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Welcome Message for the Hispanic Heritage 2022 Event by Liza Dobson

Updated: Apr 7

Floyd CARE is a group of community members with the mission to inspire Community Action for Racial Equity, or CARE, in Floyd County, Virginia. One way we do this is through celebration and education during two events each year: Juneteenth and National Hispanic Heritage Month. We celebrate our local communities while creating a platform to educate the public about the past and present context in which we all live. We believe in celebrating the diversity of our community while honoring the full history of how we all arrived here. Music, food, story-telling, historical context, resource sharing, community engagement, and celebration are all integral as we learn more about each other and work toward the goal of achieving racial equity in Floyd.

One thing we would like to highlight today as we open our celebration is the power of language. As we all know, language can be used as a tool for bringing community together or it can be used as a weapon for division. Words can make you feel seen, understood, or appreciated, or they can make you feel unworthy, unwelcome, or even hated. For many of our undocumented community members, language such as “illegal” or “alien” have been used to dehumanize and to criminalize them, specifically those with brown skin who arrive from south of the US border. Racist words like these can erase the history of an immigrant, making it much easier for politically motivated groups to garner public support for increased deportations and more strict immigration policies.

Floyd CARE stands against racism of all forms, including the subtle forms hidden in language. We believe that no human is “illegal” and we encourage you instead to consider using the term “undocumented”. Also, as Dr. Kris Lubbs will touch on in her speech, we must share that not all non-citizen immigrants are undocumented in the US. Many are working through legal processes to be granted asylum and documentation in this country. So even using a blanket non-racist term isn’t always accurate when discussing someone’s legal status in the country.

Another important part of language we would like to highlight is the way hispanic or latino/latina/latinx people and culture is often condensed into one experience from one country (often Mexico). However, hispanic heritage includes heritage of numerous countries including Mexico, Spain, those in central and South Americas, and the Caribbean. National Hispanic Heritage Month runs from September 15 through October 15, starting the day over 200 years ago that the Central American countries of Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua declared independence from Spain, and the day before the anniversary of the start of the Mexican war for independence from Spain in 1810 with the Cry of Dolores.

It is also important to note that a common link among Hispanic countries is Spanish language and culture from Spanish colonization in the Americas and the Caribbean. So, while we celebrate these nations linked through a shared history, we also celebrate the abundance of indigenous language and culture that has persisted. Today, we celebrate and honor a diversity of people, culture, languages, and stories. We wish we could fit every flag and every native word for celebration on our banner today.

I would like to close with the following quote by Ethan Kutlu to emphasize our message: "It is vital to remain alert to inbuilt prejudice in the language used to describe minorities. Labeling humans as "illegals" is most definitely an example of such bias.” Thank you for being here today, we hope you find this celebration fun, educational, and inspiring. From all the organizers of Floyd CARE, we appreciate you.

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