Latino artists leave messages of activism through streets of Chicago

Art is more human than even science. It has been a constant form of expression since before written language appeared. The first sample of writing was created about 5,500 years ago, while the first cave painting was created 40,000 years ago.

Art is part of humanity. It is a seed that as humans we plant so that in the future we can see its fruits. As the popular phrase goes, “they wanted to bury us but they didn’t know we were seeds.”

So it makes perfect sense that we continue to use art to see the change in the world around us. It is an excellent tool to communicate beyond what other mediums allow us to.

Activism and art have been excellent allies throughout history — from music that protests against discrimination to paintings that reflect the horrors of war that powerful leaders have tried to make invisible.

William Guerrero AKA “The Kid From Pilsen”

William Guerrero also known as “The Kid From Pilsen”, a local artist, activist, and photographer in the predominantly Mexican neighborhood describes art to be a reflection of the present. But also a form to connect with the community.

For him, art is the way to give your point of view, share your story, and encourage others to do it while they can. It is clear to him that one of the characteristics that make art an inclusive medium is that “anyone can do it.”

Chris Cervantes, a digital artist from the South Side, believes that “digital art democratizes participation.”

Cervantes started with digital art because he wanted to create, but he didn’t necessarily have a canvas or paint resources to start.

He emphasizes the importance of creating a narrative within the art. “Be part of the conversation,” Cervantes said. 

In the face of the message you want to give, he advises you to “say it loudly and honestly”. His message through art is to not worry too much about being correct, but instead, continue to create and participate.

So then, art and activism are very similar, right? The act of doing and acting is what contains the greatest value. 

That’s how Frillz, a muralist and illustrator, also thinks about it. 

As a child, Frillz would ride his bike through the streets of Logan Square, see the art on the streets, and think: “I could do it too.â€� 

“I want my art to inspire others to create as well,” Frillz said.

That’s another factor that art and activism have in common: They’re contagious. “Art is a great way of communicating messagesâ€� and for this reason “the possibilities are endless,â€� Frillz added.

YCA Gallery exhibition, Frillz Chicago

Milton Coronado, renowned muralist and activist, comments that art can serve as a “call to action” for a community. 

Coronado is a muralist and a public speaker. Through his art, his goal is to embody hope. 

For Coronado, his murals have a “strong connection to Latin American culture.” His paintings range from Vincente Fernandez to Vanessa Guillen.

His messages place special emphasis on seeking conflict resolution without using violence. His art, for him, helps him to “share his experience”, “to send a message to demand change” and to create “opportunities for dialogue” between groups with different positions and perspectives. 

Coronado said he desires his art will serve as a long-term plan for change, seeking to “influence future generations.” In all honesty, I think it is being achieved.

Adam Toledo mural, Milton Coronado

My central question from the beginning of this piece was “is art a good medium for activism?� and it is clear that it is one of the best.

Not only because of its accessibility but also because of its ability to send messages that tend to be sometimes even more powerful than words. 

The roles of murals, photos, illustrations, digital art, and many other types of art have the power to promote change. This is the interpretation that I give to Emma Goldman’s famous phrase “If I can’t dance, your revolution doesn’t interest meâ€�: The revolution can be successful or unsuccessful, but it is art and culture that keep the fight alive.


Cover Photo: Artist Milton Coronado commemorated Marlen Ochoa Lopez, a young mother murdered in Chicago, with a mural in Pilsen. Credit: Milton Coronado.

Publisher’s Notes: You can read Santiago’s Spanish language version of Latino artists leave messages of activism through streets of Chicago by clicking on Artistas latinos dejan la marca de su activismo en Chicago.

Illinois Latino News (ILLN) and La DePaulia are partners in best serving the Hispanic-Latino community.

The post Latino artists leave messages of activism through streets of Chicago appeared first on ILLN.

