Grateful and humbled by Editor of the Year award

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So in an unexpected turn of events, last Thursday night, I won the Philadelphia News Awards 2016 Editor of the Year for my work at Al Día before I left that organization.

Max Marin, one of the reporters whose work I edited in that position, also won an award for his freelance writing since leaving Al Día earlier this year. Emma Restrepo, a freelancer at Al Día who I also had the honor to work with during my stint there, was also nominated for the freelancer of the year award.

While the other reporters I edited and worked with during my four years at Al Día haven’t gotten this particular recognition, they are wonderful journos who deserve many kudos: Ana Gamboa, Arturo Varela, Christine Killion, Samantha Madera, Peak Johnson, Pilar Casi, Lucia Tejo, Martin Martinez, Roberto Luzardo … I expect grand things from them in their assorted post-Al Día ventures.

In any case, my gratitude for this professional recognition goes to the Pen & Pencil Club; to the peers who nominated me and, of course, to the people who voted for me! I am honored and humbled — especially given the caliber of my fellow nominees: Jessica Griffin, Philadelphia Daily News; Sheila Simmons, Philadelphia Tribune; Chris Hepp, Philadelphia Inquirer, and Patrick Kerkstra, for his work at Philadelphia Magazine before his departure this year.

I’m hoping that the Philadelphia Reentry Reporting Collaborative, of which I am project editor now, will — through the extraordinary work of the media organizations and journalists who are taking part — earn a spot in the nominations for investigative reporting in the 2017 iteration of the awards.

City & State PA: Immigration’s impact as seen through a trip to the supermarket

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When my parents moved us from Guatemala City to Chester County in the mid-1970s, we were the first Latino family to move into our neighborhood – and, undoubtedly, the first people to chatter with each other in Spanish at the annual oxtail roast at the local firehouse.

The area we moved to was rural, within hailing distance of the towns of Downingtown, Coatesville and Exton, and my mother haunted the supermarkets in each of them, searching for a way to make frijoles volteados, the refried black beans that are part of every Guatemalan meal. It is hard to imagine now, but those stores didn’t stock black beans back then. My mother resorted to scouring the canned soups, looking for Campbell’s black bean soup, with which she could (ingeniously and magically) replicate a passable version of the bean dish she used to call “the Guatemalan caviar.”

But had my mother lived long enough, she would have witnessed a sea change on those Chesco supermarket shelves. Because even more than the sudden (and gratifying) proliferation of small ethnic food shops, there is no easier way to mark demographic changes than by walking into a “general interest” supermarket and noting what is offered in its produce section.

Read the rest of this column at City and State PA.

At Philly Mag: Why Donald Trump Keeps Coming to Philly

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Cartoon by DonkeyHotey (CC BY-SA 2.0) 

In what is becoming something of a tradition, the night before a Donald Trump Philly visit, something media-memorable happens.

Last week it was Marco Gutierrez, the co-founder of Latinos for Trump, on MSNBC warning that one of the dire consequences of continued immigration would be “taco trucks on every corner.”

Then last night — in advance of Trump’s scheduled appearance at the Union League today — Trump’s social media team allowed a tweet to go out marking anti-feminist Phylllis Schlafly’s death … only it was spelled “Phillies” Schlafly.

Uh, oh. Guess the Donald’s got Philadelphia on his mind — and probably not because of the ho-hum season the fourth-place NL East team is having.

 
Read the rest of my column at Philly Mag.

 

My column at Philly Mag: When Philly Woman Reported Sexual Assault at the DNC, She Got Little Help

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Photo courtesy of Gwen Snyder

Gwen Snyder hopes to transform her experience into a movement toward justice.

The U.S. Department of Justice defines a sexual assault as any kind of sexual contact or behavior that occurs without the explicit consent of the recipient. Snyder, 30, the executive director of Philadelphia Jobs with Justice and a Democratic committeewoman in the 27th Ward, said she knew she had just been sexually assaulted — what she didn’tknow was what exactly she could do about it.

“I just kept asking party leaders from Pennsylvania what the process was to address the attack and get my attacker’s credentials pulled, and no one knew how, or even if there was an official process,” Snyder said. “I was never put in touch with anyone trained to deal with sexual violence. After a reporter gave them the heads-up about me, a couple of DNC staffers did contact me to take a report, but didn’t make any commitments and didn’t seem willing to involve me in discussions about assault policies moving forward.”

Read the rest of the column here.

At Philly Mag: These DNC-Week Art-and-Politics Events Make a Real Statement

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L to r: Allan Edmunds, SOAPBOX for Cultural Equity; Tayyib Smith, Truth to Power; Juntos community members working on the message side of the portable mural.

Never mind the painted donkeys. Art is supposed to do more than just mark that the Democrats are in town.

