COVID-19: Unprecedented Moments Provide Opportunities to Redefine and Shape Collaboration

By Sindy M. Benavidez.
LULAC National Chief Executive Officer

Today, we are witnessing an unprecedented moment in modern history as our nation and the world confront coronavirus (COVID-19), a health menace that threatens all of us. Mine is both the privilege and the responsibility of being on the frontline daily of this battle, as the first woman CEO to lead the oldest and largest Latino civil rights organization in the country, the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC). With that role comes the solemn realization that I am making critical decisions on issues impacting 58-million Latinos in the United States. As a grassroots organization, it is our unique infrastructure of volunteer members that is our biggest asset.

One of the most important roles I am actively exercising daily is a trait that I learned in my first career as Deputy Director of Constituent Services for Governor Tim Kaine: listening to the needs of my community and taking immediate action. My usual office is not far from Capitol Hill or the White House but COVID-19 demands changes in our working protocols that have required immediate adjustments while leading a team working remotely. It does dawn on me, the privilege that I have of being able to work from home while so many in our community these days must either show up at a job location or face not getting paid. My primary tasks include ensuring our community is receiving the information it needs in both English and Spanish, advocating on the various stimulus bills on behalf of our members, deploying our resources, engaging our members throughout the United States and Puerto Rico while also collaborating closely with our corporate partners that represent some of the most well-known brands in the world.

I am working with companies like AT&T, Walmart, T-Mobile, Target, Charter Communications, Comcast, Ford, and Univision to help address some of the biggest challenges like food insecurity, access to relief funds, and narrowing broadband access. Together we are aligning our community initiatives with the changing circumstances in the lives of millions necessitated by the COVID-19 pandemic. These unique partnerships are delivering timely, relevant services that benefit our members and the extended Latino community. Equally important, these moments of unparalleled uncertainty impel me with a serene sense of clarity that this is the moment to secure transformative legislative and policy gains for Latinos and every community confronting the same challenges.

Concerns over the future of the U.S. economy and the vastly clear education and income inequalities make it even more apparent that we must be bold in our leadership and in our actions. Fears of a spreading pandemic are building a consciousness to advocate for expanded access to healthcare for undocumented immigrants, farmworkers, and legal immigrants without adversely affecting their futures by being labeled a public charge. Increased awareness of the massive contributions to our nation’s workforce by women are the ideal construct for re-designing compensation models that deliver equity for them. It is important to acknowledge that workers on the frontline, whether at a farm, the grocery store, pharmacy, bank or hospital, are the most in-demand and keeping us safe while being the most exposed to the coronavirus.

These times of unexpected challenges present a call to unity that ought to include repatriating undocumented deported veterans, ensuring that Puerto Rico is not an afterthought, embracing our LGBTQ community and ensuring that our seniors are permitted to enjoy their years free of economic fears or deprivation of vital services and care. As a Latina and women of color in America today, there is no specific path we must follow. Instead, we must continue to create our own, as we navigate a multitude of roles and responsibilities 24/7 while addressing gender and unconscious bias head-on. For me, moving from the CEO suite to now working from home where I am also a wife and mother of a two and five-year-old is a joy. This has again affirmed within me, how women are resilient and creative. We are free to be the curators of our lives and reject the stigma and perception some might still like to impose that the duality of our roles makes us somehow less capable or lacking in focus. In fact, it is the multiple roles that have helped to sharpen our intentions, harness our skills, shaped our purpose and allowed us to push beyond our limits to create transformative solutions.

As a Latina woman, I am both proud and humbled that everything I am today is owed to my cultura, upbringing by my parents, mentorships and hard-earned life lessons and experiences that enable me to be a successful steward and captain simultaneously. America will prevail in the face of one of the greatest challenges of our lives and so can we as Latina leaders. Of that, I am very certain. Most importantly, I am confident that we will emerge with a greater consciousness of why it is in our best interest to work and collaborate in innovative ways. Our very future depends on it. To find more on our efforts, visit us at https://lulac.org/covid19 

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