Maria ‘Chica’ Lopez Becomes the First Latina LBTQ+ Creator To Join Fortnite Icon Series

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Maria ‘Chica’ Lopez on a computer chair

By Yamily Habib, Be Latina

When we say Latinas are breaking through in every industry, we mean every industry. Just look at the outstanding achievement of Twitch streamer Maria “Chica” Lopez, who has joined the icon series of Epic Games‘ popular game, Fortnite.

As announced by the company, Chica’s icon set is now available in the item store and includes five different costume styles.

The icon set is one of 17 rarity types in Fortnite: Battle Royale. This rarity focuses on notable celebrities, artists, and influencers. The most notable inclusions are emotes (Twitch-specific emoticons that viewers and streamers use to express many feelings in chat) with copyrighted songs and other cosmetics based on streamers and artists.

Chica thus joins professional athletes such as LeBron James and Neymar Jr, pop star Ariana Grande, fellow streamer Kathleen “Loserfruit” Belsten, and others in the Icon Series, which immortalizes celebrities and high-profile content creators with skins and other cosmetics in Fortnite.

Maria “Chica” Lopez is an American Twitch streamer and professional eSports player known for her talent in multi-person shooter games like Fortnite.

Chica started gaming full-time during college and has since garnered over 2 million followers on Twitch, making her one of the most successful streamers on the platform. Maria has also become known for being one of the only prominent streamers to broadcast games in two different languages.

Chica has been a professional eSports player for several years. She first signed with TSM as their first player. Then she signed with DooM Clan and later joined Luminosity Gaming as a content creator and streamer.

Now, the young Latina breaks the glass ceiling and becomes the much-needed representation in the gaming world.

“I take a lot of pride in being not only a content creator but also in my identity as a Puerto Rican woman in the LGBTQIA+ community,” Chica said. “I wanted my Set in Fortnite to be true to who I am. I’ve been able to build such an awesome community within the Fortnite family, and I can’t wait to share my Set with everyone. I’m thrilled to be the first Latina to join the Icon Series.”

Click here to read the full article on Be Latina.

BLACK ADAM
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Black Adam Movie Promo poster with Dwayne Johnson the cover

Nearly 5,000 years after he was bestowed with the powers of the gods—and imprisoned just as quickly — Black Adam is freed, ready to unleash his unique justice on the world.

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Over 1,700 Celebrate Diversity in Computing at the 2022 Tapia Conference
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On September 10, 2022, CMD-IT and fiscal sponsor, ACM wrapped up the 2022 CMD-IT/ACM Richard Tapia Celebration of Diversity in Computing Conference in Washington D.C. This was their first in-person conference since 2019 in San Diego, California.

The 2022 conference theme, “A Time to Celebrate! Resilience, Adaptability and Innovation in Computing,” was brought to life as over 1,700 students, supporters, presenters and volunteers came together at the Marriott Marquis and Washington Convention Center to participate in sessions, reconnect with others in the community and celebrate diversity in computing!

The CMD-IT/ACM Richard Tapia Celebration of Diversity in Computing Conference is the premier venue to acknowledge, promote and celebrate diversity in computing. The goal of the Tapia Conference is to bring together undergraduate and graduate students, faculty, researchers and professionals in computing from all backgrounds and ethnicities in order to:

● Celebrate the diversity that exists in computing.

● Connect with others with common backgrounds, ethnicities, disabilities and gender to create communities that extend beyond the conference.

● Engage with computing leaders in academia and industry.

● Be inspired by great presentations and conversations with leaders with common backgrounds.

The Tapia conference brings together CMD-IT’s target communities: African Americans/Blacks, Native Americans/Indigenous People, Hispanics/Latinx and People with Disabilities.

The Tapia 2022 conference offered a variety of intellectually stimulating talks from leaders in computing, along with enrichment opportunities like professional development workshops, a career fair with over 100 supporters and significant opportunities for networking. The conference concluded with its usual, fun-filled dance party.

Mark your calendars for Tapia 2023 on September 13-16 at the Gaylord Texas Resort in Dallas, Texas. Join the CMD-IT mailing list to stay connected with the Tapia Community or visit tapiaconference.org for Tapia conference updates!

What it means to be Afro-Latino: ‘We are diverse in every single possible way’
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Amara La Negra, singer, reality show star and rapper, is known for embracing her afro and her Blackness. But despite all her success, there’s one battle she’s always had to fight: defending her Afro-Latino Blackness.

Amara La Negra, singer, reality show star and rapper, is known for embracing her afro and her Blackness. But despite all her success, there’s one battle she’s always had to fight: defending her Afro-Latin Blackness. “I still feel there’s a lot of African Americans that don’t even know that there’s other parts in the world where there’s people like us and don’t speak English,” she told ABC News. “We’re not all African Americans. We are diverse in every single possible way you can imagine.” In a society that clings to categorizing people, Amara La Negra says she’s always having to explain herself.

Born Diana Danelys De Los Santos to Dominican parents, sometimes Amara La Negra finds herself being questioned by African Americans about Ber blackness, like on the radio show “The Breakfast Club.” “Simplify it for me, what exactly is the struggle that you’re facing?” Charlamagne Tha God, one of the show’s hosts, asked her. “You sure it’s not in your mind?” She’s also faced questions from other Latinos, including some in her home state of Florida, who she says questioned why she would participate in a Black Lives Matter march in Miami.

