Announcing our 2020 Legacy Award Honorees!

Our late founder Roberto Maestas dedicated his life to building Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “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 his honor, the Roberto Felipe Maestas Legacy Award recognizes individuals who have advanced the work of Building the Beloved Community. El Centro de la Raza celebrates the recipients and their contributions by making a $1,000 gift in their name to an organization of their choice.

El Centro de la Raza is pleased to recognize our annual Roberto Felipe Maestas Legacy Award honorees: Ginger Kwan and Luis Rodriguez & Leona Moore-Rodriguez

Ginger Kwan, Executive Director of Open Doors for Multicultural Families
As the Executive Director of Open Doors for Multicultural Families, Ginger and her multicultural and multilingual staff work tirelessly to support families and their children who have developmental and/or intellectual disabilities. Open Doors makes equity central to all of its decision-making and strives to meet the needs of each family member, wherever they may be in their journey with raising their children. 

Ginger also serves in a leadership capacity for the Racial Equity Coalition, which is made up of 15 people of color serving and led organizations in South King County. She has been working closely with United Way of King County to identify and understand the factors influencing the inequitable allocation and accessibility of emergency assistance. Ginger has shared her expertise on topics ranging from the intake process to collecting and reporting data with smaller partner organizations.

At times, Ginger has been an “easy target” for those who are unhappy with her challenge of institutionalized racism whenever she encounters it, but she has not given up. Her life’s work has been focused on dismantling institutionalized racism and improving the lives of those who have experienced tremendous physical and emotional challenges. Through her inclusive partnerships, Ginger’s efforts have resulted in more than $1.5 million in pandemic related community assistance funds being allocated to the most vulnerable in our region. For her decades of work to strengthen communities of color as they navigate systems of oppression and her unwavering dedication to speaking truth to power, El Centro de la Raza is pleased to honor Ginger as a recipient of the Roberto Felipe Maestas Legacy Award.

Luis and Leona Rodriguez, owners of The Station
Luis and Leona built a community hub when they opened their coffee shop named The Station. People of all generations, ethnicities, and identities find a safe place to gather and share ideas at The Station. The baristas and even the customers around the café reflect a level of diversity that matches the Beacon Hill community that The Station serves. They are committed to employing BIPOC and LGBTQ+ workers, who often face barriers to employment and discrimination in the workplace.

Luis and Leona live community activism and advocacy. They open their doors to serve as informal headquarters for many community meetings and as an event space, such as block parties, fundraisers for victims of violence, and youth poetry writing workshops. Also, they partner with Cleveland High School to provide a food pantry to help feed community members since the full effects of the pandemic gripped our city.

Luis and Leona stand up for the community when they witness injustices and open their “home” to anyone who needs it. Their commitment to bringing together people of all races and backgrounds to fight for racial and economic justice furthers the work of Building the Beloved Community and honors the legacy of Roberto Maestas.

Swimming 2.5 Miles to Help Struggling Families

Matt and Mariko know that many families in our communities have been hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic. Recognizing their privilege, they came up with a fun, unique idea to help struggling families by raising funds by swimming 2.5 miles across the Saratoga Passage that separates Camano Island and Whidbey Island.

They raised $1,045 – exceeding their initial goal of $500 – and completed 2.5 miles in under 90 minutes! Matt said, “We know there are definitely individuals that are in need of El Centro de la Raza’s resources now more than ever. We hope this inspires others to host small fundraisers that cumulatively can have a significant contribution to the resources El Centro de la Raza can provide.”

Mil gracias, Matt and Mariko, for supporting our families and for your hard work!

Elena’s Story

Elena* is a young mom of three children, and she has been a program participant of Bebes! BSK since April. She grew up in South King County and graduated high school in 2017.

Through the Bebes! BSK program, Elena has found reassurance and peace of mind that her children’s daily activities genuinely benefit them. She received health and safety tips and have already incorporated them into her routine. Elena has shown interest in enrolling in college courses to pursue a degree and working on her career. We have provided her with a tablet to continue with her GED.

*Name has been changed.

Free Bilingual Legal Clinic / Clínica Legal Bilingue y Gratis

On the second Wednesday of every month through November 2020, there are free bilingual legal clinics with volunteer attorneys from the Law Office of Schroeter Goldmark & Bender and the Latina/o Bar Association of Washington. Sign up for consultations is on a first-come, first-served basis. To inquire: Please call 206-233-1258 and leave a message with your name, phone number, and a brief description of your legal issue. Staff will try their best to find an appointment time for you to call back and speak to an attorney. Space is limited! Click here for more details.

El segundo miércoles de cada mes hasta Noviembre 2020, hay clínicas legales bilingues y gratis con abogados voluntarios del Bufete de Schroeter Goldmark & Bender y la Asociación de Abogados Latinos de Washington. Registración por consultaciones es ofrecida basada en la ‘órden de llegada.’ Para pedir consulta: Llame a 206-233-1258 y deje un mensaje con su nombre, número telefónico, y una descripión breve de su situación legal. Los encargados harán lo que puedan a establecer una cita en que ud. puede hablar con un abogado. ¡Espacio es limitado! Haga clic aquí para mas detalles.

Update: Federal Judge Blocked the Public Charge Rule’s Implementation

Earlier this year, the Supreme Court granted the Trump Administration permission to implement the Public Charge rule. This decision would have allowed the government to evaluate a green card applicant’s request for legal status based on their past use of public benefits, among other criteria, and determine if they are likely to become a “public charge” in the future.