“Diversity is good, and Rhode Island proves it”

“My vision is of a Rhode Island that rose its economy in a way that is more equitable and just because more people are engaged in making our state better,” said Rhode Island Secretary of State Nellie M. Gorbea. Gorbea spoke about what she hopes to accomplish as governor as she has as Secretary of State on the Latino News Network podcast, “3 Questions With…”.

Secretary Gorbea is the first Latina to run for governor in New England. If she wins, she would also be the first Puerto Rican governor on the mainland. Gorbea is no stranger to making history in public office. In 2015, she was sworn in as Secretary of State, becoming the first Hispanic-Latina to hold statewide office in New England – a position she was re-elected to in 2018.

“We made government work for people,” said Gorbea in describing the work she is most proud of during her tenure as Secretary of State. The list includes:

  • New voting machines and electronic poll books
  • Re-building the state’s election management database
  • Upgrading election cybersecurity

She also led bills to improve the state’s lobbying system and created automated voter registration.

Rhode Island is home to 180,000+ Hispanics-Latinos, making up approximately 18-percent of the state’s total population.

Gorbea was born and raised in Puerto Rico; moved to Rhode Island in the mid-1990’s. She says that her ethnicity is a piece of the state’s immigrant history, and that it has shaped her approach to leadership.

Secretary Gorbea was also part of a group of Latino activists who began developing the community’s political power, through the Rhode Island Latino Political Action Committee and the Rhode Island Latino Civic Fund.

“Having a diversity of opinions, perspectives, and backgrounds around the policy making table makes all the difference in the solutions that we implement, and how long lasting and how good they are,” Gorbea said. “Diversity is good, and Rhode Island proves it.”


Publisher’s Note: This story is written in part from an interview in Rhode Island Monthly.

Language Barriers Overwhelm Children of Immigrants

Iliana Barreto, Coordinator at Centro Latino in Manchester knows firsthand what it’s like for people who are not native English language speakers to be shamed. “Some feel a sense of embarrassment and some people are made to feel less than. You can get frustrated,â€� Barreto said in a recent episode of NHPR’s Visibles.

Barreto originally moved to Boston from Puerto Rico with her family and was the first to learn English. She grew up translating and interpreting for her parents. It’s a reality many children of immigrants in the U.S. live through.

The COVID-19 pandemic created new challenges for immigrants and refugees in New Hampshire seeking assistance to manage their health. Many rely on their children to navigate what can often be a frustrating process in getting information by phone or websites.

However well-intentioned, children who have to translate for their non-English speaking parents often face mental health struggles, according to a recent study. Children in these situations can typically feel like the roles are reversed. Kids are placed in a parenting role and have to make sure to “careâ€� for their parents. To ensure that they have what they need and that they can get by in a society where they don’t speak the language.

The same language barrier exists in telemedicine; a convenient and safer way to treat patients during COVID-19.

State Representative Manny Espitia (D) from Nashua, is one of the sponsors of H.B. 1390, a bill that would address language translation services in telemedicine.

Espitia told the Concord Monitor that coming from a Hispanic-Latino family where he had to serve as a translator for his parents when he was a kid, he knows the burden of not having an official interpreter.

“We want to make sure that every medical professional has access to translation service so that a patient can get the right information,� he said.

French is the leading foreign language, after

Spanish is the second most popular language spoken in New Hampshire, after English. 2.1 percent of state residents speak Spanish.

Swingers: The Latino Vote

The number of Hispanic-Latino elected officials has grown nearly 75 percent over the past two decades, but Hispanic-Latino politicians still comprise less than 2 percent of all elected officials in the country, according to an analysis by the National Association of Latino Elected Officials (NALEO).

The Hill reported that the new analysis found that there were 7,087 Hispanic-Latino elected officials as of 2021 out of more than 500,000 elected positions nationwide.

That means around 1.5 percent of all elected officials are Hispanic, compared to 18.5 percent of the population, according to the Census Bureau.

There has been plenty of debate over Hispanic-Latino voters shifting to the right in the 2020 general election. The general consensus is that 3 in 5 (or slightly more) Hispanics-Latinos voted for President Biden over then-President Donald Trump. Still, there’s no denying Trump made gains among Hispanic-Latinos — and in some places, quite sizable ones, as reported by FiveThirtyEight.

