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With A Dearth Of Viable Public Transportation, A Private Group Is Stepping Up For Emergency Trip
Feb 6, 2018 5:44 PM By Kate Riga
According to Google Maps, the drive in East Hampton from a home in Springs to East End Pediatrics is a snap: nine minutes. The online GPS lists only the driving option under its “recommended travel modes.”
Walking is more laborious: one hour, 22 minutes. For the public transit option, Google Maps draws a blank.
In fact, according to Bryony Freij, a licensed clinical social worker at East End Pediatrics, trying to take a bus to an appointment would add three hours to the trip—one way.
“We have new mothers pushing their strollers along [Route] 27 in the blistering heat, in the snow,” Ms. Freij said on Friday. “One time, we had a Good Samaritan pick up a new mother along the highway, because he couldn’t stand to watch her push her little baby through the torrential rain.”
According to Suffolk County Legislator Bridget Fleming, that particular gap is being targeted for change, after Ms. Freij brought it to the attention of East Hampton Town and Suffolk County leaders at a recent transportation working group meeting.
“We have got to fix that,” Ms. Fleming said on Monday. “We’re looking to change the internal 10B and 10C bus routes to better serve East Hampton.”
Last fall, the county cut eight bus routes, three of which served the South Fork, and the problem has become so acute that a private group is stepping in to help fill the void.
Organizacion Latino-Americana or OLA, an advocacy group for the Latino community on the East End, is offering temporary free and confidential van rides to doctors’ offices three days a week.
“There are not a lot of parameters around it right now, but we’re trying to highlight pediatric, OB-GYN and cancer appointments,” said Minerva Perez, OLA’s executive director, on Friday. “We only have the money to last through the winter, so for now we’re going to be the little organization that could.”
Two anonymous couples donated a seven-seater minivan, as well as money for insurance, gas and hiring a driver. According to Ms. Perez, it’s still enough to fuel the effort only until April.
“The bus service is inept,” she said of the county’s system. “It is not a luxury—it is a right to get to the critical pieces of your life.”
She added that though her organization is dedicated to serving the South Fork’s Latino population, it would not deny anyone the service who needed it.
For some, the shortcomings of the county’s infamous public transportation system—with infrequent and undependable service, antiquated routes, and a county trying to make changes with minimal funding—are more than inconvenient: they’re dangerous.
According to Ms. Perez, fear of the repercussions from even a traffic stop prompts many undocumented immigrants to miss their appointments rather than take the risk.
“Immigrant fear is through the roof right now,” Ms. Perez said, citing an anti-immigrant climate as the cause. “People won’t tell their doctors that they’re struggling to make it to appointments, because they’re constantly worried that there’s a bad side to telling.” She added that a language barrier often prevents patients from understanding and trusting doctor-patient confidentiality.
“Patients show up hours before appointments when their spouses drop them off on their way to work, because they share one car,” said Ms. Freij. “The bus system is so unreliable, patients go to the emergency room at night when they can, after work.” The trips to the ER, rather than regular medical visits with a doctor, raise the cost of the care.
Ms. Freij agrees with Ms. Perez that things have gotten worse in the past year. “I work primarily with Spanish-speaking kids and families,” she said. “Since Trump, there is a rising fear of being on the roads.
“We’re thankful for what OLA is doing, but our own county should be addressing this shame,” she said. “We shouldn’t have to rely on private money.”
Ms. Fleming, who has campaigned on improving public transportation, said that she and her transportation working group are working hard on the issue. “A glaring problem is that these bus schedules haven’t been changed for 30 years,” she said, adding that she is currently meeting with members of Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone’s Public Works Department to figure out how to adjust the routes to meet the most need.
“It’s a chicken-and-egg problem,” she said. “To make the system more robust, we need more riders. But we need a more reliable system to get more riders.”
The county has developed the “TransLoc Rider App” to help passengers track buses on their phones, hoping to entice people back to public transportation.
Ultimately, many of the problems with the buses come down to money, an issue Ms. Fleming recognizes. “There’s no real funding for marketing the app,” she admitted. “We’re trying to make the changes now that we can.”
Ms. Fleming said she has been a vocal advocate for getting state money to help fix the problem. She also recently refiled legislation at the county level calling for a temporary moratorium on ride-sharing companies—like Uber and Lyft—until the surcharges are funneled into county transportation funds.
“It’s not right for us to adopt these ride-sharing services without regulation or support,” she said, adding that the companies were willing to funnel the surcharges into county funds, but that Governor Andrew Cuomo’s office stepped in and pushed to divert the money into state coffers to fund the MTA, or Metropolitan Transportation Authority.
Mr. Cuomo’s office did not immediately return a request for comment.
“I’m glad that OLA has stepped in to fill the need, but I don’t think this is something that needs a private solution,” Ms. Fleming said. “This is a need that a decent public transportation system should meet.”
Ms. Perez said she plans to collect as much data as possible over the next few months, presenting it to the county as she goes. “I know that they’re broke and that the budget constraint is real,” she said. “Bridget Fleming has been accessible, but we’re trying to show her the urgency of the situation.
“This is not just a Latino problem, or an OLA problem,” continued Ms. Perez. “This is everybody’s problem.”
Latino nonprofit to give free rides to East End doctors’ offices
Organización Latino-Americana aims to fill a void on the South Fork, especially among residents who need to see a pediatrician and have limited or no access to bus or other transportation.
By Vera Chinesevera.email@example.comUpdated January 17, 2018 4:49 PM
An East End Latino advocacy organization is launching a free transportation program to help residents get to pediatric and other doctor appointments.
The nonprofit Organización Latino-Americana of Eastern Long Island will focus its efforts on transporting those who have appointments to see pediatricians, but rides would be available to any Latino resident who does not qualify for Suffolk County Accessible Transportation, as well as non-Latinos who need assistance in some circumstances.
The rides will be available in Southampton and East Hampton towns on Monday, Wednesday and Friday through April, said Minerva Perez, the group’s executive director. No starting date has been set yet and the schedule may shift.
Advocates said the service is needed on the South Fork, where county bus service is sporadic and where it can take hours to travel short distances. Or, residents may be undocumented or unlicensed and thus avoid driving, Perez said.
“The fear around transportation is real,” she said.
Two donations will allow the nonprofit to start the program. Laura Solinger and her husband, Steven Muth, of Sag Harbor donated their 2005 seven-seat minivan, and an anonymous donor gave $15,000. That money paid for vehicle insurance, registration and the hiring of a driver, Perez said.
Solinger said she was inspired to get involved with Organización Latino-Americana after hearing Perez speak at the private Hayground School in Bridgehampton, where her youngest child is a student.
“I think they’re doing great work for the community,” Solinger, a defense attorney, said of the decision to donate the van. “The community needs to know they have the support of a lot of people.”
Byrony Freij, a Spanish-speaking therapist who offers counseling at East End Pediatrics in East Hampton, has seen the challenges the Latino population faces in traveling to get medical treatment. Some households have only one car, usually in use during the day, she said. Sometimes children will miss school because they must be dropped off early for their appointment. She also pointed to the difficulty public transit poses for mothers taking their newborns to pediatrician visits when they are still recovering from childbirth.
The trip from Springs to her East Hampton office, normally a 15-minute drive, can take more than two hours by bus, with much of that time spent waiting for transfers, she said.
“It’s a huge relief,” Freij said of having a van available. “I’ve mentioned it to some of my patients who have been eagerly waiting for something like this to come along. But it’s a shame that it has to be a nonprofit that is bringing this forth” rather than a government agency, she added.
Legis. Bridget Fleming (D-Noyack) said although she is happy to see Organización Latino-Americana provide the service, she hopes the county can adjust its bus routes in the future to better serve the community. Suffolk County cut eight money-losing routes last year, including three on the South Fork, and bus routes haven’t been changed in three decades, she said.
“It’s not a long-term solution,” Fleming said. “We’re working on the long-term solution.”
Riders can call Organización Latino-Americana at 631-899-3441 to schedule rides or to learn whether they are eligible for the program.
Una Conversación con Minerva Pérez
Por Christine Sampson y Gaby Cabrera
Funcionarios electos y organizaciones de abogacía en común han identificado la falta de transporte público en el Sur Este de Long Island como un problema grave para muchas personas. Organización Latino Americana de Long Island (OLA) se está encargando de este problema este invierno con un programa piloto para proveer transporte de emergencia para personas que no califican para ser transportado a través del condado de Suffolk y los Pueblos de East Hampton y Southampton. La Directora Ejecutiva de OLA, Minerva Pérez, nos explica los detalles del Programa y cómo encaja con la misión de la organización.
Entiendo que el Programa de Transporte va a efectuarse a mediados de enero y corre hasta abril. ¿Me podrías contar más sobre las metas y logísticas del Programa?
Como solo témenos un vehículo tenemos fondos para pagarle a un conductor a tiempo parcial y tendremos tres días completos para ofrecer a los residentes de los pueblos de East Hampton y Southampton. Vamos empezar con oficinas de doctores (pediatras). He aprendido que los niños no están llevados a sus sitios con la frecuencia que es necesario debido al grave problema del transporte. Un ejemplo es que, en Springs, el bus se puede demorar tres horas para llegar a la clínica en Pantigo Rd. Cuando yo escuché esto yo dije “Esto es una locura necesitamos hacer algo al respecto inmediatamente. Debido al frio y al miedo y peligro de manejar sin licencias la gente está aisladas de las cosas que necesitan hacer ya sea yendo al doctor, yendo a la tienda a comprar comida o yendo a la dispensa de alimentos (Food Pantry). Vamos a trabajar con los severamente necesitados que no tiene acceso al Transporte de Accesibilidad de los Pueblos de East Hampton o Southampton incluso del Condado de Suffolk. Este servicio no es exclusivamente para la comunidad Latina También vamos ayudar a los demás miembros de la comunidad. Vamos a contratar a alguien que tenga una licencia limpia y asegurar el vehículo y conductor.
La Segunda parte de este Proyecto es que nos gustaría juntar más información. Este es un poquito de lo que hemos visto. Queremos saber cuáles son las gentes que no están siendo atendidas, cuáles son sus historias. Cuando se termine el invierno podremos tomar esta información y compartirla de una manera positive con el Condado. De pronto no esperaremos hasta abril si es que hay datos críticos que hemos obtenido de esto, lo compartiremos de forma inmediata con los Pueblos.
¿Que hizo posible este Proyecto?
Algunas cosas, he estado proyectando mis ideas a algunos patrocinadores quienes me han apoyado en el pasado y al mismo tiempo recibí una llamada de la nada de gentes que me escucharon hacer una presentación y querían donar un miniván. Todo se fue dando y la junta de OLA me apoyado bastante. Nada de esto fuera posible sin la ayuda de ellos. A pesar de que OLA es una mezcla de Artes, Educación, y Abogacía hay ciertas cosas de las que no podemos dejar de ayudar. Estamos encantados de ayudar de cualquier manera que podamos.
¿Porque es importante un Programa como este en el Sur Este de Long Island?
Minerva Pérez: Es bien aislado y mucha gente no se da cuenta de eso. Transporte Publico especialmente el bus es una necesidad aquí y nos hace una gran falta. La necesidad se amplifica más ahora con el frio que estamos teniendo y encima de eso hay más personas con miedo de manejar porque no tienen licencias. Esto afecta a los más vulnerables por eso no podemos permitir que esto pase. Otra parte de esto es empleo y mano de obra, hemos hablado con trabajadores y los estragos que tienen. Deberíamos tener buses que satisfacen las necesidades de las personas en esta comunidad y no lo están hacienda.
¿Como encaja esto con la Filosofía general de OLA?
Abogacía para el 2017 ha tomado un giro diferente debido a la necesidad. Hacemos bastante abogacía y podemos decir con gran asombro que esto representa un gran vacío en un servicio que nuestro Condado o Pueblos deben tener. Nosotros vamos a llevar estos casos y decir que vamos a aprender y que vamos a presentar a nuestros municipios o educar al público. Nuestra abogacía está a nivel de políticas, pero no se llega a este nivel hablando de políticas primero. La mayoría de nuestros problemas es que el liderazgo empieza de arriba hacia abajo y no lo opuesto que sería hablando con las personas que están pasando por los problemas y viendo cual problema. La estrategia de OLA es juntando estos datos de primera Fuente y llevarla a los legisladores.
Nuestro mayor propósito es abogar para un mejoramiento de todas las personas del Este de Long Island y la mayoría de estas personas en estos momentos son Latinos.
