On April 6, Raices Latino Pride, an organization that promotes awareness and educates the community about lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender issues, will celebrate its anniversary.
One year ago, Philadelphia did not have an umbrella organization that supported the Latino LGBT community so a board of volunteer activists created Raices.
Terri Cotto and Adriana “Andi” Rivera are two of the 11 volunteer board members for the organization. They both agreed that the Latino community is very traditional and often unwilling to accept people who also consider themselves part of the LGBT community.
Rivera said, “I’ve only been out for 10 years, and there was no representation for us.”
Raices was established to change that. Rivera said other groups exist, like black pride and Philadelphia pride, but support and pride for the Latino LGBT community was virtually non-existent.
Rivera, a physical education teacher, said, “I have students who are being kicked out of their homes.”
Rivera currently acts as mediator for a student and her mother. She said the mother does not know how to support her daughter now that she has identified herself as part of the LGBT community. She said she helps them communicate and understand the issues they do not agree on. The mother asked for Rivera’s help because she knew of her connection to the LGBT community.
“She saw me in a positive way,” Rivera said.
Positive perceptions of those involved with Raices help its success.
At its startup, Raices held a meet and greet to introduce the board members to the community. Rivera said that there was a good response to the event.
Other events Raices has held in the past year include a Thanksgiving celebration to kick off the holiday season and a canned food drive to support a women’s shelter.
Cotto said funding is an issue that the organization faces so it relies on donations or low price locations for the events that it holds. In order to find locations and increase awareness, Raices partners with organizations like Galaei, an organization that promotes HIV awareness, and Elements, an organization that promotes awareness for the black LGBT community.
“It takes a lot of work,” Cotto said. “There are things with each event that we learn.”
Cotto and Rivera said they have learned a lot from their first year and plan to use their experiences in order to improve their organization in the future.
Rivera said their goal is to become a non-profit organization in order to obtain grant money. Currently, the board members of the grassroots organization are using their own personal funds.
Rivera mentioned a handful of new things that Raices will be initiating this upcoming year. She mentioned in particular a list of resources for the Latino LGBT community. The list would offer suggestions for where to obtain assistance for specific issues like shelters or safe spaces for those being kicked out of their homes. In doing this, Rivera said Raices needs to consider whether or not Latinos would feel safe confiding in or asking these organizations for help.
Raices does not yet have a office but hopes to acquire a location soon. Another goal is to eventually open a shelter for marginalized youth in the Latino LGBT Community.
“We know we’ll be faced with challenges and prejudices but we don’t care,” Cotto said.
For more information about this organization, please visit its website at raiceslatinopride.com.