Going forward, such swings among Latinos — the largest ethnic or racial minority group in the country — could affect each party’s chance of carrying important states while also putting Democratic-leaning turf in play for the GOP.

“This current administration has yet to deliver for the (Hispanic-Latino) community,” said Julio Ricardo Varela, interim co-executive director of Futuro Media Group, co-host of the “In The Thickâ€� podcast, and founder of Latino Rebels. Varela discussed on Under the Radar with Callie Crossley how Democrats’ voter bungling could really haunt them in this year’s midterm elections. He believes not enough has been done to help Hispanics-Latinos, who have been disproportionately affected by COVID-19, as well as immigration reform. “It is an issue of the heart.”

“There is a tendency for Democrats to take the Latino vote for granted and assume that because the Latino population is growing then they will permanently gain more and more control,” said Tibisay Zea, senior reporter at El Planeta in Boston. Zea was also a guest on the WGBH News program. She says Hispanics-Latinos tend to act like a swing state.

Hispanics-Latinos are pretty swingy compared with other voting blocs, reports FiveThirtyEight as they’re just not that attached to the two major parties. In Gallup’s 2021 polling, 52 percent of Hispanic Americans identified as independent, which was 10 percentage points higher than the population as a whole (42 percent). And while studies show that voters leaning toward a party do tend to back that party, they are still more likely to vote for the other side than voters who strongly identify with a party.

About one-third of Hispanic-Latinos wasn’t born in the U.S., which means many haven’t developed a strong allegiance to either party. As a result, many first-generation Hispanics-Latinos haven’t instilled loyalty to either party in their children, which is often how younger voters in the U.S. form their partisan identities.

“I don’t think either party is doing enough, number one,” Arturo Vargas, CEO of NALEO. “One of the things that we did see the Republican Party do over the past several years is trying to grow the number of Latino Republicans running for nonpartisan offices.”

“That is a smart strategy,” said Vargas who believes the political party that builds a bench of candidates to run for higher office – is the one who ultimately will be successful.

Healing into 2022

I remember back in 2020, as the year was about to end, I professed my belief in 2021 being a better year. Unfortunately, 2021 brought a lot more suffering in many ways. We saw and felt the effects of inequitable health disparities, social unrest, and increased mental health issues, including depression and anxiety. 2021 events really highlighted the need for increased access to mental health awareness and wellness-based resources, particularly for Latinx communities. 

We who identify as Latinx tend to belong to collectivist societies. We honor family and community, value social interest, and feel empowered from belonging to our family and community. The pandemic, however, took much of that away from us. Family get-togethers, holiday feasts, church events, local social activities, and practically all of our in-person engagements were ended. With that, our ability to connect with our loved ones, peers, and community members were cut off too.

The loneliness from this type of unnatural isolation was overwhelming and unbearable. Being alone and restricted further added to the suffering so many have felt. 

So here we are again. 2021 finally ended, and I again profess my belief that 2022 will, must, has to be better. We need to find ways to reconnect with our society. We need to see each other’s faces and smiles and feel each other’s warmth and compassion. 

The winter season is still a lonely and anxiety-inducing time for many. When I work with clients struggling during this time of year, we often create a plan that includes finding ways to connect with other human beings. Belonging to, maintaining, and cultivating healthy relationships are, in fact, one of the best ways to heal wounds and improve mood. 

I encourage everyone to add a volunteer and/or social activity over the winter season. Many organizations are looking for these services. Local places of worship, shelters, and other organizations are always looking for volunteers (https://www.chicagocares.org/s/find-an-opportunity). In addition, in-person and virtual opportunities are all over Chicago and the surrounding suburbs (https://www.handsonsuburbanchicago.org/virtual).  

When we connect with others and support our loved ones and community, we will start to remember that better days are coming. 2022 can be better with the choices we make. I look forward to 2022 with all of you as we support each other to heal collectively.  


