How the Oregon Latinx Leadership Network Has Galvanized a Statewide Latinx Movement
Episode 3: November 19, 2020 | The Public Space
Anthony Veliz, Founder of the Oregon Latinx Leadership Network joins Lilisa Hall to discuss OLLN and what it means for Oregon’s Latinx community.
The Latinx community makes up more than 13.2 percent of Oregon’s population but are disproportionately represented across the board. Anthony Veliz discusses why and how he founded the Oregon Latinx Leadership Network – the collective movement of people and organizations across the state – which is bringing much-needed attention and action from leaders and decision makers to the Latinx community.
In this episode:
Anthony Veliz is the founder and owner of IZO Public Relations & Marketing, a multicultural agency specializing in the Latino community. IZO recently launched STORI jobs, a digital diversity and inclusion recruitment platform targeting diverse college/university students and
millennials. He recently founded the Oregon Latinx Leadership Network (OLLN), a statewide movement in response to COVID-19. Anthony has consulted with many public and private sector organizations on issues of equity, diversity, inclusion and recruitment. His expertise on the growing Latino community of Oregon is unmatched.
The son of farmworkers, Anthony has always had a passion for the community of Woodburn, where he lives and works. Anthony has earned the trust of the community as the first Latino ever elected to the Woodburn School District School Board and only the second Latino elected to serve on the city council for the City of Woodburn. He recently help secure $1,000,000 through the Oregon Lottery for a new community center.
His work experience as the former US Community Relations Manager for the Beaverton based giant NIKE to Director of Parent & Community Relations for the Woodburn School District gives him a unique perspective on the Latino community at both the national and local levels.
Anthony has a passion for public service. He has been involved with the community at the local, state and national level for over 30 plus years.
Anthony currently serves on the following boards:
Anthony is past president of the Woodburn Downtown Association. He earned a master’s degree from the University of Rhode Island in Kingston, RI and a bachelor’s degree in marketing from Portland State University in Portland, OR.
Lilisa Hall: [00:00:00] Hi, everyone. Welcome to The Public Space - a podcast from the Nonprofit Association of Oregon. The Public Space is where thought leaders share strategic ideas and solutions that spark positive change in civil society. My name is Lilisa Hall and I'm the membership, communications and advancement director for the Nonprofit Association of Oregon.
And this is our third episode. If you've missed our first two episodes, be sure to check them out. Today, we want to talk about the power of strategy, partnership, and action, all coming together under visionary leadership. And an outstanding example that we want to showcase today is the Oregon Latinx Leadership Network or OLLN and the great work that they've been doing. NAO has been a partner and supportive of OLLN, and I'm delighted to welcome Anthony Veliz our guest today. Anthony founded OLLN in March of this year in response to the COVID 19 crisis. And he is the founder and owner of IZO, which is a public relations and marketing firm, a multicultural agency that specializes in the Latinx community.
Anthony is also very active in public service and he serves on Oregon's State Board of Education and Oregon Youth Authority state advisory committee. He's also served as the president of the Woodburn Downtown Association. So welcome to The Public Space, Anthony, and thanks so much for being here today.
Anthony Veliz: [00:01:22] Thank you for having me.
Lilisa Hall: [00:01:24] So, Anthony many in the community, including NAO have been very impressed by the work that you and OLLN have been doing over the last few months for Oregon's Latinx community. And you've been able to mobilize quickly, get the attention of decision and policy makers, and importantly, secure much-needed funding for your work.
I want you to share, if you will, about the Oregon Latinx Leadership Network. Tell me about what it is, why did you start it, and what does it do?
Anthony Veliz: [00:01:51] That's a great question. Thanks for asking. The Oregon Latinx Leadership Network is, is a movement. It's a collective movement of people and individuals and organizations, community-based organizations across the state.
And why did I start this? So, I am blessed to live in the city of Woodburn, have been here for five generations, my family, since 1946 and every day I get to see the hardworking, Latino community, especially those that work in agriculture, you know, get up every morning at 4:30/5 in the morning, work 10 to 12 hour days.
And I get to see them come home tired, dirty, exhausted from, from, from one day's work. And one of the things that I knew, instinctively was when COVID-19 hit, that our communities, especially the undocumented and indigenous Mesoamericans, that they would really not benefit or have any resources available to them because of a lot of federal regulations, laws and what not. So, what I did is, I called 80 of my good friends, so to speak, from across the state of Oregon, those that serve the Latino community and run community-based organizations. And I started this movement and what we did originally back in March, we started hosting what we call town halls and they are basically weekly gatherings every Wednesday, 12 to 1.