Para aprender más sobre el Programa de Emergencia de OLA llame al (631) 899-3441 o visite nuestra página www.facebook.com/OLA6318993441.
OLA of Eastern Long Island will be presenting our 14th Annual Latino Film Festival for the full weekend Friday, Nov 17 – Sun, Nov 19 at three iconic East End venues: Parrish Art Museum, Guild Hall, and Vail-Levitt Music Hall. Films from Chile, Mexico, Colombia and the U.S. explore a range of themes. All films are Spanish language with English subtitles. Several filmmakers available for interviews and will attend the festival.
Friday, November 17 at Parrish Art Museum, Watermill: (Free for members and $12 for non members). Span/Eng museum tour and food and drink reception by Golden Pear. Films start at 7pm "Neruda" Chilean poet becomes a fugitive in his own country. Also: LI Primere of "Desde el Principio" Two voice actors reveal a shared tragedy.
Saturday, November 18 at Guild Hall, East Hampton: LI Premiere of "Translúcido" Man learns he has 3 months to live and chooses his own fate. 6pm doors open. 7pm film starts. Post show Q&A with actors and director. $10 General $20 Preferred seating.
Sunday, November 19 at Vail-Levitt Music Hall, Riverhead:
1pm "El Jeremías" for all ages. Mexican family discovers their eight year old boy is a genius. $5 for all tickets.
8pm "Los Nadie" for 16yr olds and older. Five Colombian teen friends navigate life amidst a screamo punk music scene. $10 General Admission $20 Preferred seating. 9:30-11pm food and drink reception with live music concert featuring MilaTina. Concertand reception free with ticket purchase.
Tickets for 11/17 found on Parrish Art Museum website http://parrishart.org/programs/tags/
Tickets for 11/18 and 11/19 https://olafilmfest2017.eventbrite.com call 631-899-3441 for questions
Point of View: Two Ears, One Mouth
Posted September 20, 2017 By Minerva Perez
Four hours a night, once a week for 12 weeks. No, I was not binge watching bad TV. I was taking part in a reinstated Southampton Town program that connects civilians to the inner sanctum of police work.
From Riverside to Sagaponack and from Eastport to Sag Harbor, many people do not realize the breadth of the area covered by Southampton Town police. Active police personnel total just under 100 people, which is not a lot considering the distance between sectors and the needs of a not so sleepy little resort town. After my 12 weeks were up, I was thankful for the time spent and the relationships formed with law enforcement and my peers. This did manage to feel like family as promised by the new Chief of police, Steven Skrynecki, at his welcoming address to the class.
Our class was made up of about 20 folks of all different ages and backgrounds. The academy ran from February through May.
During our classroom time, we covered topics related to: use of force, gang intelligence, drug identification, drug task force, DWI roadside checks, domestic violence, and human trafficking. In the field, we shot actual guns with simunition rounds (plastic rounds), toured helicopters, emergency response vehicles, watched K9 units in action, did role playing exercises with fellow students as partners, experienced EVOC training as passengers in fast moving and expertly controlled police cars, viewed disturbing yet effective video training on distracted driving, and were asked to make split second gut wrenching decisions on how to respond to deadly force via an interactive screen with several different scenarios requiring that you shoot your weapon or risk either being shot or letting some innocent bystander or hostage be shot.
At the end of this training, we were then asked to schedule eight hours of ride along time with police officers in their vehicles. I chose 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. on a Thursday and 8 p.m. to 1 a.m. on a Saturday.
Some of the impetus for me to take part in this civilian police academy came from my work with OLA of Eastern Long Island. I was graciously allowed to connect other Latinos to this academy to gain a deeper understanding of law enforcement while also allowing law enforcement to experience Latinos not in crises, but Latinos with genuine interest and concern for the safety of law enforcement.
Over the course of the 12 weeks, under the skillful and enthusiastic direction of Lieutenant Sue Ralph, we engaged in frank conversations about use of force, fear of police, safety of officers, active shooter scenarios, communication, asset forfeiture and other challenging but necessary community conversations.
The class was made up of a range of backgrounds including mental health professionals, EMS worker, court officer, retired teacher, active teacher, construction worker, and more. I was often surprised at certain perspectives but welcomed the ability to debate with respect and thoughtfulness.
I was most impressed with the effort made by many of the trainers (all law enforcement with 15-plus years of experience) to illicit our opinions on these difficult topics. The intention was not to defend or shoot down any sentiment that was not immediately pro police. I viewed it as an honest curiosity about the opinions we all came to the table with. Many an evening, we found ourselves still in discussions well after 10 p.m.
Given the variables of life on the East End, I will never seek to reduce any of this experience to one blanket statement or another. Some of the work I do, requires me to continue to question policies and practices of this police force. I would be remiss if I did not.
During the training, I found myself not fully satisfied with certain protocols and yet blown away by the care, patience and skill members of the force exhibited while out on ride-alongs with them.
The answer, I’ve learned and continue to learn, is in the conversation. The only way to make statements about what law enforcement can do or should do or actually does is to be in an active conversation that allows as much information in as commentary out. The “two ears and one mouth” adage applies nicely here: Talk less and listen more. We will always be entitled to our opinions, but being mindful of how our statements effect the lives of officers and residents alike, is a crucial lesson I came away with.
I am now a member of the Southampton Town’s Civilian Police Academy Alumni. I am looking to support the great work being done in the Explorers program as well as the Shop with a Cop initiative. I will remain in this conversation, for better or worse, as long as I am able. I feel I am among family. Not the family of a 1950’s Campbell’s Soup can, but the real dysfunctional kind that knows as long as we have communication, care and respect for each other, we will overcome some of the toughest obstacles.
Groups Celebrate Empowerment at Two Forums
Liz Abzug, left, will moderate a panel for the Pierson Women’s Issues Club that will include Minerva Perez, Katie Lee, Kathleen King and April Gornik. Courtesy photos
By Christine Sampson
A pair of upcoming events aimed at empowering young women to achieve their fullest potential will bring quite a few extremely accomplished women to Sag Harbor and East Hampton on Friday and Saturday.
At the heart of the mission of the Pierson Women’s Issues Club is exploring feminism. Working toward that goal, the club will host a panel on Friday at the high school in an event titled “Feminism Now: Issues, Ideas and Inspiration.”
Liz Abzug, who founded the Bella Abzug Leadership Institute in honor of her mother, the late New York State Congresswoman Bella S. Abzug, will give the keynote address and moderate a panel discussion.
The keynote speech will be “about women, power and politics, and how we need to have young women to grab the mantle of leadership in the 21st century,” Ms. Abzug, a part-time Sag Harbor resident, said in an interview. “They need to complete our unfinished business.”
The panel will include Kathleen King, who built Tate’s Bake Shop — now a nationally known cookie brand — from the ground up, beginning in 1980 in North Sea. Her cookies were voted the number-one cookie in America in 2011 by Consumer Reports, and are found on grocery store shelves across the United States. Joining Ms. King on the panel will be Minerva Perez, the executive director of Organización Latino-Americana (OLA) of Eastern Long Island, which focuses on advocacy, education, the arts and bridging relationships between Latino and non-Latino communities.
April Gornik, an internationally acclaimed artist who calls North Haven home, will also be a panelist. Her work is in the collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Whitney Museum of American Art, the Museum of Modern Art, the National Museum of American Art and more. She is also a dedicated community volunteer and activist, most recently leading efforts for the Sag Harbor Partnership to purchase the Sag Harbor Cinema property damaged during the December 16 Main Street fire. Katie Lee, a celebrity chef and co-host on the Food Network show “The Kitchen,” is the final Pierson panelist. Ms. Lee has authored numerous cookbooks and a novel, and is active in the organizations Feeding America and 96 Elephants.
The Pierson panel will begin at 7 p.m. and will be followed by a meet-and-greet at 9 p.m. Baked goods made by club members with the help of Ms. King will be served at the event.
On Saturday at Guild Hall, the nonprofit organization i-tri will host a “Women in Science” panel that begins at 12:30 p.m. with a special screening of the film “Hidden Figures.”
To be moderated by Dr. Max Gomez, a medical correspondent for CBS News, the i-tri panel will include six scientists, researchers and teachers whose lists of accomplishments are long: Brooke Phillips, a Ph.D. student at Stony Brook University who is researching the planet Mars and its potential for habitability; Jennifer Gatz, who teaches Advanced Placement biology and research in the Patchogue-Medford School District; Dr. Bonita London, a social and personality psychologist whose expertise is in the factors influencing success among historically underrepresented groups on the basis of gender, race, and sexual orientation; Dr. Nancy Hollingsworth, a genetic researcher and professor at Stony Brook University; Gitte Pedersen, a chemical engineer and entrepreneur who has worked for the Danish government and many biotech companies; and Kimberly Barbour, the marine program outreach manager who oversees the Back to the Bays Initiative and Marine Meadows Program for Cornell Cooperative Extension of Suffolk County.
Both events are open to the public. For more information on the Pierson event, visit facebook.com/PiersonFeministUnited. For more information on the i-tri event, visit itrigirls.org/contact.
OLA Continues Advocacy in Face of Deportation Threats
By Emily Weitz
A near capacity crowd flooded the Bridgehampton Community House Friday night to stand with the immigrant community of the East End.
Minerva Perez of the Organizacion de Latino Americanos of the East End (OLA) brought officials from Long Island Jobs With Justice to the forum to help concerned members of the East End collaborate on forming a rapid response network, which is designed to help people who find themselves in a confrontation with immigration authorities.
Jobs With Justice began helping Long Islanders organize response teams before Donald J. Trump was elected president. In 2015, President Barack Obama authorized the Department of Homeland Security to ramp up immigration raids on recently arrived immigrants, and according to members of Long Island Jobs With Justice, they often found the targets of these raids were women and children, resulting in families being torn apart.
“To come to the United States to create a better life for their children is not an uncommon experience,” said Anita Halasz, executive director of Long Island Jobs for Justice. Ms. Halasz experienced this herself, when she emigrated from Romania at the age of 4 with parents escaping the oppressive regime there.
“I do this for the parents who are trying to do the same thing for their children that my parents did for me and my sister,” she said.
When President Trump was elected, Ms. Halasz said there was a spike in those requesting services, and the organization has been busy helping communities across Long Island organize so they can respond if their neighbors are in trouble. Individuals can call a legal aid hotline at (844) 955-3425 and will then be connected to a local network of people.
“Fifty percent of deportations in New York State happen on Long Island,” said Ms. Halasz. “The community is taking it within their hands to protect the people that live in their communities.”
According to Ms. Perez, the workshops are not about harboring violent criminals, but are about making sure individual know their rights. Walking people through what Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) can and can’t legally do is critical in making sure everyone is safe, she said.
“Knowing your rights is something OLA does a lot of,” said Ms. Perez. “We work with many partners in setting up a network of response.”
OLA just wrapped up a legal workshop at the Children’s Museum of the East End in Bridgehampton, offering vulnerable people access to free legal services to understand what immigration officers can and can’t do. One of the most basic things to know is that if ICE comes to the house without a judicial warrant, they have no right to enter, said Ms. Perez. A judicial warrant is different than a legislative warrant in that it displays a judicial seal and is a direct court order. If that seal is not present, people have no obligation to open their doors, she said.
Ms. Perez and OLA have also been talking with local police departments about new practices they’re adopting.
“I think there will be a lot of positives there,” said Ms. Perez, “though there also may be more we have to stay on top of.”
OLA is also working at getting into East End schools to help support populations it believes are vulnerable as well. Currently, schools are safe zones, where ICE is not authorized to go. There are other public arenas, as well, that are considered sanctuaries, where community members should not be fearful.
“The law states that ICE cannot enter into schools, hospitals, churches, or demonstrations,” said Ms. Halasz. “If they do, they are doing something that is not legal and it should be documented.”
This was the second major component of Friday’s meeting: documentation. Carlos Sandoval, the award winning documentary filmmaker of “Farmingville” and “The State of Arizona,” recently joined OLA’s efforts.
“From my experience in Arizona,” said Mr. Sandoval, “we saw the most extreme laws we thought possible. Those laws were put forth by a small group, and that small group is now in power. The laws we are seeing now are the extreme.”
As a result, he believes, documentation is crucial. Modeled on the Copwatch movement, Migrawatch is something anyone can participate in. Since nearly everyone carries a computer in their pockets via a Smartphone, everyone has the capability to be filmmakers and photographers at all times.
“We have to work with local officials to keep them accountable,” said Mr. Sandoval. “We have to act as witnesses to maintain this as a healthy community, a safe community, where people aren’t hiding.”