“They were like, ‘Why are you out there protesting? You’re not Black. You have to pick. Are you Latina? You Dominican? Are you Black? You kind of have to pick,’” Amara La Negra told ABC News. “They were saying a lot of negative things toward me. I guess that there was a part of them that didn’t understand how important this is. … It’s a humanity thing.”

In the wake of George Floyd’s death and a renewed outrage over racial inequality in America, there’s a growing spotlight illuminating the diversity of Blackness in the U.S. It’s a lesson that educator Jennifer Whyte says she’s been teaching for years.

The Spanish teacher is the only Latina and the only teacher of color at The Donoho School in Anniston, Alabama. In the rural South, she makes it a point to educate her students about Afro-Latin culture.

“I need to be true to myself. … I know who I am as a Spanish teacher and teaching culture,” Whyte told ABC News. “We’re the ones that teach culture. We’re the ones that bring up these uncomfortable conversations about race and history, too, because we do history. So it’s like we bring up these uncomfortable conversations about race, colorism.”

Pedro Noguera, dean of the University of Southern California Rossier School of Education, focuses on race and policy and believes the United States’ historically poor treatment of African Americans created a massive divide among Latino immigrants — even those who are Black.

“When many Latin Americans come to this country, there’s a tendency to try to distance themselves from Black Americans. And that’s true even among people who, phenotypically from Latin America, are Black,” Noguera said. “You think about American baseball, someone like Big Poppy, the great slugger from the [Boston] Red Sox, who is clearly Black, very dark-skinned, does not identify as Black. [He] identifies as Dominican, as if that were separate somehow from being Black.” Adding to the complexities in the United States, the Latino community encompasses families from many different countries.

“So many Latinos identify more with nationality. They will say, I’m from El Salvador. I am from Panama,” Noguera said. “Latino doesn’t mean a whole lot. It only means something to second- and third-generation Latinos who’ve been in America who understand the way race in America works. And so they will claim a Latino identity. But in their identity, there’s incredible diversity.”

In the U.S., most people strictly think African American when they hear of someone who is “Black,” but according to the the Slave Voyages Project, during the colonial period, about 15 times as many slaves were taken to Latin America than the United States.

Click here to read the full article on ABC News.

How to Navigate the Workplace as Your Authentic Self: Advice from Latina STEM Leaders
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Despite the fact that Hispanic/Latinx individuals make up 17% of total employment across all occupations in the U.S., they continue to be underrepresented in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) careers, comprising only 8% of all STEM workers.

Addressing the challenge of diversity and equity in STEM is crucial and will require multi-faceted efforts that amplify the voices of underrepresented employees and create workplace cultures that center inclusion. This is particularly important for STEM companies, as diverse and inclusive environments lead to better ideas, more fruitful collaboration, and more innovative approaches to meet the needs of the increasingly diverse world.

Pictured: Blanca Batlle-Aguirre (left) and Lindsey Silva (right) speak at a Genentech “Change Sequence” event.

Genentech, a South San Francisco-based biotechnology company, is working to address these challenges. Earlier this year, the company committed to doubling Hispanic/Latinx representation among their top leadership ranks by 2025, and has developed several internal initiatives to enhance cross-cultural understanding and foster belonging among all employees.

Two Latinx leaders at Genentech, Blanca Batlle-Aguirre, Senior Trainer, Ophthalmology Access & Reimbursement, and Lindsey Silva, Senior Manager, Microbiology Global QC Technology, are contributing to these efforts by driving employee resource groups aimed at giving back, building community, and advocating for Latinx people in the workplace. Throughout their careers, they have discovered the following insights on what it means to bring their full authentic selves to the workplace, and hope to encourage others in their communities to do the same.

Be Your Authentic Self and Embrace Your Roots

“We shouldn’t feel guilty about being who we are and what our cultural identity is. We need to see it more as a source of strength and a superpower. We need to change the mindset that it is unprofessional to show up as our authentic selves. The more we talk about it, and role model it, the easier it will be,” says Lindsey who grew up in a multi-generational home with her Bolivian mother, Mexican American father, and Indigenous Aymara and Spanish grandfather.

When she took on a leadership role at Genentech, one of the first things she did to get to know her new colleagues was to have breakfast, but instead of bringing coffee and donuts, she brought homemade pastelitos and salteñas. “It was a great way to build camaraderie and showcase who I am as an authentic leader,” says Lindsey.

Take Initiative and Build Community

Blanca grew up in a diverse community in the Mission District in San Francisco where she learned at an early age the importance of inclusion. She is now the lead for VIDA, a Hispanic/Latinx employee resource group at Genentech.

Blanca says “I want to change our community from the inside out to make everyone feel engaged and included. At Genentech, we are also empowered to impact our communities, even outside of the workplace. For example, in 2020 we led a voter registration campaign, and invited a health equity advocate to address questions about the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on communities of color.”

This year, she’s excited about the impact that VIDA will continue to have, in part by uplifting the voices of Spanish-speaking patients and advocating for more in-language services to address the healthcare access barriers faced by Latinx patients.

Trust Your Expertise and Seek Allies for Support

As an introvert, Blanca learned to trust her intuition and expertise at Genentech. She says, “Naturally I’m an introvert, and I’m grateful to those people that would pull me aside and ask me for my opinion. They would reinforce that I should speak up and share my ideas. I was able to build up my confidence through a few really strong mentors, and as a result, I’m able to speak up for myself and others as well.”