In late July, a federal judge blocked the Public Charge rule’s implementation during the COVID-19 pandemic. While USCIS has said that immigrants will not be penalized for seeking COVID-19 medical treatment and services, policies that have come out of the Trump Administration typically target immigrants. This order’s significance is to protect immigrants and ensure they have access to testing and treatment, especially those with no health care coverage.

Yesenia’s Story

We followed up with Yesenia*, a participant from our Youth Job Readiness Training (YJRT) program, to see how her internship is going.

I have been interning at my site remotely, and the experience has been positive. In July alone, I completed 60 hours. On a typical day, I contact program participants by phone and send emails to complete their intake forms or provide training for them. I like my supervisor’s management style and his willingness to help me address any work issues. I also like the people I work with directly.

When I reflect on my time as a YJRT participant, I recognize how the training program has prepared me for my internship. For example, I had learned PowerPoint in school, but through YJRT and my internship, I am applying my PowerPoint knowledge in my work tasks. We also use Excel at my internship, which I am learning.

The YJRT Coordinator, Jeritza, provided invaluable tips on becoming more ready for a job, some of which were tips I have only learned through this training program at El Centro de la Raza. For example, she helped me prepare my first resume. Before that, I had never seen one, so I did not know how to start creating mine. Also, she gave us tips on doing well in an interview and approaching a supervisor about an issue. There is a proper way to do it.

Overall, I have found that my typing speed has increased, and I am more confident in using computers.

*Name has been changed. This interview has been edited for clarity.

Suzy’s Story

Suzy is a recent graduate of the Unidos At Work program. She decided to enroll in our virtual course during the pandemic to become more self-sufficient, be prepared for her future career, and achieve her dreams. Suzy commented that Unidos At Work was convenient for her because of the evening sessions, allowing her to be more engaged because she does not have to be concerned with child care, transportation, and breaking quarantine.

Unidos At Work opened her eyes to the vastness of technology – all in her home’s comfort. Suzy has gained new skills through this program and is motivated to find a new job and live a better life for her children. She said, “This is a highway that never ends. I am always curious to learn new things for my future career. I also want to know how to help my son whenever he starts school.”

She has many dreams, one of which is to work for either Microsoft or Google. She also wants to launch an online business selling handcrafted art. She said, “I am super grateful for my Unidos At Work experience because I learned many things from the professional and motivational coaches, Oscar and Juan Pablo. They make a great team. My message to future Unidos At Work participants is: Time is gold. If I can do it, you can do it. Follow your dreams.

Struggling Parent Finds Hope Amid COVID

Last year, the Molina Segura* family enrolled in our Parents As Teachers program. Throughout the program, both parents were involved in the developmental growth of their daughter, Susana*. They were thrilled to see Susana’s growing independence, autonomy, and confidence.

Then the pandemic hit.

Both parents were out of work, and they struggled to find ways to improve their situation. Our program staff (known as Parent Educators) provided them with resource assistance through the Parents As Teachers program, such as our food bank, financial empowerment, ESL classes, and tax help. The father accepted temporary jobs during the quarantine, but the hours were limited. He began taking online courses to improve his English and earn his GED.

In June, the Parent Educators helped prepare him for a job interview, and he was hired as a paint technician! Susana is now two-years-old and has exceeded the developmental milestones for her age, including motor, social-emotional, language, and cognitive areas. She wants to do things for herself, and her mother encourages her along the way.

*Name has been changed.

Providing Assistance to Families Not Eligible For Benefits

Due to the extension of Washington’s Safe Start Phased Reopening proclamation, our staff recognize that many families have reached their limits. While families understand this extension’s importance, they continue to face unemployment and fall behind on their rent. More family participants than ever face the dilemma of paying rent or buying food. Families to which we have previously provided emergency assistance have called to ask about receiving aid a second time. The combination of limited funding and the widespread needs emerging from the pandemic makes it challenging to do.

Landlords continue to intimidate family participants by reminding them that they are subjected to pay in full their outstanding rent balance. Families with leases are also concerned because their payments have increased due to late charges. We refer these cases to CLEAR or Tenants Union.

We estimate that 90% of these families do not qualify for emergency benefits during the past five months, making them the most vulnerable population during the pandemic. Participants have been filing claims every week for the last four months with no success. Our staff have appealed to the Employment Security Department requesting that an employee contact participants and review their benefits application. In the meantime, staff continue to provide emergency assistance and information about resources.

Impact of the El Paso Shooting on November 3

August 3 marked the first anniversary of the devastating El Paso shooting. Words are never adequate for tragedies, including this one. We share in the sadness of the victims’ friends and families, most of whom were people of color. The gunman’s manifesto posted shortly before the shooting read, “This attack is a response to the Hispanic invasion of Texas.” In UnidosUS’ poll of Latino voters, gun violence is among the community’s top five issues.

President Trump’s leadership strategy uses primarily anti-immigrant rhetoric to inspire hate crimes and domestic terrorism. On the global stage, Trump represents our country by dehumanizing the Latino community. He has abused his executive powers to separate families at the southern border, implement the Public Charge rule, discourage immigrant and refugee communities from being counted in the 2020 Census, and attack DACA, among many other strategies to keep communities of color down.

There is courage in sorrow and action. As we remember this tragedy, let us stand together in our collective power to vote for candidates whose priority is to bring the country together. This General Election on November 3, let us elect leaders who want to protect immigrants and asylum seekers. The deadline to register or update your voter registration online or by mail is Monday, October 26.

Click for more information. Click to update your address and register to vote. For questions or more information, please contact Mandela via email at