Cover Photo by Jared Rice on Unsplash

Pamela Fullerton is a bilingual and bicultural Latina Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor.

She runs Advocacy & Education Consulting, a professional counseling and consulting organization dedicated to ensuring social justice and advocacy through equitable access to mental health and educational-based services and supports.

Pamela specializes in trauma, immigration and acculturation, BIPOC experiences, career counseling, and life transitions.

Publisher’s Note: Healing into 2022 was first published in Reflejos.

If you have an idea for an Opinion-Editorial; contact us at Info@LatinoNewsNetwork.com.

The post Healing into 2022 appeared first on ILLN.

Lockdowns, Remote Learning Contribute To Surge In Childhood Obesity

Poor nutrition, stress and a loss of physical activity when schools closed during the COVID-19 pandemic appear to be worsening the problem of childhood obesity nationally and in Connecticut.

Nationally, obesity among youth ages 2 to 19 increased from 19.3% in 2019 to 22.4% in 2020, according to the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. The same age group saw the rate of increase in their body mass index (BMI) double during the pandemic, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports. The heaviest youths experienced the highest gains.

In Connecticut, the obesity rate among ages 10 to 17 rose from 13.3% in 2018-19 to 15.3% in 2019-2020, according to the Johnson Foundation report.

Pediatrician referrals of children have nearly tripled at the Pediatric Obesity Center for Treatment, Research and Education at Connecticut Children’s Medical Center in Hartford. In 2019, it had 890 referrals, which grew to 2,491 in 2021. It now has a waiting list of nearly a year, with 642 children on it, said Dr. Christine Finck, the center’s surgical director.

“The ramp-up in referrals was so acute and took us by surprise,’’ Finck said. “It’s really been a tough challenge.�

To meet the demand, the center is expanding its program—which offers nutrition education, counseling, and even bariatric surgery for children with severe obesity—into Farmington, Fairfield and Westport, said Dr. Melissa Santos, the division chief of pediatric psychology and the clinical director of the center.

“Kids’ rates of obesity are significantly higher now than they’ve ever been,’’ Santos said, with some patients weighing 400, 500 and even 800 pounds.

Gardening And Jumping Jacks

A variety of programs across Connecticut are tackling childhood obesity.

Joey Listro

With 13 gardens at city schools, New Britain ROOTS teaches children to improve their eating habits by growing collard greens, spinach, lettuce, squash, and even tilapia in a new fish reservoir. Executive Director Joey Listro said ROOTS educates 500 children at a time, and it’s been therapeutic to see them back outdoors after the stress of the pandemic.

“Gardening has a very calming effect,’’ Listro said. “And if they don’t have media around them, they can be left alone with their own thoughts.�

One of the longest-running programs in the state is the Bright Bodies Healthy Lifestyle Program, which Mary Savoye, a registered dietitian, started 23 years ago at Yale New Haven Hospital. She said participants in the program have seen a 1.7-unit drop in their BMI after one year, compared to a 1.6-unit increase in the control group.

Bright Bodies provides 70 families a year with nutrition education, behavior modification and exercise classes, now held on Zoom and featuring planks, lunges and jumping jacks.

The effect of the pandemic on children’s weight and their ability to exercise has been stark, Savoye said.

“There was a limited amount of exercise happening and a lot of emotional eating,’’ she said.

She said nutrition also suffered in many households, where parents were buying unhealthy, processed food because it had a long shelf life.

Melissa Santos

In Hartford, Santos said isolation, stress and excess screen time when learning was remote contributed to childhood obesity. One of her program’s goals is to have the children spend no more than two hours a day online instead of the 12 or more hours she’s seeing. Its other “Fit5� daily goals are: eat five fruits and vegetables, have four servings of calcium, give and get three compliments, exercise for one hour and have no sugar-sweetened drinks.

Santos said some of her patients rarely went outdoors during the pandemic.