She adds, “I know there are introverts on my team, so I think about how to pull the best out of them as well. It is important to me to create that sense of inclusivity for all.”

Use Your Voice to Amplify the Conversation About Diversity

Throughout her career, Lindsey has embraced diversity and inclusion and hopes that it becomes a larger conversation in the workplace. She says, “I want diversity and inclusion to be discussed more. Science isn’t just about the technical aspect; it’s about the people as well. When I share this with colleagues, it makes them more comfortable to share their Latinidad.” She adds, “Scientific innovation comes from a diverse mindset and a culture of inclusion.”

Genentech aspires to create meaningful change and foster an environment where all employees can bring their full selves to work, like Blanca and Lindsey. Learn more about Genentech and explore career opportunities at careers.gene.com.
_________________

Blanca Batlle-Aguirre

Blanca Batlle-Aguirre headshot

Lindsey Silva, Ph.D.

Lindsey Silva, Ph.D.

Latina Entrepreneurs Are Forcing Beauty Giants to Pay Attention
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Latina entrepreneur and beauty giant

By , Bloomberg

Almost nine years ago, Jessica Torres launched a style blog to help build her resume as an aspiring fashion journalist. A self-described plus-sized Latina from the Bronx, she didn’t see herself reflected among staffers at the magazine where she interned. She eventually came to the conclusion that the path to success would require striking out on her own.

Today, Torres has 138,000 Instagram followers. Instead of writing stories, she’s paid by the likes of Sephora and Ugg to promote their products, raking in as much as $25,000 for posts and projects on behalf of some brands. But Torres isn’t your typical online influencer: she’s part of a wave of Latinas looking to expand their online footprint and boost corporate respect for one of the largest U.S. consumer demographics.

Especially in the realm of beauty products, Hispanics are increasingly driving and shaping the industry as consumers and business owners. In 2020, Latinos spent 13% more than the average shopper on beauty and personal care, according to research firm NielsenIQ. And there’s a growing number of internet personalities and Hispanic-owned startups getting the message out, from influencer Mariale Marrero and her 6 million Instagram followers to Treslúce Beauty, a makeup brand launched in June by Billboard top 5 Latin female artist Becky G.

Now 31, Torres finally does see herself—she’s part of a burgeoning group of Hispanic entrepreneurs and social media stars. “It’s been really cool to see how much power Latinos are having—and taking,” Torres, who is Ecuadorian-American, said. “It’s game changing.”

This growing prominence in the retail space has accelerated a push to dispel media portrayals that often ignore the diversity and evolving identity of Latinos. Hispanics boast a wide range of skin tones and hair types, which means that no single commercial approach can meet all beauty needs.

“There’s still a lot of education that needs to be done,” said Marrero, who was born in Venezuela and last year launched an eye and cheek palette in collaboration with Too Faced. She said there’s still an outdated idea “of what a Hispanic or Latina has to look like.”

Natasha Pongonis is the chief executive officer of multicultural consumer research firm O.Y.E. and a partner at marketing agency Nativa. She said most advertisements featuring Hispanic models don’t reflect the wide spectrum of Latino looks, like hairstyles ranging from locks in tight curls to pin-straight. The range of shades for certain skincare and makeup products also remains limited, while marketing campaigns by big skincare companies often feature models with lighter complexions, Pongonis said.

Representation of Hispanics in content across platforms was 6% in 2020, according to analytics company Nielsen, even though they make up almost 19% of the U.S. population. And when Hispanics do appear online or in a magazine, they’re often depicted as “exotic,” according to Deyanira Rojas-Sosa, an associate professor at the State University of New York at New Paltz.

Indigenous and Afro-Latino people in particular get little representation in personal care and makeup ads, said Danielle Alvarez, founder of public relations firm The Bonita Project.

Despite the rise of Hispanic-owned brands, they’re still a small part of the beauty market. In a recent panel featuring Latino entrepreneurs by think tank Ready to Beauty, 88% said improved access to capital was critical to expanding the sector. But some entrepreneurs are done waiting for investors.

“I think many people are going ‘well, what the heck?’ I might as well just do it myself,’” said Margarita Arriagada, who served as Sephora’s chief merchant for nine years.

Arriagada, 68, launched refillable-lipstick company Valdé Beauty in the fall of 2020. The name is an homage to her mother, Carolina Valdelomar, who immigrated with her children from Peru. She always wore lipstick as a “glamorous coat of armor” while working three jobs to make ends meet, Arriagada said.

Bloomberg Digital: Why Skin Lightening Is Big Business In Some Parts of the World

Then there’s Latina music star Rebbeca Marie Gomez, better known as Becky G. Her song “Mayores,” featuring Puerto Rican sensation Bad Bunny, has racked up more than two billion views on YouTube.

A former CoverGirl, the 24-year-old realized she didn’t just want to be one mainstream brand’s Hispanic face, saying she’d rather show that Latinas could start their own product lines and craft their own narratives. Like Torres, she too saw minimal representation of people like herself in the media and advertising.

Click here to read the full article on Bloomberg.

These Five Latina Women Are Dominating The Design World
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With creations inspired by their Latina heritage, these designers are taking the fashion and art industry by storm and sharing their unique visions with the world.

