Association of Latinos/as Motivating Action (ALMA) Chicago and Equality Illinois sponsored a town hall meeting between community members, advocates and elected officials to discuss issues pertinent to the Latinx community in the current political climate.
The gathering, held March 28 at the Puerto Rican Arts Alliance, 3000 N. Elbridge Ave., featured a panel comprised of state Sens. Iris Y. Martinez and Omar Aquino, as well as state Rep. Will Guzzardi. The discussion was moderated by ALMA Vice President Kenny Martin-Ocasio.
"Our charge was to bring state officials into the conversationwhere do we go from here after all of the gains that we have made?" Martin-Ocasio later told Windy City Times.
Discussion focused on the challenges the politicians had faced in supporting the LGBT community. That included speaking not just about rights-issues, but where they stood on the budget impasse, he added.
"They were talking about making sure that resources were actually availableif there is no budget and no allocation, there was no action and no services," Martin-Ocasio said. "There were challenges all around."
He further recalled that much of the conversation centered around what "true activism" looked like.
"One of the elected officials spoke about the continued low turnout of voters," he added. "It's difficult to make a case against anybody when people making it are not engaged in the actual voting process, so I appreciate that there was a call to do that."
Participants further concluded that the overall LGBT Latinx community needs to be more deliberate about and inclusive of its transgender members. Aquino in particular encouraged advocates to hold meetings "in other districts, where the environment is not as forthcoming" as Chicago's, Martin-Ocasio noted.
Martin-Ocasio hopes this would be the first of many such meetings across the state, engaging Latinx LGBT Illinoisans beyond the Chicago city limits.
"We wanted to start someplace where we know we had allies, but we know that the work needs to include those communities where, even if the legislators may have voted for marriage equality, they're not out and openly known as allies. … They may feel a little more apprehension about engaging in an open conversation or dialogue," he said.
Aquino offered to attend future meetings, Martin-Ocasio recalled, adding, "That lets people know that this kind of conversation is needed, for work that can bridge divides. That was sort of comforting."