In the first 100 days of the Trump administration, town halls in East Hampton and Southampton have been packed with local residents interested in protecting the rights of immigrants. Reports of widespread fear and anxiety about possible deportation and disruption of families have been presented to town boards and local police departments. As of now, much of the impact of laws like a federal proposal to deputize local law enforcement officials to act on behalf of ICE, remains to be seen. Police officials in both East Hampton and Southampton towns have said they will not act on behalf of ICE.
“This law is a way to try to get local communities to engage with immigration,” explained Mr. Sandoval, “to deputize local law enforcement to be immigration officers… We have every indicator that immigration will be at the forefront of this administration.”
Documenting and witnessing are ways that ordinary citizens can be a silent presence, without agenda or intent to disrupt any legal process, said Mr. Sandoval. Long Island Jobs With Justice also trains people in how to accompany people to court. Just knowing that they’re not alone, and that someone is watching, has a profound impact on both the person in court and officials, organizers say. Those interested in volunteering their time can visit olaofeasternlongisland.org.
OLA Feels the Urgency of Now
Beth Young, April 06, 2017
If you’ve attended any public meeting on the South Fork in the past couple months, chances are that Minerva Perez, Executive Director of the Organización Latino-Americana of Eastern Long Island, has been there advocating for a better relationship between the Latino community and local government here.
Ms. Perez took the reins as executive director of OLA in early 2016, after six years working as the domestic violence shelter director of The Retreat, and just before a national election that hinged, to a great degree, on President Donald Trump’s pledge to increase immigration enforcement.
Since early this year, Ms. Perez has been engaging with local community leaders on how to protect the East End’s Latino community members in a national climate that has become increasingly hostile to immigrants.
OLA was originally an offshoot of the East Hampton Town Hispanic Advisory Committee organized by founder Isabel Sepulveda de Scanlon and incorporated in 2002.
“We have an amazing executive director, and she can run with the bulls,” said Ms. Sepulveda at a Pachanga for Peace & Unity held by OLA at Bay Street Theatre in Sag Harbor March 11.
We caught up with Ms. Perez in late March to talk about her vision for the future of OLA.
Q: Did you anticipate you’d be this busy when you became executive director last year?
I’m trying to not be spun out in a million different directions just because of this election. It certainly has directed efforts in a stronger way, but toward some of the same things we’ve already been doing — looking at the relationship between the Latino community and the police. The trust has to be there.
What’s happening with exploitation, like wage theft, worker safety, access to education in the schools, there are things we were talking about six or eight months ago. Now, we’re on another planet, with all these other levels on top, but some of the same things remain important.
Q: You’re dealing with more fear?
At CMEE on April 13, we’re having a law clinic for parents in Spanish on emergency planning for temporary custody of your children. These are already horrible things to have to bring out. As of a couple days ago, the New York Bar Association had not decided on the best template for power of attorney forms. People getting so nervous. They want to do everything as quick as they can. Some of that stuff is fine, but you might be in a situation where you’ve just signed over your children to someone and it could be the wrong thing.
We want to be able to put out as much explicit information as we can. It makes their household healthier to take the fear down a notch. Those levels of fear are so unhealthy, and are immediately transferred to children. We’re working on two other law clinics in Hampton Bays and East Hampton.
Q: Are you holding any other public forums?
On April 14, we’re holding a Rapid Responder and Accompaniment volunteer training in partnership with Long Island Jobs with Justice at the Bridgehampton Community House from 6 to 8 p.m. I would like to pack that place. There are so many people out there that want to help and they really want to be put into action. I want to get everyone together and feel the positive power of pending action and not just “we’re gonna talk about this.” Rapid Responders can be as involved as civil disobedience, stopping something from happening, or an active protest. It could be a hotline or a phone chain that lets people know about certain actions that are happening and gives them quick access to volunteers. Rapid Responders can also be documenting, and we’ll be discussing the legal implications of when you can video and record peoples’ voices.
Q: You spend a lot of time working with East End law enforcement. How is that relationship?
I believe in law enforcement. We are never going to get things we need from law enforcement if we put them in a corner. That’s what happened with Suffolk County. I don’t want to be in a situation, on a local level, where all we’re doing is fighting with law enforcement.
When it comes to reporting crimes, reporting domestic violence, sexual assault, in general, as a victim or a witness, the perception of how local law enforcement works with immigration is important.
I acknowledge that law enforcement has to work with other law enforcement. They need to have alliances. No one’s saying that they created this problem. They didn’t create this fear, but it’s here and it’s something that we’re trying to work on together. Knowing that you do your job as law enforcement to protect and serve the community, you need to think about the ways that a vulnerable person might perceive you as being connected to immigration.
All of this is not a Latino issue. It’s a public safety issue. People can’t be afraid to report crimes.
The bad people are still going to be the bad people and they’re going to use all these things as a way to exploit people further. Then victims look to other people for protection. That’s not good. We need the police to be the only source of protection that we can all go to.
Q: How does the interaction between local law enforcement and immigration work?
In the past, it was more targeted. They’d hold people for immigration for 48 hours, and sometimes they’ll say “we held and held and they didn’t come so we let him go.” We’re not living in that world anymore. They’ll have someone there in 15 minutes. In past, if they were holding someone, it would have been a guy with a really bad rap sheet. Now immigration targets range from overstaying your visa to being a threat to public safety at the terrorist level and everything in between.
If local law enforcement is being asked to hold, they might not get all the information. The only thing they should be asking for is a judicial warrant. Let a judge decide if it’s reasonable search and seizure. Local law enforcement is still hashing that out. I had a meeting the other day with East Hampton Town Supervisor Larry Cantwell and the East Hampton Chief of Police and town attorney. All the East End chiefs are considering a policy on this topic, on where they want to stand and make that decision together.
Q: What is the difference between an administrative warrant and a judicial warrant?
An administrative warrant can be for anything from overstaying a visa to a nonviolent misdemeanor years ago. The police are waking up to the fact that the focus is not just on super-violent convicted criminals. There is interest from immigration on many kinds of people, who the only thing they have done is a violation of immigration law. That kind of request does not come with a judicial warrant. It’s a semantics game. It’s a violation of the fourth amendment against unlawful search and seizures to hold someone without a judicial warrant. Are you going to put your town in a liable situation if you hold someone, even for an hour?
We’re in this crazy rocky terrain where up is down and down is up, and in middle of all that, what do we have to hold on to other than our Constitution? If we lived in a community that was rife with violent crime and drug lords on every corner and this is what you need to do to shake this up and make this safe, a part of me would say, yeah, maybe that’s ok, but we don’t live in that town. We live in a great town that’s got great stuff going for it, great community. So what are we gaining? If it’s that important, just let the federal side get a judicial warrant. Let those folks figure out how they need to put their ducks in a row.
Q: Do you find that a lot of U.S. citizens don’t realize that many constitutional rights apply to all people?
Yes. you don’t even have to be documented to fight and die for this country. We’ve got veterans of wars that are being deported right now.
The fact is that now any kind of interaction with law enforcement is scaring the heck out of people. For example, having a fake ID is a felony. But the parallel I like to draw is that everyone that lives out here that has a teenager, they probably had a fake ID at one point. In terms of what the consequences are, a teen getting into a club is one thing, but the consequence of a guy trying to drive to work not being able to ever see his family again? It’s crazy.
I try to keep these conversations on a local level, because in the federal level, it doesn’t go anywhere. There are some things going on with CAFTA, the Central American Free Trade Agreement, where American money goes to arm governments that use it against their own people, and then they flee and come here. I can’t even get into that. Everyone just starts to feel guilty.
Q: Do you have resources to help on the North Fork?
Im doing a Latino diversity training for the police here in Southampton. I want to be able to do that in East Hampton, Southold, Riverhead and Shelter Island. It would be great to have volunteers to deputize people to search out information in school districts, to see if they have written policies and procedures, and how they’re accepting emergency plans that parents are submitting to them.
Q: How did you end up at OLA?
I moved out here in 2002 to 2003, and I started hearing about a lot of negative stuff going on with Steve Levy as Suffolk County Executive. I grew up in Miami, which is very integrated, then I lived in New York City and then I came out here and started hearing about all this madness and I said who the heck is working with the Latino community? Everyone said Isabel, Isabel, Isabel. In 2005-6 I signed on as volunteer executive director, but then I had a full time job. I curated and doubled the OLA film festival, did a lot of talk at the county legislative body, and then I had to step back.
I joined The Retreat and was there for six years as the shelter director, but there was more I needed to do. I just have a lot of energy right now, and there was only so much I could really do within that context. I wasn’t really fitting into that model.
In talking with Isabel, I thought ‘its kind of like a startup, even though it’s existing.’ I could help build it up, help the board get healthier. This was in February of 2016, before the election. I joined knowing it was a huge risk, that maybe I couldn’t even sustain being here. I just wanted to really believe in the mission.
But OLA cannot be formed on crisis alone. We’re still maintaining all of our missions of arts, education and advocacy. I’m planning our 14th annual film festival and adding another venue, hopefully the Vail-Leavitt Music Hall in Riverhead.
I have a part-time development and outreach associate, Itzel Nava. She’s amazing. She’s a recent college grad coming back home, a reverse brain drain. I don’t want to be the only face to OLA. It’s a detriment.
I just got funding for a position I created after seeing how unexciting and terribly unsexy it is to vote locally, and doing some work with the Latino community on voting in last year’s election.
We want to hire a civic engagement coordinator, who will be energizing and activating a Latino voter base at the most hyperlocal level possible — school board elections, village elections, town elections, and picking the most important school board elections, based possibly on the number of Latinos in the district.
We’ll gather information on three hot topics in the school district, from bilingual programing to fake turf on the fields, and build and engage the Latino voter base, creating walk lists and phone banking systems, and mobilizing a small group of volunteers to go out and knock on the doors of every single Latino voter in the district.
People want to jump to more Latinos on the school board, but you don’t just jump to that. Why the hell would anybody want to put themselves in the position where ‘I’m the token person, and I’m going to have to explain to you over and over again that I don’t just eat rice and beans and salsa dance.’ Why would I put myself through that? I’m an intelligent person with a good education and not much free time. I can offer it, but I’m not going to be insulted while I offer it. How much can you put on someone?
We need to shift the dialogue enough so that we can bring these very smart, capable people out of the woodwork and say all right, now is the time. There are people around you that get it. There’s a reason to do this.
Q: Do you think you’ll ever run out of energy?
Not yet. I would really like to bring OLA up to a certain level that it is sustainable, because it wasn’t sustainable a year ago. We were able to double our board, and these board members are engaged.
It is this moment that the Latino community, if OLA can stick with it, can be brought out into the light and people will be able to share their expertise in a way that’s healthy. What could happen is the opposite of that. We could have something that ends up being confrontational, and that’s not good.
We’ve got kids right now hiding in basements because their mom is freaking out. You think that kid is going to feel all so American? All they are now is angry or embarrassed or ashamed. We can’t have a huge Latino community right now that all they want to do is fight with a Bonacker or tell a cop ‘those aren’t my rights and I’m gonna videotape you,’ even if the cop’s being a nice guy.
What are we going to do to develop a healthy community where the whole aim is that we are working together, we see common interests? This is our future. I see 55 percent Latino in this school, 45 percent here. We’re not going anywhere. These are our future doctors and lawyers. What are we going to do to ensure that this is an integrated, healthy, loving community where we can all exist and we can still have a thriving economy?
Overflow Crowd Turns Out for OLA Immigration and Civil Rights Forum
A large crowd was beyond standing-room-only during a Immigration and Civil Rights Free Community Forum that was hosted by the Organizacion Latino-Americana (OLA) of Eastern Long Island at the Queen of the Most Holy Rosary Church in Bridgehampton on Tuesday night. Michael Heller photo.
By Stephen J. Kotz
With the Trump administration announcing this week new, tougher standards that will make it easier to deport those who are in the country illegally, and rumors flying about the presence of federal immigration agents in the community, Latinos and their supporters have begun to organize themselves for what they expect to be a more hostile environment.
Queen of the Most Holy Rosary Catholic Church was bursting at the seams Tuesday evening when the when the Organización Latino-Americana of Eastern Long Island (OLA) brought in representatives from a number of advocacy groups for a bilingual forum on immigration and civil rights.
Last Thursday, a full house squeezed into East Hampton Town Hall to lobby officials to not cooperate with federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents, and cheered when East Hampton Town Supervisor Larry Cantwell said the town had no intentions of deputizing its police to act as ICE agents.
