NALACC's VIII Annual Leadership Assembly held in Omaha, NE
The Heartland Workers Center (HWC) believes the National Alliance of Latin America and Caribbean Communitiesʼ (NALACC) 8th Annual Leadership Assembly, held November 11-13, has helped to strengthen its organization efforts locally and its national connections. An event of this level and magnitude would not have been so successful without the support and participation of volunteers, HWC members, sponsors, funders, and other local organizations. Hosting the event was truly an honor for the HWC, allowing us to receive national recognition for the work we are doing to build an alternative organizational model in Omaha. This alternative model was one of the key points in Sergio Sosaʼs welcome speech. The HWC Executive Director noted, “We, as Latin American immigrants, are living an eclipse moment of popular organizational alternatives to social, economic, and political development. We are not only deep within a change of era, but also an era of changes.”
With this in mind, the three-day assembly was underway, offering times for analysis, learning, reflection, and visions for the upcoming year. Workshops on racism, critical thinking, and community organizing were offered as a way for participants to develop their own capacities. A workshop on the history and mission of NALACC was also offered for those new to or considering becoming member organizations.
An educational panel on Latinos/as in Omaha and Nebraska started the afternoon on Friday; Omaha was chosen as this yearʼs host site because it is new destination for Latinos/as, as well as for its local organizing efforts. Dr. Jonathan Benjamin-Alvarado, Political Science Professor and Assistant Director of the Office of Latino and Latin American Studies (OLLAS) at the University of Nebraska-Omaha (UNO), presented an analysis on the potential Latinos/as have in Nebraska to affect local elections, as well as the organizing efforts conducted to encourage Latinos to vote. Dr. Lourdes Gouveia, Professor of Sociology and Director of OLLAS at UNO, along with OLLAS Research Assistant Christian Espinosa, discussed the changing demographics of Latinos/as in Nebraska over the last 30 years, the economic contributions of immigrants, as well as the anti- and pro-immigrant organizing efforts that have emerged with this changing population. Finally, Kristin Williams, Director of Community Initiatives at the Sherwood Foundation shared the efforts of various local foundations in organizing the Futuro Latino Fund, whose main goal is to have Latinos/as, not Caucasians, decide which Latino/a-led organizations should receive funding.
In continuing our understanding of the national and international situation, three panelists were selected to discuss this environment. Amy Shannon discussed the dehumanization, uncertainty, volatility, and inequality that has been accumulating over the last 30 years across the globe, as a result of economic and political policies favorable to corporations and wealthy nations. From a Central American Perspective, Father Ismael Moreno Coto, S.J., a Jesuit priest from Honduras, shared the worldʼs tendencies, and which ones will continue with us into the following decade, such as continued inequality, drug trafficking, immigration, and a decrease in democratic practices.
Following the workshops, the evaluation of NALACCʼs work in 2011, and member organizationsʼ evaluation of NALACC, elections were held to fill the vacant Board of Directors positions. Sergio Sosa was elected by the membership of NALACC to fill one of those vacant positions. For the HWC, Sosaʼs representation on the board is a way to increase the HWCʼs organizing efforts in Omaha at the national level, to have representation in NALACC from the Great Plains states, and even more importantly, increase the organizing efforts of NALACC at both the local and regional levels.
Finally, one of the main highlights of the weekend was a reception and dinner held Friday evening at the Livestock Exchange Building in South Omaha. In the presence of Mayor Jim Suttle, Consul Jorge Espejel, local leaders and community members, and NALACC Assembly participants, Cuauhtémoc Cárdenas, a prominent Mexican politician, gave the keynote address. His speech focused mainly on issues dealing with immigration reform, one that must be dealt with by both the United States and Mexico, much of what has been caused by the free trade agreements. Cárdenas stated that many Latinos/as migrate to the United States because of the lack of economic security and employment opportunities in their home countries. Their labor force is desired in the United States, but they are not often treated with respect for the cultural, social and economic contributions they bring to this country; Cárdenas strongly emphasized that this must change. He ended saying he had great admiration for immigrants who have taken the risk in coming to this country in seeking a better life for themselves and their family.
In closing, the HWC would like to thank NALACC for the opportunity to host this event and to strengthening the organizations connection with others at the national level. For more information regarding the assembly, and NALACC please visit www.nalacc.org.