And we started just having conversations. And those conversations led to us writing a call to action. And then ever since, we've just been moving forward with that.
Lilisa Hall: [00:03:18] So that's awesome. And I think that, you know, when COVID-19 hit in March and no one really could fathom what it would be like today, six months down the road.
And so there's been a lot of work that, that you all have been doing. And so I'd love to have you share with our listeners a little bit about the Latinx community here in Oregon. Tell us a little bit about the numbers.
Anthony Veliz: [00:03:39] Absolutely. Folks might not know, but the Latinx community is by far the largest ethnic minority group in Oregon.
We officially are about 13.2 plus percent of the population. However, there's always an undercount, right? And then also we have over 77,000 undocumented community members living among us. But one of the things with that, even though the numbers are great, even in K-12 we're about 25% of the K-12 population and I think one in four persons in Oregon as of today. So, though we are this large group, I really believe that we are the invisible majority. And what I mean by that is when you look at the representation in both the public and private sector, whether that's state, county, city, municipalities, where you look at the corporate big business and just the private sector, you don't see our community reflected in, especially in leadership positions, when it comes to the equitable distribution of resources.
Again, one thing that's really unique about the Latinx community is that we are large and great numbers across the state. So we're not 1% or 2%. Like if you go to Woodburn, we're 60%, you go to Salem - 40% when you go to Ontario/Hermiston - 40%. So,we have large numbers across the state and that makes it critical that we have not equal/the same resources as other groups, but equitable resources.
Lilisa Hall: [00:05:01] Yeah, thanks for that, Anthony. And I think one of the things we also want to talk about is the fact that there has been a disproportionate number of COVID 19 cases a month in the Latinx community and one of the concerns that you all have in OLLN is that we want to bring resources to the Latinx community and make sure that there are appropriate levels of resources for the Latinx community in Oregon.
So, talk a little bit about OLLN's goals and, sort of, the progress that you've made. I mean, I think over the last few months, you all have done a tremendous job moving the needle. So, tell us a little about the goals and the progress that you've made.
Anthony Veliz: [00:05:41] One of the things about OLLN, as tragic as the COVID 19 has been for all Oregonians and people across the globe, literally, for the Latino community with the way I see it, you know, I always see light in darkness and I, and I saw this as an opportunity, a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to really galvanize our community for a common good. And that's really to combat COVID-19 in our community. What of the things that we saw immediately was that critical information, timely information was not being received or heard by the Latinx community. I think a lot of our communication programs that we have out there are very mainstream. You've got to be digitally connected. You've got to have email, internet, all of these things. And a lot of our community that's the most vulnerable do not have access to those. So what we did is, we really shined a light on health, right. And make sure that we were able to get information to our community in a timely manner. And the way we did that was by galvanizing, organizing our community, Latinx community across the state and trying to provide real-time information to them on a weekly basis, if not daily.
Lilisa Hall: [00:06:46] So tell me, Anthony, a little about the Wednesday sessions that you have.
Can you tell us a little bit about who all you had as guest speakers and sort of the Q&A sessions that have occurred that has helped Latinx community gather more information, get more resources.
Anthony Veliz: [00:07:03] You know, I think one of our, our strategies are just the luck of the draw. We created our own space with OLLN - with the Oregon Latinx Leadership Network. We wanted to invite leadership to come to us and not us always going to them.
So we organized ourselves and started hosting these weekly town halls that we've had - Senator Merkley, we've had Governor Brown attend. We've had all the leadership from Oregon Health Authority, Oregon Housing and Community Services, Employment, Oregon Department of Education, Business Oregon, and on and on.
And so what that's really done is that's really, brought that leadership from across agencies into our space. And we, and really the format is they present to us and specifically talk about how they're helping or working with the Latinx community. Then we have a Q&A, and it's really interesting cos we have people again from Hermiston, Talent, Phoenix, up in the coast, Astoria.
So they actually get real-time feedback as well. So I think that they have seen the value in what we're doing and likewise too, because in the Latinx community, it's all about relationships. It's all about trust. And I think that this is a step forward in building that trust.
Lilisa Hall: [00:08:12] Well, that's absolutely right.
And in terms of, at least what I've seen in the Latinx community and sort of the colleagues and friends that I have, it's very, very relational and it's awesome to be able to see 80 plus organizations and leaders coming together in, in this network. And you've been pretty successful in getting some major funding recently. So can you talk a little about that.
