A Letter From Our Chair: Forging the Pathways to Latino Prosperity

Beloved comunidad,

As we approach the midway point of the year, I was inspired to reflect on both the first six months of my tenure as MEDA’s board chair, and the work that our powerful organization is spearheading as we approach the eve of our 50th Anniversary celebration, iVIVA MEDA!, slated to be celebrated at the grandiose San Francisco City Hall on Thursday, October 12.

I have been honored to serve on the board of directors for and was selected to serve at the helm of this organization many years ago. I was drawn to MEDA by the fact that inside of the pink walls at Plaza Adelante, dozens of passionate, community-grown and brilliant leaders were giving back and strengthening those very neighbors that found themselves in a moment of vulnerability both economically and socially.

MEDA was providing intricate and detailed personal coaching and care to community members, helping them complete taxes, create business plans, or connecting them with quality workforce opportunities. MEDA’s core values of togetherness and impact are what drew me in – before they could even be verbalized, they were living proof in the smiles, trust, celebrations and continuous visits from the community to our building and our coaches – the hardworking and diligent advocates for our clients. And while all of these services were needed and on-demand at the moment, the organization never ceased to look beyond meeting the most urgent needs of the thousands that would flock to the building.

It looked far into the future and underneath the delicate layers of systems that were built to weaken and slow down immigrants, Latinos and communities of color in their American pursuits of a brighter, just future.

MEDA began to talk about these injustices, activate community and foster leadership to remove these systemic barriers: including access to affordable housing and lending capital. As an organization, we had the fortune of being able to have difficult conversations with key community partners, funders, supporters and elected officials about the role that longstanding racism, redlining and gentrification played in the weakening of our Mission fabric. Just over a decade ago, that’s when MEDA launched a trio of community initiatives as critical responses to these inequities; community real estate, lending and policy and advocacy. Seeing these programs as a result of a methodical and audacious approach reinforced my commitment to be a partner and a leader in this work.

These values manifested in MEDA’s trajectory since: equity and audacity are what keep me here and are what characterize the organization as it moves forward and reflects on what incredible endeavors it will take on to ensure it responds to the needs of our community as we emerge from the heels of a weakened economy and a pandemic.

On the eve of our 50th anniversary, I am inspired and certain of one thing: Latino prosperity is within our reach and achievable in our lifetimes. When I walk the halls at Plaza, attend one of the dozens of forums our staff are invited to share its best practices, or even stop at one of the eleven Mission Promise school sites MEDA has a presence at, I see a Latino force that is unstoppable, laser-focused, thriving and ready to bring the next generation to the forefront of progress.

I am honored to sit at the helm of a bold solution, anchored by five pillars to ensure that our organization and our community is set to advance for the next five, ten, and even fifty years. These areas of work reinforce the creative, audacious solutions that MEDA has been espousing and put it front and center, squarely anchored at the forefront of our minds and include: scaling equitable recovery nationwide; aggressively preserving and producing affordable housing; lending for racial justice and equity; centering and activating the voices of parents and youth; and, lastly setting the bar for nonprofit excellence by looking inwards and ensuring that our leaders, our guides and and backbone can thrive and succeed at this organization and in this long term movement.

Thank you for the continued support of our organization; for being part of the tough conversations we’ve had over the years, for helping guide us, dream with us and encourage us. As Board Chair, I promise to keep your voices and your priorities at the forefront, especially as we prepare for our next strategic planning processing in 2024. I look forward to all that we can accomplish together and invite you to join us on this journey, forging Latino Pathways to Prosperity and in celebration of what is to come on Thursday, October 12 at San Francisco City Hall.

En comunidad,

Rafael Yaquian-Illescas

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