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Keeping el Sueño de MLK Alive

Something beautiful about working in philanthropy is that we have the opportunity to connect our work with larger movements that are at the core of our values and our deepest passions.  A few days ago I had the opportunity to connect my personal passion for Latino student success with the work I do at FSG and link that with the broader context of the civil rights movement. I want to share my story with you to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington. 

Two weeks ago I was in Washington DC to attend the annual grantee convening of the Lumina Latino Student Success effort, an initiative funded by Lumina Foundation to increase the proportion of Latinos with high-quality degrees and credentials in thirteen communities across the country. I was there as part of the FSG team that is conducting the national evaluation of the effort. 

When our first day of work ended I went for a run around the National Mall. As I was running towards the Lincoln Memorial I started thinking about the March on Washington and the beginning of the Civil Rights Movement almost 50 years ago. I started thinking about the 250,000 plus people that came to Washington DC to peacefully demand "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness".

I went up the stairs of the Lincoln Memorial and stood in the place where Dr. King delivered his “I Have a Dream” speech. In that moment, looking at the Washington Monument, I saw the connection.  I looked towards the hotel where we were gathering and thought about how, only two miles away from this historical place, a group of mothers, nonprofit leaders, professors, public servants, school administrators, researchers, business professionals and foundation staff had come together with one big goal – to provide Latinos in their communities with the tools necessary to have “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness”.

I pictured some of the people participating in the Latino Student Success effort at the National Mall 50 years ago and I felt inspired and humbled.  I saw Rosa, a mother that is helping other mothers understand the value of a college education; and I saw Arnoldo, a brilliant student and journalist that struggles to pay tuition because of his legal status. I thought about the leaders of Savannah State University, a historically black college, opening its doors to Latino High School graduates from the CAMINO college prep program in Savannah, GA. I thought about Latino students in North Carolina, daughters and sons of farm workers, fighting for their parents’ rights. And, I also pictured my beautiful cousin Keabeth, who is now in high school getting excellent grades, and is soon to be a first-generation college student.

At the end of the convening, I decided to share my experience with the participants at the Lumina Latino Student Success convening. I told them that what we do is important, that our work is an extension of what started during the civil rights movement. I told them that maybe there weren’t 250,000 of us that day, in what I now call “La Marcha en Washington,” but we collectively serve more than 250,000 Latino students. I wanted them to understand that the opportunity to take part in the convening came with a responsibility – work harder than ever, remember why we do the work we do, and feel inspired by the resilience of the people we serve.

I left the group with a quote from the “I Have a Dream” speech, which still applies to the fight to increase Latino student success today. I read the quote en español, and I want to leave you with these words of inspiration as well. As you read the quote, I invite you to reflect on the 50th anniversary of the beginning of the civil rights movement and think about how the work you do links with this movement - What are you doing to keep Dr. King’s dream alive?

Hoy es el momento de sacar a nuestro país de las arenas movedizas de la injusticia racial y llevarlo hacia la roca solida de la hermandad. Hoy es el momento de abrir las puertas de la justicia a todos las hijas e hijos de Dios. – MLK

Now is the time to lift our nation from the quick sands of racial injustice to the solid rock of brotherhood. Now is the time to make justice a reality for all of God's children.” - MLK

Efraín Gutiérrez

Former Associate Director of Equity Partnerships, FSG