Mostly Latino civic leaders and grassroots organizers from across Southern California came together over the weekend for the 2011 Latino Congreso Conference to debate, network, and strategize how to achieve a united Latino political agenda.
“The theme of this conference is building power and winning change,” said Angela Sanbrano, President of the National Alliance of Latino American and Caribbean Communities (NALACC). “We plan to develop goals and models here in California to accomplish this.”
The common sentiment at this politics and policy convention of the Latino community was that a hostile anti-immigrant environment together with turbulent economic conditions – made worse by unemployment, inequity in public education, and the over incarceration of Latinos – have created enormous uncertainty in Latino households across California. Yet participants at Pitzer College in Claremont were not deterred.
“The test of our democracy is determined by those incarcerated and how we treat them,” said Los Angeles County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas. “Recidivism is high for minors and leads to sentencing disparities – 30 percent of which are African-American and 40 percent of which are Latino. We need to push for 3 strikes reform.”
California Assembly Speaker John Perez echoed the supervisor’s remarks. “The issue is not the construction of prisons…it’s about correcting unjust laws. We need rational and responsible discussion about the elimination of the three-strikes law.”
“Latino issues are mainstream issues -jobs, educational justice, changing the narrative on immigration reform, redistricting voting rights, criminal justice, and economic justice matter to all of us,” said Claremont Mayor Sam Pedroza.
California Forward made a compelling case for structural reform to the state and local budget process by connecting the issues mentioned throughout the day to California Forward’s vision of a smarter government which gets results most Californians can agree on – better jobs, better health, less poverty, less crime, and better education.
“The majority of the state budget is already being spent on education, health and welfare, and prisons,” said Richard Raya, California Forward policy director. “Smart government would require the state to be explicit about the outcomes it wants to achieve by adding performance standards, setting specific goals for results, and ensuring local government activities are transparent and leaders are held accountable.”
Civic leaders in attendance included: Assembly Member Gil Cedillo (D-45th), United Food and Commercial Worker President Connie Leyva, California Latino School Board Association President Xilonin Cruz-Gonzales, William C. Velasquez Institute‘s Antonio Gonzalez, Steve Ochoa of MALDEF, Isabel Charleston-Calderon of the Genetically Modified Organism’s 2012 Initiative, Michelle Romero of the Greenlining Institute, and Eugene Hernandez of the Sentencing Initiative.
California Forward, a presenting sponsor of 2011 California Latino Congreso, was proud to support this effort alongside SEIU-721, Southwest Voter Project, The Latino/Latina Roundtable, Mexican American Political Association, William C. Velasquez Institute, National Day Laborers Organizing Network, Hermandad Mexicana Latinoamericana, National Alliance of Latino American and Caribbean Communities, COFEM, CARECEN, AND LCLAA – San Gabriel Valley/Inland Empire Chapter.
Nii-Quartelai Quartey is a member of California Forward’s statewide strategic partnerships team