Anthony Veliz: [00:08:34] Absolutely. Well, the Oregon Health Authority came out with a $45 million grant opportunity for communities of color. And so we applied and we were excited when we heard that we were awarded $5 million and that is actually the most, any organization had received in this go around.
I think the next one was a million and everything else was below that. But I think that what we did with the Oregon Health Authority, and we've been making the case - is that we are just this huge group, right. And has such great needs. Obviously the disparities showed, with the COVID-19. They were already there.
We kind of hear about that, but I think, you know, we're the ones that are being most impacted by it right now. About 40% of the infection rates are in the Latino community. If you look at the top zip codes, those are Latino communities. Hermiston, Woodburn, Ontario. So, we made the case. We were awarded the $5 million and, you know, we take that with great humility and honor that we're going to be able to be the stewards of this money.
So, there's four areas that we will be contributing to in all corners of the state. Both rural and urban. The first opportunity is we're going to be writing sub-grants to community-based organizations. So we'll be providing grants between 5,000 and $75,000 to organizations. And actually you don't have to be a 501c3 community-based org, you can be like OLLN is - a movement, right.
You can be somebody that's working out in Stanfield, Oregon, and you're a community organizer. And if you can make your case, the funds that we will allocate will support prevention, education, and providing information on COVID-19 to our community, then we'll strongly consider you. The second big pot of money is the PPE, the personal protection equipment.
There is a false narrative out there. I think there's plenty of PPE for those that can afford it and those that can get it. But we have a lot of our farm workers, especially in our undocumented community, that just do not have access. And access doesn't mean that you can't go to the store and buy it, but the cost, right, you can walk into a store - a box is like $20, but $20 for a lot of our community members is, you know, whether you eat that day or not, or you and your family. So we want to provide that. We're actually going to be creating regional hubs to distribute that and get that to the community. Our third area is an unprecedented research project.
We're going to be working with Portland State University and conducting a research project on the Latino community on the impacts of COVID-19, so that's going to be very valuable for not only our organization, but Oregon Health Authority and others. And the final piece, which actually I'm in charge of that I'm really excited about is that we will be conducting probably the first of its kind a multi-lingual prevention, education, information, communication campaign. What does that mean? That means it will be providing information in Spanish and indigenous languages and English because we want to target our whole, but that is going to be exciting work. We're going to be elevating the voices of our indigenous people and I'm sure you'll see billboards and ads, whether it's TV, radio across the state with some of our work. So we're super excited and communication is the key to all of this. The communication has not reached all of our community. I think that's critical. So we're basically flipping the funnel on communication and putting those most vulnerable first.
Lilisa Hall: [00:11:52] Wow. That is fantastic. Anthony and congratulations for that $5 million funding. That is totally unheard of. So really excited to see what happens next with you all. So, I want to maybe bring it down a little bit more on the individual basis. You've been doing a lot of great work over the last 20 to 30 years.
And I want to maybe delve a little deeper into who is Anthony Veliz. Tell us a little about what motivates you, your background and, you know, your vision for the future of the Latinx community here in Oregon. We really want to know what makes a visionary leader like you.
Anthony Veliz: [00:12:27] Yeah, thank you. Um, that's a great question.
And what I would say is, my grandparents and parents, and they're very spiritual people. So I think that's at the core of this. From a spiritual side, they're here to, to serve, right. And I guess I've taken that same spirit and turned that into public service. But, I have been blessed. I learned from the best I really have. We were farm workers, my grandparents and my parents and I, and in the 1970s, my dad and a group of farm workers had been working in the fields their whole life. And they knew instinctively that the only way out of the field was to get an education. So in 1970, they had this, which I think right now, when I look at it as a crazy idea, they said, let's start a college. I mean, that, that, by just saying that, it was really amazing because they didn't even have any education.
My dad, I think had an eighth grade education, my mom had a GED, so they were, they were literally advocating for, for a college that they couldn't actually even attend. You know, if you really think about it, you need to have at least a GED or high school diploma to go. And they, and they made it happen in 1970.
