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-:
- 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.