MALN Opinion+: Ellyn Ruthstrom

Welcome back for another episode of MALN Opinion+.

This week on the show we have returning guest Ellyn Ruthstrom, the executive director of SpeakOUT. Speak OUT is a diverse community of LGBTQIA+ individuals who have come together to share their truth with the world. The organization was formed in 1972 when two early gay-rights groups—the Daughters of Bilitis and the Homophile Union of Boston—came together to create the Gay Speakers Bureau with hopes that by telling stories of their experiences and sharing their deepest truths they could push to rid the world of prejudice often held toward LGBTQIA+ people. 

Despite the name change aimed to emphasize inclusivity their mission remains the same to this day. SpeakOUT continues to push for change through their hosting of educational programs about LGBTQIA+ lives and issues, and sharing their stories at events for public audiences. 

Director Ruthstrom, who has been advocating within the LGBTQIA+ community for over 25 years and as an activist for even longer, pointed out that no matter how much positive change we see happen there are still unfortunately many actions threatening the LGBTQ+ community. Ellyn said these actions can be seen “In Florida where they’re passing a horrible bill that is silencing people in schools from talking about LGBTQ+ lives and In Texas they are criminalizaing the parents of transgender children.� This sort of backlash is often seen when any sort of marginalized and oppressed community gains new rights or protections, or progresses in any way. People are always waiting in opposition and that is why it is so important for us to stay vigilant and strengthen our own communities so we can continue to push against those trying to weaken us. 

To hear more about SpeakOUT and Ellyn’s journey as a speaker and activist be sure to watch this week’s episode of MALN Opinion+

Latino Businesses Credited For Resurgence of Shopping Mall

Business owners and local leaders celebrated the opening of 16 new businesses at the Eastfield Mall in Springfield on Tuesday, all Hispanic-Latino-owned.

Borisushi, a self-described Latin-style sushi restaurant, was among the businesses celebrated by the Massachusetts Latino Chamber of Commerce at the ribbon-cutting ceremony and given citations from the Massachusetts Senate.

“The resurgence of the Eastfield Mall from Latino and Black-owned businesses sets the tone for transitioning malls, shopping plazas, and downtown storefronts all over Springfield and Massachusetts. The pandemic has only increased the motivation for our community to take the leap and become their own boss as business owners,� said Andrew Melendez, Director of the Massachusetts Latino Chamber of Commerce.

BoriSushi, Eastfield Mall, Springfield, MA
Photo Courtesy: BoriSushi

In all, there are 22 Hispanic-Latino-owned businesses at the Eastfield Mall. The feat comes amid statistics that show Hispanic-Latino businesses in Massachusetts lag behind the national average.

Hispanics-Latinos and the Black community make up more than a fifth of the state’s population but own just over 3 percent of businesses with employees — less than half the national rate of Hispanic-Latino and Black business ownership, according to a U.S. Census survey of entrepreneurs released in 2018.

GBH News reports that if the self-employed are factored in, Hispanic-Latino and Black people own about 9 percent of all businesses in the state, also less than half the national average, according to the Census survey in 2012.

 Part of the problem is that Hispanic-Latino businesses face higher demands for collateral from lenders and are turned down for loans more often than their white counterparts.

SUGGESTION: Latino Entrepreneurs, Often Shunned By Banks, Band Together To Build Their Businesses

In a December study, the consulting firm McKinsey found that “Latinos have the lowest rate of using bank and financial institution loans to start their businesses compared with other racial and ethnic groups,� rely more on personal funds and receive a tiny fraction of the billions of dollars invested each year by venture capital firms.

Latino entrepreneurs, often shunned by banks, band together to build their businesses

With the dramatic growth in the U.S. population, the number of Hispanic-Latino-owned businesses is growing faster than in other ethnic groups.

Carl Palme is a high-tech entrepreneur in Boston with a problem: He’s finding it hard to find investors to back his start-up.

And part of the reason, he says, is his ethnicity.

