February 20, 2009


Blacks and Hispanics working together is the message we heard

February is Black History Month. This year is significant and historical as Barack Obama became the first Black President of the United States. We watched as Black History was being made.

Black History Month, like Hispanic Heritage Month, is a dedicated time when the Black community is celebrated, recognized, and honored for their contributions and historical significance to the United States. So it came as a bit of a surprise when, while listening to our favorite jazz station, a Black History moment was aired that highlighted Ignacio de la Torre. We were caught off guard. It seemed odd that a prominent Hispanic in San Diego was recognized during Black History Month.

The radio segment stated that de la Torre reflected the diversity of our community and the importance of this diverse community working together to bring about change. The kicker of the segment was the tie-in with AT&T. De la Torre is an employee of AT&T, a self-identified “diverse” company. It seemed a bit strange that AT&T didn’t have a prominent Black person who could deliver this message, but I transgress.

After hearing this segment a few times, after we stopped brushing the piece off as AT&T propaganda, the message began to make more sense. More to the point, we were able to apply a meaning to something so that it no longer seemed out of place.

This was the message that we finally heard in this Black History capsule with Ignacio de la Torre:

The Barack Obama election came about because, in part, of the Black and Hispanic communities working together and voting for Obama. Even so, as this country endures this economic crises, the Black and Hispanic communities seem to have been hit the hardest. Black and Hispanic unemployed and home foreclosures numbers are the highest in the nation. Historically Blacks and Hispanics have been at the bottom rung of the education ladder, with the greatest number of uninsured and underemployed. These communities suffer from drug issues and gang violence. They have higher rates of incarceration, unwed mothers and teen pregnancies. They are constant victims of racial profiling and discrimination.

These problems are very real in our communities. We have unique issues that we have to deal with on a daily basis. No economic stimulus, or the state budget just passed will resolve or deal with any of these problems. In fact with the California State budget that passed, some of the programs that deal with a few of these problems will be cut.

The message derived from the de la Torre Black History segment is that if we Hispanics and Blacks, as two minority/ethnic communities, are ever going to resolve these problems it is going to have to come from within our own communities. We will need to work together to move forward on these problems, building a political coalition that can work together to bring about change.

Now I don’t know if this was the message that AT&T was going for, but for this Hispanic newspaper listening to a Hispanic being highlighted as a part of Black History Month this is the message that came through loud and clear.

Change is coming to our Nation and our communities but change begins in our homes and our neighborhoods. And change happens a lot quicker when we work together.

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