By Ashleigh Carter, Now This Is News

These Latina designers are carving out space in the fashion and arts community by bringing their cultural backgrounds to their clothing, and accessory designs, among other creations. Their work has gained international attention, and many attribute this success to the inspiration they’ve derived from their cultural backgrounds. Here are five visionary Latina designers you should know about:

1. Patty Delgado
At 30 years old, Patty Delgado already has founder and CEO in her title after starting Hija de tu Madre, a lifestyle brand for which she also acts as a designer. Hija de tu Madre sells clothing, accessories, and stationary and is intended to celebrate the modern Latina community.

“I started the company back in 2016 during the Trump era and I really wanted to create a safe space for folks to celebrate their Latina identity and really take up space and create this new narrative of what it means to be Latina, despite all the negative stereotypes that were like really dangerous during that era,” Delgado told NowThis.

Delgado was born in Los Angeles, California, and is the daughter of two Mexican immigrants. As a self-taught designer, Delgado said she was inspired to start the line as a way to connect to her own heritage and to communicate that “being Latina isn’t a one size fits all narrative.”

“I’ve always struggled with my own identity. Like never really fitting in with my Mexican side, but also not really knowing what it means to be American,” Delgado continued. “And I think that this brand really celebrates these nuances.”

2. Johanna Ortiz
Elegant couture designed by Johanna Ortiz’s label hangs in stores across the world, including major names like Neiman Marcus andBergdorf Goodman, and online at Net-a-Porter. Jennifer Lopez was photographed wearing one of her designs recently while on vacation. But before Ortiz gained international recognition, she brought her talent and business back to her home country, Colombia. Ortiz graduated from the Art Institute of Fort Lauderdale in Florida before returning to her home city of Cali, Colombia to start her brand in 2001. After showcasing her designs in Colombia’s fashion scene for many years, Ortiz was given the chance in 2014 to create a collection for Moda Operandi.

Ortiz’s designs are based on her Colombian heritage and incorporate ruffles and beautiful prints. In an interview with Vogue, she said her own experience with fashion played a role in how she creates clothes: “I’m Latina, so I’m short and curvy – I’m not like the models!”

Ortiz also opened up a training program in Colombia through whichshe offers sewing and embroidery courses for people in the community.

“We have plenty of talented hands,” Ortiz told Vogue. “But they haven’t been exposed to learning.”

3. Cristina Palomo-Nelson
As a co-founder and designer for FRĒDA SALVADOR, Palomo-Nelson made sure the products for her shoe company were made in her home country of El Salvador, along with her co-founder’s country of origin, Spain. Palomo-Nelson and Megan Papay launched FRĒDA SALVADOR in 2012 with the idea to combine style with comfort in quality shoes.

“We focused on updating and modernizing classic styles like oxfords, loafers and jodhpur boots,” Palomo-Nelson told San Francisco Magazine.

Palomo-Nelson grew up in El Salvador and comes from a family of shoemakers. The design process for FRĒDA SALVADOR starts in California, where the two founders now live. The designs are then brought to life by their family factories in El Salvador and Spain.

4. Luiny Rivera
Luiny Rivera was initially studying to become a teacher when she realized designing jewelry was her true passion. The Puerto Rican native, whose creative skills have been mostly self-taught, moved to New York City after discovering her knack for upcycling jewelry and design. “It wasn’t in my plan to become a jewelry designer. lt just happened and I realized that I was good at it,” Rivera told Journal NYC. “Now I am attached forever to something that I love to do. I keep a balance on what really inspires me and what’s on trend to maintain the uniqueness of my line.”

Rivera was designing jewelry for Urban Outfitters and Free People when she decided to launch her own brand — Luiny. The designer said she likes to be in full creative control of the whole process; from conception and design to photographing the products and acting as the art director. Rivera’s brand also uses recycled metals and creates her jewelry using sustainable methods.

5. Cristina Pineda
Christina Pineda is the co-founder of Pineda Covalin, a clothing and accessories brand dedicated to bringing Mexican and Latin American-inspired designs to life. The fashion house was created in 1996 by Pineda and Ricardo Covalin in Mexico City. Now, the brand has a presence in North America, Asia, and Europe. The intricate designs and colors are rooted in Pineda’s Mexican background and were initially sold in museums and later in hotels. Pineda Covalin now sells men’s and women’s clothing, bags, scarves, ties, and more. Many of the brand’s designs draw inspiration from indigienous people, including the Mayans and Zapotecs.

Pineda has an extensive background in design, with a bachelor’s degree in textile design, along with a master’s degree in art history. Her portfolio extends even further beyond her brand: Pineda was selected to create a character called Xico the Xoloitzcuintle, a hairless dog breed believed to date back to the ancient Aztecs,as a mascot for Mexico. Pineda also works with philanthropic groups including Discovering Latin America, which promotes the culture and arts of Latina people.

Click here to read the full article on Now This Is News.

How popular radio personality Geena the Latina realized her voice was powerful and necessary
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Greena the Latina or Geena Aguilar, known to radio listeners as Geena The Latina of the “The Geena the Latina and Frankie V Morning Show” on Channel 933, is the founder of the Girls Empowerment Conference. (Jarrod Valliere/The San Diego Union-Tribune)

LISA DEADERICK, The San Diego Tribune

It may come as a surprise that radio personality Geena the Latina — formally Geena Aguilar — never pictured herself on the air. If it wasn’t for a morning show audition 15 years ago that brought her to the city she considered a second home, San Diego might have missed out on one of the market’s more popular radio hosts.

