Associate State Director, Advocacy and Community Engagement

AARP New Hampshire is accepting applications for the Associate State Director, Advocacy and Community Engagement position.

The opportunity is a regular full-time position based in Concord with some light traveling involved.

The candidate hired will develop and execute state, federal, and local advocacy activities. They lead state-level advocacy activities and represent the organization and its interests to elected officials, local and state government agencies, and partner organizations.

Other responsibilities include:

  • Leading state-level implementation of national campaign efforts
  • Recruits, develops, and manages volunteer teams to advance advocacy community outreach campaign goals and objectives
  • Establishes strategic community partnerships and leverages internal and external resources to achieve the organization’s community engagement goals at the state and local levels
  • Integrates advocacy and community engagement work with internal and external teams and partners
  • Develops and executes advocacy and community engagement campaigns that include grassroots mobilization and leadership

For more information and to apply click HERE.

The Perilous Journey to the American Dream

A once wealthy, oil-rich country, Venezuela is now in economic ruin. Seven million people have fled from Venezuela since 2015 to escape economic hardship and political repression.

While a majority have migrated to other Latin American countries with neighboring Colombia receiving the most Venezuelan migrants, thousands have made the nearly 3000 mile journey to the United States.

Luis Arguelles stares at an American flag hanging outside of a refugee center in Uptown. (Brenda Ordoñez / MEDILL )

Twenty-nine-year-old Luis Arguelles is one of those individuals. Born and raised in Barinas, Venezuela, Arguelles says it is not the country it used to be.

“Lately in Venezuela it was no longer possible to live, because of the politics there, if you work, you don’t have enough to survive,â€� Arguelles says.

The sharp turnabout can be attributed to the country’s current president, Nicolás Maduro. Maduro was appointed to serve in 2013 following the death of his predecessor Hugo Chavez.

Shortly after Maduro took office, global oil prices crashed sending Venezuela, a heavily oil- dependent nation, into a recession according to BBC News.

The economic strain was amplified following skyrocketing inflation and financial sanctions placed on the country by the U.S. This resulted in food and medicine shortages leaving many Venezuelans, including Arguelles, with no option but to leave the country.

Documentary by Brenda Ordoñez, Northwestern University

In September, Arguelles embarked on a month-long journey to the U.S. by foot in search of a better future, leaving behind his five-year-old daughter and family.

“It’s a risk against your family, against your life and so I made the decision to do it by myself, on my own, and later I’ll bring my family but by other means,â€� Arguelles says.

Arguelles would go on to face many dangers in his journey through South America, Central America until finally arriving to the United States where he was sent to California and slept on the streets. Hearing murmurs about Chicago being a haven for immigrants, Arguelles, along with thousands of other migrants, headed for the windy city.

Since 1985, Chicago has been declared a Sanctuary city meaning that city officials will not ask individuals about their immigration status, disclose that information to authorities, or, most importantly, deny them services based on their immigration status.

This declaration has inspired over 5,000 Venezuelan migrants to seek refuge in Chicago since August. These refugees have been offered various resources such as housing options, food, clothes, transportation, medical services and legal help.

However, due to the sudden wave of migrants flooding to the city all at once, these resources have been severely depleted prompting Mayor Lori Lightfoot to request $53.5 million in state aid in order to continue offering refugees critical resources.

This request was partially fulfilled with the state offering $20 million in funding to support the migrants. While the city received less money than it was hoping to get, for Arguelles, it is more than enough.

“California is not the same as Chicago,� Arguelles says. “In Chicago they treat you like a person. I am grateful 100% grateful 100% more than anything to the city, because everything is a support, everything.�

Cover Photo: Luis Arguelles stares down North Broadway Street in Uptown. (Brenda Ordoñez / MEDILL)

Brenda Ordoñez attends Northwestern University as a first-generation graduate student at the Medill School of Journalism, specializing in Video and Broadcast.

