This past month at the 2022 UnidosUS Changemakers Summit in Washington, DC, I found myself filled with profound orgullo, but also very reflective. This was my first in-person event in two years since COVID, and my first summit with UnidosUS as president and CEO of Ibero.
By Angelica Pérez-Delgado, President & CEO, Ibero-American Action League
I was invited to a meeting with Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer at his Capitol office. I joined Janet Murguía, UnidosUS President and CEO, as well as the Senior Director of Legislative Affairs, Susan Collins, and other amazing nonprofit leaders from Latino U College Access, Dominico-American Society of Queens, and the Committee for Hispanic Children and Families. As one of the new co-chairs of the UnidosUS Northeast Affiliate Council, I looked forward to this experience and recognized its importance.
As Senator Schumer walked in, he welcomed us with great excitement. He began by recalling a funny and fond memory of him and Janet. Very quickly, without prompt, he began to articulate all the work that must happen for our community, and his commitment to getting it done. We discussed concerns and solutions for educational outcomes, student loan debt relief, immigration policy, and we wrapped up the meeting with his commitment to empowering a new generation of Latinos in building generational wealth and transforming neighborhoods through homeownership. We had a lively discussion about how Latinos are a vital part of economic development and the disproportionate impact our communities have experienced because of COVID-19. We expressed UnidosUS’s dedication to creating new Latino homeowners and advocating for policies that allow more Latinos to afford a home. Our conversation with Senator Schumer ended with a discussion of UnidosUS’s ambitious goal to boost the Latino homeownership rate from 48% to 60% by 2030.
Majority Leader Schumer has always been a powerful representative for Latinos in the state of New York (especially Upstate New York). Just a month prior to the summit, I had the pleasure to spend time with the Senator as he announced a $200+ million investment to Rochester-Finger Lakes region from the bipartisan omnibus spending package. During the press conference, he highlighted Ibero’s new Equitable Home Ownership Program, funded as part of earmarked dollars secured through his office. This project is a big win and will help revitalize one of Rochester’s most underserved neighborhoods. Leader Schumer delivered an unprecedented investment that would help reverse decades of disinvestment and revitalize my very own barrio.
I understand the impact of homeownership at a personal level. I grew up in La Avenida Clinton Norte, the barrio, one of the toughest neighborhoods in the city of Rochester, New York. My abuelos, who raised me, purchased a small home in this growing Puerto Rican neighborhood when we moved to Rochester from the island. Like many in my neighborhood, I faced various challenges and experienced countless childhood traumas, but I always had a home at abuela’s house. Although systems failed me as a young teenage mother, the stability of abuela’s house served as an anchoring foundation, leading me to pursue higher education, and the opportunity to purchase my first home as a single parent in my twenties through a city sponsored program a reality. Research shows that homeownership is one of the strongest pathways to building generational wealth and controls a large number of economic, educational, and social emotional outcomes.
Those experiences, without a doubt, contributed in my journey to becoming the leader of Ibero-American Action League back in 2019. Ibero is the largest dual-language, multi-service organization in Upstate New York, serving over twenty thousand Latinx individuals annually. What I was not prepared for was that in less than a year, I would be leading Ibero through a global pandemic and responding to the unprecedented devastation and the disproportionate impact it would have on my community. As noted in the 2021 UnidosUS position paper, Toward a More Perfect Union: Understanding Systemic Racism and Resulting Inequity in Latino Communities, the cumulative result of structural racism’s collision with an unprecedented global pandemic, would further devastate an already struggling community despite all our hard work to revitalize our neighborhoods. Latinos have experienced significant housing insecurity during the pandemic, and without significant policy and funding interventions, disparities will continue to grow, harming Latinx communities for generations.
Ibero convenes and co-chairs the Greater Rochester Latinx Leaders Roundtable and in our Rochester Latinx Agenda 2021 Report, we highlight Rochester’s history of segregation, red lining, and its impact on the housing market. The report details how the flat or declining property values eliminate a key source of intergenerational wealth for Latinx families in the Rochester-Finger Lakes region. Leader Schumer’s funding for Ibero’s Equitable Home Ownership program coupled with initiatives such as the city of Rochester’s efforts to build new single-family properties in historically red-lined neighborhoods, all help UnidosUS achieve its homeownership rate goals. Our network of Latinx grassroots nonprofits can help lead the charge by building on one of the strongest pathways toward generational wealth for our communities.
The Changemakers Summit was a fierce force of advocacy after so much suffering during the past two years. Estoy muy orgullosa to be part of redefining our moment and leading our shared future, and as we like to say at Ibero, empowering people and transforming communities.