Las Vegas Sun

September 30, 2014

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FRIDAY NIGHT AT UNLV:

Town hall meeting for valley’s Hispanics will contribute to national agenda

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Glenn Llopis of the 2012 Hispanic Voice organization

Chances are pretty good you’ve never heard of Glenn Llopis. Brimming with enthusiasm, he’s coming to Las Vegas to rally the valley’s Hispanic residents. Not for President Barack Obama, and not for any of the Republican presidential candidates. Not on behalf of any politicians, actually.

Llopis wants to stir Hispanics to rally for themselves. His background: He’s the son of a Cuban immigrant, an author, and a management consultant who specializes in leadership and branding for the Hispanic marketplace.

These days, Llopis is setting up town hall meetings across the country to help Hispanics take stock of who they are, what challenges they face, what they want to achieve and how to pull it off.

He hopes the brainstorming that will occur during these gatherings will contribute to an action plan for Hispanics nationally, even if its focus is not yet clear. It may play out in the consumer marketplace, leadership training, academics, public policy decisions, philanthropy and who-knows-what.

He said he’s not sure what that final agenda will be; he just wants to start the conversation.

To that end, Llopis held his first gathering in January in Santa Ana, Calif. It drew more than 100 people, including Hispanic students who complained that Orange County’s established Hispanic leadership seemed to have lost its vigor and it was time for younger people to step up. A graduate student said she and others would benefit by mentors from the community, but none could be found. When Llopis asked the group whether any business leaders had offered scholarships to Hispanic students, there was silence.

The next town hall meeting will be held at UNLV Friday, March 2. The event, free and open to the public, begins with check-in at 6 p.m. in room A-106 of the Carol C. Harter classroom building complex, situated between the student services complex and Lied Library near the center of campus. The program will run from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Along with Llopis’ organization, 2012 Hispanic Voice, the evening is co-sponsored by UNLV, the Las Vegas Sun and the weekly Spanish language newspaper El Mundo.

From here, Llopis takes his road show to the University of Colorado on March 27.

He says his motive is to help elevate a people who have been unfairly homogenized but who have aspirations to achieve more and contribute more to the larger community. By identifying their goals and tapping their talent and vision, one community at a time, he said he hopes Hispanics across the country will adopt a new, proud swagger.

“We know that Hispanics are valuable to this country, but we’re not responsible,” Llopis said. “We need to shift our conversation from knowing we are valuable to saying we need to step up our game and contribute in better and different ways to make America better.”

Jose Melendrez, assistant vice president of UNLV’s office of diversity initiatives, said the university was proud to participate “in conversations that will empower our community. This group is traveling around the country to create a national agenda, and we want to partner with them to make sure Nevadans are at the table and our voices are being heard.”

Among the Las Vegans helping to organize the event is Leo Murrieta, statewide coordinator for Mi Familia Vota, a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization intent on increasing political activism in the Hispanic community through voter registration campaigns and other efforts.

“It’s important that the Latino community come together and express issues that really matter,” he said. “For us to gather in a forum like this, and hold an open and honest discussion without a preset agenda — and without having a political party or a candidate present — is a rare opportunity. We can talk among ourselves about the issues that we need to address and about how we can move forward by becoming civic-minded and engaged.”

Why does it take someone from outside the Las Vegas community to stir local Hispanics?

“We’ve done it in the past, but sometimes it takes someone from outside to be a catalyst in driving the conversation in a direction that hasn’t been taken before,” Murrieta said. “It helps for someone with no local ties to come in and say, ‘Let’s talk.’ He can help us get on the same page, which is the first step — to find out what issues facing Hispanic families and individuals need to be addressed.

“And then we can work together to deal with the issues — whether it is to help the business community, or better communicate among ourselves, or to provide education or immigration assistance. This can be the start of that process.”

Llopis is confident there will be a good turnout next Friday.

“Every Hispanic knows the time has come to enable ourselves in ways that give us greater influence with government and business,” he said. “The town hall will get us all thinking about the value of our cultural roots to influence policymaking during a time when America is reinventing itself and requires our ‘immigrant perspective’ more than ever before.”

What will come of the evening? Bottom line, Llopis said: “We must begin to lift and support one another, to promote greater trust and support both within and outside of our Hispanic communities.”

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