Hispanic Alliance Inc. works to address needs of local Latino community

by Chuck Hoven

(Plain Press, March 2014) The Hispanic Alliance Inc., a nonprofit organization committed to addressing the needs of Hispanic/Latino community, has four major areas it is working on as part of its mission, says Hispanic Alliance Executive Director Juan Molina Crespo. The areas the organization currently is working on include leadership development through the Hispanic Alliance Leadership Development Initiative (HALDI), economic development planning to create La Villa Hispana, civic engagement and voter registration, and immigration.

The Hispanic Alliance is a membership organization, which has both individuals and organizations as members. Organizations that form the core of its membership include: Catholic Charities/La Providencia Hispanic Services Office, Cuyahoga County Board of Developmental Disabilities, Cuyahoga Community College Hispanic Council, Esperanza, HOLA, Hispanic Business Center, Hispanic Roundtable, Hispanic UMADAOP, MetroHealth Medical Center, Neighborhood Family Practice, NEO Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, Nueva Luz Urban Resource Center, Stockyard, Clark Fulton, Brooklyn Centre Community Development Program Office and WSEM/El Barrio.

Molina Crespo says the Hispanic Alliance Leadership Development Initiative (HALDI) is designed to work with emerging leaders in the community. The age range of participants in the first two cohorts to participate in the program has been from the early 20s to the 50s. HALDI offers a structured curriculum, group projects, and a great networking opportunity for participants, says Molina Crespo.

“HALDI takes in the Cultural Aspects of being Latino and what that means in leadership,” says Molina Crespo. He sees the program helping to develop the tremendous potential of human capital in Cleveland’s Hispanic Community.

The first cohort to complete the program had eleven individuals participate. This year’s cohort has 13 individuals.  Program participants have ranged from young emerging leaders to people already in leadership positions who want to compliment the leadership skills they already have and examine the theoretical and academic side of leadership, says Molina Crespo. The individuals range from a young man who gained a job as a community organizer in one of the Hispanic Alliance member organizations while participating in HALDI, an electrical engineer, a pastor who heads the United Hispanic Pastors Fraternity, and a health care program manager who runs a breast cancer treatment program.

Orientation for the next HALDI cohort will be in August of this year. Sessions are held twice a month from September thru April. Graduation is in May. For more information call the Hispanic Alliance at 661-4249 or visit the website at: www.hispanicallianceinc.com.

The second area of focus for the Hispanic Alliance is the creation of La Villa Hispana. Molina Crespo says the Hispanic Alliance would like to see a shift in how we define urban development. He sees La Villa Hispana as following a place-making model of urban development that builds on the tourism industry. He envisions La Villa Hispana as “providing an authentic destination, a place to get theatre/ arts, food and authentic culture.” Molina Crespo hopes that this long-range plan will complement the upcoming development along the W. 25th Street corridor that includes the expansion of MetroHealth Medical Center. Ideally he would like to see a beautiful archway as an entrance and a plaza reminiscent of those found in Central American cities. He believes that this vision will take five to seven years to materialize. He emphasizes the La Villa Hispana will not be just for Latinos, but “a place for everybody, it will support all businesses and be a community project for all residents of the city.”

Molina Crespo noted that while Ohio has been experiencing limited growth in population, the Latino population is growing. He said families are moving here to the Clark Fulton neighborhood, which he says is relatively safe and offers so much in terms of affordability. He believes Cleveland is at a crossroads and needs to set a tone in order to take advantage of this trend to help revitalize areas that have been hit hard by economic decline.

In the area of Civic Engagement and Voter Registration, Molina Crespo says “There is a disconnect between registering to vote and civic engagement.” He would like to see Hispanic Alliance engage the local Hispanic community with some workshops on how the legislative process works, on the difference between politics and government, and how voter registration can impact the effectiveness of your trash pick up, or whether or not the heating system at your local high school gets fixed.

In the area of immigration, Molina Crespo sees the Hispanic Alliance partnering with other groups in the City of Cleveland such as the Neighborhood Leadership Institute, and the City of Cleveland Community Relations Office to help marshal the resources and entrepreneurial energy of immigrants and newcomers to Cleveland. He talked about the number of businesses started by Hispanics who are new arrivals to Cleveland either through immigration or migration.

Molina Crespo also talked about the Hispanic Alliance’s involvement and support of immigration reform as a social justice issue — working with organizations such as HOLA to “create a fair and equitable immigration system that does not break up families.”

Editor’s Note: Hispanic Alliance Inc. is located in the US Bank Building at W. 25th and Lorain Avenue. For more information about the organization visit the Hispanic Alliance’s website at: www.hispanicallianceinc.com.

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