OLA also called on people to express the same sentiment to the Southampton Board when it meets Tuesday, February 28, at 6 p.m. On Tuesday, Southampton Town Supervisor Jay Schneiderman largely echoed Mr. Cantwell when he said town police would continue to work with ICE to apprehend felons and dangerous criminals but would not take on day-to-day immigration enforcement duties.
At Tuesday’s forum in Bridgehampton, a crowd of about 400 people filled every pew, sat on the floor in the church’s wide center aisle, stood along the walls, and even spilled into the sanctuary to hear messages that were practical, inspiring and chilling.
“People are here to help themselves, help others, and help their communities,” said Minerva Perez, OLA’s executive director. Panelists fielded questions from the audience, and when the forum ended, they were quickly surrounded by a thick knot of people asking questions.
“There’s a lot of fear in the community and there is good reason for that,” said Christopher Worth, an East Quogue immigration attorney, noting that in the past immigration officials targeted those with serious criminal records or those who had been deported before. Under the new guidelines, “anyone with any kind of criminal record might be a priority for removal,” he said.
Mr. Worth said it would take weeks or months before the new federal guidelines to be fully put in place. “Now is a good time to take all that emotion and channel it toward preservation,” he said, urging people to get their paperwork in order and draw up plans to take care of their loved ones in case they are detained.
He also urged undocumented Latinos to keep a low profile. “Now is not the time to get into trouble. Now is not the time to have tinted windows or hang your flag in the rearview window,” he said. “Don’t do anything that gives you any excuse to interact with the police.”
Jose Perez of Latino Justice told the audience, “our Constitution applies equally to everyone. It doesn’t matter if you are a citizen. It gives rights to all, regardless of who lives in the White House.” He said that immigrants do not have to let police in to their homes if they do not have a warrant and have the right to request attorneys and not answer questions.
Cheryl Keshner of the Empire Justice Center said a grassroots effort would help beat back the challenges posed by the new climate in Washington D.C. and urged those in attendance to lobby their local governments to not allow police to become immigration agents.
“It’s not a crime to be an immigrant,” she said to swelling applause. “We are united and we are here together to say we will protect immigrant communities.”
Ms. Keshner urged immigrants to prepare a plan in case they face detention or deportation proceedings. “Keep an emergency list, who to call in case there’s a problem,” she said. “You should make an emergency plan for your children — I know it’s difficult. You need to identify who is going to be responsible for your children in case you are detained.”
Asked how to talk to children about the threat of deportation, Ms. Keshner suggested that people “tell your children you are not a bad person. You came here because you wanted a wanted a better life for yourself; you wanted a better life for your children.”
In East Hampton last Thursday, Mr. Cantwell said although the president had signed an executive order allowing towns to work hand-in-hand with ICE, “the town of East Hampton will not enter into such an agreement.” Mr. Cantwell said while the town would continue to work with federal agencies, when appropriate, “the policy of the town and the police has not changed today from what it was six months ago or a year ago.”
“I understand people are afraid and I can’t blame them,” said Mr. Schneiderman, who added the only thing that has changed in his eyes was “the rhetoric and the fear.” He said town police would continue cooperate with federal law enforcement agencies, where appropriate. “I haven’t seen any directive that the town has to do anything differently,” he said.
At Thursday’s East Hampton Town Board meeting, Daniel Hartnett, a social worker with the East Hampton School District, said fear is growing in the Latino community.
“I’m here to speak for children, American citizens, who come with increasing anxiety and sadness to school because they are afraid they are going to be separated from their parents, and are afraid to leave their homes in the morning because they are not confident their families will be intact when they return,” he said.
Christine Sciulli said she had been asked to step in as guardian for a family of immigrants, whose daughter is a good friend of her daughter.
“They pulled me aside and asked me if I would take care of their kids if they were detained,” she said. “They don’t want their kids to be upset if they come home and I was there, if I came to school to pick them up, or if I was called in the middle of the night to come over.”
“Now this girl is afraid to go to school,” she continued. “It’s a nightmare for these kids and it affects other kids in the classroom.”
Local Lawmakers Say Immigration Enforcement Is Not The Job Of Local Police
In a week when immigrant advocacy groups staged protests around the region against President Donald Trump’s efforts to ramp up enforcement of immigration laws, the South Fork’s lawmakers said Southampton and East Hampton towns will not deputize their local police to enforce immigration laws.
Both East Hampton Town Supervisor Larry Cantwell and Southampton Town Supervisor Jay Schneiderman said this week that they see no reason for their towns’ respective law enforcement agencies to change the level of cooperation with the federal Department of Homeland Security that they’ve practiced for years by taking advantage of a federal policy allowing local police to be deputized as Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents.
Both supervisors, however, said their departments will continue to cooperate and communicate with federal enforcers with regard to immigration status information about people who are arrested for “a serious crime,” as Mr. Cantwell put it—separating the towns from the so-called “sanctuary cities” that have pledged not to share any information with federal immigration authorities.
Mr. Cantwell was blunt about the issue, saying the town will not change its longstanding policy with regard to cooperation with ICE.
“The Town of East Hampton will not enter into such an agreement with the federal government,” Mr. Cantwell told a standing-room-only crowd in East Hampton Town Hall on Thursday night, February 16, drawing applause. “Our enforcement personnel are not immigration officers. It’s not what they do. We do not seek out illegal immigrants during enforcement actions.”
The Southampton Town Police Department will have a new chief taking its reins later this year, and Mr. Schneiderman said specific town policies will have to be discussed further. But he was highly critical of the idea of deputizing local officers and extending the amount of time local agencies detain those they have arrested for minor crimes.
He recalled that in 2004, when he was a Suffolk County legislator, former County Executive Steve Levy had proposed having some County Police officers deputized as federal immigration agents. “It was extremely volatile at the county level, and it led to tremendous fear in the Latino community,” Mr. Schneiderman said on Monday. “The debate then was the same as it is now. It’s not a matter of not communicating or of not cooperating with ICE—we’re conferring with them all the time on criminal matters.
“I don’t think anyone is going to argue that someone who came here illegally and commits a violent crime should stay—they should be deported,” he continued. “There’s a case to be made that that isn’t the case with people who haven’t caused any problems. But I prefer [immigration policy] stay at the national level where it belongs. At the local level, it’s important our resources are focused on keeping people safe.”
The statements by the two supervisors were spurred by an executive order last month by President Trump instructing the Department of Homeland Security to advance the effort to deputize municipal police departments to help the federal agency enforce immigration laws. The order created no new federal policy or law and did not expand the powers or mission of federal immigration authorities. Local police nationwide have had the ability to be deputized for more than 20 years, but few departments have ever taken on the duty, largely because of the logistical burdens it would create.
Despite rumors of incidents locally, there have been no credible reports so far on the South Fork of a widening of existing enforcement policy, which focuses on undocumented people facing criminal charges. Nonetheless, with the Trump administration’s aggressive stance on immigration sowing fear of immigration sweeps and sudden detainments solely for immigration issues, stories this week abounded of families living in fear.
At an East Hampton Town Board meeting last week, supporters heaped pleas on the board to assuage the concerns of many immigrants.
Minerva Perez, executive director of Organizacion Latino-Americana, or OLA, a Latino community advocacy organization, asked town lawmakers to instruct police not to abide by 48-hour detention requests from ICE on individuals who have run afoul of the law for only minor issues, like vehicle and traffic law infractions. Ms. Perez said that if fear of immigration enforcement in any interaction with police finds roots, it could lead members of the immigrant community to withdraw from interaction with law enforcement, with disastrous consequences.
“The rupture of trust that vulnerable members of this community could have with law enforcement and the town is a breach of trust for us all when victims and witnesses begin to fear calling for help,” she said. “We owe it to ourselves to protect what we have and not accept an agenda that has no care for what we know to be a beautiful and safe community.”
Mr. Cantwell agreed that if immigrants fear the role of local police, it is counterproductive to protecting public safety. “There is a significant downside when people are underground, when they are afraid to report crimes,” he said. “That doesn’t work to benefit law enforcement in our community. That’s the kind of fear we have to overcome.”
Supporters asked the town to take a proactive stance in reassuring the Latino community about its plans to not bring immigration status into the town’s daily public safety enforcement. Some suggested community outreach efforts to assuage the fears within the Latino community—including instances of children sobbing when dropped off at school because they feared their parents could be detained while they were in classes, and some families asking friends to care for their children should they be whisked away suddenly.
“I’m here tonight to speak for the children, American citizens, who come to school each day with increasing sadness—they are not confident their family will be intact when they return,” said Dan Hartnett, a teacher and social worker at East Hampton High School. “Communities that work best are built on trust. Let’s build our protocols, especially with the police, on trust.”
“You cannot be passive about this,” said another speaker on Thursday, Bill Chaleff. “History is stained by passivity.”
Just hours earlier, federal ICE investigators had been in East Hampton in search of an unidentified individual with multiple felony charges against him or her. Town Police Chief Michael Sarlo confirmed that the federal agents had been in the town but could offer few details about their mission’s movements or success.
“There were ICE agents in town today to conduct an investigation into a repeat felony offender with a last known address in East Hampton,” Chief Sarlo said in an email on Thursday afternoon. “We ask all law enforcement agencies who come into our jurisdiction to contact our desk in the interest of safety. They did advise us they were here but did not ask for any assistance from us.”
The chief said he did not know who the person the federal agents were seeking was, what the crimes he or she was charged with or had been convicted of, or whether the agents located him or her.
Around the country on Thursday, immigrants and advocacy groups staged labor stoppages and protests over Mr. Trump’s immigration policies that organizers dubbed “A Day Without Immigrants.” Hundreds attended a show of support in Hampton Bays.
Mr. Cantwell’s stance on the town’s enforcement policies drew fire from supporters of more stringent immigration enforcement on Facebook and in online forums. Mr. Cantwell countered that the town’s stance was steered by fairness and prudence.
“We care about this issue,” he said. “We live in a multicultural community. We need to be fair to our immigrant community and respect them, and we intend to do that. We understand the fear.”
East Hampton Town Declines Trump Directive on Immigration
By Joanne Pilgrim | February 17, 2017 - 1:04pm
Minerva Perez of Organizacion Latino Americana asked the East Hampton Town Board on Thursday to maintain separation between local police and federal immigration enforcement efforts.Durell Godfrey
East Hampton will not take an enhanced role in enforcing immigration laws, Supervisor Larry Cantwell told a packed meeting room at Town Hall on Thursday night.
The town, Mr. Cantwell said, will not ask the Department of Homeland Security to authorize its police officers to take people into custody solely for immigration violations. Last month, President Trump issued an executive order instructing the federal officials to deputize local jurisdictions for that purpose, should they request it.
We understand how the immigrant community is an important part of our economy and our culture, and we intend to respect that.”
— East Hampton Town Supervisor Larry Cantwell
The town will not change its policies, Mr. Cantwell said. In cases involving criminal activity or deportation orders, police will continue to cooperate with Immigration and Customs Enforcement. But, he said, “We do not seek out illegal immigrants in the process of law enforcement.”
“We ask for a separation of immigration and local law enforcement in all ways legal and possible,” Minerva Perez of the Organizacion Latino Americana, an advocacy group, told the town board.
“We are aware of the changes in federal immigration policy and the confusion from it, as well as the fear caused by it,” Mr. Cantwell said.
A number of people who might be affected by the increased federal push on immigration enforcement were reportedly too fearful to attend Thursday's meeting.
Several speakers urged town officials to take proactive steps to ease growing worries among East Hampton’s immigrant population, and to make it very clear just when and why someone's immigration status would be checked, or an undocumented immigrant be subject to deportation.
“Help us to bring down the levels of fear,” Ms. Perez asked.
Mr. Cantwell said town officials, including Police Chief Michael Sarlo, were consulting federal and state officials, including the office of the New York State Attorney General, about the changing immigration policy.
“We’re evaluating impacts on people who live and work here in town,” he said. “I think all of us feel an obligation to the community. All of us as individuals have a responsibility to reassure people that we know that it’s going to be okay, that we’re going to help them. . . . We understand how the immigrant community is an important part of our economy and our culture, and we intend to respect that.”
“Communities are built on trust,” said Daniel Hartnett, a social worker for the East Hampton School District. “We need to trust our institutions, especially the police. Let’s build our protocols on that.”