She has extensively covered topics such as immigration, health, and politics. Recently, Ordoñez traveled to Buenos Aires, Argentina where she created a documentary highlighting the hardships Venezuelan migrants face.

IL Latino News partners with Medill School of Journalism in providing students mentoring and real work experiences.

The post “The Perilous Journey to the American Dream� appeared first on ILLN.

Boston Celebrates Mejia and Her Homeland

DORCHESTER—Laughter rang as women clutched one another’s arms at Merengue Restaurant in Dorchester. In between bites of fried beef, they turned to the front door and warmly greeted people walking in.  

In the crowd was Boston City Councilor Julia Mejia, who stood out in her modern iteration of the traditional Dominican dress, worn only on special occasions. 

At this event, she was celebrating Dominican Republic Independence Day.

“I want everyone to know that we are here and we deserve respect,� Mejia said at the Merengue event.

Mejia, the city’s first Latina councilwoman, is one of Boston’s most famous Dominican Republic-born residents. (The most famous, of course, is David Ortiz, the former designated hitter for the Boston Red Sox.)

Mejia has stood out on the Council through her advocacy work for disenfranchised residents and Latinos across the city, including those from her homeland. 

Born in Baní, Dominican Republic, Mejia came to Boston with her mother at the age of five and lived in Dorchester. Her mother was undocumented and leaned on Mejia to translate legal documents and, on a larger level, help adjust to a foreign country.

Mejia said she learned at an early age how to speak up for her mother and other people who felt ignored by institutions that were supposed to serve them.

“I had to learn how to navigate the system and through that, I learned how to fight.â€�

Boston City Councilor Julia Mejia

Mejia made history in 2019 as the first Afro-Latina elected as a Boston city councilor. Prior to her ascension, the only Latino representation on the council came from one family, starting with Felix F. Arroyo and later, two of his sons, Felix D. Arroyo and Ricardo Arroyo. At the time she ran, no Latinos were serving.

“I decided to run because we didn’t have any representation, none,� Mejia said.

She took office by a single vote over her competitor. That year, Ricardo Arroyo was also elected.

The Merengue party was held on Feb. 27, the official date of the Dominican Republic’s independence from Haiti in 1844 as both countries were formerly merged and known as Hispañola. 

In Boston, the festivities began that morning at City Hall and ended at Merengue, famous for its Dominican cuisine, on Blue Hill Avenue. 

The morning celebration—organized by the City of Boston and Latino groups such as FUNDOARCU, a nonprofit that promotes Dominican culture—featured speeches and several dance performances. Officials also raised the Dominican flag at City Hall. 

“This is the first time we’ve celebrated outside of City Hall, not in the backroom inside an office,� Mejia said. “I was crying like a baby the whole time.�

Roughly 21,500 Dominicans live in Boston, making them the second largest immigrant group behind Haitian residents in the Greater Boston area, according to city data. 

Jasmill De Los Santos, a 29-year-old first-generation Dominican, said there is so much to celebrate now about Dominican culture. 

“I always thought I wasn’t Dominican enough growing up but now you look around and see everyone wants to be us. You don’t realize it growing up but everyone loves us.â€� 

Jasmill De Los Santos

Jasmill De Los Santos, 29, poses in front of the Dominican Republic Flag. Photo by Esmeralda Moran.

Bostonians like De Los Santos feel a growing pride in the Dominican identity, as Merengue and other restaurants attract scores of people for their authentic Dominican cuisine and the city’s most famous Dominican, David Ortiz, has a local bridge named after him. 

At Merengue, Mejia was clearly a star. After mingling with patrons, she gave a speech that, in part, laid out the work ahead, particularly for Latinos. 

As chair of the council’s committees on education, government accountability, and labor, workforce, and economic development, Mejia pledged to keep up the fight for her people. 

“We’re not leaving so let’s make ourselves a little more comfortable,” she told the crowd.

This story was published as part of a collaboration between MA Latino News and Boston University’s Department of Journalism in the College of Communication. The student journalist is a member of a Reporting in Depth class taught by former Boston Globe reporter Meghan Irons.

