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Reflections on 2018 and Visions for the Future: Letter from the Executive Director

  ·  Sylvia Puente

The final days of December are always a time for us at the Latino Policy Forum to reflect on the successes we have had and the challenges we have faced. We know, too, that as we enter the new year, there will be new opportunities that we are ready to accept.

As most of you know, 2018 marked the Forum’s 10th anniversary, and I’d like to thank the founders and supporters who have stood by us this past decade. We stand on your shoulders and vision, which is rooted in the era of Mayor Harold Washington more than 35 years ago. It was then, in the Mayor’s Advisory Council on Latino Affairs (MACLA), that the seeds were planted to create Latinos United which ten years ago restructured to become the Latino Policy Forum — now a beacon of light to guide Latinos in Illinois for generations to come.

Like a lighthouse, the Forum guides our collective vision. It is a symbol that reminds me of a quote by John F. Kennedy: “We are not here to curse the darkness, but to light the candle that can guide us through the darkness to a safe and sane future.”

This quote says so much about where we are in the nation today.

Last month’s election results demonstrated progress in upholding equitable and diverse representation in government that reflects the people that it serves. As of result, I was honored that Governor-Elect JB Pritzker named me to his Educational Success Committee transition team, which is tasked with tackling some of the state’s educational issues. This is a reflection of how important the Forum has become as a critical voice in Illinois public education system.

The Forum has played a key role in addressing issues related to early childhood education in addition to the shortage of bilingual and culturally-competent teachers in public schools. We look forward to helping shape the incoming governor’s education agenda at a time when Spanish-speaking children are being marginalized at the national level.  

The Forum is so pleased that Sol Flores, long term Latino Policy Forum board member, was named on the Gov.-Elect’s overall 10-member transition team. In addition, at least ten Acuerdo members are also on various transition teams.  We are so pleased with the overall Latino representation!

Another victory from the midterm elections is the number of Latinos in Congress. There will be more in Congress than ever, and among them is one of our founders, Jesus “Chuy” Garcia.

Chuy’s arrival in Washington comes on the heels of a bittersweet farewell to Congressman Luis Gutierrez, who has been a champion for immigrants and Latinos throughout his 23 years in office. I want to congratulate Rep. Gutierrez on an incredible and respectful career, and I look forward to his contributions to the immigrant community in his new role as senior advisor to the National Partnership for New Americans.

There are also terrific firsts that we should celebrate! Two Native American and two Muslim women will be sworn into Congress. And here in Illinois, we will send an African American woman to the House of Representatives from a district that has never elected a woman.

During the past 10 years, the Forum has set an agenda for the Latino community by informing, influencing and leading. Our first publication, An American Agenda from a Latino Perspective has now been bookended by survey results we’ve compiled from 15 Plática roundtable discussions conducted this year. We asked almost 400 community leaders around the region what their policy priorities were and have published a report on these results. You can read that report by clicking HERE.

The issues of equity, education, housing, immigration, economic opportunity and political leadership were reaffirmed. We heard the need to continue providing quality education for all our children. We heard about the need for affordable housing. We heard about the need for strength and unity in the Latino community. We heard their hopes and we heard their fears.

We shared good news as well. For our annual fundraiser, we produced a series of SOLs (Statistics on Latinos) that detail our areas of work and many of our key accomplishments over the past decade. You can read them by clicking HERE.

Many of the Forums accomplishments have made it into news headlines, and some have not. But all have illuminated a path forward for the Latino community.

As we commemorate 10 years, the Forum will remain a beacon that provides guidance and reassurance, that as a community, we will achieve a better tomorrow. A couple of years ago we adopted a lighthouse as a symbol for our work. At the foundation, are our core strategies of informing, influencing and leading. The lighthouse holds our issue areas of education, housing, immigration and leadership.

Looking to 2019, Chicago is entering a critical time when voters will decide who can lead a city enshrouded by darkness brought on by an epidemic proportion of gun violence, school closures, financial hardship and neighborhoods stunted by segregation, blight or gentrification. As always, the Forum will do its best to help government leaders navigate those treacherous waters, but we cannot light the way without your help. 

We will continue to build a foundation for equity, justice and economic prosperity. We will continue to speak the truth, advocate for justice, act with civility and put our trust in our democracy. Together we will bridge the divide and advance the interests of Latino families and Illinois. Together, we will advance our shared future.

We will continue to ensure that the beacon burns brightly and lights the way, thanks to you.


P.S. If you would like to make a contribution to the Forum to support our work, please click here.