“East Hampton has always been a town of good neighbors,” said Betty Mazur, an Amagansett resident. “Perhaps we can call this, in an official way, a ‘good neighbor town.' ”
The town board could then issue a public statement to that effect, she said, “to indicate to our good neighbors what it is they can expect from the town and from all of us as good neighbors.”
East Hampton Pledges to Protect Immigrant Community
Posted by Beth Young • February 17, 2017
Community members, mostly non-Latino, packed the East Hampton Town Board meeting room Thursday evening to ask the town board to take a stand on immigrant rights.
East Hampton Town Supervisor Larry Cantwell, the son of immigrants who was raised in East Hampton, pledged Thursday night to not participate in President Donald Trump’s executive order allowing local police departments to serve as immigration officers.
He made the statements before a packed crowd of community members organized by Organización Latino-Americana of Eastern Long Island Executive Director Minerva Perez, who addressed the town board during the public comment period at its regular meeting.
Members of the mostly non-Latino crowd shared stories of friends and neighbors who were afraid to come to town hall to speak, or who had been advised by their attorneys to not appear in public, of undocumented friends who’d asked them to take care of their American-born children if they were deported and of mothers who are suicidal because they do not know what will happen the next time they check in with immigration authorities.
Town Supervisor Larry Cantwell (right) pledged support for immigrant rights, while Councilman Fred Overton (left) looked on.
“A recent executive order grants authority for local officials to enter into agreement with the federal government to perform the function of immigration officers in relation to the investigation, apprehension and detention of aliens. The Town of East Hampton will not enter into this agreement with the federal government,” Mr. Cantwell told the crowd early on in the meeting.
“I feel strongly about that. The policy of the town and police has not changed,” he said, adding that, in cases of serious crimes, the town police will cooperate with warrants from other agencies.
“People should be held accountable when it’s a serious crime, but our enforcement personnel are not immigration officers. That is not what we do. We do not seek out illegal immigrants,” he added.
Mr. Cantwell said federal immigration policies are currently in flux, and the town is seeking guidance from the New York State Attorney General’s office on how to respond to these changes.
“The earth is moving below our feet, moment by moment. We’re all in same boat when it comes to trying to understand what’s going on and how to deal with it,” he said, adding that he plans to continue a dialogue with community members on how to continue to protect immigrants.
“Many of our parents are immigrants. My mother and father were both immigrants. Immigrants are very important to our economy,” he said, adding that community policing only works when the public trusts the police. “We need to respect that and we intend to do that.”
Ms. Perez spoke passionately about the need for a judicial warrant before the town police cooperate with other agencies.
“I ask that you fully and without question abide by our United States Constitution,” she said, referencing routine traffic stops that can lead quickly to federal involvement for undocumented workers. “Search and seizure without a judicial warrant is unconstitutional and puts this town in potentially libelous situations.”
“To hold an individual at the request of federal immigration without being provided with a judicial warrant is not what we should be doing,” she said. “If their crimes were serious, immigration would have no trouble obtaining a warrant.”
“These good people of our community want only to get back to their lives, which mostly consist of helping to make sure this resort town runs smoothly in the summer,” she said. “When victims and witnesses fear calling for help, we are living in a community that does not resemble the diverse, imperfect, but peaceful community we knew only a few months ago. Please do not wait for the perfect time to come forward with your statements of support and strategy. There will be no perfect time but right now.”
Julia Chachere, a nurse/midwife at Hudson River Healthcare in Southampton said she has seen “mass fear and panic” among her clients in recent weeks.
Doula Julia Chachere and Clinical Social Worker Dora Romero.
Her co-worker, Clinical Social Worker Dora Romero, who came to the United States from Colombia 35 years ago, said one of her clients last week was told to bring her passport to an immigration appointment, and was planning to leave behind documents protecting her children and then drink poison before going to her appointment.
“We do see, day in and day out, the stress people are going through,” she said.
Architect Bill Chaleff said that two of his immigrant friends had been planning to accompany him to the meeting, but were advised not to by their attorney because they would have to give their names and the proceedings would be televised.
“You cannot be passive about this. It is critically important that there is a major outreach by the town. These are the people who make this town work,” he said.
Robert Brody, a volunteer English as a Second Language teacher, said he’d asked his students to address the town board but they were too frightened to come.
John Leonard, a Sag Harbor attorney who has regular business in East Hampton courts, said in the past few weeks he’s had “mothers crying in his office” and he is helping people make plans for potential deportation.
He pointed out that, under state vehicle and traffic law, the second time you are cited for driving without a license it becomes a misdemeanor.
“We certainly would not want an unlicensed operator charge to be a basis for deportation,” he said, adding that immigrants shouldn’t have to rely on Suffolk County’s “Byzantine public transportation system.”
“People should be able to go to work,” he said, adding that the community should pressure the state to change the vehicle and traffic law.
Community members listened to the testimony.
Dan Hartnett, a bilingual social worker in the East Hampton School District, choked up with emotion when he told of the students and parents he sees every day who are afraid their families will be separated by immigration authorities. He said his office is putting together preparedness packets for families with information about their rights.
“Our community is built on trust,” he said. “We need to trust our institutions, especially the police.”
Mr. Cantwell said that he does feel a responsibility to make East Hampton a safe place for immigrants.
“We may not make all this right, but right now it is important that we come together as a community,” he said. “We all have a responsibility to assure people living here that it’s going to be ok.”
Ms. Perez asked the supervisor to think carefully about what local police activities can have an effect on immigration.
For example, she said local police departments often fingerprint victims and witnesses, and those fingerprints can be sent to federal authorities and be used to track people.
“We do have a responsibility in the way local law enforcement is interacting with people here,” she said.
OLA is also holding a community forum on immigration and civil rights next Tuesday, Feb. 21 from 6 to 8 p.m. at Bridgehampton’s Queen of the Most Holy Rosary Church at 2350 Montauk Highway, and the group is planning to raise similar concerns at Southampton Town’s next board meeting on Feb. 28 at 6 p.m.
Immigrants Fear Uncertain Legal Future
Police chief seeks to reassure anxious residents
By Christopher Walsh | January 26, 2017 - 3:25pm
President Donald Trump’s pledge to deport undocumented immigrants and deny federal funding to so-called sanctuary cities, those where local officials have said they will not cooperate with federal immigration authorities, has unnerved many South Fork residents. Those lacking legal status and their advocates are further concerned by the recent reversal of policy regarding immigrants by Suffolk County Sheriff Vincent DeMarco, who announced that he would no longer ask for a warrant before detaining immigrant inmates who may be subject to deportation.
Under the sheriff’s new policy, county correctional facilities will hold immigrants who have been detained on other charges, and for whom federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement have issued “hold” notices, for up to 48 hours, allowing that agency time to take them into custody.
On the other hand, last week Eric Schneiderman, the New York State attorney general, announced that he is going to issue guidelines to local governments explaining how to resist federal immigration enforcement. In addition, earlier this month in the first of six state-of-the-state addresses, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo proposed a fund that would provide legal representation for immigrants.
These conflicts between governing bodies have sown confusion among undocumented residents and their advocates. “There’s a lot of fear,” Minerva Perez, the executive director of Organización Latino-Americana of Eastern Long Island, said on Tuesday. “Some is well founded, but some might be able to be alleviated a bit if we can get more information.”
Uncertainty, she said, promotes fear, “which is only doing unhealthy things to the community, both the undocumented and the documented.” She said immigrants charged with minor crimes, such as housing or automotive violations, and even victims of domestic violence, are worried about being labeled criminals and targeted for deportation.
“No one in the Latino community wants violence, criminals, or bad people on the street. We just want to make sure we’re not over-criminalizing groups and tacking on deportation,” she said.
East Hampton Town Supervisor Larry Cantwell said such fears were understandable but called them unfounded. “Some people are concerned that the sheriff’s decision is going to result in po ice departments going out and chasing people out of houses and deporting them. There’s a lot of misinformation caused by some heightened rhetoric. Some of it is not justified by the facts,” he said.
“There’s been a lot of rhetoric about building a wall and having people deported, and people are scared,” Mr. Cantwell said. “We should do what we can to reassure people that that’s not going to happen in this community. There is no policy in the Town of East Hampton to barge into people’s homes and deport them.”
Chief Michael Sarlo of the East Hampton Town Police Department also sought to assuage undocumented residents’ anxiety. “The only time our agency would be concerned with a subject’s immigration status is if they were arrested and charged with a crime and if during the processing of that arrest, we received an ICE hold hit and the subject would be wanted for removal,” he wrote in an email Tuesday.
He also said ICE places holds only on those in the country illegally who have been convicted of a crime or face “serious criminal charges for which they have failed to appear in court.” The chief said such individuals are rarely encountered in East Hampton, “and when we do there are actually occasions wherein federal officials will tell our department that they will not be able to get out here within the 48 hours, so we process them and either present them for arraignment or release them on bail or appearance ticket for the charges for which they are in custody with our agency, as we would any other defendant.”
Despite positive discussions with law enforcement officials in East Hampton and Southampton, the Latino community remains fearful, Ms. Perez said. “Who’s not going to the hospital, who’s not calling 911, who’s not reporting a crime?” she asked. “The urgency is not letting law enforcement and public safety break down at the expense of fear.”
Chief Sarlo further sought to relieve anxiety by reiterating that the ICE hold procedure applies only to those both in the country illegally and who have committed or been convicted of a serious crime. “Reporting a crime, being involved in an accident, being the victim of theft, etc., does not trigger our agency checking immigration status or running a person through the federal database.”
Mr. Cantwell said on Tuesday that he had not received word from the state attorney general about interaction with federal immigration authorities. “We certainly would want that before we came to conclusions as to how the town would deal with this,” he said.
Ms. Perez is continuing to follow what is being said about undocumented residents, “so we can put out there what is a reasonable request, so the most vulnerable on the East End are not dealing across the board with unnamable fear.” Undocumented immigrants, she said, “are working, getting their kids to school, and are part of our community.”
Each year, the bilingual festival showcases internationally-acclaimed Spanish language films with English subtitles from Central and South America. This year’s two-day event featured the Argentinian film “Un Tango Mas” at the Parrish Art Museum in Water Mill the first night, and the Ecuadorian film “Vengo Volviendo” at Guild Hall in East Hampton the second night.
“The East End has a growing community of Latinos that work out here in so many areas,” Grisel Baltazar, a docent at the Parrish, said. “Having a film festival brings art, culture and continues the vibrant energy of the community. It also interlaces the Latino and Hispanic culture, which is a beautiful thing.”
“One sentiment that I’ve enjoyed receiving is real kind of surprise that someone didn’t know that aspect of that culture,” Minerva Perez, the executive director of the OLA, said. “People walk away experiencing something that was unexpected and usually really great.”
The Rural and Migrant Ministry, a nonprofit that seeks to represent New York’s rural and migrant communities, had the opportunity to present a five-minute video before “Un Tango Mas” on Friday. The video showcased the organization’s June human rights march for migrant farmers in Albany.
“People get very surprised because they have no idea what we do,” Boris Martinez, a Salvadoran migrant farmer on the North Fork and member of the Rural and Migrant Ministry, said. “We work 70 hours [a week]. We don’t have paid holiday. We don’t have a bonus. I have no benefits.”
This event came just days after Donald Trump was named President-Elect. Trump’s 10-point immigration plan promises to ramp up deportation and build a wall on the Mexican border. Some guests expressed concern about what this meant for them.
Although this year’s event, which saw more than 200 people, featured mezcal tastings and an art exhibition tour at the Parrish, it encompassed more than just a fun night out. Part of OLA’s mission is to connect and unify the Latino and non-Latino communities within the East End.
“People think they know about us, but they don’t really know about us,” Isabel Sepulveda, a Chilean immigrant and founder of OLA, said. “We are from 22 different countries. So I thought [the film festival] would be a good way to educate the people without bad taste.”
ON SUNDAYS, at a baseball field in Amagansett in the late 1980s, Oswaldo Palomo bided his time on the bench waiting for a chance to play. He was 24, recently arrived from Costa Rica, and was working as a beach attendant and bellhop at the Panoramic View hotel in Montauk.
“They didn’t expect me to know how to play ball,” Palomo said. “The first year I had to wait until the second game of the doubleheader. I was sitting there (thinking), ‘Those guys are going to get to know me.’ ” Palomo knows what to do with a bat and a mitt. He’d grown up playing baseball. His great-grandfather had introduced the game to Costa Rica. His father played baseball for the Costa Rican team at the Pan-American games in Chicago in 1959.