Esmeralda Moran is a sophomore studying Journalism at Boston University. She is a first-generation Dominican-American and the first in her family to attend a university. She aspires to spread her love for writing through pursuing magazine writing. 

2023 Citizenship Day Assists Hundreds of Bostonians

MA Latino News covers the social determinants of health and democracy. U.S. Citizenship supports individuals ability and right to participate in official elections.

BOSTON—Hundreds of residents shuffled in and out of the Reggie Lewis Center Saturday for free legal advice and assistance with their U.S. citizenship applications on the ninth annual Boston “Citizenship Day.�

The Mayor’s Office for Immigrant Advancement (MOIA) and Project Citizenship hosted the in-person workshop on April 1. Mayor Michelle Wu made a brief appearance to show her support and thank everyone involved in the collaborative event. 

“I’m feeling really emotional being here actually. I’m the daughter of two naturalized citizens and it took them years and years to get through that process,â€� Mayor Wu shared at the event. “I’m really excited that we are lowering those barriers for so many here today. We are going to continue to find ways to do that all throughout the year as well.”

About 29% of Boston’s total population is foreign-born with around 30,000 Boston residents eligible for U.S. citizenship. According to MOIA, 28% of foreign-born immigrants identify as Hispanic/Latino, 27% as Black/African American, and 26% as Asian/Pacific Islander.

Since its beginning in 2014, “Citizenship Dayâ€�—organized by the City of Boston and Project Citizenship—has helped almost 3,000 applicants begin their paths toward U.S. citizenship. 

“Becoming a U.S. citizen is an important milestone for many immigrants, but it can be a complicated and expensive process,â€� commented Mayor Wu. “Citizenship Day helps eliminate one of those barriers.â€� 

The process of becoming a U.S. citizen can cost thousands of dollars in legal fees. Assistance from a lawyer can range from $500 to $2,500.

Hundreds of volunteers—including lawyers, pro bono attorneys, law students, and community members—come together each year to help set up the extensive workshop or personally guide Boston residents through the 20-page citizenship application for free. 

Although there are still application fees, low-income residents may qualify for a fee waiver through U.S Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS)—learn more at

One Percent for America, a Boston nonprofit, also offered access to 1% interest loans to assist with fees such as the $725 charge for processing an application. 

“Citizenship allows people to participate in our democracy and be civically engaged,� said Executive Director Mitra Shavarini of Project Citizenship. “By providing free legal help, we make sure citizenship isn’t just for people who can afford it.�

The Boston-based nonprofit, Project Citizenship, looks to provide free workshops, eligibility screening, application assistance, legal referrals, and other support year-round to residents applying for U.S. citizenship.

“On average, we have served applicants from over 50 countries in a single day event and we have completed over 1,200 fee waivers, providing financial support for low-income applicants, during these workshops,� reads the Project Citizenship website. “This annual event promotes the importance of citizenship for the health and vitality of our city.�

Learn more about Citizenship Day at Project Citizenship’s website or MOIA’s official page.

Women’s History Month: Latina Invisibility

March is Women’s History Month. It celebrates women’s contributions, struggles, blocked opportunities, and ultimate triumphs.

It is also a time for issuing empty promises that things will improve, a refrain often heard but only partially fulfilled.

For Latinas, Women’s History Month presents a vivid reminder of the barriers and challenges they face. The discussions, campaigns, and commitments to action marginalize their stories and struggles.

Equal Pay Day epitomizes this sharply: “This date symbolizes how far into the year women must work to earn what men earned in the previous year.â€�

In March 2023, March 14th was Equal Pay Day, an embarrassment and a mark of economic inequality and inequity that defines many women’s lives today.

But Equal Pay Days for Latinas and Black women do not appear in the Equal Pay Day story. Equal Pay Day for Black women is September 21, 2023. In 2023, Latinas will reach Equal Pay Day on October 8.

