"A Reawakening of a Latino Civil Rights Movement": CEO Luis Granados' Welcome Speech at ¡VIVA MEDA! 46

“A Reawakening of a Latino Civil Rights Movement”: CEO Luis Granados’ Welcome Speech at ¡VIVA MEDA! 46

Good evening! Welcome to ¡VIVA MEDA!

This is going to be a great night. We will recognize outstanding work in our community. Plus, we will hear from former U.S. Representative Luis Gutiérrez and civil rights icon Dolores Huerta  —  on a re-awakening of a Latino civil rights movement.   

This is also my opportunity to offer some thanks. 

First, whether you are a community member, a partner or a funder, you are part of the MEDA family. 

Also, know that our staff is 100 percent focused on ensuring that our community has the choice to call San Francisco their permanent home.  

MEDA’s level of risk-taking and transformative results also requires sound governance by the MEDA Board. For their ongoing commitment to MEDA and the Mission, I thank the MEDA staff and Board.   

Tonight, I will share our vision of “The Big Picture.”  Before then, I will share highlights of MEDA’s accomplishments; I will also provide context as to where MEDA’s work fits in this pivotal time.

As I speak about MEDA’s results, I remind you that these reflect the impact of the over 25 nonprofit partners providing social services in the Mission District.

Yet despite the impactful work of all of these organizations, 8,000 Latinos — yes, 8,000 — were displaced from our neighborhood in the last 15 years. Providing social services, while key and most important, was not enough to keep our community in place.   

That’s why six years ago MEDA pivoted to embrace a comprehensive anti-poverty framework:

  • Grounded in creating family wealth;
  • Creating  place through community ownership;
  • Creating political power by converting our clients into constituents; and 
  • Driving a movement by nationally sharing our model.

MEDA is very proud of our work. This past year: 

  • We provided services to nearly 8,000 people, including free tax preparation to nearly 4,800 individuals, resulting in $8 million dollars in refunds. 
  • Mission Promise Neighborhood expanded from four to nine schools, and graduation rates for Latino students have increased by 26 percent.
  • On the affordable-housing front: we are near completion of our 93-unit building for low-income seniors — the first affordable housing project developed in the Mission in over 10 years; next year, we will complete an additional 270 units, and will break ground on 200 more; and we also just purchased our 25th apartment building, for a total of over 200 units.  
  • Our CDFI, Fondo Adelante has disbursed over $2.5 million dollars to small-business owners. Forty percent of these loans have gone to those with no documentation —- we have no late payments or defaults. 
  • On policy, we are working to ensure that SB 50 does not accelerate displacement in the Mission or elsewhere in California. We are also co-sponsoring SB 686 to support 20 Promise Neighborhoods, including the creation of 15 new ones throughout California.   
  • In our latest pivot, we are now working with over 30 organizations nationally to share our comprehensive community development model.

Tonight, it is certainly a time to celebrate; however, this is a challenging time for our community, given the unconscionable actions of the current federal administration.  

We have someone in Washington who regularly demeans us, and wants to erase us from American life. 

That angers me.  I am sure it angers you, too.  

However …

  • His actions only strengthen MEDA’s resolve. 
  • His actions only enhance MEDA’s sense of urgency. 
  • His actions only drives us to pursue a transformational “big picture.”

Every day, we hear our community members’ powerful personal stories of perseverance,  resolve and determination; however, in these times, we cannot rely only on the strengths of individuals to create a just and equitable society, for we instead need to create systems that treat every person equitably, regardless of who is in power. 

While all this craziness is taking place in Washington D.C., we need to build the basic infrastructure to create these needed systems:

Did you know that there are only two Latino-led affordable housing developers in the Bay Area?

Did you know that there are no Latino-led CDFIs in rural California? Or, in Los Angeles?

Did you know that there are only a handful of  Latino-led 501(c)(4) organizations in California? 

Appalling.  

We have the strength and the will to do better. 

What we need now are the tools and systems for creating equity. 

If you agree with this basic premise, I ask you to find your place, your role in this movement. And, act on it.  

Next year is the biggest election of our lifetime. It will also be the year of Latinos, where we show up, and our voice — and our votes — decide the future of this country … for the better.

Let’s make sure that everyone in our community who is eligible votes. 

Let’s also work together to create and strengthen the community infrastructure throughout our Latino communities.  

As I close my remarks, I am reminded of a group of seniors, mostly older women, who invited me to a community meeting.  

They were concerned that they would not be able to afford the rents at our new building for low-income seniors.  

They spoke about how they emigrated to this country and had given the best 30 to 40 years of their lives to building the San Francisco we all know and love. 

And now, as they are older — and on a fixed income — they believed that their city no longer had a place for them. 

Doña Olinda, one of these seniors, lamented about how everyone in her apartment building had already been evicted. Everyone.

Sadly, she is the only one left. 

She has the option to move outside of San Francisco with one of her children.  But, she refuses.  

She wants to stay in San Francisco::

  • To continue organizing other seniors;  
  • To ensure that more affordable housing is built;  and
  • To continue to make San Francisco better. 

I am glad to share that thanks to her group’s determined advocacy, together, we secured vouchers that will make all the units fully affordable to seniors just like Doña Olinda. 

Given the circumstances, in San Francisco and nationally, this is not the time to be timid, subtle or shy. 

This is the time to claim our community’s strengths and power. 

This is the time to create the systems and tools to address our community’s needs. 

This is the time to re-awaken a Latino civil rights movement.  

That is “Our Big Picture.” 

 

 

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