Poder Latinx Educates and Empowers Community by Uplifting Culture

To build power and collective liberation, it is important to center the voices of the communities most affected to be key decision-makers in determining a future where they not only survive, but thrive. Poder Latinx, a project of Tides Advocacy,  imagines a world just like this—where the lived experiences of the Latinx community play a critical role in transforming the conditions of their environment. I feel so humbled to be a part of Poder Latinx’s journey at Tides Advocacy and the Poder Latinx Collective Fund at Tides Foundation, as they scale and continue to lift the fight and struggles of the Latinx community. Yadira “Yadi” Sanchez, Co-Executive Director of Poder Latinx, is passionate about the lucha para nuestra gente (the fight for our people). Yadi shares the wins and losses her community has experienced, and what it’s taking to move this important work onward. 

Yadira “Yadi” Sanchez, Co-Executive Director of Poder Latinx (Photo © Poder Latinx)

National Latinx Heritage Month is coming up. What does this mean to you?

National Latinx Heritage Month is a time where we can spotlight our history and culture, and share it with others and celebrate our accomplishments. The Latinx community has made so many important contributions to the American way of life, and we need those to be celebrated.

Where is Poder Latinx centering their nonpartisan and charitable work in 2021–2022, and what are you most excited about?

In 2021–2022, we are centering our non-partisan charitable work in educating and empowering our community by uplifting our culture. We are preparing our community with the tools to ensure that paid leave, immigration, and environmental justice are at the top of their minds. In honor of Latinx Heritage Month, Poder Latinx will lead a month of empowering and educational activities to celebrate the heritage and share historical contributions of Latinx Americans of all genders and cultural backgrounds, while uplifting our Afro-Latinx brothers and sisters of the past and present. Our goal is to foster a united front, uplift legislation, and mobilize Latinxs to be decision-makers of our democracy.

Below are some planned activities:

  • September 15th: Voter Drag Squad voter education in Arizona to mobilize LGBTQ Latinx voters.
  • September 28th: We are captains of National Voter registration Day in Florida and will be hosting training 2 to 5 sessions leading up to the NVRD Day. On Sep. 28th, we will host press conferences in AZ and FL to highlight the importance of registering more Latinxs to vote. The press conference will be interactive and will include a concert with Las Cafeteras, mariachi, and dance performers (following CDC guidelines to their full extent).

Why is the work you’re doing more important today than ever before? 

This work is more important now than ever before because we are finally seeing the issues that will impact our community most on the agenda. Our community has made such an impact in the 2020 election that our voices are being heard and our policies have a chance at victory if we hold our leaders accountable and advocate for our causes. Additionally, our community is growing rapidly; according to the new census data, we are the fastest-growing demographic. This means that we need to begin cultivating our growing political power by providing our community with the informational pieces they need.

As we continue to be in an unpredictable environment with an ongoing global pandemic and various crises, what has been Poder Latinx’s biggest challenge, and how is your organization addressing it?

Organizing during a pandemic has been difficult. We had to learn how to continue reaching our community effectively and safely. Our team has done an excellent job of adapting to our virtual office environment, and taking CDC regulations and PPE very seriously when we have to do in-person work.

What are the unique strategies that Poder Latinx has implemented to engage with Latinx community members for long-term change?

Poder Latinx has used our creative staff ideas to maximize our engagement. We are fortunate to have several great minds on our team that power projects like La Borinqueña webcomic, music video collaborations, and an award-winning virtual art gallery. We develop culturally-relevant content that ties our culture to our politics, and shares the message in a way that inspires our community to act. We also recognize that the Latinx community is not a monolith—we represent independent cultures, customs, and stories, and need to be organized in a way that celebrates those differences. There is thoughtful intention to honor the complexities of what it means to be a part of the Latinx diaspora. Shared language is the best example of nuances that exist in our communities. Communication is critical. We know what it takes to form those long-lasting connections— acknowledging the flavors of regional dialects and languages that make up the mosaic of our people. We are committed to ensuring that our messaging resonates with all Latinx communities and is sensitive to their lived experiences.

How are you seeing leadership within your community members show up in this important work?

Leaders within our community are excited about this type of work. Oftentimes, we see leaders looking for new ways to engage our base, and fresh ideas that tie in culture and modern techniques intrigue them. We have received incredible support from political, labor, art, medical, and business leaders across the country in order to get our word out and expand our reach.

In addition, in 2020, Poder Latinx launched our Poderosas fellowship program aimed at building a new generation of Latina civic leaders across key states. Our vision is for the fellows to educate and mobilize their local communities to close the gap in civic participation and increase the representation of Latinas in U.S. leadership roles. This year-long fellowship helps young Latinas build the Latina electorate with an interactive curriculum focused on learning the techniques and tools for how civic engagement campaigns work, why Latinx political leadership and representation matters, and how to build civic engagement among young Latinxs in their local communities.

Poder Latinx launched our Poderosas fellowship program aimed at building a new generation of Latina civic leaders. (Photo © Poder Latinx)

For the inaugural cohort, we are welcoming a total of 14 Poderosas from California, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Washington D.C., and North Carolina. Together, our goal is to create a seamless pipeline from a group of young women interested in civic engagement to civic leaders, professionals, and experts to lead civic campaigns and take on leadership roles.

What are the common themes and characteristics of those leading?

The community members who are the most impacted make the best leaders. They speak from personal experience, and they bring important knowledge and perspective to our campaigns. We love to see renowned leaders in our field going back to their roots and uplifting our work on the ground.

What is one thing that you want to change in the 501 (c) (3) ecosystem, to best support long-term,  power-building, BIPOC-led work?

The c3 ecosystem would benefit greatly from increased professional development opportunities in order to build long-term BIPOC-led work. There are not enough opportunities to cultivate professional skill-building in the c3 space that attract and retain members of BIPOC communities. Fellowships and paid internship programs are great ways to do this. Our Poderosas Fellowship program recruits and trains young Latinas with the technical and professional skills they need to be successful in the nonprofit workspace and beyond.

The community members who are the most impacted make the best leaders.

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