The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic was the focus of the first in a series of Association of Latinx Motivating Action ( ALMA ) "Latinx Pride: Integrating Past & Present Lessons to Move Forward" community chats in partnership with Center on Halsted.
Latinx journalist, Queering Left podcast co-host, youth mentor and activist Emmanuel Garcia moderated the June 24 virtual event.
Panelists included Los Angeles City Planner Ulises Gonzalez, Familia: Trans Queer Liberation Movement Community Organizer and advocate Jennicet Gutierrez, Artis Senior Living nurse and activist Monica Ortiz and Advocates for Life LGBTQ Health and Rights Director, HIV activist and artist Louie A. Ortiz-Fonseca.
Before the chat, ALMA Board President Julio Rodriguez spoke about the organization's beginnings in 1989 during the AIDS pandemic that he called "the product of all the injustices that existed in society then and unfortunately still exist today as we battle the coronavirus."
Garcia asked how each panelist's work and personal lives have been impacted by the sheltering-at-home guidelines.
Ortiz-Fonseca said that he has been able to sustain himself with the relationships he built while traveling for his job prior to the pandemic.
"Now that I have made all these networks, [the question is] what exactly do we want to do with the collective power that we have built," said Ortiz-Fonseca.
Gonzalez spoke about the new conversations that have sprung up around how space is utilized both indoors and outdoors due to the pandemic as well as the #BlackLivesMatter protests that are challenging systems of oppression and what racial justice looks like as positive outcomes of these past few months. In terms of negative outcomes, Gonzalez pointed to the health and income disparities that exist among certain groups including the Black, Latinx and LGBTQ communities. ( Incidentally, Gonzalez and Ortiz-Fonseca said they would be speaking on behalf of themselves, not their employers. )
Ortiz said she only had a mild case of COVID-19 and was able to get tested due to a patient testing positive even though she did not exhibit any symptoms. She added that this is a privilege others do not have due to the disparities in the healthcare system.
Gutierrez spoke about the Black trans women being murdered across the country and how important it is to remind people that this is also an epidemic that needs to be addressed, adding that these past few months have given her time to reflect on the ways that she wants to do her work in the future.
Garcia asked what their message to Democrats is in light of the upcoming election.
Ortiz said everyone needs to keep fighting for their communities and the importance of representation so their voices are heard.
Gutierrez said she is not a fan of electoral politics because many people are left behind. She added that the real work is being done at the grassroots level and highlighted Brave Space Alliance as an example of this.
Garcia shifted gears and asked Ortiz-Fonseca, who is HIV-positive, what the similarities and differences are between the AIDS and COVID-19 pandemics.
Ortiz-Fonseca said they are similar because both pandemics illuminate the disparities in society and the failure of governmental institutions to respond to them as well. He added that both pandemics have made people suspicious of each other. The difference, Ortiz-Fonseca, said is now people cannot comfort their loved ones when they are sick due to the contagious nature of COVID-19.
Other topics included Latinx people addressing anti-Blackness within their community, dealing with loneliness, the need for multi-family housing,
Garcia and Gonzalez also emphasized the importance of filing out the Census and Gonzalez also spoke about registering to vote and requesting a vote-by-mail ballot for the upcoming election.
As for their final thoughts, Ortiz said people should help others get free COVID-19 tests so they know their status while Ortiz-Fonseca said everyone should document their thoughts about this time even if they never plan to post them online. Gonzalez emphasized the importance of self-care and staying true to one's beliefs and Gutierrez said to embrace every emotion that emerges.
ALMA Board Member David Gauna called on everyone to fill out the community survey the organization created; it is at docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSeJcwrLZ5W369wGzMEzcZOEAhCN0hMVK-UW0bYZe9De5seEFA/viewform .
Gauna also told Windy City Times that the Illinois Census 2020 sponsored this event.
See facebook.com/1630467304/videos/10220383633654176/ to view the entire chat.