Category Archives: News

A December to Remember for José Martí Child Development Center

The children of the José Martí Child Development Center enjoyed a special month of December, following the theme of the month “Family Celebrations.”

On Monday, December 11, our children, teachers and even participants from the Senior Program enjoyed the joyful spirit of Christmas with a visit from Santa! Each child received a picture with Santa in front of a beautiful winter scene, and our friends from the University Sunrise Rotary Club, who volunteered their time for the ninth year in a row, made the celebration extra special by gifting each child a new book, to encourage their love of reading and help build their home library.

In keeping with the holiday spirit, Toys for Tots made a generous toy delivery so we could provide gifts to each of the 308 students of the José Martí Child Development Center at Beacon Hill and Hirabayashi Place and our Luis Alfonso Velasquez After School Program. This was made possible thanks to the hard work of Julius Gibson and the U.S. Marine Corps Reserves with support from the local fire stations. Every single one of our children was overjoyed to receive an individual gift, and these gifts helped ensure a joyful holiday season for our beautiful children!

It was a magical time for everyone and for us it is a rewarding feeling to see so many smiling faces. Mil gracias to the University Sunrise Rotary Club, JMCDC Staff, Toys for Toys and Julius Gibson for helping to bring so much joy to our children during this holiday season.

Reaffirming Our Status as a Sensitive Location for All Immigrants

El Centro de la Raza was founded in 1972 in the old Beacon Hill School as an organization dedicated to building the Beloved Community in Seattle.  Forty-five years later, El Centro de la Raza has become an indispensable community and convening center for all people, but particularly those in the Latino community.

We provide human and emergency services including a food bank, infant mortality prevention for pregnant women, and homeless assistance.  Our asset building programs include financial education, foreclosure counseling, job training, and bilingual/ESL classes.  Our housing and economic development includes the Plaza Roberto Maestas, which features 112 affordable housing units, in addition to several other housing locations in Seattle that offer another 18 units of affordable and low-income units.  In 2016, over 10,000 households took advantage of El Centro de la Raza’s services, and over 346 people were living on our properties.

But true to our roots, El Centro de la Raza has remained, first and foremost, a school.  Our world renowned José Martí Child Development Center provides bilingual and multicultural preschool curriculum to children aged 1-5.  Our after school program tutors elementary students aged 5-12.  Middle schoolers take advantage of our summer school program.  Our Roberto Maestas Youth Leadership Institute helps address the opportunity gap in K-12 education by empowering a cohort of 30-40 Latino youth in King County to grow as leaders.  And our college readiness program helps middle- and high-school students in Seattle create a post-secondary education plan with one-on-one support.  Those are just a few of the many programs we offer to help educate babies, toddlers, youth, and young adults.

But the vulnerable communities El Centro de la Raza serves are in grave danger as the federal government has threatened to implement draconian immigration policies that could tear families apart.  The young children in our preschool are worried and nervous that their parents might not come home.  Undocumented students who have grown up in this country are afraid of being sent back to a place they have never known.

While our Beloved Community has been shaken with fear and trepidation, our resolve has not wavered.  For nearly half a century, El Centro de la Raza has been a pillar in the Seattle community, a place for all people to convene, learn, and get the help they need without fear of being taken away from their families.

We therefore reaffirm that for purposes of immigration enforcement policy, El Centro de la Raza is a sensitive location, like any other school.  As with other sensitive locations, such as hospitals and churches, we expect federal authorities not to conduct immigration raids on any of our properties, including our housing developments (which themselves offer after-school programs and other educational services).

El Centro de la Raza has a moral responsibility to the community we serve.  We will vigorously defend the rights of our people, and nonviolently resist any attempt to target El Centro de la Raza with immigration enforcement raids.  From this point forward, we will have attorneys onsite or on call 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, to ensure that our community is protected.

El Centro de la Raza will always remain a place where families can receive information and resources in a safe and welcoming place.  We call on local, state, and federal leaders to recognize El Centro de la Raza’s unique and special role in the Seattle community as a school and gathering place for all people.

Since 1972 we have worked together to build a Beloved Community in Seattle.  We will do everything we can to defend our Beloved Community from those who would threaten our values of love, nonviolence, and inclusion.


