CEO Luis Granados' Welcome Speech at !VIVA MEDA! 47 Online Gala


Welcome to ¡VIVA  MEDA! 47. Whether you are a community member, a community partner, an elected official, a supporter or our dedicated staff or Board member, you are part of our MEDA family.

Tonight  gives us the opportunity to extend our family to a global virtual stage. So whether you are watching tonight from Seattle to Miami, San Diego to Boston, I welcome you.

If you are joining us from as far away as Puerto Rico, Nicaragua, Colombia or from my dear Mexico, tonight is about  unity, urgency, and, frankly, about keeping people alive.


We welcome each of you as one of our changemakers.

At our gathering last October, we were honored to be joined by former U.S. Representative Luis Gutierrez and iconic civil rights leader Dolores Huerta, who is graciously joining us again tonight. They spoke of the need for a reinvigorated civil rights movement.

We spoke about MEDA’s good work that was underway, and the great work  that was yet to come.

We spoke about the importance of community.

So much has happened since our gathering last October that it’s hard to know where to begin.

One year later, I am a changed man.

MEDA has changed. Our Mission District has changed. Our world  has changed.

Last November, I lost my mother. When that happened, I, again,  became that  5-year old boy who was most afraid of losing his mother. Last November,  that fear was realized. Since November,  my brain has been cloudy. Since November,  my heart aches. Without my mother,  I am less.

Since March,  I am not alone  in my grief. Direct personal interactions  are forbidden.Birthday,  wedding,  graduation  celebrations have been paused. The end of the school year  never happened. Housing security  is threatened or lost. Businesses  closed. Jobs  disappeared. Many lives  have been lost  to the virus,  to police violence.

Since March, we grieve together.

COVID-19  has most clearly revealed  the truths that  we all already knew. Some people have low-income essential jobs. The same people  live in overcrowded conditions. Those very people  are infected  by COVID-19.

We see this all too clearly in San Francisco,  where Latinos are just 15% of the population,  and, yet  we are 51%  of those getting infected. And,  we see the same pattern  in Watsonville, Stockton, Los Angeles, Houston, Miami and New York.

Latinos with essential jobs  living in overcrowded conditions  are getting sick  at higher rates  throughout this country. This is not  a coincidence.

This country’s education,  jobs,  financial,  housing and  health systems  have been designed to achieve  these deadly results.

Wrong. Shameful. Racist.

Like you, I believe  this situation is wrong.

Like you, I feel  so much anger.

Like you,  I think  strategies must be developed and systems must be changed.

Like you,  I am not stopping  at what I believe, what I think or how I feel.

Like you, I must act  with urgency to save lives  now.

Like you, I must act  now  to change the systems  that led us  to these conditions.

We must act together — as changemakers — to ensure that we address the current crisis. And to ensure  that long-term conditions change,  so that  these deadly results  are not repeated.

At MEDA, within a couple of weeks of the shutdown,  we made key structural changes to respond to the moment — and meet community members needs. These changes  led to a service focus on three key areas-:

  • Income
  • Housing
  • Small businesses.

For income,  we continue to place people  into jobs that may be available. More relevant right now, we have been part of managing- the distribution of financial resources  to families in need  through three different funds:

  • The Immigrant Relief Fund,  a fund  for low-income families.
  • The Immigrant Family Relief Fund, a fund  for low-income families with children  who are not eligible to receive federal funds; and
  • The Right to Recover Fund,  a fund  for people testing positive for COVID-19  to allow them to self-quarantine.

For housing services,  we have focused  on two key areas:

  • Keeping people in their homes  by preventing their evictions; and
  • Ensuring that families  continue to apply  to the existing rental and ownership opportunities  that have been still available through this pandemic.

On the business side,  we processed over 50 PPP loans  securing $4.3 million in capital, saving over 300 jobs at local restaurants,  in-home child care providers,  hair salons and more. Additionally, in collaboration with the City of San Francisco, we have developed the SF Help loan program, which provides loans  at zero interest and no fees  to local-serving, neighborhood businesses. For this loan, we leveraged  a $1 million investment to bring in an additional $6.5 million in capital, which will result in over 400 loans,  and an additional  1,200 jobs saved.