While her path began as an intern at a Los Angeles radio station in college, she was working as a sales associate for a television station after college, when her two brothers were shot and killed within five months of each other.

“After that, I stopped working altogether for a year because I was so depressed. My old boss from the radio station called me after that year and told me to come back to the station. He said I could work as little or as much as I wanted. He just wanted to get me out of the house,” she says. “I am forever thankful to him for that.”

Aguilar threw herself into her work, befriending colleagues, working late hours and pitching in to help out and learn any aspect of the job that needed an extra pair of hands. Although she was initially resistant to the spotlight that came with the job, it’s helped her realize that her voice matters, and she’s used it to help others.

One of those ways is through her Girls Empowerment Conference with the Positive Movement Foundation. The foundation is a San Diego nonprofit that works with schools and other organizations to provide educational tools, empowerment events, and other resources to vulnerable children. They’re hosting their “Cocktails for a Cause” fundraiser 6 to 10 p.m. today at 1899 McKee St., San Diego. The Girls Empowerment Conference is one of the beneficiaries of the event.

Aguilar is an on-air personality at Channel 933, co-host of “The Geena the Latina and Frankie V Morning Show,” and lives in the East Village section of downtown San Diego. She took some time to talk about her radio career, the Girls Empowerment Conference, and finding her voice.

Q: Most of us who listen to the radio know you as Geena the Latina on Channel 93.3. What led you to choose a career in radio?

A: When I started out as an intern at 102.7 KIIS FM in Los Angeles during college, I was eventually hired in the promotions department, and continued working there throughout college. I never wanted to be on the air; I worked there because it was fun and all of my friends worked there. I always wanted to work in the entertainment industry, but I didn’t know exactly what I wanted to do. I thought of myself as more of a behind-the-scenes person.

[After the deaths of her brothers] I started working at the radio station again and completely threw myself into everything I could do there, probably just to keep myself busy. I’d stay at the station all day long, talking to people, helping whoever needed help, or sitting in on show meetings. I became the street reporter for the station and worked red carpet events, which eventually led to morning shows asking me to audition. I didn’t want to audition because I still didn’t think that being on the air could be a career, but one of those auditions was for a morning show in San Diego and I just loved San Diego. I grew up visiting the city, all of my friends had attended college here, and I’d already felt like San Diego was a second home. I got the job 15 years ago and I’ve been here ever since!

After being on Channel 933 for a year, I wanted to quit because I couldn’t handle all of the negative comments, messages, and emails. I hated the spotlight (and still don’t love it), but one morning, I shared the story about what happened to my brothers, and the response was overwhelmingly supportive. People were saying how much my story touched them, helped them, or how they related to me because of it. I finally realized that maybe I was supposed to be on the radio. If people listened to me when I had something serious to say, then I could put up with all of that other stuff. I realized that it was important to have a voice about things that mattered, and there was no bigger platform than on one of the biggest radio stations in San Diego, talking to a million people a week.

Q: Can you tell us about how you came to be known on air as “Geena the Latina,” and what it means to you to represent this part of your identity and culture?

A: When I first started, they were trying to think of a catchy name for me. At the time, there weren’t many Latinos on the radio, if any. They wanted a name that captured who I was, but also communicated that I was Latin. One day, one of the on-air DJs started calling me “Geena the Latina” and it stuck. I like the name, I think it defines who I am, and I am good with that. I am American first, of Latin descent, and my family is Mexican, but I was raised here in the U.S. We speak both English and Spanish, we grew up eating Mexican food and going to low-rider car shows, and my Spanish could be a lot better, but that’s also a product of us growing up with everything American. We grew up heavily immersed in the Mexican American culture, but also grew up very American. We’re an interesting mix of Latino that I feel represents a lot of people who were raised the same way, here in the U.S. We are proud of our Latin/Mexican roots and heritage, but are also proud to be American. I’m part of a generation that grew up with both cultures that shaped us to become who we are, and I’m proud of that.

What I love about downtown San Diego …
I love that it’s right in the middle of downtown San Diego and Little Italy. It’s a five-minute ride either way. Depending on what I feel like doing, everything is pretty accessible. I also love that I’m so close to North Park, as I frequent that neighborhood almost daily. I love having visitors and them being able to be so close to so much to do! Downtown, the harbor, Little Italy, Barrio Logan—I’m close to everything.

Q: Tell us about your Girls Empowerment Conference.

A: I’d been a keynote speaker at conferences for girls at both Mount Miguel High School and at the University of San Diego. After speaking at both conferences, I thought about combining them in order to maximize resources and to provide a massive conference for teen girls from all over San Diego. I spoke to the organizers of both conferences, and we started our Girls Empowerment Conference in 2017. The girls are provided with food throughout the day, along with empowering activities, speakers, performances, and interactive workshops.

During the smaller breakout sessions with a moderator, girls are able to comfortably talk about the issues affecting their lives, like body image, confidence, or life at home. Empowerment groups from different high schools perform spoken word and put together empowering videos that are played during the day. The girls from these high school empowerment groups are highly involved with everything from the topics of the conference to the themes, speakers, and more. We really try to hear them out and listen to what they say they want and need, as we plan the conference. It’s a fully interactive, immersive day, specifically geared to teen girls from ninth through 12th grades, and the costs of admission and transportation are covered at no cost to the girls.

