Coming together to address racial inequities and care for one another

In honor of Latinx Heritage Month, recognized as Sept. 15 – Oct. 15., the King County Latinx Affinity Group has hosted several events to celebrate the Latinx community. In addition to these events, the Group has also developed opportunities to honor and highlight the great work being done on behalf of other minority communities.  

In July, the group held a Lunch and Learn to discuss working alongside the Black Lives Matter movement, and how to support the efforts being made to raise awareness and create change in response to the injustices experienced by the Black community. 

To learn more about these events and the Latinx Affinity Group overall, we connected with several members to hear about their experience as members and event organizers. 

Shannon Perez-Darby, a Program Manager in the Department of Community and Human Services (DCHS), is an active member in the Latinx group. She has been with the County since 2018 and works in the Adult Services Division as part of the Resilient Communities Program, overseeing how the Veterans, Seniors, and Human Services Levy can help fund strategies that support marginalized communities to thrive.

Shannon explains how the event came together, and what it meant for participants to address serious questions and misconceptions within the Latinx community.

“In the midst of uprisings after the murder or George Floyd, the Latinx Affinity group felt it ever more urgent to put the Movement for Black Lives at the forefront of our work,” she said. “We spent over a month having deeper discussions as an affinity group and with Affinity Group leadership.”

Reginald B. Cole is a Program Manager in the Stopping the School-to-Prison Pipeline (SSPP) area within Best Starts for Kids, also within DCHS. He has been with the County since 2017 and supports the grant process work being done through the SSPP to ensure grant recipients are successful.

Reginald explains that showing solidarity with other identities was important to highlight, citing how woven together the struggle of different groups can be.

“This idea sprung up as the Black Lives Matter Movement rally cries rose in response to violence across the country, he said. “In solidarity we wanted to talk more about anti-blackness within the Latin community and hear from multiple perspectives.”

Serving as a panelist for the discussion, Reginald shared his own experiences and how the Affinity Group has helped to further develop connections and opportunities.

“As panelists we represented different walks of life in the community, mine being black and Panamanian,” he said. “This allowed us to cover a lot of many of the differences and most importantly where they interconnected. The group is always providing many ways to engage.”

Overall, the event was a success. The speaking panel provided Latinx Affinity Group members the opportunity for a deep discussion into these topics and how each of them can support other Affinity Group communities. From these discussions, Shannon shares how group members felt the desire to start within their own community in addressing the role that anti-blackness and discrimination plays within various Latinx communities.

“Through our discussion we are exploring how colorism works within our communities and have planned future lunch and learns through the rest of the year exploring topics such as support for Afro-Latinx communities and the intersections of indigenous identities and Latinx communities,” she said.

Reginald cites the honesty and openness encouraged by the Latinx group to address a difficult topic as the reason for its success. He shares how providing a safe space, where participants can stretch and grow as a way to have meaningful impact on personal opinions and incite people to take positive action.

“The event went really well and based on the feedback, folks really enjoyed it. What seemed to make it most successful was our ability to have genuine, heartfelt conversations about a topic that is not often discussed especially in work settings,” he said. “Our panel was very open and candid, allowing us to go deep into the topic. I think these types of topics and discussions should become more of a common practice.”

The event also made Reginald feel more personally invested in the work of the Latinx Affinity Group, and motivated him participate in other events.

“This conversation hands down helped me to feel closer to our Latinx group” he said. “These conversations never came up for me growing up, so it was fantastic to have a safe space and encouragement to dive right in!”

“The event showed us all how we can truly lean in to discomfort and grow from it. I am excited to see what comes next in the lunch and learn series,” he added.

Recognizing the challenges faced by different groups, and the ways in which they can come together to support one another and overcome discrimination together are an essential role of the Affinity Groups. These groups also offer employees intimate, yet honest, opportunities to come together and highlight the work King County is doing to fight racial injustice in our community.

“We are continuing to learn how to be better supports to each other across non-shared identities and better allies to each other within Latinx communities,” Shannon said. “We must “lead with race” and center communities of color who are disproportionately experiencing the crushing weight of racism, namely Black and indigenous communities.”

To attend a Latinx Heritage month events view the proclamation and event calendar here. To learn more about the Latinx Affinity Group, the Black/African Affinity Group, and other groups active at King County visit https://kingcounty.gov/AffinityGroups.

Read how the Latinx Affinity Group is supporting its group members and community in the article “Celebrating Latinx Heritage Month and supporting one another.”