While the start of Spring marks Equal Pay Day for all women, for Latinas, it appears as stores decorate for Christmas.

This economic fact fails to appear in the mainstream media narrative during this month celebrating women. This absence underscores the invisibility of the struggles, inequities, and barriers that cripple Latinas.

Other examples of Latina invisibility are equally jarring. The Latina maternal mortality rate is the most poignant.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently released the latest maternal mortality rates.

The data horrifies.

Between 2018 and 2021, overall maternal mortality increased by 89 percent, while Whites saw a 79% increase and Blacks 70%.

2022 article notes that the annual number of maternal mortalities in the U.S. has doubled over 20 years. The United States, Afghanistan, and Sudan are the only countries with increasing maternal mortality rates.

Armed with this data, media and political leaders in wealthy civil society have alighted on two alarming and unacceptable points.

First, the U.S. maternal mortality rate is 55th globally, greater than Russia, in a nation that purports to care about women, children, and families.

Second, the Black maternal mortality rate at 69.9 per 100,000 live births is the highest among racial/ethnic groups. This fact is deplorable on both moral and social levels.

Yet scant attention is directed to the disturbing and frightening situation of a continual significant increase in the Latina maternal mortality rate, data found in that same CDC report:

Between 2020 and 2021, there was a 53.8 percent increase in the maternal mortality rate for Latinas. This is the most significant increase among racial/ethnic groups.

Between 2018 and 2021, Latinas experienced a 137 percent increase in maternal mortality. Again, the largest increase among racial/ethnic groups.

This dramatic increase in the Latina maternal mortality rate is a harbinger of economic, social, familial, and personal consequences that will reverberate throughout society.

The health of women and children represents a key index of the health of a nation. The overall U.S. maternal mortality rate and the alarming high increase in the Latina rate are symptoms of a disordered society that disinvests in women, children, and families and a failing healthcare system.

The continual increase in maternal mortality rates — especially the accelerated rate increase among Latinas — indicates an insidious malignancy impacting the well-being of mothers, children, families, and society. While some aspects of this problem have been identified, the invisibility of Latinas conceals the gravity of their condition.

Each of us will pay the price for this invisibility.

For Latinas, the lesson is that their challenges and barriers and the inequities endemic to their lives are far more significant than is commonly acknowledged. Rectifying these endemic inequities requires Latinas be made visible. The inequities affecting Latinas must move from the margins to the center of policy agendas to ensure economic, housing, health, education, and workforce equity.

As Women’s History Month winds down, it is time to take on the task of equity for all women all year around — and not just talk about it during March.

Until there is equity for all women, there will be equity for no women.

Publisher’s Notes: Women’s History Month: Latina Invisibility was first published on The Edge.

Noreen M. Sugrue is currently the Director of Research at the Latino Policy Forum. Before joining the Latino Policy Forum, she was a professor at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. She is the author or co-author of many articles and book chapters. Her international and domestic research focuses on immigration, immigrants, gender, health care, and the workforce centering on inequity, inequality, and distributive justice. In addition, she analyzes and evaluates the construction and implementation of social policies to address and redress inequities.

Do you have an idea for an Opinion-Editorial? We want to hear from you. Email us at

Ignacio Dominguez-Coronado, recipient of the Hortencia Zavala Foundation Scholarship

Ignacio Dominguez-Coronado, a junior at California Baptist University, is the winner of the 2023 Hortencia Zavala Foundation Scholarship.

Among Dominguez-Coronado’s many accomplishments is as the executive producer of Lancers Noticias, a Spanish language, student-run program on CBU-TV. He also writes for the Banner Newspaper, Pursuit magazine, and his hometown newspaper, Peninsula 360.

“Broadcast news intrigued me, but I didn’t see myself reflected in the profession – in the reporters, anchors, or even in the stories,â€� said Dominguez-Coronado. “My experience living through duality clarifies the importance of representation and allows me to identify strengths and struggles of my communities and tell their stories.â€�

Dominguez-Coronado was an intern with NBC Nightly News, and credits the experience for his interest in pursuing a career as a producer.