Q: Why was this conference something you wanted to create?

A: We wanted to provide resources and outlets for teen girls who probably wouldn’t be able to have access to them otherwise. We wanted to uplift girls and give them examples of what they can become if they work hard and stay motivated. We wanted to provide a safe place for them to learn, grow, and have fun, and we ultimately wanted to inspire these girls to be the best that they can be. We wanted to allow them to see examples of others who were in their position once, and to see how far those women have come.

Q: What does the idea of “empowerment” mean to you, personally?

A: Empowerment is a state of being. It’s a state of feeling completely comfortable with who you are and what you believe in; of feeling confident that you can do whatever it is you want to do; of being confident in who you are and what you bring to the table; of knowing that your contribution to this world is important; and it’s a state of knowing that anything is achievable when you put your mind to it and dedicate yourself to making it happen. Empowerment gives you the feeling that nothing is unattainable.

Q: What is the best advice you’ve ever received?

A: Don’t take things personally. So many times, we won’t pursue our goals or dreams because someone told us we couldn’t, or because we got turned down or rejected. I think never taking things personally — whether it be a rejection or something said about us — allows us to not be hindered by things we can’t control. All you can do is be you, be a good person, work hard, and everything will happen as it’s supposed to happen.

Click here to read the full article on the San Diego Tribune.

Rita Moreno: Seizing Every Opportunity
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By Sarah Mosqueda

Rita Moreno is not a quitter.

“I think what is important to me is never giving up,” the 90-year-old Puerto Rican actress, dancer, singer and activist said in a recent phone interview, “Things do change and times do change, and the people who weren’t listening to me and what I stand for let’s say, 20 years ago, are listening more.”

Moreno’s determination plays a large role in her successful and expansive career. During Hispanic Network Magazine’s 30 years, Moreno has graced our cover more than once. She is a legend, with accolades that include EGOT status, with Emmy, Grammy, Oscar and Tony awards to her name.

While she is proud of her recognition, she stills sees room for improvement in terms of substantial Latinx representation within the entertainment industry. It is a challenge that has been present throughout her entire career.

“I see strides, and I don’t see enough,” Moreno said. “I think we are definitely underrepresented.”

As a young actress at MGM Studios in the 1950s, she was stuck playing ethnically ambiguous female roles she refers to as “dusky maidens.”

West Side Story in 1961 was a turning point for Moreno, who became the first Latina to win an Academy Award for acting for her role as Anita.

Rita Moreno, Puerto Rican actress, singer and dancer, wearing a short-sleeved lilac dress, dancing in a publicity image issued for West Side Story
Rita Moreno, Puerto Rican actress, singer and dancer, wearing a short-sleeved lilac dress, dancing in a publicity image issued for the film adaptation of ‘West Side Story’, USA, 1961. (Photo by Silver Screen Collection/Getty Images)

Moreno has been vocal through the years of how badly she wanted the role and the chance to play a Hispanic character with substance. She has also spoken candidly about the little difference the Oscar made in the roles she was offered after the win.

“It’s like, ‘How does it feel to have all those awards that no other Latino has?’” Moreno said, “Well, it feels wonderful, but it doesn’t get me the work. It has never gotten me the work.”

After her Oscar win, Moreno did Broadway and television but didn’t make another motion picture for seven years.

For most of the 1970s, Moreno was a main cast member on the PBS educational children’s program, The Electric Company, and won a Grammy for the show’s children’s album.

She won the Tony Award for Best Featured Actress in a Play for The Ritz in 1975. Moreno won her first Emmy Award in 1977 for her appearance on The Muppet Show, and received a second Emmy the following year for The Rockford Files.

In her 2021 documentary, Rita Moreno: Just a Girl Who Decided to Go for It, Moreno shares that as a young actress starting out, she looked up to Elizabeth Taylor simply because there were no role models for a young Puerto Rican girl. There was no one on screen who looked like her.

Ironically, Moreno’s time on the stage and screens both big and small, mean many of today’s Latinx stars grew up looking up to her.

In Just a Girl Who Decided to Go for It, Eva Longoria reflects on watching Moreno in The Electric Company and recognizing her as someone that looked like her. In Jennifer Lopez’s own documentary, Half-Time, she specifically names Moreno as her inspiration for aspiring to dance, act and sing.

Another Latinx entertainer who grew up watching Moreno is Ariana DeBose.

DeBose took on Moreno’s most famous role in Steven Spielberg’s 2021 adaptation of West Side Story, which Moreno also starred in and served as an executive producer for. In 2022, DeBose received the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for playing Anita. She is the first Afro-Latina, the first openly queer actor of color and the first openly queer woman to win the award. It’s a recognition that may not have been possible without Moreno’s own groundbreaking win.

 Rita Moreno and Lin-Manuel Miranda speak at a Unity for Puerto Rico rally at the Lincoln Memorial
Rita Moreno (C) and Lin-Manuel Miranda (R) speak at a Unity for Puerto Rico rally at the Lincoln Memorial on November 19, 2017 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Paul Morigi/Getty Images)

“First of all, I am so happy for her, and I am happy for the Hispanic community,” Moreno said of DeBose, “She is Afro-Latina and that opens another door, which is fantastic. She is obviously very aware of the exclusion that we suffer from.”