Estela's Signiture

Estela Ortega
Sensitive Location for Immigrants

Travel Ban and Immigration Restrictions

Our communities have been put in grave danger by the new executive order put in place by Donald Trump last week. Refugees, students, visitors, and legal permanent United States residents with green cards were stopped in airports across the United States, some being blocked from entering.

The Seattle-Tacoma International Airport was one of the places where up to 13 people were held in detention, and over a thousand people came to protest and show their support.

Although the administration is calling this a “travel ban,” it is unmistakeable that this policy directly and inhumanely targets the Muslim community. We stand with the Muslim community, and will continue to fight together against unjust policies.

It is clear that the new administration will continue to target immigrant and refugee communities. Please be aware that there may be new orders that focus on deporting immigrants who seek public assistance and social services: read more here.

It is important for everyone to know their legal rights when encountering immigration or other officers. For more resources on your rights in different situations, click here or here for information in Spanish and here for English. Children often have unique legal situations and rights: information in Spanish and in English can help families with children who are facing different immigration-related issues.

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To listen to a legal interpretation in English of the new executive order and what it means for immigrant families, see the video from Colective Legal del Pueblo below, or the video from Northwest Immigrant Rights Project for Spanish. Please note that both of these videos were filmed last week on January 27th, and information may have changed since then.
Colective Legal vid 2NWIRP Jorge Baron vid
Left: Sandy Restrepo, Co-Founder and Executive Director of Colectiva Legal del Pueblo in Burien, WA.
Right: Jorge Barón, Executive Director of Northwest Immigrant Rights Project in Seattle, WA.

At El Centro de la Raza, we are fighting back. After our Know Your Rights Workshop in January, we discussed arrest and detention processes with over 120 attendees, but many had specific questions that needed to be addressed one-on-one. We will be hosting another free bilingual legal clinic next week on Wednesday, February 8th from 6 PM – 8 PM at El Centro de la Raza with volunteery attorneys from the Law Office of Schroeter Goldmark & Bender and the Latina/o Bar Association of Washington.

To support El Centro de la Raza’s mission of bringing justice, equality, dignity, and freedom to all people, please consider donating to help us create a program to provide support for immigration issues and address other needs that may arise due to the unpredictable administration. This may include case management, legal referrals, and know your rights training. To designate your donation to immigration support, write in “immigration support” in the Program Designation field.


New way to book reservations at our Centilia Cultural Center

Seattle’s newest event space is called The Centilia Cultural Center! This space is perfect for quinceañeras, conferences, birthdays, meetings, and more. The Centilia Cultural Center boasts a location right next to the Beacon Hill Light Rail Station, is equipped with the state of the art audio/visual technology, has amazing multicultural artwork, and seats up to 207 guests.

We have a new portal through which organizations and other groups can submit a room reservation. Book Centilia Cultural Center today for all of your upcoming events. For more reservation details and other information, please contact Ramiro Reyes via email or 206-973-4298.

Enroll your child now at our Child Development Center at Hirabayashi Place!

A new child development program is open at Hirabayashi Place! The research-based curriculum uses the latest research in early childhood development to provide the highest quality kindergarten readiness program possible. The children participate in multicultural activities, social justice activities, and are involved in the community. Private pay, DSHS and DHHS subsidies are accepted. Hirabayashi Place is located at 4th Avenue and Main Street in the International District. To enroll your child, please call (206) 957-4606 or email

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Hirabayashi English Sept 2016_Page_1

Hirabayashi Spanish Sept 2016_Page_1


El Centro de la Raza is honored to be one of the Seattle Pride Parade Grand Marshals

Seattle Pride Parade

El Centro de la Raza is honored to have been chosen as a parade grand marshal for the 2016 Seattle Pride Parade. Seattle Pride President Eric Bennett stated, “El Centro de la Raza has exemplified the concept of serving the community. We are thrilled to announce them as a Grand Marshal for the 2016 parade.” Other grand marshals will be the Seattle Area Support Group and Dennis Coleman of the Seattle Men’s Chorus. Mark your calendars now for Sunday, June 26th for the 2016 Seattle Pride Parade, starting at 4th Avenue & Union Street at 11:00 AM. The theme of the 42nd annual Seattle Pride Parade is the “Future of Pride”, to honor all those who continue to fight for equality. Read the announcement here. Photo from