Domínguez-Coronado with José Díaz-Balart, anchor, NBC News

Dominguez-Coronado is the twelfth Hispanic-Latino student to receive an HZF Scholarship. The fund was created in 2016 by Hugo Balta, twice president of the National Association of Hispanic Journalists (NAHJ) and owner/publisher of Rhode Island Latino News (RILN), one of six independent news outlets overseen by the Latino News Network (LNN), as a way to help students while honoring the legacy of his abuelita, Hortencia Zavala.

René Franco Rubio, 2019 Hortencia Zavala 👵� Foundation Scholarship recipient, Arizona Latino Media Association (ALMA)

Mike Gramajo, 2019 Hortencia Zavala Foundation Scholarship 👵� recipient, NAHJ Central Florida Chapter

Since its inception, HZF has worked with NAHJ national and local professional chapters in identifying worthy candidates. “NAHJ has been working with the Hortenzia Zavala Foundation since it launched, and we’re happy to partner with them again this year to award a scholarship to a deserving student. Investing in students’ education is one of the key ways NAHJ supports emerging journalists in their efforts to work in the field. These students then become another avenue for having newsrooms represent the communities they cover,â€� said David Peña, Jr. NAHJ Executive Director.

Balta commented on the partnership with NAHJ, saying, “I know firsthand the benefit of the NAHJ in nurturing journalists professionally and personally. HZF is grateful to continue to collaborate in helping students like Ignacio, on their path of success.�

In 2021, HZF expanded its support of young journalists to include a journalism camp.

Covering race, ethnicity, and culture: a guideline for fair and accurate storytelling, led by Balta, is a free 12-week course designed to go beyond the inverted pyramid of basic news writing in examining the terminology, usage, and word choice of stories providing greater visibility and understanding of deep-rooted inequities in all aspects of society.

“The objectivity v. transparency presentation was the most relevant because as journalists of color we are often told that our experiences will create biased stories,� said Jacqueline Cardenas, DePaul University. “The conversation that came from the lecture was interesting too because it uncovered the ways objectivity can be used as a way to silence POC reporters meanwhile White reporters don’t face this dilemma.� Cardenas was a cohort in the class of 2022.

The Journalism Camp that returns this Fall has a curriculum that includes getting one-on-one mentoring and hands-on experience in producing stories from concept to execution focused on social justice, determinants of health, and community empowerment.

Guest speakers also shared insights on networking with a purpose, strategies for managing one’s career, and the experience of often being the only person of color in the newsroom.

As part of his award, Dominguez-Coronado has the opportunity to be one of the attendees in this year’s journalism camp and have his work published on LNN.

If you’re interested in applying for the Journalism Camp, please send your resume and letter of interest to

Please support the HZF’s mission by making a donation via PayPalGoFundMe, or Zelle (the account is under

Concerns of Voters 50+ Addressed in AARP Illinois Community Forum

With over 50 percent of votes cast in the February election deriving from voters 55 or older, this demographic holds significant weight in deciding which mayoral runoff candidate will take office. 

In an effort to ensure all Chicagoans’ concerns were addressed in the final week before Election Day, AARP Illinois hosted Voters 50+ Spoke Up and We Listened, a virtual community forum highlighting the concerns of older constituents. 

“AARP Illinois is a non-profit, nonpartisan organization that doesn’t endorse candidates, but we have a long history of providing our members and voters 50+ with accurate information to make informed decisions in their local elections,� said �lvaro Obregón, Associate State Director of AARP Illinois.

Obregón was joined by Edgar Ramírez, President and CEO of Chicago Commons; Claude Robinson, President of Onyx Strategic Partners, LLC; and Abe Scarr, State Director of Illinois PIRG as panelists for the Tuesday evening event. The group took turns answering questions submitted by video from local AARP members. Publisher of IL Latino News, Hugo Balta, moderated the conversation.

