Please RSVP HERE for our Latinx Heritage Month program on September 28, 2021 at 2:00 EST.
*The term Latinx is used throughout this article to refer to people that have migrated to the United States of America from Latin American countries and/or those with historical ties with what is now the United States of America, prior to colonization of the region. We have adopted the use of this term to speak to the complexity of identities that exist beyond gender binaries. *
September 15th is the start of Latinx Heritage Month, a month-long celebration of the histories and cultures of the Latinx community. Latinx Heritage Month, initially Latinx Heritage Week, was introduced into law in 1968, sponsored by two Latinx politicians: Edward R. Roybal and Henry B. Gonzales. During this month, communities come together to embrace the contributions of Latinx culture embedded in today’s society. From food and art to expanded union representation and labor rights protections, Latinx history is a pillar in American history. While the contributions of the Latinx community are important, the experiences and the journeys of the innovators are often overlooked.
Latinx Heritage Month began at a time when Latinx workers were offered “opportunities” in the U.S. and in their home countries. In this story, oppression thrived under the veil of opportunity disguised as bilateral agreements: the Bracero Program, Operación Manos a la Obra (Operation Bootstrap), and the creation of Maquiadoras brought millions of workers to the U.S. and exported low wage jobs. Migrant workers not only brought their labor, but also meaningful culture and heritage. Incorporating the historical context of cultural artifacts allows Latinx Heritage Month participants to better understand the human elements that have been removed from the cultural artifacts.
As organizations unveil this year’s Latinx Heritage programming, it’s important to place value on stories, provide historical context, and humanize cultural artifacts to allow participants to go beyond consumption. This includes the identification of behaviors that cause individuals and groups to feel excluded and/or experience bias. Pew research findings indicate that four out of ten Latinx employees have experienced workplace discrimination within the last year. ‘Ni de aqui, Ni de alla’ (translating to “not from here, not from there”) is a common saying in the Latinx community. This saying refers to feeling disconnected from an ancestral home while simultaneously experiencing discrimination in one’s new home -- in this case, the United States. Understanding the experiences of those that produce the things we use adds a human element that allows our experience with those cultural artifacts to be more meaningful. Humanizing cultural artifacts also creates a process of recognition necessary to identify behaviors that align with goals of inclusion.
In a business context, programming that takes place between September 15 and October 15 presents an opportunity for individuals to apply what can be gleaned from Latinx contributions to business objectives. This month should place value on the stories of inspiring individuals like Sylvia Rivera, whose courage broke through Stonewall to bring life to what we now know as Pride. It should place value on people like Dolores Huerta, who in a world of ‘no’, said ‘Si Se Puede’ (‘yes we can’).which translates to: ‘Yes we can!’ Understanding Huerta’s journey challenges traditional measurements of success to place value on what it took to get there. Companies should also highlight contemporary leaders like Luz Herrera, who redefined low-bono legal services in her pursuit of a Latinx Civil Rights Agenda.
Understanding what led ordinary people to do extraordinary things places value on behavioral traits like empathy, courage, learning agility, all of which should be strongly desired transferable skills in the workplace. Programming that causes participants to learn, understand, and experience inspires application to personal and professional life. Silvia Rivera inspired a community to fight against a system that only tolerated their presence behind closed doors. Dolores Huerta tapped into her ability to build community in spite of a challenging situation. Luz Herrera saw opportunity through accessibility limitations to create a novel legal service. The collective impact that Rivera, Huerta, Rivera, and others like them made was an effect of leadership and other transferable skills responding to challenging situations.
As you begin to roll out Latinx Heritage Month celebrations, here are five things you and your company should incorporate:
Develop a resource bank of Latinx owned or serving companies that are aligned with your company’s values and/or business objectives. By highlighting Latinx owned or serving businesses within your community, your organization is generating authentic opportunities to support underrepresented businesses.
Include diversity/Latinx employee resource groups, cultural/legal studies experts and/or community advocates in the planning and implementation of Latinx Heritage Month programming. Since programming takes time and involves both emotional and intellectual labor, it should be incentivized for participating employees. Companies can do so with monetary incentives, increased earnings of paid time off, reduced workloads, and/or other types of increased benefits packages. Latinx involvement in the planning and implementation process of Latinx Heritage Month programming provides an authentic voice to a dialogue that non-Latinx people are often removed from.
Incorporate programming that makes employees aware of cultural performance, productions, and experiences of bias that provide insight into values, perspectives, and community struggles. Awareness programming needs to spotlight the human condition in a way that recognizes the relationship between human experiences and the symbols and artifacts that are produced out of that experience. It is also important that this type of programming be informed by Latinx voices and expertise that contextualizes content with business objectives and/or processes.
Align Latinx Heritage Month promotional material with company values and business objectives. Programming is an implicit value statement that, when done authentically, develops interest, trust, and business outcomes. Programming material, therefore, needs to tell a story that captures the imagination of producers of cultural artifacts. This can be done through messaging that communicates why programming that is specifically and intentionally Latinx-rooted is important to your business, product, and consumers.
Contextualize national trends that impact the Latinx community and are relevant to your company and industry. This should be done as a Latinx Heritage Month post-celebration open forum that discusses key programming takeaways, areas for improvement,and invites feedback in the development of a sustainable, long term strategy rooted in diversity, equity and inclusion. This event must also provide space for community members, allies, and advocates to speak up about individual concerns and shared struggles.
Latinx Heritage Month programming can be a springboard for advancement at your company. Programming should inspire immediate and strategic action that brings underrepresented people into spaces where they have historically been excluded. By humanizing contributions and placing value on the innovation that created them, what is learned from Latinx heritage will allow companies to think more about the perspectives, experiences, and competencies that translate into transferable skills and strategic advantage. This should also cause us to deprioritize our reliance on things like exact experience, educational pedigree, technical assessment, prestige, and tradition that limit the ability to recognize potential and innovation.
Please join us on Tuesday, September 28th from 2:00 - 3:00 EST (11:00 - 12:00 PM PST) to imagine the future of Latinx Heritage Month programming, where we will discuss strategies for creating intentional programming. RSVP HERE