It's called Colegio Cesar Chavez. And I was a young boy. I was three years old, but that was the first glimpse of, of seeing that, because if you think about the farm workers in 1979 today, there's no economic power. There's no political power. There's no, I mean, they're, they're the invisible right within our society. So I got to witness that and see a dream, a vision come to reality. And I remember that day, I'll always remember that day when Cesar Chavez the great united farm worker leader came to Mt. Angel, Oregon to ribbon cut, and that was amazing. The second experience that I've had is that one of the students there was, who was inspired by Cesar Chavez was named Cipriano Ferrel. And, he ended up being my mentor. But Cipriano is the original founder of PCUN, which is Oregon's only farm worker union and tree planter union. So he mentored me as a young elementary and middle and high school kid. I didn't know he was mentoring me. I just knew he just liked to pick me up, take me to PCUN, and help him do work.
And he'd take me to these conferences as I got older, but that I, I figured out was mentoring. And so unfortunately he passed away, but PCUN still exists. But one thing about PCUN and his vision that he saw is that we saw a lot of people getting sick. So he organized his board and the union, and they started Salud Medical Center.
And coincidentally, my mom was the first employee ever of Salud. So I think what I'm trying to say to the listeners is that I got to hear people's visions. And I got to see them work hard for it and then come to fruition, right. So I was built for OLLN. OLLN is exactly something I've been doing since I was three years old.
And this is just a bigger stage and probably more critical time to do that. So I guess that's what I would say that's Anthony Veliz. I'm a lifelong Woodburn resident. I'm passionate about, especially the Latino community. I was a farm worker, so I understand both sides of being - the racism side, all of the ugly stuff about being in a minority class, but I also see the light, the other side of -through hard work, dedication and commitment. And I will tell you, Lilisa, longevity has its place. And I think I'm trying to utilize that to benefit all.
Lilisa Hall: [00:15:35] Well. I like that: "longevity has its place," Anthony, and that's a great line. So as you know, I really appreciate you sharing sort of the success of OLLN and the work that you all are continuing to do. And as listeners kind of think about what you've shared, I'm kind of curious what might be the two or three things that you think have helped propel OLLN to where it is today? What sort of tips can you share with listeners who are looking to galvanize, mobilize a movement?
Anthony Veliz: [00:16:03] Well, I think it's, um, and I always get emotional when I talk about this part of it, but I'll share it with you. It's like, who, who are we really here for? Right. So, for me, it's the undocumented, the indigenous Mesoamericans, the immigrant, the poor, the hungry, the homeless, the forgotten. So I think that has galvanized our people when I put that out there and who are we really here to serve.
And I think that struck a chord. The other thing is, I think that I would say is that I understand that everybody has a gift, the God given gift. And what I've tried to do is tap into those gifts. And that talent, that expertise and organized for the people that I just mentioned. And I think that's a very powerful thing: to tap into people's gifts and their talent and their expertise, and for one common good, which is really to serve humanity at the end of the day.
That's really the bottom line in this case. Of course, I'll be, we're talking about the Latinx community because that's who we are. That's where we come from. Those are the people who put food on our table every day. Those are the people that worked in the worst air quality in the world here in Oregon when we had the fires and they continue to keep working.
So I think that's a no brainer, right? I think that anybody who has compassion and, and wants to serve - this is the place to do it. And I think I've just tapped into that.
Lilisa Hall: [00:17:28] Thanks so much, Anthony, that has really been a heartfelt conversation. And I really appreciate all the work that you and the rest of the folks at OLLN are doing for not only the Latinx community, but the entire state of Oregon and beyond. So thanks so much for joining us today, Anthony, you guys are making great things happen and keep up the great work.
Anthony Veliz: [00:17:50] Thank you so much. It's a pleasure to be here. And if anybody's interested, please reach out to us. It's not only a Latinx movement, but we have allies of course. And I just want to express that too.
Lilisa Hall: [00:18:02] Thank you, Anthony. And so for more information about the Oregon Latinx Leadership Network, Check out OLLN.org.
My hope is that this conversation with Anthony today and his visionary leadership has energized you and made you stop and think a little bit about how you can help galvanize people to action and to influence key decision and policy makers. And also to lead an effort that makes a difference in people's lives like Anthony and the rest of the team are doing.
The Public Space is a podcast from the Nonprofit Association of Oregon. NAO is the statewide nonprofit membership organization representing and supporting charitable nonprofits of all sizes, geographic locations, and missions across Oregon.
Visit nonprofitoregon.org, and sign up for our newsletter for more information about membership, resources, and our great network. This episode of The Public Space is produced by NAO's Marie Manuel with support from Anna McClain.
The Public Space is brought to you by the Nonprofit Association of Oregon. NAO strives to connect, improve, and advance all nonprofits to help build a thriving and vital Oregon. Subscribe to The Public Space wherever you get your podcasts.