At the beginning of Hispanic Heritage Month, I co-presented a panel on how to promote literacy at the fifth annual Latinos in Tech Innovation and Social Media (LATISM) representing the education organization Latinas for Latino Lit (L4LL) which I co-founded. With my partner, we also accepted an award--2013 Best Education blog for our work launching the first nationwide, online Latino children's summer reading program.
Undoubtedly, the digital space, particularly blogs and social media, has allowed Hispanics to organize, inform, and magnify a message. Why? Some of it has to do with the shifting technological tectonic plates. Whether it's the printing press or a mobile device, technology has historically created more access to information, participation, and independent thinking. These values are vital to a vibrant and healthy democracy.
Today's advancements are not different except in volume--production and consumption. But with marketers, brands, and politicians falling over themselves to gain an edge with Latinos--the coveted $1+ trillion dollar buying power and the vote--the question must be asked: how are Hispanics using the powerful tool of social media to effect change?
This is a question I posed on NPR's Tell Me More during their one hour Hispanic Heritage Month special which aired on September 17, 2013.
Click below to hear my participation along with Univision Radio's Fernando Espuelas on "Latinos and Social Media: So What and What's Next?"
The two questions I ask: "So What?" and "What's Next?" are crucial. The answers represent real power if it is used to insert our point of view where it matters--business, media, politics, and policies. That requires us to not just accept, for example, a cameo on a diversity panel but position ourselves with the proper credentials to, at minimum, be placed in the pipeline that will lead straight to the decision-making positions of power. It will require us to "lean in" a la Sheryl Sandberg. But it will also require us to stand and show up.
This time is exciting because we are witnessing the maturation of the Latino community--what I like to call the rise of a new political class that is wielding some power. Recognizing the glaring absence of cabinet and senior advisor-level political appointees in the Obama Administration, the National Hispanic Leadership Agenda has re-focused its efforts to create and build a pipeline that grooms and positions qualified Hispanics to lead state and federal government agencies.
The Latino digital space is increasingly becoming crowded. Since The Wise Latina Club hung her web shingle in 2010, NBC Latino, Fox News Latino, ABC/Univision's joint venture Fusion, and countless Twitter handles and blogs have started with the important mission of presenting important information in culturally relevant ways.
But where's the power? It's in the mainstream, In the case of the media, we're woefully falling short as the President's snub to Spanish-language media during the Syria "round robin" interviews with the major broadcast and cable networks proves. Hispanic voices are still absent as Al Día managing editor Sabrina Vourvoulias argues, specifically criticizing NPR, (to which I occasionally contribute as noted above).
Same goes for business where Latinos open small businesses at three times the rate of the general market, yet overwhelmingly struggle to scale. On the corporate side, we are MIA in the so-called "C-Suite" and powerful corporate boards.
Hollywood and the arts? More of the same, as proved by the Kennedy Center Honors Awards, which in its 35 year history has only recognized two Latinos. Are we supposed to celebrate that it broke its "brown out," bestowing awards this year to Carlos Santana and opera singer Martina Arroyo? Perhaps. But let's give credit where credit is due--to the National Hispanic Foundation for the Arts after years of lobbying. Let's also remember that one year doesn't a pattern make and thus we must stay vigilant.
My biggest takeaway from this year's LATISM conference is that the urgency to participate as decision makers at every level of society can't wait one more minute. Our time is now, if we make it ours. That will require the daily commitment to participation and action--voting with your ballot, your presence at local meetings, your remote control, your wallet, and your tweet.
This is where you come in.
And there is no voice more powerful than yours when you combine it with others to purposefully use it.So: ¿what's next?