“I’m a Mexican immigrant,� he told GBH News on a recent morning in his Fort Point office, which is also his production facility. “I don’t have any high school buddies here. I don’t have any kids that I went to primary school [with]. You know, I don’t know their parents; I don’t have these networks where people can just trust me.�

In a December study, the consulting firm McKinsey found that â€œLatinos have the lowest rate of using bank and financial institution loans to start their businesses compared with other racial and ethnic groups,â€� rely more on personal funds and receive a tiny fraction of the billions of dollars invested each year by venture capital firms.

Massachusetts’ climate for Latino businesses is even worse than other states. GBH News reported last year that Black and Latino people now make up more than a fifth of the state’s population but own just over 3% of businesses with employees — less than half the national rate of Black and Latino business ownership.

Learn more about Palme’s story and why Latino businesses face higher demands for collateral from lenders and are turned down for loans more often than their white counterparts by reading Paul Singer’s story:

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.

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:

Roberto Jiménez Rivera: The Candidate

“I am running because the people of Chelsea and Everett deserve a state rep who will lift our voices in Beacon Hill and who won’t settle for small fixes to the urgent issues we face,� Roberto Jiménez Rivera, Democrat, said in his announcement to run for the newly created 11th Suffolk seat in the Massachusetts House of Representatives.

With redrawn boundaries as part of last year’s redistricting process, the new 11th Suffolk represents Chelsea and parts of Everett — a majority Latino area.

“I was part of the Drawing Democracy Coalition that advocated for this district and for districts around Massachusetts that were ‘districts of opportunity’ and are really meant to help lift communities of color and working-class people across Massachusetts,� Jiménez Rivera told the Bay State Banner. “It’s just a huge opportunity for the people of Chelsea.�

The 31-year-old organizer for the Boston Teachers Union successfully ran for the at-large seat on the Chelsea School Committee in November 2019. Jiménez Rivera was re-elected this past November.

“It was important to me that we got to know as many people as we could, talk with people about why I care about our schools, and share the work I had done already in education,” recalled Jiménez Rivera about the 2019 campaign. “People were really excited to have somebody come talk with them about these important issues,â€� he said in an interview with the Chelsea Record.

Jiménez Rivera was born in Norwood but grew up in Manati, Puerto Rico. He says his parents decided to move back to the island because they wanted him to grow up around family.

He lived in Puerto Rico until graduating from high school. From there he attended the University of Michigan where he studied for six years, receiving his undergraduate degree in 2012 and his master’s degree in 2013. Following graduate school, Jiménez Rivera moved back to Massachusetts in 2014.

With the experience of living in Puerto Rico, he said he also looks to be a strong advocate for racial justice, and that he would be a valuable addition to the Legislature’s Black and Latino Caucus.

“Because of the pandemic and the kind of broader racial justice movement that we’ve seen after the murder of George Floyd, I think there is an appetite from voters and legislators to really push for broader racial justice measures. And I think it will be the best way to go about doing that work, to listen to the legislators of color,� Jiménez Rivera said.

“I believe every person in Chelsea and Everett has the ability to succeed if we properly invest in our community,” said Jiménez Rivera on his campaign’s website.

Roberto with his family (Photo Courtesy: Twitter)

Roberto, his wife, Sarah, and their son, Robi, live in Chelsea.

Publisher’s Notes: This story is an aggregate from Candidates vying for House vacancies and Making an Impact in Chelsea Jimenez-Rivera Will Run for State Representative.

How Can We Break Barriers To Mental Health In The Latinx Community 

The Latinx community is one of the most diverse in the United States. The American cultural melting pot has always included those who are of Mexican, Puerto Rican, Cuban, Central American, and South American descent. Unfortunately, these communities do not always have access to the mental health care that they deserve. It is time to learn more about how these barriers can be broken so that all communities have the same access to mental health assistance.

There is no race or ethnicity that will find themselves immune from mental health issues. They significantly affect all walks of life, at all times. The statistics that have been compiled about the sheer number of Latinx community members who are currently suffering from mental illness are sobering. Over 18% of the US population is estimated to be Latinx or Hispanic. Of this population, 16% have reported having mental illnesses within the past year.

These numbers may seem small. But they number about the same as the population of New York City. Fortunately, there are ways to overcome these barriers but there are certain factors that need to be discussed before that can happen.

Massachusetts has a population of approximately 6.7 million people and is the 3rd most densely populated state in the nation. Close to 3.71% adults (according to SAMHSA) in Massachusetts live with serious mental health conditions such as schizophreniabipolar disorder, and major depression.

