Latinas on Leadership Part 3
By Melissa Morgan
Three Latina leaders and alumni of Leadership Long Beach sat down in a conference room at Centro CHA for a roundtable discussion. Veronica Garcia Davalos, Vice President at Habitat for Humanity of Greater Los Angeles, Alex Escobar, Long Beach City College’s Office of the President and Jessica Quintana, Executive Director of Centro CHA spoke about perspectives on barriers and opportunities to build and support Latina leaders, including critical roles that culture, education and community play.
They began the videotaped discussion by honoring their mothers and grandmothers for paving the way.
“They were pioneers. They kept the culture, the religion, the family. Had great humor, character. My grandmother was this four foot Apache Mexicana who went to Catholic Church every single day,” recalled Jessica Quintana. “She raised 11 children, lived through the depression. She was very strong,” continued Quintana.
Veronica Garcia Davalos described her mother, a migrant worker, “She was the smartest woman I know… and fierce! She taught me community service. She was very active in her community.”
Dismissing Latina stereotypes around gender roles and work ethics, these women see Latinas today like their Madres and Abuelas –highly skilled, accomplished, educated, and working women rooted in family. They hoped society would recognize that stereotypes damage Latinas by keeping them isolated and disconnected from education, careers, healthy lifestyles and relationships.
While the growing Latino community makes up almost forty-two percent of Long Beach’s population, there are two only Latinos on the City Council. Davalos reflected, “That’s not enough. The community needs to see themselves in their leaders. It’s important to have [leaders] understand barriers and change policies.”
Explained Quintana, “Leadership is a role. It can be a very uncomfortable role. When you are standing firm on an issue, it can [create] a divide. You model it, live it every day with your family and community.”
Davalos continued, “I feel like I have a responsibility to be a leader in my community, so I take that very seriously. I hope that others can see that anybody can be a leader. It’s taking the risk to have a voice for somebody.”
Alex Escobar is also a member of the current Leadership Long Beach class. She shared, “I define leadership as servant-leadership, to be one for others, pulling communities together and empowering them to accomplish more together.”
The connection between economics, education and employment stood out as critical issues for these women. Eyebrows rose when hearing that Latinas earn 56 cents for every dollar paid to white, non-Hispanic men.
In addition to financial literacy needs in the community, Quintana said, “We need to continue to develop more mentors, shepherds in our community for our youth.” She continued, “It is important to help parents understand how to have a home and community that embraces education, health and safety–to prepare achievers.”
Escobar, a first generation college graduate, says people who went to college surrounded her and it was understood that she would. Passionate about higher education, she was bothered to learn that 1 in 4 Latino Long Beach high school students don’t graduate.
A creator of www.roarintocollege.com, Escobar is a strong supporter of Long Beach’s “Promise Pathways” program that helps local high school graduates afford and attend LBCC, then transfers them to California State University, Long Beach. She beamed, “We are helping our own community, to build them up.”
About the future, Escobar projected, “If we can communicate and collaborate, have more open dialogues and conversations like this, we would be headed in the right direction.”
Quintana hoped, “We are taken seriously as a Latino community and see our government’s and education institutions’ leadership reflect our community.”
Davalos agreed, “I hope we see more Latinos and Latinas in leadership positions, because that’s when we’re going to see real change.”