Our Mission Promise Neighborhood  joined our direct service teams while maintaining a strong focus on the schools, and continuing to show much care  for schoolchildren and their families. MPN served over 750 unique families  and more than 1,000 children  with income relief,  eviction prevention,  housing opportunities,  distance learning,  food resources — and more. And, processed loan applications  for in-home child-care businesses.

On our real estate work: Since March we have purchased four additional apartment buildings, and are now in the process  of purchasing our first single-room-occupancy hotel. We are also opening — two new multi-family buildings  in the heart of the Mission,  totaling 270 units. And, will permanently house several Mission-based organizations.

Our Policy team successfully coordinated a demand that San Francisco declare Latinos a vulnerable population — given the disproportionate impact on our families.

San Francisco’s Latino community response to this crisis is second to none. It would be difficult to find another community that has responded  as quickly, created the level of alignment across organizations, and has taken matters into its own hands  when it comes to this pandemic.

It has become clear  during this crisis  that MEDA is part  of an ecosystem of organizations that are first responders  to the needs of San Francisco Latinos  during this COVID-19 crisis. The severity of the crisis  requires all of us to be united, as changemakers.

As such,  MEDA is working hard  to support the collective community efforts  by:

  • Leading with efforts  on income,  housing  and business support;
  • Using our  finance,  fund development,  communications,  evaluation  and other administrative infrastructure  to support the broader community efforts;
  • Supporting the convening of a network of 30 plus organizations  to check-in on how individuals -and organizations  are managing, – and develop shared goals -and implement collective strategies;
  • Consistently  seeking and acting  for unity  within the network; and
  • Showing courage  and taking risks  on behalf of the collective efforts,  even if it means  being punished  for doing so.

The network of Mission District of organization’s  is strong, special and most needed. It must be valued and supported, and MEDA  is doing its best to do so.

But again, what is happening in the Mission is not that much different  from what is taking place in other Latino communities … or other low-income communities, period.

While these communities  may have access to some social services, they lack the infrastructure to:

  • Integrate  their financial capability services;
  • Develop  affordable housing;
  • Provide access to capital  for small businesses or affordable housing; or
  • Create policy to develop systemic change.

We are sharing  MEDA’s practices with communities across our city, our state and nationally. At the center of this work is our effort to enhance the capacity of these organizations and communities.

I have  many thanks  to give. First, I want to thank MEDA’s amazing staff: As always, they have showcased  unequaled resolve, commitment and endurance. They have worked tirelessly to help those in need, often at a personal sacrifice for doing so. They are dealing with the isolation and trauma of the last six months. And, as a team, we have experienced much personal loss of loved ones during this time.

We should also applaud our MEDA Board of Directors. Their support during the crisis has ensured MEDA could quickly and efficiently pivot  without second guessing.

And,  of course,  I want to thank all of our sponsors,  funders and donors. You make our work possible by being flexible and growing your support.

I also want to recognize tonight’s featured speakers and panelists,  who we are honored  are giving their time to be part of our gala. Paola Mendoza and Mercedes Mercedes are  true changemakers. I know their words will inspire you to keep fighting this fight.

We hope tonight  will inspire your commitment and activism. We need you to pledge  to be a changemaker.

The road to recovery ahead will be a long one. We’re prepared  to tackle these challenges head on, and we need your support. I hope you will  donate now.

As I close,  I am reminded  of what I have learned and what has inspired me in the past year and the past six months, and what brings me hope for the future. I have learned that  in difficult times,  it is  your family  your friends  your memories  and,  sense of purpose  that will keep you strong.

Our MEDA team  inspires me. As such, I have made it  my number one priority internally to focus on staff wellness. To keep up our good work and our bottom line, we need to take care of our staff.

I am inspired by the network of organizations that is creating the response to the COVID-19 crisis in San Francisco’s Latino community.

Six months later, we know that we cannot look to others for solutions. All of us  are now health workers. Our main task now is to keep people alive. We have taken matters into our own hands. The response is up to us.

I am most hopeful  about changemakers, like my daughter Anna, and young people like her. It is these young people  who will elect individuals who are qualified — morally and otherwise.

It is these young people  who will ensure that the flawed systems we have created are changed to treat  all of us equally.

It is these young people who will take their beliefs, their anger and their strategy and turn it into action with a sense of urgency and purpose.



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