Roberto Felipe Maestas Award Application

RFM Legacy

Legacy Award Application 2017

Nominations are now being accepted for the sixth annual Roberto Felipe Maestas Legacy Award to be presented at the 2017 Building the Beloved Community Gala. The deadline to apply is Monday,  April 10th, 2017 at 5:00pm Pacific Time. The Legacy Award recognizes two individuals who have exemplified Building the Beloved Community through multi-racial unity and are working to eliminate poverty, racism and social inequity. Application available here.

Congratulations to the 2015 Roberto Felipe Maestas Legacy Award Recipients

Aiko PhotoAiko Schaefer

Aiko Schaefer coordinates the Communities of Color for Climate Justice a new statewide multi-racial coalition to educate, engage and advocate for climate equity. Founded by leading racial and environmental justice organizations including El Centro Del La Raza, this growing coalition, with the guidance of shared principles for climate justice, elevated the voices and interests of people of color who are disproportionately impacted by climate change – higher rates of asthma, jobs/crop loss, shorter lifespans, weather disasters here and in home countries, and more. This commitment and work to ensure equity is at the center of any climate policy is taking place through the Alliance for Jobs and Clean Energy a statewide coalition working to put an initiative to the people on the ballot in 2016. Aiko has been a leading and recognized anti-poverty advocate in Washington State as the founding Director of the Poverty Action Network. She has been appointed to various state task forces and boards to address poverty and injustice, as well as served on a number of non-profit boards. In addition to her work on poverty, equity and climate justice Aiko is on the faculty at the School of Social Work at the University of Washington.

Mauricio Ayon

Mauricio Ayon currently sits as a co-chair on the Washington State Racial Equity Team, which opposes policy and programs that will negatively impact communities of color and create inequity. He is also a steering committee member of the Communities of Color for Climate Justice, a new statewide multi-racial coalition to educate, engage and advocate for climate equity. As well as a steering committee member of the Alliance for Jobs And Clean Energy. Mauricio skillfully and eloquently tracks issues in Olympia, while developing allies in the legislature for further action. Mauricio has over 15 years of experience in multi-racial organizing, serving as a community leader for advocacy on environment, education, labor and lobbying for access to healthcare for immigrants and refugees. He is also a co-founder of Para los Niños, which he organized education opportunities for parents and children in South King County and coordinated access to education for Latinos in Highline School District. Maurico is currently the Political Director at WA Community Action Network the state’s largest grassroots community organization, which works to achieve economic, social and racial equality in order to establish a democratic society characterized by justice and fairness, with respect for diversity, and a decent quality of life for all those who reside in Washington State.

Roberto Felipe Maestas Legacy Award Application Form Available Now

Click here to access a PDF of the application form.

Fifth Annual Roberto Felipe Maestas Legacy Award

Nominations now being accepted.

Roberto Maestas’ life was dedicated to building the “Beloved Community”* through multi-racial unity. He deeply believed that poverty, racism and social inequity could only be eradicated if people of all races and backgrounds came together to do so.

In honor of Roberto and his legacy the Fifth Annual Roberto Felipe Maestas Legacy Award recognizes two individuals, a woman and a man, who have exemplified Building the Beloved Community through multi-racial unity and working to eliminate poverty, racism and social inequity.

El Centro de la Raza will celebrate awardees and their contributions by making a $1,000 gift in their name to an organization of their choice. Award recipients will be recognized at El Centro de la Raza’s Building the Beloved Community Gala on Saturday, September 26, 2015 at The Seattle Westin. Click here to purchase tickets to the gala now!

Legacy Award applicants can self-nominate or be nominated by someone else. Recipients are asked to participate in a video interview and attend El Centro de la Raza’s Building the Beloved Community Gala.

Deadline for application submission is Friday, June 26, 2015 at 5:00pm Pacific Time. Please see application here.