“I had one mom say, ‘My child looks ashy,’ � Santos said. “She’s like, ‘I make him go sit outside in the sun for a half an hour a day like he’s a houseplant.’ �

Better Self-Esteem

Many of Bright Bodies’ participants come from low-income families, and about two-thirds are Black or Latino—all groups disproportionately affected by childhood obesity, Savoye said.

But two participants say they’ve lost weight, are eating in moderation, and feel better about themselves now.

Sol Gonzalez of New Haven said her pediatrician recommended Bright Bodies last spring because her son AngelGabriel Coronel’s blood sugar levels put him at risk for diabetes. Since joining, AG, as his family calls him, has lost 12 pounds. The fifth-grader at Nathan Hale School said he gets less out of breath now playing basketball.

“Before, I used to think that other kids would make fun of me when I wasn’t looking, but now, I don’t think they really are,’’ AG said. “I’ve gotten lighter, and I can do a lot of things that I couldn’t before, like I can play sports better.�

Tears welled up in Alysha Newton-Cueto’s eyes as she talked about being teased for being overweight while growing up.

“I used to get bullied a lot,� Newton-Cueto, 21, of New Haven, said. “Kids said I should drop off a bridge.�

But she said things are looking up for her thanks to Bright Bodies. Her mother, Tiquanda Newton, said her daughter had done the program at age 10 and asked if she could do it again when her self-esteem was low last fall. She can take part at her age because she has cognitive and learning disabilities, Newton said.

The family’s eating better and doing the Zoom workouts together. Newton said she’s lost 14 pounds and Newton-Cueto has lost 13.

“It’s something that was missing in our family for a long time,’’ Newton said of Bright Bodies.


Cover Photo: Angel Gabriel Coronel, 10, of New Haven, has lost 12 pounds since joining the Bright Bodies program. He is heading into his third 12-week session. He has learned about healthy eating and enjoys the exercise program.

Photo by Melanie Stengel

Publisher’s Note:  CTLN and c-hit.org collaborate to best serve the Connecticut Hispanic, Latino community.

NHLN Opinion+: Sarah Jane Knoy

Welcome to this week’s episode of NHLN Opinion+ where we talk about major issues the Latinx and underrepresented communities face in the New Hampshire community.

This week we invited Sarah Jane Knoy, Executive Director of Granite State Organizing Project. Granite is a non-profit that promotes equal respect for all communities from a faith and democratic values perspective. They try to unite all communities by tackling issues such as poor housing, failing schools, barriers to citizenship, and substandard working conditions. The pandemic caused unemployment and poverty to become concerning problems in New Hampshire. “We switched from being a community center, a place where people can drop in and learn to do emergency food distributions,â€� explained Executive Director Knoy on the transition from an organizing organization to a social organization. 

Covid has prevented people from meeting in person as it has caused people to work several jobs to make ends meet. Parents are working between two to three jobs as the minimum wage is at $7.25/hour and the cost of living is high. Compared to the rest of New England, New Hampshire has the lowest minimum wage. “The state legislature has passed an increase in the minimum wage a couple of times and Gov. Sununu has vetoed it every time,â€� explains Knoy as the problem is not within the presidency, but with the governor of New Hampshire and those in power. 

As the state is aging, the Latinx community is growing and is the only way New Hampshire will grow. “The Trump years really hurt the community. We lost people due to deportation. That created a lot of fear and that fear means if you’re a member of a mixed-status family you’re afraid to go to the regular service agencies,â€� explains Knoy as she talks about the challenges brought by former president Trump onto the Latinx community. 

A lot of the members of the Granite state are religious. “Whether their faith is in the words of Jesus or the teaching of Mohamad or from the rabbinical tradition and of people of a faith but no particular religion we all come together because we believe in the shared humanity and the shared dignity that all humans deserve,� explains Knoyon how faith and similar values unite people. Bettering humanity and the fact that we were all created equal is the biggest motivator of engagement. Organizations that are not denominational believe in equal opportunity and rights without distinction.