Let’s be honest, those painted donkeys parked around the city in advance of the Democratic Convention are colorful but make no statement, no demand.

Well, that is they didn’t, until anti-fracking activists added fake droppings to them to protest the silence on fracking in Democratic Party’s platform.

Those “statements” and “demands” were quickly cleaned up (no party poopers here!) and the donkeys were restored to their emblematic “glory.”

Sigh.

As the daughter of a sculptor who participated in the Sao Paulo Art Biennial twice, and won the Grande Prêmio Latino-Americano Francisco Matarazzo Sobrinho (the top honor for Latin American artists) in 1975, color me unimpressed. 

Art is supposed to do more than just mark that the Democrats are in town. 

I inherited a funky pin from my mother that says “Arte Salva Vidas” — “Art Saves Lives.” An artist who created work in Guatemala during the terrible 36+ year undeclared civil war there, my mother understood that statement in her very bones.

And though my art and circumstance are quite different than hers, I understand it too.

I wear that pin, from time to time, to remind myself that the real power of any (all) of the arts isn’t represented by marketing ploys or branding campaigns, but resides in art’s ability to transform lives, ways of thinking and seeing, and society itself.

Art prompts participation, demands engagement, razes barriers and the walls between us.

I’m happy to note that a number of organizations and artists in our city have scheduled events during the week of the Democratic Convention that — in diverse, unique and very real ways — highlight the formidable transformative power of the arts.

Read the rest of the column and take a look at SOAPBOX for Cultural Equity, Truth to Power  and Juntos’ portable mural and march events by clicking here.

Meet the New Class of Latinx Political Leadership

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The next wave of Latinx politicos in Philly is in the wings, laying the groundwork for the future.

It is the best of times, it is the worst of times for wonkish Latinx folks like me.

With the Democratic National Convention just two weeks away, there’s a certain amount of exhilaration at the prospect of the Party’s P-A-R-T-Y in Philly.

But it’s also depressing. No, I’m not talking possible SEPTA nightmares (though there is that). It’s just that, as a Latina, I’m unlikely to be seeing more than a handful of mi gente among the ranks of the party’s top pols.

The sad reality is that I’d have a better chance of that at the Republican National Convention. Chew on that for a while (especially given the GOP’s not-so-friendly-to-Latinxs policies). From rising star governors Susana Martinez and Brian Sandoval to former presidential contenders Senators Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz, the GOP has cultivated a deeper Latinx bench — where top pols are concerned — than the Dems.

Oh, sure, cabinet members Thomas Perez and Julian Castro and Congressman Xavier Becerra have been named as potential VP picks for Hillary Clinton, but nobody — not even representation-starved Latinxs — are betting that any of them will actually be selected for the number two post.

[But a] new Latinx political class is still in the wings, laying the groundwork for the future from within the party, behind the scenes, and at the grassroots.

Read the rest of this column at Philly Mag.

At Philly Mag: Want to Save a Historic Black Church in Philadelphia? You Have Until June 6th

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St. Peter Claver is part of the same “sacred ground” as other African American mother churches — Mother Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church, Wesley AME Zion Church — also located in South Philadelphia.

In 1986, Cardinal John Krol suppressed it. In 2014, it was formally closed. And now, in 2016, the Archdiocese of Philadelphia is petitioning to remove the final bar to its sale — a deed restriction specifying that the real estate at 1212-1222 Lombard Street is held “in trust” for Black Catholics in Philadelphia — unless enough written objections to the petition are received by the Clerk of the Orphans’ Court Division of Philadelphia before a hearing to be held Monday, June 6, 2016, at 1:30 p.m. at Court Room 416 in City Hall.

The property in question is St. Peter Claver, the mother church for Black Catholics in the city since 1892, and a site of real symbolic and historical significance for more than just African Americans.

Read the rest of the column here.

My latest column at The Guardian US: ‘Donald Trump’s kryptonite: millions of active – and furious – Latino voters’

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Barely a day goes by when Donald Trump offers Latino something new to get riled up about. In a “Cinco de Mayo” tweet on Thursday, for example, he declared “I love Hispanics!” in the caption to a selfie that showed him digging into a “taco bowl” at his desk.

“This can’t be serious,” said my Mexican cousin. “No words,” wrote a Cuban colleague. “No” and “disgusting” were just some of the other comments my Latino friends – both Democratic and Republican – posted after I uploaded a screen shot of the tweet to my Facebook page.

The presidential candidate started his campaign by saying that Mexicans are rapists and criminals. […]

[But now] it’s apparently dawned on him that he might need some of the approximately 27.3 million Latino eligible voters to cast a ballot for him if he actually wants to win.

Read the rest of the column here.