Years later, when his two sons entered East Hampton High School, Palomo volunteered as an assistant coach for the school’s baseball teams. By then, with steadfast support of his employers during a seven-year application process, Palomo had become a U.S. citizen.It was a significant moment, a way to cement the bond with his adopted hometown. “One time I told someone, ‘I am a Latino Bonacker!’ ” he said.
“I am a Latino Bonacker.” Oswaldo Palomo on third base at East Hampton High School’s baseball diamond.
The desire to be recognized as Latino and also be fully counted as American is familiar to the thousands of Latinos who have arrived here in the last few decades and made this their home. It’s not difficult to see why they came to the East End, with its immense prosperity, good schools and jobs, and idyllic landscape. Many have since found rewards and opportunity — they are the first to say so. But for almost every one of them, getting here, adapting, and proving themselves has been a personal struggle, a struggle that’s been exacerbated in the past year by a presidential election that made immigration, and Hispanic immigration in particular, a centerpiece. Donald Trump, the Republican candidate, went so far as to cast Latino immigrants as criminals and an economic burden.
All this comes as many Latinos have worked their way into the middle class. Many have arrived at a crossroads where their identities and fears as immigrants diverge from their desire and their right to be American.
Compounding the tension are pressures everyone who is not rich faces here: The South Fork has become so expensive it’s now squeezing out all the working and middle classes, Latinos included, the very people it depends on to survive as a year-round and summer community.
Things were different in 1995 when Miguel Morales first saw East Hampton’s main street. Prodded by his wife, Nelva, he’d saved money for months to pay for a flight from Venezuela to New York to visit his sister-in-law. Sitting in her car one spring morning, they made the turn into the village. It seemed like a movie: the grand houses, the old windmill, swans floating in the pond. Morales, whose grandmother sold eggs in the streets of Caracas, decided then and there to make East Hampton his family’s home. “It was the perfect place,” he said. His story, like that of so many others, is one of perseverance, success, frequent setbacks, and many helpful hands along the way.
Latinos began trickling into this area in the 1970s. In 1980, according to the census, there were 293 Hispanics in East Hampton. It’s not quite clear which nationalities can claim to be the original pioneers — the early arrivals were mostly Mexicans, Costa Ricans, and Colombians — but most, like Morales, were lured by accounts from relatives and friends of a bucolic seashore resort where people were friendly and you could find endless work at a decent wage.
Finding a place to live with his wife and their two sons wasn’t as easy. Rents were high, and there were waiting lists for the most affordable options. For all the hardships recent immigrants have faced and continue to face, examples of generosity and kindness from employers, church groups, school staff and new friends abound. Carolyn Snyder, who runs Round Swamp Farm, took a liking to Morales, he said. Snyder leased his family a cottage on Three Mile Harbor Road in East Hampton and didn’t raise the rent for seven years. By that time, Morales had become foreman, and his American employer had sponsored — and paid most of the costs of — his application for U.S. citizenship.
“The town changed a lot since 2001,” Morales said. “The new immigration was different. They went into town, into the streets, to the train station to look for work. There were too many. People started to complain, because it changed the look of the town.” Census figures are notoriously defi- cient when it comes to counting heads in a seasonal community, especially one where a sizable number of residents may not be living in traditional housing. But the official tally indicates that between 2000 and 2007 the Latino population in East Hampton doubled to about 5,500, or more than a quarter of its full-time residents.
It was a prosperous — and tumultuous — period. Construction and landscape work was booming, jobs were plentiful, and banks were offering lowinterest loans. Many Latinos became skilled stonemasons, painters, carpenters.
But they weren’t always welcome at the party. Not wishing to sound like victims or complainers, most of the people we interviewed for this piece were loath to describe specific incidents of xenophobia and racism, though many said they’d encountered it.
Morales, too, benefited from the economic boom of the early 2000s. He acquired an ’86 Camaro Z-28 and, in 2005, bought his house. In 2007, he invested in his own construction company, Waterside. He bought a new truck and obtained a home-improvement contractor’s license, workers’ compensation, and liability insurance. It was an expensive risk, and, as luck would have it, poorly timed. The economy tanked by early 2008, and for nearly three years there was little work. Life turned bleak. Many Latinos left the area.
Business eventually returned, and Morales and his family persevered. They are now part of Long Island’s growing middle class. Their youngest son, Luis, a college graduate, is about to join the police academy. Their eldest, David, works in the pool business. Their house in Springs is worth a substantial sum.
“My neighbors think I’m a rich man,” he shrugged bashfully.
“What Latinos have to do . . . is find a way to be American. demonstrate that we can work for the country, not just for me.” Miguel Morales at home in Springs
Latinos now constitute more than 18 percent of the population of Suffolk County (which was around 1.5 million in the 2010 census) and, as a group, contribute more than $3 billion a year to the local economy. Although Latinos trail other immigrant groups in median income, two-thirds of Latino households on Long Island have an income of $40,000 or more, and a quarter of Latino households earn more than $100,000.
You can still see lineups of Latino men on corners or at the train station, waiting for day jobs, but they comprise less than one percent of the community, according to a Fiscal Policy Institute report issued last year.
The Morales family’s experience belies the stereotype of Latino immigrants coming here just to work and send cash home before heading south again. Latinos here are investing in their own businesses, paying property taxes, sending their children to public schools, volunteering with community organizations.
These investments — time, money, passion — are transforming their identity. They speak Spanish and follow soccer teams from Guatemala or Mexico or Ecuador. But many, like Morales, now consider themselves Americans. Americans who desire to give back.
“Some Latinos tried to make East Hampton like their country,” Morales said. “I am here because the system here is better than the system in Venezuela. . . . What Latinos have to do . . . is find a way to be American.
One morning in late August, between planning sessions for a voterregistration drive and organizing a Latino film festival, Perez arrived for a meeting in Sag Harbor on her red Ducati motorcycle. Sitting down in a crowded cafe, she put her black helmet on the floor and started talking about her life. Perez’s father was Puerto Rican. She was born in Manhattan and raised in Miami. She graduated from New York University and spent several years working in theater in the city.
“I was struck by . . . this brutal and unbalanced way of viewing of the Latino community,” she said. At the time, 2006, local county officials were targeting the immigrant community. Perez began volunteering for the non-profit Organizacion Latino- Americana of Eastern Long Island, known as OLA. She lobbied against proposed anti-immigrant measures being considered by the County Legislature to criminalize the hiring of undocumented workers.
Last winter, she took over as the executive director of OLA, which was founded in 2002. An essential role of OLA is to encourage Latinos to find their common bonds and cultural connections, and to encourage others to recognize the value of a thriving Latino community here. It also seeks to improve communication between the Latino community and various authorities — police, school administrations, and town officials.
“There is so much more to the Latino conversation than immigration and affordable housing,” she said. “It’s an important time to not just be here to counter the horrible rhetoric on a national level,” but also, she said, to encourage leadership and engagement. “I wanted to see more of the Latino community come forward and be part of that dialogue. But there is a lot of fear.” The reluctance to engage is complex.
Language is a hurdle, as is an ingrained wariness and distrust, and the view that any engagement with bureaucracy (getting a license, enrolling in school, buying insurance) is seen as the first step to being found out, and to deportation.
Oswaldo Palomo is now the pastor of the Vida Abundante church in Wainscott, whose congregation is made up mostly of recently arrived, Spanish-speaking immigrants. Many, separated from their country and their families for the first time, are in a state of shock, having arrived here by any means possible, much of the journey by road and on foot, a few dollars in their pockets.
Sitting in his sparely furnished church office, a few baseball trophies and plaques on the shelves, Palomo speaks of the mothers who can’t get their children into school, of immigrants being arrested and facing deportation because they don’t have a driver’s license. His church staff, primarily himself and his wife, Ester, and a few volunteers, are a kind of one-stop community center, providing English and music classes; tax information, and financial and legal advice, to say nothing of spiritual and emotional comfort.
Now 52, Palomo no longer plays baseball with the locals. The atmosphere soured, he said, as more immigrants arrived in the early 2000s, moving into the last remaining local working-class neighborhoods in parts of Springs, North Sea, Three Mile Harbor. “Some people didn’t like the Latinos. We were too noisy, we talked too much . . . the loud music.” Complaints to town officials began: overcrowded houses, raucous weekend ballgames and gatherings.
Things got heated not just here, but all over Suffolk County. Authorities began to crack down. Deportations, police shakedowns, and anti-immigrant legislative initiatives followed. Latinos were assaulted and beaten.
In local schools, where Latinos were approaching 30 to 40 percent of the student population in some areas, school board–Latino parent confrontations occurred over the lack of language programs, Spanish-speaking counselors, and available supplies. Bullying of Latino students came out into the open in 2006 in East Hampton when a skinhead and his friends cornered three teenage Latino students in a shed and threatened them with a chain saw.
Palomo, who established his church that same year, felt the widening cultural rift and hostility. He found himself straddling the line, chiding his parishioners both to turn down the volume and stand up for their rights, to pay their taxes and fight injustice. Unease increased with the political impasse in Washington, D.C., which blocked any attempts at immigration reform. Paths to citizenship became fewer. Requirements were contradictory and selfdefeating, local Latinos said. At the local level, however, school districts began better relationships with bilingual teachers and programs.
“When I woke up they were right beside my bed, telling me, ‘Get up! Get up!’ I was so scared. I thought there was a fire in the house.” The agents had guns. They pointed lights in Leon’s face. They pulled her out of bed and rounded up everyone in the house. Her daughters were half-dressed, screaming, and covering themselves; her 4-year-old son, left in the bedroom, called out for her.
ICE agents were looking for Leon’s ex-husband, who hadn’t lived in the house for many years. But they didn’t have a warrant, and all of Leon’s extended family were naturalized U.S. citizens living in a house that they had bought jointly in 2000. The agents eventually realized their error, but outside, in the dark, Leon saw other Latinos rounded up and taken away.
In the days following the raid, Palomo’s church helped free from detention most of those swept up in the raid and organized meetings with advocacy groups. At one meeting, a group of 22 decided to file a federal class-action lawsuit against ICE, and Leon agreed to be the lead plaintiff. “I wanted to fight for our rights.” Taking on ICE and the U.S. government was daunting, but, almost six years after the case was filed, the court in 2013 ruled in favor of Leon, requiring a restitution payment of $1 million and that ICE follow specific guidelines when conducting home searches, such as having a Spanish-speaking agent ask for “valid consent” before entering a resident’s house.
Leon carries on now, helping with Bible study classes at the Vida Abundante church in the evenings after her housecleaning work is finished. Her main concern these days is familiar to anyone: She finds it increasingly difficult to live here, with housing prices pushed ever higher by summer residents and wealthy urban expats. “People, not just Spanish people, but many Americans too, are begging just for a place to live,” she said.
Maritza Guichay and her younger brother, Juan Carlos, arrived in East Hampton from Ecuador in the late 1990s when they were 8 and 9 years old, having heard only rosy stories about America from their aunt. Their father, Ricardo, who had attended military college, traveled overland to America in 1988, coming first to Montauk, where he had cousins, and finding a job as a dishwasher.
During the first 10 years, Ricardo became a mason and went back and forth to Ecuador three times to visit his wife and his growing children. But it wasn’t until 1999 that the family was permanently reunited in Springs. They arrived at night at their uncle’s small house where there was little room to spare.
It was not the pretty picture their aunt had painted. “When you first arrive those are not the beautiful things that you see,” said Martiza, now 30, wearing small pearl earrings and sipping water at Starbucks in East Hampton.
Thrust into this new world with no English skills, Maritza and Juan Carlos struggled to adapt. Maritza said her first day in school, not knowing anyone, not wearing a school uniform as she had in Ecuador, was “the worst experience of my life.” Juan Carlos, whose 10th high school reunion was this fall, remembers being isolated. “I was bullied a lot,” he said. He got into fights.
Juan Carlos and his sister have since reached goals unimaginable to their parents. Today, Maritza is an accountant with a degree in business administration from Stony Brook University and Carlos has a degree in architecture from the New York Institute of Technology.
Both are members of the East Hampton Town Latino Advisory Committee, which was set up earlier this year with a broad mandate to improve communication and relations between the town and the Latino community.
“They needed to feed their family. They thought they were going back home. But now our community has a well-educated generation who knows exactly what’s going on, and they’re the ones who are going to make a difference for the other people.” Maritza continued: “This is my hometown. My family is here.