The current administration has made progress in addressing poverty in New Hampshire through legislation. “The Biden administration implemented the Child Tax Refund and we have been helping people sign up and get those refunds. We’ve been helping people sign up to get the stimulus checks and the recovery checks,� explains Knoy.

Emergency Rental Assistance assists in living expenses for those struggling. Racial discrimination has been another issue faced due to the polarization presented through media. “Last year they passed the Divisive Concepts Law which says that school teachers can’t teach the history of racism and oppression in this country and the governor supported that. That has, I think, freed up some of the people who are threatened by the growing diversity of the state to lash out with a lot of weird behavior and hateful statements. It’s pretty telling that pretty much all of the people of color on the governor’s diversity task force resigned after he signed that law,� said Knoy. “I think we need a more enlightened state government and we need to not be so afraid of change and embrace the change that’s coming.�

Immigrants are the ones that are growing businesses and serving those in need. New Hampshire legislation needs to acknowledge these societal changes and not isolate them. Executive Director Knoy and her team have been advocating for a bill that would allow people without social security numbers to secure driver’s licenses as it can lead to a more safe environment. Young Organizers United is a program that brings high school students from immigrant and marginalized groups to receive leadership training on how to get politically involved and serve their communities. 

Resources mentioned in the video: 

Granite State Organizing Project Website: https://granitestateorganizing.org/

Granite State Organizing Project Phone Number: 603-668-8250

MALN Opinion+: Rosario Ubiera-Minaya

MALN Opinion plus is a space for our opinions, where we talk about current events and questions the Latino community is curious about!

This week on Opinion+ we were joined by Rosario Ubiera-Minaya, Executive Director for Amplify Latinx. The non-profit was founded in 2017 and acts as a bi-lingual catalyst that advocates for equity, diversity, and the inclusion of Latinos and people of color in Massachusetts. Executive Director Ubiera-Minaya, herself describes the organization as a “high-impact group of professionals, entrepreneurs, changemakers, disruptors, and advocates focused on closing opportunity gaps statewide.�

Opportunity is a huge driving force for Amplify Latinx. It is clear that not all groups of people start at the same place in life and the non-profit is working to build the wealth and prosperity of the Latino community by offering opportunities and pathways to success with their many programs. 

Last February, Amplify Latinx along with other Boston area social-justice groups filed an administrative civil rights complaint against the city alleging that the city government fosters discrimination towards Black and Latino-owned businesses by maintaining a public recruitment system that excludes these businesses from equally contracting opportunities. Executive Director Ubiera-Minaya, described that this can be seen largely in construction contracts where wealthier, white-owned businesses are often prioritized and placed in more attractive areas of the city where Latinos and other people of color are left out. 

As of now in February 2022, the administrative complaint has yet to be addressed by the city government but Amplify Latinx is watching closely as Mayor Wu’s administration attempts to address issues such as the ones described in their complaint. 

To hear more of this important conversation and learn about how you can get involved be sure to watch this week’s full episode of MALN Opinion+.

Resources mentioned in this episode: https://amplifylatinx.co/

RILN Opinion+: Tomás �vila

Welcome to another episode of RILN Opinion+ where we talk about major issues the Latinx and underrepresented communities face in the Rhode Island community.

This week we spoke with Tomás Ã�vila, Associate Director for the Office of Rhode Island Office of Diversity, Equity, and Opportunity (ODEO). Associate Director Ã�vila works to diversify the workforce in Rhode Island and make the work environment more inclusive and welcoming for all identities. “Part of the office’s responsibility is to diversify the state employment so it will reflect the demographics of Rhode Island,â€� explained Ã�vila of the role of ODEO. “The second part of it is to make sure we recruit and diversify a set of individuals who can potentially be employed by the state.â€� 

Associate Director Ã�vila assists minorities pursuing to build businesses and making sure they receive equal opportunity. “We have the responsibility of the minority business enterprise and in that end, it is our responsibility to make sure that they get their due fair share of the investment that the state does in expenses,â€� explains Ã�vila. “Back in 1986, the state passed a law that said that a minority community is entitled to ten percent of all the expenses that the state does.â€� Associate Director Ã�vila has the responsibility to make sure minority communities receive the same funding and increase their opportunity. 

