COVID-19 Health Relief in the Latinx Community
On Sept. 23, the Center for Student Diversity hosted a panel discussion covering the COVID-19 pandemic and its effects on the Latinx community and immigration policies.
The panel began with an introduction of the three panelist in which they touched on few topics revolving around COVID-19 and its impact on the Latinx panel community. The first panelist who joined the discussion via Zoom was Dr. Gabriela Lemus, the Executive Director of Maryland Latinos Unidos and CEO of Revolution Strategy.
Before the Revolution Strategy, she served her time as the President of the Progressive Congress. Lemus also served her time as an adviser to the Congressional Progressive Congress Caucasus for Rep. Raul Grijalva and Keith Ellison. As an appointee for the Obama Administration, Lemus was the Senior Advisor and Director of Public.
The second panelist leading the discussion was Enrique Chaurand a public relations and marketing professional. With over two decades of experience in the government, business and nonprofit sectors, Chaurand has had the pleasure to work alongside former Presidents Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, working in the Presidential Administration as a speechwriter and Deputy Press Secretary at the U.S. Department of Labor. Charaund has also served his time as the Director of Western Missouri operations for the former Governor of Missouri Bob Holden. His professional career also includes services with UnidosUS and the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute, where he led their communications and marketing efforts.
The third Panelist was Antonio Chaurand (C’22), a Communication major at Mount St. Mary’s University. In 2019, Chaurand interned for the National Education Association for six months. While interning for the National Education Association, he worked in the Center for Advocacy Campaigns in the Election Department. By 2021, Chaurand worked alongside Lemus as an intern for MALVEC.
The first topic of the night began with the COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on the Latinx community and immigration. Lemus started the discussion by answering questions from the panelist discussion moderator Jamilia Garcia Student Organization of Latinos Vice President (C’22). The first question Garcia asked touched on Lemus Coalition Mid Atlantic Latinx community. The question asked by Garcia stated what the MALVEC coalition does and the mission for this coalition.
When the team came together, Lemus and other individuals in the alliance showed concern about a specific topic and hoped to do something about it. This is where Lemus' organization came about and how Maryland Latinos Unidos was formed. Lemus and colleagues from John Hopkins University and George Washington University Milken Institute, brought together several community-based organizations. As Lemus stated, these organizations are located within the state “that they provide direct services to Latinos and the immigrant communities.”
Their MALVEC organization has been thriving since the start and it has put a real infrastructure in place to help out the Latinx community. It has trained people to become community health workers and are open to helping anyone in need.
The organization is currently in a growth phase where they will be putting on an event on Oct, 30, called the International Vaccine Day. Lemus claims, “Our goal is to vaccinate as many folks as possible.” Lemus and other colleagues within this organization hope to reach out to the more difficult communities, specifically immigrant communities in general, who are limited to infrastructure and may not have heard about this information.
Enrique Chaurand adds a few of his concerns regarding the uninsured misinformation with the Latinx community. Regarding the COVID-19 Pandemic, Chaurand believes that a portion of the problem is that much of this information is politicized. The main reason that this is the case is because of the Obama Administration, and within the last four years of the previous president’s administration, we’re doing politicized work. As a result, this has caused many people to rely on social media for this kind of information.
Chaurand explains, “They go on to social media websites, and they’re in what we call an echo chamber, so they hear what they want to hear.” Other outlets that contribute to this are Spanish language radio and more conservative parts of the state such as Miami, Fla., and particular aspects of Texas. These parts specifically Chaurand, state that they have “many political commentaries in Spanish… they perpetuate, telling their audience that Covid will have these side effects” taking the COVID-19 vaccine.
Following questions to these topics transitioned over to Antonio Chaurand. Chaurand was asked what were some of the things during his experience working with Lemus in MALVEC and how hard the Latinx community has been hit in Maryland. He emphasizes a few points on how information about COVID-19 relief. Many of these relief outlets include a social media for MALVEC that Chaurand created to spread the Latinx community.
Chaurand states the importance of applying this information. “That it is logical, that it is correct where the information is coming from.” It is essential that the Latinx community trusts these outlets and for the company “to trust them and with us being able to be who we are where we come from… to put ourselves in their shoes and we’re able to connect with them in that way.”