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Founders Breakfast Plática

It’s imperative that the next generation of Latino leaders learn from the lessons of those who came before them. The Latino Policy Forum recently gathered more than 200 years of collective experience of activism on one stage at its Founders Breakfast Plática at the Siskel Film Center.

The esteemed panel included Esther Nieves and Maria De Los Angeles “Nena” Torres who were the first executive directors of Mayor Harold Washington’s Advisory Council on Latino Affairs, or MACLA for short, that started three decades ago; Carlos DeJesús, who was the second and longest serving executive director of the Forum’s predecessor organization Latinos United; Jesus “Chuy” Garcia who was a Board Member of Latinos United and the first board president of the Forum; Maricela Garcia, the Forum’s first Executive Director who was involved with MACLA representing the Central America community and a Latinos United board member when it transitioned; and finally, Hipolito “Paul” Roldan and Sol Flores who were on the Latinos United board and currently serve on the Forum’s board. The Forum’s current executive director, Sylvia Puente, was the moderator for the event.

“We need to raise our voices,” Chuy Garcia said, addressing the younger people in the audience. “Part of our problem of invisibility that we dealt with in the 80’s continues today. We must make demands wherever the power is.”

This year the Latino Policy Forum is celebrating its 10-year anniversary as an organization and commemorating a 35-year legacy that it was built on. The founders panel included leaders who were there from the very beginning who reunited to talk about the movement’s history and give advice to the future leaders.

Each member of the panel talked briefly about their personal history that included how they developed a thirst for activism and organizing, why they got involved with the movement, and provided the crowd advice on what history can teach us and how to approach the difficult times we face.  

Sol Flores emphasized that “Latinos have to show up all the time and bring each other along. When we are in the position to hire and mentor fellow Latinos, Latinas we should take that responsibility.”

“We must have a vision of the community and understand that we will have ups and down,” added Maricela Garcia. “But one thing we must do is be indispensable in the fight for social justice.”

When asked when Latinos will know when we’ve met the marker for power, influence and leadership in the Latino community, Nena Torres responded, “the marker is when we’re represented and there is social justice and democratic participation for all.” Torres also provided her insights on lessons learned to say, “Engaging with the community matters, elections really matter as well. Coalition are temporary and we need to understand that. Latinos have different backgrounds, different cultures, different idea, but we also have commonalities and we need to learn how to bring those two things together,”

You can watch the Founders Plática in its entirety here.

Thank you to the Reva & David Logan Foundation for supporting the Forum's Impacto Illinois initiative and helping make this event possible.