LISC CEO Maurice A. Jones marks the close of Hispanic Heritage Month reflecting on the extraordinary talent and assets Latino Americans inject into our communities, and how our partnerships work to harness those assets for the benefit of all.
I recently heard an interview with a man named Agustín Treviño, a native of Matamoros, Mexico, who moved 40 years ago to Houston’s Near Northside, a majority Latino community where LISC has been investing for nearly a decade. In the interview, Agustín describes the shock of his first real winter, how he worked construction until he could become a U.S. citizen, and how he built a career in service to the city of Houston with the Department of Education. Through it all, he has been an organizer, rallying his neighbors to join in making a safer, more connected and more prosperous Northside.
“We’ve seen a lot changes, both good and bad,” says Agustín about his neighborhood, which has endured decades of disinvestment, poverty and crime. “But that has inspired us to drive change for the better. We didn’t come to this country to cause problems. We want to be a part of the solution.”
Agustín’s story is part of a growing collection of interviews, “Stories of the Northside,” recorded by one of our longtime Houston partners, Avenue CDC, to preserve and share the experiences of longstanding residents with younger generations. That oral history project is as much a part of enhancing life on the Northside as supporting small business there, helping people skill up for good jobs in the city’s growth sectors, and creating affordable housing.
In San Antonio, we’re providing funding, technical assistance and a helping hand to a coalition of community-based arts organizations on the city’s West Side, a historic Latino area, as they frame a plan for economic and cultural development in their neighborhood. Groups like the Guadalupe Cultural Arts Center, Conjunto Heritage Taller and Esperanza Peace and Justice Center are incorporating residents and their heritage into a strong foundation for inclusive and equitable growth, and we’re committed to supporting their efforts.
In Arizona, another Hispanic-led LISC partner, Phoenix Revitalization Corporation (PRC), is kick-starting small businesses in South Phoenix, an area where 63 percent of residents are Latino. PRC’s new business resource center offers technical assistance and business-to-business services for local entrepreneurs, paying special attention to the role that small, Latino-owned ventures play in invigorating the local economy, maintaining wealth in the community and providing a bulwark against displacement as the neighborhood develops along the new light rail.
And the list goes on. All these projects illuminate contributions that Hispanic Americans make to the civic and economic life of our country every day. By forging opportunities side by side with our partners, we leverage those assets, and that legacy, for ourselves and for future generations—and we honor the ancestors who came before us.
Agustín put it like this: “My hope for the community is that it becomes beautiful. So when my grandchildren come they can say ‘My grandfather lived on that street,’ and they will see that we were improving the neighborhood and that we helped others.”
At LISC, we share the same hope. We want the American experience to be beautiful for every community across our beloved land. Together with our partners, we are working to deliver better and better solutions for all.
Happy Hispanic Heritage Month!
Maurice A. Jones, President & CEO, LISC
Prior to joining LISC, Maurice was the Secretary of Commerce for the Commonwealth of Virginia, where he managed 13 state agencies focused on the economic needs in his native state. Before that, he was second in command at the U.S. Dept. of HUD, serving as deputy secretary in charge of operations. He has also been Commissioner of Virginia’s Dept. of Social Services and Deputy Chief of Staff to then-Gov. Mark Warner. At the U.S. Treasury Dept. during the Clinton Administration, he managed the CDFI fund. His private sector experience includes top positions at the Virginian-Pilot in Norfolk, a Richmond law firm and a private philanthropy investing in community-based efforts to benefit children in Washington, D.C.