Alongside 17 members, we spent the first day figuring out why we were in that lecture room together and discovering the power of knowing and telling the story of self. We focused on learning to tell our story in order to be able to articulate the issues that affect us and how we can change them. On the second day, we learned about the importance of telling the story of us and understanding how to make a connection with your audience so that people you are reaching out to will understand how certain issues affect them. The third day was centered around learning about what we can do now as individuals and as a group in order to enact change. We had many presentations throughout the program that taught us about Houston’s demography and panels with amazing community leaders that really inspired us to see the big picture and understand our importance as Latinx youth and the potential that we have to lead our community. One particular presentation on the third day gave me a big shock. I learned that Latinx youth have one of the lowest percentages of voter turnout and the Latino vote in general is extremely low. I was frustrated by the statistics and learning know that we definitely have the numbers that can help us change the system. If we voted actively, we could accurately represent what our city is actually made up of; Latinos.
Emerging Latino Leaders took it upon themselves to get more Latinx youth and the involved and aware with the hopes of educating our community. We are currently in the process of planning watch parties for both the Republican Convention on July 21st and the Democratic Convention on July 28th. We are each inviting people we know to come for a discussion and learn about each party’s platform so we can be more educated voters. We will also be registering our eligible friends and family at the party who are not registered to vote on the spot. We are genuinely trying to reach out and inform our community because we learned about how politics affects us all in each aspect of our lives whether we know it or not.
The program was not just an inspiring few days that will flash over my head in a matter of weeks, it was a powerful beginning of a movement, a movement within everyone of the members. It was an awakening aimed at making us realize that we really can change the course of future if we participate in voting because we have power in our numbers. With all of the recent events that have affected our community like the DAPA news, Orlando, and the police brutality that has been so widely documented, I have felt so incredibly overwhelmed. However, the ELL Fellowship has granted me time and space to discuss these issues and helped me gain an understanding about how these issues are all connected and how they ultimately affect the Latinx community in one way or another. We are all connected and the future of our community is in the hands of the how we use our time now.
-- Liliana Martinez