A group of UW Tacoma staff, students, faculty and alumni along with community created the first ever Celebrando Comunidad.
“It’s like a love letter to our Latino communities,” said Senior Director of Student Transitions and Success Amanda Figueroa. The “letter” Figueroa refers to is an event she helped create and organize called Celebrando Comunidad: Latinx Awards & Celebration.
The inaugural Celebrando Comunidad will be held virtually at six p.m. on Friday, Oct. 8. The hour-long ceremony will honor contributions by members of South Sound Latinx communities. UW Tacoma Chancellor Sheila Edwards Lange will provide opening remarks.
Pre-pandemic, Figueroa’s office hosted quarterly potlucks for Latinx members of the UW Tacoma community. This spirit of community and togetherness resonated with Figueroa. She wanted to create a signature event for Latinx students, faculty and staff on campus. Figueroa knew key partners would be needed for a community-based event, so she reached out and partners helped put together an application for financial support through the UW Tacoma Strategic Initiative Fund.
The request was approved. Figueroa reached out to stakeholders including students, faculty, staff, alumni and the greater community for help building the program. “We really spent a long time talking about what makes sense for our communities,” she said. “What are we missing? What do we want?”
The group decided to recognize members of local Latinx communities. The committee opened up nominations in eight categories, including South Sound Latinx-Owned Business Award; Latinx Emerging Leader Award, itself divided into three categories — Early Career, Post-Secondary Education and Youth; Social Justice/Advocacy Award; Latinx Art and Culture Award; Latinx Health Care Award and Latinx Education Award. “We received 24 nominations in two weeks,” said Figueroa. “The response indicated to us that we were meeting a need.”
An event like this, one where awards are given out, typically includes a keynote speaker. “There’s a lot of wisdom and beauty and power in what Latinos are doing in the South Sound that nobody talks about,” said Figueroa. In this case, though, recipients will be given the chance to tell own their stories and will receive some help in the process. “All of our honorees have the opportunity to get professional story-coaching,” said Figueroa. “Most of them took us up on the offer.”
The Center for Equity and Inclusion and the Office of Community Partnerships are collaborating on the event, and faculty with the Latino Studies Minor have also been engaged in the process. The celebration is live-streamed and registration is free. The information and registration pages for the event are offered in both English and Spanish. Live, simultaneous translation will be available. This marks the first Celebrando Comunidad but the planning committee is taking steps to ensure the event continues next year. “We want this to be the start of a tradition, one that becomes part of the rhythm of life for the institution and the community,” said Figueroa.
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