My life is here. This is my community.” In 2012, the East Hampton School District succeeded in bolstering Latino involvement in the schools and local education by hiring a Spanish-speaking liaison, Likewise, as co-chair of the town advisory committee, Maritza is leading a charge to boost town-Latino communication by holding direct meetings with Latinos in Spanish. Additionally, the committee is working with other organizations like OLA to get Latinos to the polls for local and national elections.
“I see the Latino community right now as a breath of fresh air,” she said, “through its work ethic, its faith, and a real strong desire to make sure their children are educated.” This story went to press before the presidential election of Nov. 8. Undoubtedly, the Moraleses, the Palomos, the Guichays, and the Leons will have watched uneasily as the returns came in. Whatever the outcome, they, like all American families, will celebrate on Thanksgiving.
EH LAC, Chief of Police Sarlo and Suffolk County Sheriffs office on Eviction and Landlord Tenant rights video please click this link below;
13th Annual OLA Latino Film Festival Comes To Parrish And Guild Hall
By Nancy Kane
The OLA Latino Film Festival turns up the heat in its 13th year of providing cultural diversity awareness through films on the East End. The Organización Latino-Americano of Eastern Long Island presents an engaging two-night celebration of Latino/Hispanic movies as well as a Q&A with filmmakers, bilingual docent-led tours at the Parrish Art Museum, a mezcal tasting and more.
A beloved annual tradition, which is, by design, an all-inclusive affair hosting film fans of all ethnicities, will be held on Friday, November 11, at the Parrish Art Museum in Water Mill and on Saturday, November 12, at Guild Hall in East Hampton.
This year marks the first time that independent films are highlighted, in addition to a big-budget one. Films from Argentina, Ecuador, Venezuela and one from an American-Mexican director will all be screened this weekend.
While Minerva Perez has been curating the film festival since 2007, this is her first year in her new role as OLA’s executive director. Ms. Perez became the first paid executive director for OLA in March. She said she believes the festival is both exciting and important, and her enthusiasm was contagious as she talked about this year’s films, the event in general and the challenges facing OLA.
“Our mission at OLA is arts, education and advocacy,” she said from her home in Sag Harbor. “The film festival is one way to bridge the cultural divide within the Latino communities and more importantly, among all our communities.”
Ms. Perez is quick to point out the attendees are not all Hispanic.
“We strive to be very inclusive,” she said. “We want everyone to come and see these amazing films and to get to know this community. Wouldn’t it be great if people were not talking about a great Latino film, but rather just a great film?”
Ms. Perez, who took over from OLA founder and president Isabel Sepulveda de Scanlon, strives to get the right lineup of films—both features and shorts. “We want to get a well-known motion picture to anchor the festival and draw crowds, but we wanted to balance that and introduce independent, emerging artists,” she said.
With a reputation for being edgy, the OLA Film Festival has found a partner in the Parrish Art Museum for the first night, which has hosted the fest for the last 10 years.
“We are thrilled to partner once again with OLA, and delighted to make the film program as well as the current exhibition accessible to the Spanish-speaking community of the East End,” said Corinne Erni, the Parrish’s curator of special projects. “As a center for cultural engagement, the Parrish is committed to outreach efforts and programming that support and reflect the region’s diverse cultural heritage.”
Opening night will include a screening of the award-winning 2015 Argentinian independent film “Un Tango Más (Our Last Tango),” written and directed by German Kral, and executive produced by Wim Wenders.
“Un Tango Más” tells the story of the most famous tango dancers in Argentina—María Nieves Rego and Juan Carlos Copes— in a creative documentary format that spans from the couple’s initial meeting in the ’40s as teenagers through present day. The couple relate their unique experiences to a group of young dancers who are moved to interpret the story into tango dances of their own.
The film, which screens at 7 p.m. on Friday, is preceded by a bilingual tour of the exhibition “Artists Choose Artists” with Parrish Art Museum docent Grisel Baltazar at 5:30 p.m., followed by a reception featuring a Doña Sarita Mezcal tasting. Doña Sarita Mezcal is imported by a local family, the Kiembocks, who have lived in East Hampton for 40 years and run the hardware store there.
“I love that we can bring different cultural nuances to the weekend with things like this,” Ms. Perez said of the tasting.
Ms. Perez is quick to point out that the festival is only one event in a series of year-round programming that makes up part of OLA’s mission. The organization is known for its advocacy on behalf of Latino and Hispanic residents.
“My role is to learn from the on-the-ground scenarios that I am involved with on behalf of the communities,” she said. “Then I need to take what I learn and create the dialogues that need to take place for change to occur. I’m looking at systems to see if they are healthy, or if better communication is needed in certain areas.”
Emphasizing the three-pronged approach of arts, advocacy and education, Ms. Perez said she feels the festival embraces all three.
“It’s so important to continue to focus on the arts. We have all these cultural riches around us, many represented by the Latino community,” she explained. “The festival is just one of the pathways to celebrate our culture and invite everybody in. It’s great for Latinos to learn about other Latinos and celebrate one another’s cultures, traditions and nuances. And it’s great for everyone to celebrate storytelling and art and beauty.”
While Ms. Perez loves “Un Tango Más”—“It’s a gorgeous film,” she said—she is also very excited about Saturday night’s feature film, which will debut at Guild Hall.
“Vengo Volviendo (Here There)” is a film from the directing and producing team of Isabel Rodas and Gabriel Páez, who will be on hand to introduce the Long Island premiere and lead a Q&A with the audience afterward. The film has won accolades from New York to Ecuador, and tells the story of a 22-year-old man who dreams of coming to America, but faces many challenges and sacrifices.
“Vengo Volviendo” is the second film made by Filmarte, which runs Encounters With Cinema, the first self-sustainable organized program of training, producing and distributing alternative cinema in Ecuador.
“Twenty-one talented men and women from rural communities live in an artistic residency together with 11 instructors, where they learn acting, camera, sound, production design and scriptwriting. They write their first feature-length film, based on the oral history of their communities,” Ms. Rodas said. “Vengo Volviendo” is the result of that.
“As a curator of the festival, I hope that audiences are entertained and drawn into the worlds of each of these films,” Ms. Perez said. “As a community that includes many Ecuadorians, I would love for this film to be an invitation to those not familiar with the beauty and traditions of Ecuador and a reason to engage with their Ecuadorian neighbors. This is a film perfect for 10 year olds and up.”
Ms. Rodas said, “Film opens a gateway to portraying and sharing cultural identity and values in an open dialogue. As Latinos we have a lot to offer and the need to be listened to. Film is a tool to get in touch with our concerns and beliefs and put them out to the world.”
Ms. Rodas and Mr. Páez will travel from Ecuador and stay with a local family for the weekend to take part in the festival.
“We know there is a big community people from Gualaceo, a small town in the Azuay southern province of Ecuador, where the film was shot,” Ms. Rodas said. “It would be amazing to see a mixture of Gualacean/Ecuadorian/Latinos and Americans sharing a night with us to see and discuss film and storytelling.”
In addition to the feature films, the short films include the edgy and provocative “Tereza,” by Mexican/American filmmaker Natalie Camou, and “Normal” by Venezuelan filmmaker Vadim Lasca.
“Tereza” tells the story of a mother and daughter battling mental illness and “Normal” is about a man and woman brought together by violent political protests.
“These films may make you laugh or cry but at the end of the day they are really a window into a humanity which we all share,” Ms. Perez said. “And that’s the goal. To transcend boundaries. This festival has passion, joy and a little bit of magic.”
Tickets are $10 for each evening. To attend the festival at the Parrish Art Museum on Friday, November 11, visit parrishart.org. To attend at Guild Hall on Saturday, November 12, visit olalatinofilmfestival.eventbrite.com. Or call OLA at 631-899-3441.
OLA of Eastern LI Presents 13th Annual Latino Film Festival
The Organización Latino-Americana of Eastern Long Island (OLA) will be screen independent Spanish language films with English subtitles from Argentina, Ecuador, USA and Venezuela for its 13th Annual Latino Film Festival at the Parrish Art Museum on November 11 and at Guild Hall on November 12.
“Thirteen years ago, OLA founders saw the Latino Film Festival as an effective cultural conduit through which Latinos from different countries here on the east end would find new perspectives in what is often a one dimensional depiction of our varied and rich mix of cultures. Equally effective would be the sharing of these perspectives via English subtitles with English-speaking audiences eager to expand their own understanding of Latino culture,” said Minerva Perez, OLA’s executive director, in a press release issued this week.
Parrish Art Museum will feature “Our Last Tango”/“Un Tango Más,” directed by German Kral and produced by Wim Wenders on November 11. It tells the passionate love story of Argentina’s most famous tango couple in a documentary format. There will be a Doña Sarita Mezcal tasting reception at 6 p.m. and the film will be at 7 p.m. Tickets are free with paid $10 admission to museum.
On November 12, Guild Hall, the directing and producing team of Isabel Rodas and Gabriel Páez from Ecuador will attend the Mezcal Tasting reception and introduce their film “Here and There”/“Vengo Volviendo” — its Long Island premiere. The film tells the story of 22-year-old Ishmael who has an internal struggle about migrating to the U.S. The reception is at 5 p.m. and the film starts at 6 p.m. and costs $10.
Serious Shorts will begin at 8:30 p.m. and be followed by a discussion. The cost is $10 and it is not for viewers under 13. From Mexican American filmmaker, Natalie Camou, the 13-minute film “Tereza” tells the story of a mother and daughter navigating mental illness. “Normal” a Venezuelan film by Vadim Lasca shows a man and woman that are brought together by violent political protests. A combination ticket for all three Guild Hall films is $15.
East Hampton Town Hall To Host Discussion On Tenants' Rights
November 01, 2016 By Jon Winkler
Town officials will hold a community meeting later this month on tenants rights and civil and criminal issues in the eviction process. The discussion will focus on reaching out to Latino residents, who often face challenges in the process due to language barriers.
The town’s Latino Advisory Committee will be joined by members of the East Hampton Town Police Department and the Suffolk County Sheriff’s Office at East Hampton Town Hall on November 21 at 6:30 p.m.
Minerva Perez, executive director of Organización Latino-Americana of Eastern Long Island, known as OLA, said that she and Town Police Chief Michael Sarlo have been talking about eviction issues for some time and that she looks forward to having a public discussion.
“The eviction process is very confusing and some don’t exactly know the process itself,” Ms. Perez said. “I want to make sure that what leads up to a legal eviction process is known. There is a due process of law and it’s important for people to know that. I just want to make sure the town has that information,” she said, noting that the information would be useful for all residents, not just Latinos.
Police Chief Michael Sarlo said an informational meeting on eviction is something the community needs, similar to meetings recently held with code enforcement officers to address the rental registry law.
“The Latino Advisory Committee has been hosting speakers at their meetings to get pertinent information to Spanish speaking members of our community,” Chief Sarlo said. “After reviewing several situations that have arisen over the past year or so, we thought it would be a good idea to try to convey some basic information regarding the legal process and have a question and answer session at an advisory committee meeting regarding lease agreements, rental issues, etc.” He said town officials are working with leaders in the Latino community to identify where improvements can be made in communication and cooperation with Spanish speaking residents.
“The dialogue has been very productive, as we have also been able to identify areas where we can do a better job training our officers,” he said.
Ms. Perez said she credits the Town Police department for its efforts so far, but sees an opportunity to improve communications between police and the community.
“There is the concern that you want to make sure that everyone can communicate with each other, and this is crucial for violent and abuse situations,” she said. “If you can’t communicate with someone in a deeper manner, it will be tough. What we can do to increase communications means less extra work needs to be done.”
“Community policing is not just a buzz word, it is an ongoing process of being proactive to address the safety and welfare of the citizens, and build relationships that serves the entire community,” Chief Sarlo said.
Tenants and landlords are welcome to participate in the meeting and are encouraged to offer actual examples of incidents they experienced and possible solutions.
“The whole purpose is to be there and add to the dialogue,” Ms. Perez said.
Southampton police work to improve relations with Latinos
Updated October 6, 2016 4:51 PM
By Jean-Paul Salamanca firstname.lastname@example.org
Southampton Town Police and an East End nonprofit are teaming up to resurrect a program to help promote understanding and trust between law enforcement and Southampton’s Latino community.
The Sagaponack-based Organización Latino-Americana of Eastern Long Island, which promotes social, economic and educational development among Latinos, will work with the police department this winter to help screen applicants for the civilian police academy program.
“What we’re looking at is civilian understanding of what law enforcement is doing, and building up that understanding and trust,” said Minerva Perez, the nonprofit’s executive director.
he civilian academy, which is scheduled to start in March, had been a longstanding program in the community until it was deactivated a few years ago due to lack of funding and manpower, according to Southampton Town Police Lt. Susan Ralph, who is coordinating the program with Perez.