“Throughout this election cycle, we’ve heard from hundreds of our members in Chicago about what matters most to them – things like affordability, and being able to age in place in their communities, access to essential services and improvements that foster the ability of our older adults to participate in community life. Community organizations like Chicago Commons, Illinois PIRG and Onyx Strategic Solutions, LLC. live and breathe these issues every day and so it was very important to bring them together to address the issues experienced by voters 50+, and weigh in on possible solutions for the next mayor to prioritize,� said Obregón.

For Chicagoans 50 and over, crime is the number one issue determining their vote in the runoff election. According to a poll by AARP Illinois, 89 percent said a candidate’s stance on crime and violence is “very important,� and 88% percent that they have considered leaving the city to move to a safer community with a lower crime rate in the past year.

The most recent findings from other organizations also highlight crime as the number one issue for all Chicagoans, including 52 percent of participants of an Emerson College poll and 50 percent of a Northwestern University poll. The latter broke down results to show that 49 percent of Latino, 53 percent of Black and 50 percent of white voters reported crime as the most important issue. 

Essential services were vocalized as a concern in both the poll and during the community forum, with seven in ten 50+ voters saying that a candidate’s stance on essential services for older adults, people with disabilities and low-income families would impact their vote. This includes mental health services, community-based services and access to quality healthcare.

AARP member and Avalon Park resident Karen Price asked the panel about providing services for older adults and supporting caregivers who juggle tending to their families and working.

The conversation hit close to home for many of the panelists who are caregivers themselves.

“As a Latino, it’s embedded in our culture. We take care of our own,� said Balta.

“This is what we do,� agreed Ramírez.

He said that these services are essential for not only seniors, but the city itself. 

“It’s time that we invest and invest critically in these services, make known the services that are available currently for seniors in the city, but also look to policy change…� he said.

For just over 30 minutes, the group addressed and discussed other issues like neighborhood safety and accessibility for aging Chicagoans and intergenerational collaboration and understanding. 

“Candidates seeking office must listen to the needs of the people; all of the people. Voters 50+ Spoke Up and We Listened and events like it ensure constituents are heard on issues seldom covered by mass media,” said Balta, on the event. “Older voters determined the outcome of the last election and will do so again on April 4.”


Editor’s Notes: To assist constituents in this election, AARP Illinois has prepared a Chicago Voter Hub, including a voter guide available in English and Spanish.  Run-off Election Day for Chicago’s 2023 Municipal Election is April 4th, 2023.

Cover photo: Connor Betts for Unsplash

The post Concerns of Voters 50+ Addressed in AARP Illinois Community Forum appeared first on ILLN.

Spencer-Herrera Appointed As AARP WI State President

MADISON, WI – AARP Wisconsin announced this week, the appointment of Leslie Spencer-Herrera of Whitefish Bay to the two-year position of State President – the highest state-level volunteer position within the nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that has more than 800,000 members statewide and nearly 38 million members nationwide.

Spencer-Herrera, 69, who was appointed to the position by AARP Wisconsin State Director Martha Cranley, will begin her role immediately.

“Leslie truly embodies everything AARP is striving to achieve,â€� Cranley said. “She understands the importance of empowering Wisconsinites of all ages, cultural backgrounds, and income levels to live their best possible lives.”

As AARP Wisconsin State President, Spencer-Herrera will work with AARP members, volunteers, staff, legislators, and state residents on key issues facing the 50-plus population and all Wisconsinites, such as strengthening health care, long-term care, financial security, voter education, and addressing digital needs. She comes to this role with a great appreciation for all Wisconsin has to offer.

“I am so honored to have been appointed to this important position,� she said. “I have seen how AARP succeeds at the local, state and national levels to improve the quality of life for those over 50. “I have two goals. First, to help AARP to better hear and learn the hopes and needs of all Wisconsinites over 50 from Superior to Milwaukee and everywhere in between. And second, to recruit more volunteers from all our communities to make AARP more effective in meeting these hopes and needs.�

Spencer-Herrera’s career, education, and volunteer activities have revolved around analyzing issues, developing plans, and helping organizations (both in the non-profit and for-profit sectors) to provide services to improve workforce and financial capacity of low-income individuals and families. Her professional life centered on developing training programs which helped individuals access jobs and more skilled positions.