Moreno places a lot of hope on the younger generation to lend their voice to changing things for the Latinx community.

“I am very hopeful that she will bring the attention of the younger people whose ear and interest we definitely don’t have,” said Moreno.

Moreno knows how to speak up too.

She has talked openly about her experiences with sexual assault, abortion and suicide and has long been an advocated for women’s rights. Her early social activism began at the March on Washington, where she was present during Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. famous “I Have a Dream” speech and stretches today, when she again recounted her own abortion story in the wake of the Supreme Court overturning Roe v. Wade. In 2004, she received the Presidential Medal of Freedom, and in 2009, President Barack Obama awarded her the National Medal of Arts.

“It is a question of never, ever giving up on what you have to say that is important to helping our community,” said Moreno.

Speaking up takes courage, but Moreno admits she has never had trouble being loud.

“I am a raucous person, and that is the Latina part of me. I am noisy, I laugh too loud,” Moreno said, “But that is who I am. I love that part of me.”

Rita Moreno in evening gown tearfully accepts her Oscar from male presenter
Rita Moreno tearfully accepts her Oscar for best supporting actress for her role in the 1961 film West Side Story at the 34th Academy Awards, held on April 9, 1962.

From 2017 to 2020, Moreno took on the role of Lydia, in One Day at a Time, the sitcom inspired by Norman Lear’s 1975 series of the same name. The reboot focused on Penelope, a newly single Army veteran, and her Cuban-American family. As Lydia, Moreno embraced the best parts of Latin culture, without slipping into stereotypes, and demonstrated what is possible when we are able to lovingly tell our own stories.

“I have a deep love for my people,” Moreno said, “I love who we are, and I love what we represent, because we represent deep values. I love our food; I love our music; I am never unaware of the Latin-ness of all of that.”

There is plenty of new Moreno content coming out later this year too.

This summer she will be filming a Christmas movie for Lifetime in Nashville, and she is also joining Sally Field, Jane Fonda, Lily Tomlin and Tom Brady for football-themed road-trip movie, 80 for Brady.

Moreno also has a role in Vin Diesel’s upcoming Fast and Furious movie, Fast X, as Grandma Toretto, Dom Toretto’s abuela.

“I had an absolutely fabulous time,” Moreno said of the filming, which took place in London. “We were freezing; we’re talking 50 degrees. But I loved it, I had a great time.”

Moreno said she had such a good time she might even make an appearance in the next film.

“I may do one more, so that would be insane,” Moreno said, “I mean, I am 90 years old and look at me!”

As always, she just won’t quit.

Former WNBA star Niesha Butler opens first Afro-Latina-owned STEM camp in New York City
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Former WNBA star Niesha Butler opens first Afro-Latina-owned STEM camp in New York City

By ABC News Radio

Former WNBA player Niesha Butler has opened the first Afro-Latina-owned STEM camp, S.T.E.A.M. Champs, in New York City to reduce accessibility barriers to tech educational resources for Brooklyn youth.

“If a kid could actually say that they can be LeBron James, and roll it off their tongue as easy as that, then they can literally say ‘yeah, I can also put a man on the moon,’ or ‘I can also create the next app,'” Butler told ABC News.

Butler, a New York City native, says “there’s talent in Brooklyn.” She established S.T.E.A.M. (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics) Champs in the middle of Brooklyn to encourage inner-city youth to channel their ambition into educational opportunities. Butler also hires interns, may of whom have tried coding for the first time with the program, she says.

“People sell basketball dreams every other second in our community. I thought it was really important to, let’s sell these tech dreams,” Butler said.

Prior to opening her doors in Brooklyn, Butler partnered with organizations like Girl Scouts, BronxWorks and a local AAU basketball team to host STEM-focused workshops reaching over 300 New York City students. Monday was the first day of camp in the newly opened facility.

“There’s not a lot of people of color in tech,” Butler said. “These jobs are open for everybody and they’re empty…so obviously we need to do a better job at educating our kids and in recruiting them.”

Other tech education camps and workshops across the nation have worked to close the gap and make tech careers interesting and accessible to students of underserved communities.

Black Girls CODE is one of those resources providing workshops and public speaking opportunities for Black girls. Program alumni Kimora Oliver and Azure Butler say that the program’s first chapter in California’s Bay Area created an environment that allowed local Black female students to envision themselves in the tech industry.

“Unfortunately, STEM is a white and male dominated field,” Oliver told ABC News. “I feel like [Black Girls CODE] is giving a diverse group of Black girls the exposure that they need to decide for themselves whether they want to continue with STEM in the future.”

For almost 40 years, another program called Academically Interest Minds (AIM) at Kettering University has tailored its pre-college curriculum to expose youth of color to STEM coursework and campus life.

“49% of African American students who attend Kettering University now, are AIM graduates,” Ricky D. Brown, the university’s director of multicultural student initiatives and the AIM program, told ABC News.

For many, STEM educational resources introduce an element of choice in considering STEM and exploring pathways of academic interests.

A study released in July by the National Bureau of Economic Research says that early intervention programs like S.T.E.A.M Champs, AIM and Black Girls CODE are effective in helping students achieve academic success in higher education and STEM majors.