Obviously, mental health treatments, including substance abuse treatment, require communication between the patient and practitioner. If they can’t speak the same language, it’s next to impossible for the patient to get the help they need. Sometimes, the prospective patient is totally unaware that they can speak through an interpreter, which creates another barrier to care.

Challenge Family Stigma

Familial bonds play a key role when seeking mental health treatment. Latinx and Hispanic patients traditionally have strong family networks. That’s why it is important for these family members to help alleviate the stigma that surrounds mental health. If you come from a family that considers therapy a sign of weakness, for example, you’ll be less likely to seek help when you need it. There are also societal stigmas that surround mental health therapy that have to be eliminated before Latinx and Hispanic patients can seek treatment.

In many cases, friends and family members may believe in the power of prayer when they are advising a family member who is struggling with a mental health disorder. Religious institutions can fight back against these stigmas by encouraging their parishioners to seek out the necessary assistance in addition to religious traditions when it comes time to schedule treatment. Older family members can also help by removing the concept of shame from the equation. These are the types of protective factors that can cause more problems than they solve, from a mental health standpoint.

Desire To Handle The Problem On One’s Own

Studies have been conducted regarding the perceived barriers among first and second-generation Latinx people and one of the more common reasons that came to the forefront was a desire to handle the problem on one’s own. There is a great deal of uncertainty in other regards, which also contributes to this idea. This was actually the single most common barrier, accounting for over 60% of the respondents who were studied.

When a potential patient perceives that they do not have a need for professional assistance, they are also more likely to drop out when they have begun to receive treatment. The treatments are often perceived as ineffective, causing 39% of respondents to stop going once they have begun a course of mental health treatment. Of all Latinx people, women and younger patients who have mental health disorders were the most likely to recognize their need for treatment.

Logistical Difficulties

For patients who are willing to seek treatment and recognize its potential effectiveness, the primary barrier can be the logistics. Whether it’s a lack of transportation, inability to schedule an appointment, a lack of child care or a rigid school or work schedule, there are a number of legitimate reasons for Latinx patients to struggle with obtaining treatment. In other words, the current healthcare systems cannot be strictly relied upon without the same disparities continuing to show themselves.

In these instances, the Latinx population could be correct when it comes to their anticipation of substandard or unattainable care. While recent advances have been made as far as these discrepancies are concerned, the gaps between need and treatment still exist. Even after adjusting for various other factors, all minority groups with a 12-month depressive disorder were more likely to seek any mental health care. It is safe to say that many of these potential patients have correctly perceived various logistical difficulties.

Fear of Involuntary Hospitalization

While many strides have been made as far as the strategies for mental health care delivery are concerned, there is still a major fear of involuntary hospitalization among Latinx and Hispanic patients. Rules and regulations can differ greatly from location to location, causing many to remain fearful, even as advances take place. Yes, there has been a shift from hospital-based care to community-based care, but that does not mean that these fears have been alleviated completely.

Concerns of Poor Treatment Due To Ethnic Background

As mental health patients and the psychologists who are responsible for their treatment attempt to find common ground, there is one major issue that continues to arise. Each side of the equation speaks a different language. This is a natural side effect of more immigration to the United States, especially among populations that are less proficient English speakers.

Inadequate communication takes place because of these particular barriers, which only serves to fuel concerns of poor treatment due to ethnic background. Mental health professionals must learn Spanish as a means of minimizing this disparity. At the moment, 64% of United States patients who are limited English speakers are fluent in Spanish. As more psychologists learn Spanish, this is a form of medical intervention.

Sources â€“ Latinx/Hispanic Communities And Mental Health â€“ Barriers to and Correlates of Retention in Behavioral Health Treatment among Latinos â€“ Should All U.S. Physicians Speak Spanish? â€“ For Friends and Family Members

Photo by Nik Shuliahin on Unsplash

Andrea Poteet-Bell is a journalist and editor. Her writing has appeared in local daily newspapers, alternative weeklies, and websites across the country. She graduated from the University of Michigan-Dearborn with a degree in print journalism and lives in Michigan with her husband and their dog, Charlie Brown. 

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