Technology is also a big issue for some Wisconsinites, which is why Leslie is committed to narrowing the digital divide by improving access, training and affordability of computers and hand-held devices.

Having immigrated from Mexico at the age of nine, Spencer-Herrera said she saw the ability to open doors through education. She has a Master’s Degree in Political Science from UW-Madison and another Master’s in Curriculum & Instruction with a focus on Adult Education from UW-Milwaukee. She has an undergraduate degree from Indiana University.

AARP is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization, with a membership of more than 37 million, that helps people turn their goals and dreams into real possibilities, strengthens communities and fights for the issues that matter most to families such as healthcare, employment security and retirement planning.

The post Spencer-Herrera Appointed As AARP WI State President appeared first on WILN.

Roxbury Muralist Creates Message of Love

MA Latino News covers the social determinants of health and democracy. Collaborations like the partnership with Boston University’s Department of Journalism in the College of Communication is integral to the health of news and the health of democracy. 

One of Anna Rodriguez’s murals, “Mind over Matter,’’ adorns Warren Street near Nubian Square. Another that bears her imprint pays homage to Roxbury’s ZIP code 02119. 

The others are in the works, and Rodriguez is just getting started. She creates murals that aim to capture a message of self-love. 

“Being from Roxbury and being an artist…it is really important for me to be connected to my community,� said 27-year-old Rodriguez.

Rodriguez began painting and drawing when she was 13 years old. She enjoyed designing art on the “shoes and clothesâ€� of her friends. 

Three years ago, after the global pandemic upended lives, Rodriguez became serious about her artwork. Instead of putting pen to paper, she is learning to create murals.

Rodriguez began to hone her skills in digital art and “master spray painting,’’ a technique that artists use to finetune their mural styles. She is still learning the skill of angling her wrist and listening to the can to create the right layers and texture in each of her murals.

Rodriguez said she began working on murals after being inspired by other artists. One of them is Rob Gibbs, who goes by the name “ProBlak.â€� Gibbs is a popular mural designer and community organizer whose mission is to transform the cultural landscape of Boston. 

“He did a mural in my neighborhood — a beautiful, life-changing mural,’’ Rodriguez said.

Rodriguez has started an Instagram account — with her username “_ellainspires� — to showcase her art and murals. This new digital workspace allows her to get feedback from followers and express her art.

Her “Mind over Matter” mural is a permanent fixture in Roxbury. Its big white letters atop a colorful background can be found on the corner of Warren and Taber streets. Rodriguez said she wants to connect her interests — healing and mental health — with her art, and in turn, help to keep Roxbury beautiful. 

“It’s just about creating beautiful things, and beautiful spaces,’’ said Geo Ortega, a Roxbury visual artist — and mentor to Rodriguez — who helped Rodriguez with her work. 

Ortega teaches visual arts at Madison Park Vocational Technical High School, which has helped to increase the art footprints around Nubian Square. Murals — bursts of red, yellow, and blue and images depicting the local people — are displayed throughout the school covering the outside, hallways, and classrooms. 

Ortega first met Rodriguez when he was project manager on a mural Gibbs painted with the Museum of Fine Arts on the back of Madison Park. Rodriguez walked up to Ortega and asked about the project. Soon she was part of the mural community. 

“She did pretty well really fast,’’ Ortega said. 

Ortega said he is trying to change the perception people have about murals, including the words they use to describe them. Many artists have reclaimed the word “graffiti,’’ which for years had a negative connotation. Instead, Ortega has been incorporating graffiti into pieces of his art such as the stripes on a tiger he painted. 

“Graffiti can be beautiful. We can make it so it improves a space,â€� Ortega said.  

