hard copy signatures.  Please note translated versions of the petitions will be coming soon.

  • To sign the online signature, click https://goo.gl/LvCBKL
  • Please feel free to forward this email and post the link on your social media.
  • To sign the hard copy petition, get copies to collect signatures, and/or turn in signed petitions, you can either print the attached document or come to El Centro during:
    • Weekdays from 8:30 am to 5:30 pm, see Veronica Gallardo at Room 304
    • Saturdays from 9 am to 4 pm, see Maria Batayola at El Centro building 2524 16th Avenue South, Seattle WA 98144.

If you want to get more involved or have any questions, please contact our volunteer organizer Maria Batayola at environmentalequity@elcentrodelaraza.org or 206 293 2951.

I learned that during the community meetings, it was not unusual for attendees to say that there “is nothing we can do about it” and to just “ask for what little you can get” because the “problem is too big”.  Environmental equity covers the natural and the built environment.  We believe that what we have built, we can be rebuild for the sake of our beloved communities.  We believe and call for “Equal benefits, equal burdens.”

Si se puede.  Yes, we can. Mil gracias.

Sincerely,

Estela Ortega
Executive Director

Ensuring Equity for Tobacco 21 Policy

A new legislation would raise the legal smoking age to 21, and would be a powerful move to reduce youth tobacco use in Washington State.
It will prevent smoking-related disease and death for future generations.

To improve the health of all of Washington’s youth, we center equity in the requirements and implementation of Tobacco 21. The Healthy King County Coalition Tobacco, Marijuana, and Other Drugs (TMOD) work group has developed the following recommendations for an equitable Tobacco 21 law:

  • Don’t punish youth for tobacco purchase or possession.

The tobacco industry blatantly targets youth. Laws that punish youth have little evidence to support their effectiveness, and they are a tactic to shift blame from the tobacco industry onto youth. Communities of color, LGBTQ, and low-income communities are already targeted by the tobacco industry, meaning that punishments will fall disproportionately on youth in communities that are already the most affected by these disparities. Fines and other civil and criminal penalties can have an adverse effect on youth and their families already struggling.

  • Keep youth safe by avoiding armed confrontation.

Liquor and Cannabis Board enforcement officers carry guns. Current enforcement of sales laws can involve stopping people who appear under-age after they make a tobacco purchase. Raising the age of sales, these encounters will increase and with older youth and young adults.

The communities targeted by tobacco companies are also ones who experience unequal treatment from law enforcement. With increased encounters with officers, an incident could escalate and compromise the well being an LGBTQ-identified youth or youth of color. Enforcement can continue using compliance checks as well as establishing ongoing retailer and community education instead.

Tobacco 21 is not just a law; it is a norm change. With successful implementation, today’s tweens will adopt a worldview where eighteen to twenty year olds can’t buy tobacco. Risking the safety of a youth to catch one offense is not worth it.

  • Invest in prevention and cessation for youth who could previously purchase.

Tobacco use causes nicotine addiction. Most people who smoke wish they could quit. Raising the age of legal of tobacco sales will have the strongest effect on youth entering their teens.

It is also an opportunity for eighteen to twenty year olds at the time of implementation to quit before continuing a lifelong addiction. An investment of adequate resources to support tobacco prevention education and cessation services is necessary.