“Some of these kids don’t have a computer at home to study,” Butler said. “When I go to some of these centers, they don’t have good Wi-Fi…they have outdated computers.”

According to the study, underrepresentation in STEM is due to a lack of preparation and access to educational resources.

“Given that STEM preparation and college access are shaped prior to college entrance, STEM focused enrichment programs for high school students are promising vehicles to reduce disparities in STEM degree attainment,” the study’s authors wrote.

Click here to read the full article on ABC News Radio.

Meet Afro-Latina Scientist Dr. Jessica Esquivel
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Dr. Jessica Esquivel

By Erica Nahmad, Be Latina

It’s undeniable that representation matters and the idea of what a scientist could or should look like is changing, largely thanks to pioneers like Afro-Latina scientist Dr. Jessica Esquivel, who is breaking barriers for women in STEM one step at a time.

Dr. Esquivel isn’t just extraordinary because of what she is capable of as an Afro-Latina astrophysicist — she’s also extraordinary in her vulnerability and relatability. She’s on a mission to break barriers in science and to show the humanity behind scientists.

Dr. Esquivel makes science accessible to everyone, no matter what you look like or where you come from. As one of the only Afro-Latina scientists in her field, and one of the only women who looked like her to pursue a Ph.D. in physics, Dr. Esquivel knows a thing or two about the importance of representation, especially in STEM fields and science labs.

Women make up only 28% of the science, technology, engineering, and math workforce in the U.S. Those disparities are even more severe when you start to look at minority populations.

“When you start looking at the intersections of race and gender and then even sexuality, those numbers drop significantly,” Esquivel told CBS Chicago. “There are only about 100 to 150 black women with their Ph.D. in physics in the country!”

Fighting against the isolation of uniqueness
Dr. Jessica Esquivel recalls being a nontraditional student and being “the only” when she entered graduate school for physics — the only woman in her class, the only Black, the only Mexican, the only lesbian — and all of that made her feel very isolated.

“On top of such rigorous material, the isolation and otherness that happens due to being the only or one of few is an added burden marginalized people, especially those with multiple marginalized identities, have to deal with,” Dr. Esquivel told BeLatina in an email interview. On top of feeling like an outsider, isolation was also consuming. “Being away from family at a predominately white institution, where the number of microaggressions was constant, really affected my mental health and, in turn, my coursework and research, so it was important to surround myself with mentors who supported me and believed in my ability to be a scientist.”

While she anticipated that the physics curriculum would be incredibly challenging, she was definitely not prepared for how hard the rest of the experience would be and how it would impact her as a student and a scientist.

The challenges she faced professionally and personally made her realize early on just how crucial representation is in academia and all fields, but especially in STEM. “It was really impactful for me to learn that there were other Black women who had made it out of the grad school metaphorical trenches. It’s absolutely important to create inclusive spaces where marginalized people, including Black, Latina, and genderqueer people, can thrive,” she said.

“The secrets of our universe don’t discriminate, these secrets can and should be unraveled by all those who wish to embark on that journey, and my aim is to clear as many barriers and leave these physics spaces better than I entered them.”

When inclusion and equal opportunities are the ultimate goal
Dr. Jessica Esquivel isn’t just dedicating her time and energy to studying complex scientific concepts — think quantum entanglement, space-time fabric, the building blocks of the universe… some seriously abstract physics concepts straight out of a sci-fi movie, as she explains. On top of her research, she put in so much extra work to show people, especially younger generations of women of color, that the physics and STEM world is not some old white man’s club where this prestigious knowledge is only available to them. Dr. Esquivel is an expert in her field; she knows things that no one else currently knows and has the ability and the power to transfer that knowledge to others and pass it down to others. There is a place for everyone, including people who look like her, in the STEM world, and she’s on a mission to inspire others while working to increase diversity, equity, and inclusion in the STEM space.

“Many of us who are underrepresented in STEM have taken on the responsibility of spearheading institutional change toward more just, equitable, and inclusive working environments as a form of survival,” she explains. “I’m putting in more work on top of the research I do because I recognize that I do better research if I feel supported and if I feel like I can bring my whole self to my job. My hope is that one day Black and brown women and gender-queer folks interested in science can pursue just that and not have to fight for their right to be a scientist or defend that they are worthy of doing science.”

Click here to read the full article on Be Latina.

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Upcoming Events

  1. The Small Business Expo–Multiple Event Dates
    February 17, 2022 - December 1, 2022
  2. National College Resources Foundation Upcoming Events–Mark Your Calendar!
    September 24, 2022 - April 1, 2023
  3. UnidosUS – LatinX Health Equity Summit 2022
    December 6, 2022 - December 8, 2022
  4. Latinx Health Equity Summit 2022
    December 6, 2022 - December 8, 2022
  5. HACE Recruitment Series: Latinas in the Workplace
    December 8, 2022
  6. Elder Customers –Treating Customers with Empathy–Virtual Event
    December 14, 2022
  7. 2023 Prospanica Leadership Summit
    March 9, 2023 - March 11, 2023
  8. CSUN 38th Annual Assistive Technology Conference
    March 13, 2023 - March 17, 2023
  9. CSUN Assistive Technology Conference
    March 13, 2023 - March 17, 2023
  10. USHCC Legislative Summit 2023
    March 20, 2023 - March 22, 2023