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The Mass Media

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Third time’s the charm for UMB alumnus Carlos Tony Henriquez

Third times the charm for UMB alumnus Carlos Tony Henriquez

 

Current census data continues to highlight the consistent growth of the Latino community in the United States. In fact, the 2010 Census reported that Latinos now number over 50 million people, an increase of 15.7% from 2000’s numbers. The Latino population in Massachusetts is also growing rapidly and the need to address the implications of such demographic explosions is indisputable. Fortunately, UMass Boston is home to the Mauricio Gastón Institute for Latino Community Development and Public Policy, a UMass Boston Institute whose mission is to inform policy makers about issues vital to the state’s growing Latino community and to provide this community with the information and analysis necessary for effective participation in public policy development. Within the Gastón Institute lies the Latino Leadership Opportunity Program (LLOP), a leadership, credit-bearing program designed for undergraduate students that provides training in applied research and public policy analysis. In addition to cultivating leadership skills and developing research proposals, the LLOP promotes opportunities to meet with policy makers. Earlier this semester, the 2011 LLOP cohort welcomed a visit from Carlos Tony Henriquez, a proud Boston Public School graduate, UMass Boston alumnus and recently elected Democratic State Representative.

After two hard-fought yet unsuccessful runs for City Councilor, Henriquez successfully won his election and was sworn into office on January 11th, 2011 representing the 5th Suffolk district which includes parts of Dorchester. Representative Henriquez has already proposed two legislative bills in this young legislative session including a consumer protection bill designed to limit the fees that check cashing establishments, disproportionately located in predominately immigrant and communities of color, can charge. Listening to Henriquez speak about the importance of community centers, youth job creation, crime reduction, the need for Pell Grants and the importance of education, it is clear that he is genuinely advocating for the well-being of the community he was elected to represent. His mission is to “put a life on a human story” and to become the voice or the “political teacher” of his constituents in order to create legislation that counterbalances the inequalities prevalent in the community he grew up in. One of only a very limited number of state representatives of color, Henriquez, who is of Latino and African American origins, comes across as a candid voice for the community. To borrow the words of Melissa Colón, the Associate Director of the Gastón Institute; Henriquez is clearly a “voice of authenticity“.                                                 

In line with the importance of aiding the cause of the underrepresented and marginalized members of our society, this visit could not have more opportune. I say this because this particular meeting was filled with three nominees of El Planeta’s 2011 Power Meter 100, a list of the 100 most influential individuals who have positively contributed to the cause of the Latino community. The UMB affiliated nominees in attendance were Representative Carlos Henriquez; Melissa Colón, the Associate Director of the Gastón Institute; and Dr. Jorge Capetillo-Ponce, Associate Professor of Sociology and Director of Latino Studies. UMB’s own Lucia Mayerson-David, Director of the Institute for Learning and Teaching, was not in attendance but is also nominated. Undoubtedly many more UMB professors, students and administrators will make this and other prominent lists in the coming years because of their dedication to create necessary changes. The question arises: Will it be you?