The pandemic caused the ten percent deal to minority business enterprises to be suspended due to an executive order placed by the governor. Fortunately, the executive order has been reversed. Another major issue was ODEO being able to recruit.

Within the last forty years, Rhode Island has become more diverse. “By 2043 Rhode Island is going to be a majority-minority state,� states Associate Director �vila as he explained the perpetual growth of diversity in Rhode Island. Within the current minority, the Latinx population is the fastest-growing population as they have grown by 45 percent while the Asian community has grown by 18 percent and the African American community has grown by 7 percent.

“Corporations and governments have a responsibility to actually help and make sure those individuals can grow,â€� Ã�vila calls the state government to create equal opportunity for the marginalized. “With Floyd’s death, the consciousness was raised that we need to be more intentional and practical.â€� 

Rhode Island faces the same problems in terms of workplace opportunity as the rest of the country. It all goes with the way we recruit. “Whether intentional or unintentional it has limited the growth of the minority community,â€� explains Ã�vila on the glass ceiling that exists in minorities.  “Managers need to break the mode of hiring individuals who look like them and hire people who are qualified.â€� This will lead to hiring people who will produce the results that managers want and fulfill the qualifications they are looking for. This is the key to closing the gap between them and us. 

Resources:

Office of Diversity, Inclusivity, and Opportunity at Rhode Island: http://odeo.ri.gov/

Jobs in Rhode Island: https://www.employri.org/vosnet/Default.aspx

ILLN Opinion+: Andy Wade

On this episode of ILLN Opinion+, we spoke with Andy Wade, the Executive Director of the National Alliance on Mental Health (NAMI Illinois). NAMI Illinois is Illinois’ branch of a national grassroots organization that aims to support, educate and advocate for people and families affected by mental illness. NAMI’s 20 local affiliate offices currently serve over 50,000 people a year throughout the state. 

With so much misinformation and stigma surrounding conversations about mental health, Executive Director Wade described the need to normalize talking about these issues, citing that mental health is simply an extension of physical health. It is something all humans deal with.

“Everybody has mental health and we all, frankly, have days where our mental health might be better or worse than on other days, so the degree to which a mental health condition affects our lives is really the thing to pay attention to. The idea that some people have mental health issues and other people just don’t, that’s false,� he said.

It’s important to note that mental health is not universally experienced. There is no one-size-fits-all approach to the topic because our understanding of the world and how we navigate it are so uniquely dependent on a variety of factors, one being race. Executive Director Wade says that there are currently gaps in the programs catered to minority groups, but NAMI looks to expand the way they offer their services.

“We are looking at everything through the viewpoint of equity, and equity means everybody gets what they need to thrive and succeed. And if you look at our society right now resources and support systems aren’t equally distributed,� he said.

In order to better serve the Black and Latinx communities, NAMI launched two culturally competent video series, Sharing Hope and Compartiendo Esperanza, that encourage these groups to partake in mental wellness dialogues in ways that resonate with them.

“If you ask about mental health, a lot of times people will clam up. If you ask about wellness, stress, how you’re feeling, it’s kind of a myth that people won’t talk about mental health issues, but we have to talk about them in the right way,â€� he explains. 

Executive Director Wade expressed NAMI’s awareness of a lack of resources in regards to Spanish language content and was very transparent in their efforts to fill that void through implementing new programs, such as Compartiendo Esperanza, building relationships with other organizations, and encouraging more bilingual and culturally competent professionals to join the mental health workforce.

Resources mentioned in this episode:

NAMI Illinois: https://namiillinois.org

NAMI Illinois en Español: https://namiillinois.org/en-espanol

Compartiendo Esperanza: https://namiillinois.org/compartiendo-esperanza/

Sharing Hope: https://namiillinois.org/sharing-hope/