Roxbury’s murals are part of a wider city effort to reflect Boston’s diverse communities. 

The City of Boston, which featured the work of prominent artists in Roxbury on its website, also started a mural tracking map, and Boston’s mural crew, established in 1991, has been painting murals across the city. 

Rodriguez said she is proud that her work is part of Boston’s multi-generational artist community. 

“I’m very grateful for anyone that reacts to it and has any impact. It’s not about quantity for me,â€� Rodriguez said. “It’s about just having meaningful relationships with the people that I do have.â€� 

Anna Rodriguez with her mural “Mind Over Matter”. Photo Courtesy of Anna Rodriguez.

This story was published in collaboration with Boston University’s Department of Journalism in the College of Communication. The student journalist is a member of a Reporting in Depth class taught by former Boston Globe reporter Meghan Irons.

Hannah Edelheit is 19 years old and a second year journalism student at Boston University from Denver, Colorado. She enjoys writing and wants to be a journalist in the future.

Community Conversation Shares Accessible Financial & Technical Business Resources

CT Latino News produces stories focused on the responses to the social determinants of health. Economic Stability is vital to affording lifestyle choices and paying for quality medical care that keeps people healthy. A well-paying, steady job is critical for food security and housing stability. Savings are essential for managing chronic conditions or emergencies.

Three years since the COVID-19 pandemic began, Connecticut small businesses and nonprofits continue to recover—with a disproportionate impact on organizations in historically underserved communities that tend to face more barriers in accessing federal resources.

CT Latino News partnered with the CT Small Business Boost Fund to produce an informational presentation on free resources available to small businesses and nonprofits across the state.

The virtual event was released on Facebook and Youtube Wednesday evening.

Originally planned as a hybrid event at the Hartford Public Library’s Park Street Branch, CTLN transitioned the event to be completely online to accommodate accessibility and health & safety concerns.

CTLN Writer/Editor Belén Dumont moderated the event and briefly spoke on a few local support networks that provide free online resources and offer funding specifically to women and minority-owned organizations.

Sheila Hummel, Director of the Small Business Development Office within the CT Department of Economic and Community Development, shared available financial resources for small businesses and nonprofits across the state.

She highlighted the CT Small Business Boost Fund for its advertised accessible and flexible loans, before answering a few common questions from applicants.

“The focus is really on deploying to small businesses and nonprofits in underserved markets and [to] women, people of color, people with disabilities, and veteran-owned businesses,” she explained.

Hummel also emphasized the importance of technical assistance, explaining where businesses can find this support—for free.

“These organizations will help you build the capacity of your organization,” Hummel said. “[Technical Assistance] kind of provides you with, if you have a development need or a problem in your business, or you need help with your financials…they’re there to help you.”

The online event then featured highlights from Capital For Change Earl Randall’s appearance on CTLN Opinion+.

Director Randall of Small Business Lending explained how his work looks to specifically support businesses in local underserved communities. He also emphasized the role that accessible loan programs play within the state’s economy.

“At Capital For Change, we understand that and we try to structure our programs such that we have some degree of flexibility to account for that,â€� Randall said. “That’s really our core focus, to…help the minority community to provide some degree of fairness and equity, we want the capital to flow to communities that have not had capital provided to them.â€� 

Randall also spoke on Capital For Change’s role within the CT Small Business Boost Program, and how his team looks to support interested applicants.

“We encourage any interested businesses to call our office or email our office. My team is charged with reaching out directly via a call, more likely, to get some indication as to what their needs are,� Randall said. “Our objective is to provide some degree of counseling or guidance such that they can ask us questions before the formal application process.�

Access The Statewide Resources for CT Small Businesses Presentation Below:

Contact Director Sheila Hummel of the Small Business Development Office at

Contact CTLN Writer/Editor Belén Dumont at

Publisher’s Notes: CT Latino News is a partner of the CT Small Business Boost Fund in supporting the state’s Hispanic and Latino communities.