“It’s a great way to expose that side of the community to police work,” Ralph said. “It will allow them to learn what we do and to build trust.”
Ralph, the department’s Freedom of Information Officer, said the department’s members had noticed that some Latino residents have been afraid to call police, even if they have been victims of crime, because of their legal status.
“We don’t want a portion of the community to feel that if they call us, that we are going to send you out of the country,” Ralph said. “That is not what we’re about. That’s not what any police department is about.”
To participate, residents will be pre-screened and must meet age, background and time commitment requirements. They will undergo a 12-week intensive training program and learn about the challenges, daily operations and dangers that police face, and receive hands-on training in how police conduct building searches and traffic stops. At the end of the program they will accompany veteran officers on their tour to experience a day on the job.
Perez will lead six weeks of diversity training for Southampton police officers that is designed to provide insight into the Hispanic community through class exercises and discussions. Local Latino residents may also be brought in as guest speakers.
Perez worked on similar initiatives with the town’s police when she was executive director of The Retreat, an East Hampton-based domestic violence shelter, and said she is excited about the opportunity to work with the department again.
“It won’t be just me talking, it’s also a lot of listening of things [police officers] would like to see,” Perez said. “What kinds of miscommunication they find, what kinds of ways will be better for them, what information that’s lacking that is going to help them do what they do best.”
Latino Community Encouraged To Participate In Revamped Police Program
October 04, 2016 By Jen Newman
The Southampton Town Police Department will bring back its Civilian Police Academy training program next year—and a local nonprofit is focusing on getting members of the Latino community to participate.
The 12-week program, which will start in March 2017, will enable residents to learn firsthand how local law enforcement operates. Members of this intensive training will also explore the challenges and dangers of being a police officer, including by taking part in a ride-along with a veteran officer at the end of the program. Southampton Town Police Lieutenant Susan Ralph, who will be in charge of the Civilian Police Academy, said the classes will be taught at department headquarters and involve classroom lectures on law as well as practical and hands-on experience with the techniques officers use to protect themselves, as well as to enforce DWI laws.
“This will allow the community to bridge the gap between the police and the community we serve and allow citizens to experience what we experience,” Lt. Ralph said. “I think it is very important with what is going on across the country.”
OLA, the Organización Latino-Americana—a nonprofit agency that works to inform, empower and celebrate Long Island’s East End Latino and Hispanic communities—is encouraging Latinos to participate in the program in order to open up communication with law enforcement officials.
Although the department has not officially started sign-ups, OLA is putting together its own list of applicants for the program. The Civilian Police Academy was previously run yearly under the name “Citizens Police Academy,” which has since been changed to “civilians” to include the entire community, according to OLA’s executive director, Minerva Perez.
She said the program is important not only to teach the community what goes into being an officer but also to build trust and improve communication between the department and residents.
“We want the community to understand what police are involved in,” she said. “We all have the same goal in mind—we want this to be a safe community for everyone.”
Recently, Southampton Town appointed a new bilingual police officer, Julian Davila, who is now in the police academy, and who grew up in Hampton Bays.
“I think it’s important that we have diversity within our department and Julian, I think, will be an excellent member of the department,” Supervisor Jay Schneiderman said after the Town Board unanimously passed a resolution to appoint the new officer.
Ms. Perez will also lead the Latino portion of the six-week training diversity training sessions for police officers in the winter. She said she hopes to make it lively, engaging and most of all effective.
Lt. Ralph said official applications for the civilian academy will be available in January. Those who would like to get on OLA’s list for the academy, or to learn more it, can reach Ms. Perez at Olaexecdir@gmail.com.
Volunteers with the Organizacion Latino-Americana of Long Island displayed a sign reading “your vote counts” in Spanish on Sunday during a voter recruitment drive at an athletic event.
Once an undocumented immigrant from Mexico, Lucia Martinez of East Hampton will cast a ballot in the November general election for the first time as a naturalized citizen and newly registered voter.
Ms. Martinez saw how the major parties’ political campaigns were shaping up this year, heard what she said were discriminatory statements made all too often, and realized she wanted her voice to be heard.
“I never thought about voting or anything until this election. That’s when I decided I needed to do it,” said Ms. Martinez, a single mother who has been in the United States for more than 20 years and, after a three-year process of applying for citizenship, successfully achieved her goal about 11 years ago.
“At the beginning I felt nervous,” she said, referring to the voter registration process. “I thought, ‘What if they don’t count me?’ Then I felt very confident when they took my information and I received in the mail my card that said I’m registered to vote and where to go to vote.”
No one had to encourage Ms. Martinez to register, but she knows that will not be the case with other immigrant citizens who are eligible to do the same. That’s why she will be volunteering over the next several weeks with Organizacion Latino-Americana of Long Island, which recently received a grant to run a get-out-the-immigrant-vote registration drive on the East End.
The grant was provided by the New York Immigration Coalition and will vary in size up to about $10,000 based on the final expenses OLA incurs while registering new voters. But Minerva Perez, OLA’s executive director, said the funding will go far to “turn the tide of this apathy or feelings of powerlessness” that people may have during this election cycle.
“There’s so much going on that would make a person say, ‘Why bother?’ . . . That will never serve us as a country,” she said. “I want OLA to be a voice that counters that and says, ‘We need to do everything we can to put all of our voices in the mix.’ ”
OLA will set up tables in different communities at places like supermarkets, church events, and sporting events. There will also be door-to-doors and phone calls, for which names will be drawn from a special database to which Ms. Perez has been given access through the New York Immigration Perez has been given access through the New York Immigration Coalition. The process involves helping someone fill out a voter application form and making sure it gets to the Suffolk County Board of Elections by the registration deadline — applications must be postmarked by Oct. 14 and received by the board of elections by Oct. 19.
The grant stipulates that OLA’s efforts must be nonpartisan, meaning that support of specific political parties or candidates may not be encouraged during the voter registration process, Ms. Perez said.
OLA has an initial goal of registering 500 people, but Ms. Perez said she would love to see it climb into the thousands. The effort will also include the recruitment of new voters from other minority groups.
“I’m not going to turn someone away if they don’t have recent immigrant status,” Ms. Perez said. “There’s the connection also with diverse voters — linking up with other groups that might be African-American or Shinnecock, for example. We’ll make sure there is a focus on that as well.”
The New York Immigration Coalition calls immigrant voters “a powerful force” that has the ability to impact government policy.
Indeed, a “partisan divide over immigration” is emerging as a key issue in the 2016 presidential race, according to The Harvard Political Review. The journal reported in January that Republicans’ or Democrats’ “links to specific demographic groups,” such as Latino voters to name just one, may sway the vote. The Harvard Political Review cited research showing that among naturalized immigrants, 62 percent identified as Democrats. The blog Democracy: A Journal of Ideas has said voting by naturalized immigrants still lags far behind other groups in the general electorate.
According to the 2014 American Community Survey, 18.8 percent of year-round residents in East Hampton Town are foreign born, or about 4,100 people. Of that population, about 53 percent are U.S. citizens. In Southampton Town, the percentage of foreign-born, year-round residents is about the same at 18.8 percent, or 10,800 people, but of that population, 41.3 percent are U.S. citizens.
Isabel Sepulveda, who founded OLA about 14 years ago, said there is a large population of potential immigrant voters, and specifically Latino citizens, to reach out to across all of the East End. She said OLA used to run voter registration drives years ago, but stopped because of financial hurdles.
“This grant is huge,” she said. “We need it so bad. . . . The amount of Latinos who vote is very low. Some people register when they become citizens, but others have not done it.”
She speaks from experience, having observed what went on while working as an election inspector at the polls at Southampton High School for more than 10 years. People, she said, sometimes need “time and encouragement from other people” before registering to vote.
“The culture is different, the language is different,” Ms. Sepulveda said. “A lot of things are different and you need to learn.”
Ms. Martinez said she hopes the grant given to OLA will help get more new Latino citizens, in particular, registered to vote.
“If we let the people know that it’s safe to register, it’s okay to do it, then it will be helpful,” she said. “But they have to hear from us, from the same Latinos.”
Ms. Perez said momentum is key. “We need to keep generating the interest and excitement, because we need to bring that back into the forefront. You can’t sit on the couch and yell at the TV and get on Facebook and post a bunch of stuff. We need to be positively effective.”
Local Residents Return From Delegation Trip With New Views On Immigration
August 09, 2016
By Jon Winkler and Kelly Zegers
This past July—as the issue of immigration has been at the forefront of America’s national discussion—a group of volunteers traveled south of the U.S.-Mexico border to see how the poorest Mexican and Central American families live, and returned with a new outlook.
Fourteen Long Island residents spent 10 days in Oaxaca, the second poorest state in Mexico, from July 9 to July 18 to learn about the working conditions the locals face and the impact the North American Free Trade Agreement, or NAFTA, has had on their livelihoods. The delegates learned many of the reasons residents there and migrants from Central America give for wanting to come to the United States in search of a better life.
“We weren’t there to go to another country and point out that country’s flaws,” said Minerva Perez, a Sag Harbor resident and the executive director of Organización Latino Americana of Eastern Long Island, known as OLA. “We were there to go to a country that has been directly impacted by many U.S. policies and take a look at what we can do as people from the United States and how we can view this as people from the United States.”
The trip was funded and organized by the Hagedorn Foundation, a nonprofit grant-making organization based in Roslyn that supports other organizations on Long Island that pursue social justice issues, immigration reform and civic engagement.
“We make a grant through a local immigration program to an organization called Witness For Peace,” said Sandra Dunn, the program director of the Hagedorn Foundation. “I’ve been making this grant to them since 2010. We usually take 10 to 15 people, go down to the capital city of Oaxaca, also called Oaxaca, and we learn about the root causes of migration. I’m always looking for people who are involved in their community and/or connected to an education network, like a classroom or a library. The point is to have those people come back and share what they’ve learned with their networks and communities.”
The Hagedorn Foundation was founded in 2005 with funds left to Amy Hagedorn when her husband, Horace Hagedorn, the man who helped market Miracle-Gro fertilizer into a multi-million dollar success, died. Mr. Hagedorn left his widow $60 million dollars to start the foundation that would help support Long Island organizations looking to make a difference.
Ms. Dunn said that Hagedorn is a “spend-down” organization, meaning the foundation would use all of its assets overtime instead of applying for more money. Because of this, Ms. Dunn said that Hagedorn will have spent its remaining funds by 2017 and will therefore close its doors permanently, which makes this recent delegation trip all the more significant.
“Part of our mission here at the Hagedorn Foundation is to ease people’s reactions to the truths of immigration,” Ms. Dunn said. “One way we do that is by educating local Long Island residents about immigration. This trip is meant to educate Long Islanders who may not have daily contact with immigrants. They may have different opinions on immigration, but this is a way of immersing them in a place in Mexico that has had a lot of out-migration to other parts of Mexico and the U.S. to learn what the root causes of migration are. Beyond that, I think when people are dealing with facts and first-hand experience, they are better able to educate others and inject facts into the debate to create more understanding of the issue and to make Long Island a more welcoming place.”
In addition to Ms. Perez, two other residents from the East End were a part of the delegation, Leah Oppenheimer, of Sag Harbor, a social worker at the Children’s Museum of the East End in Bridgehampton, and Lisa Votino-Tarrant, a resident of the Shinnecock Indian Reservation and an administrative assistant at Wuneechanunk Shinecock Pre-school.
The delegation spent time meeting with families and non-governmental organizations to learn about the issues. One day, they learned about the effects of border control by meeting with families who had not seen loved ones for years at a time after they crossed the border into the United States, recalled Ms. Votino-Tarrant, who said they sat with families in their homes and listened to their stories.
“Families were going longer with their loved ones being away. So what used to be every year, every two years, then became every seven years, every 10 years, every 13 years, because it was just that much harder to get across the border at that point, and certainly much more dangerous,” Ms. Votino-Tarrant said.
Ms. Perez said the group met a woman who had not seen her husband in 15 years after he went to the United States to work, only to find out that he had been killed in a car accident without further explanation as to why or how it happened.
She said that, here in the United States, she meets the migrants who are trying to do the best for their families. But in Oaxaca, “I was meeting with people who were left.”
The hardest day for Ms. Votino-Tarrant was a visit to a migrant shelter in Oaxaca, filled mostly with people from Central American countries hoping to escape violence in their hometowns. There, migrants are allowed to stay three days as they make their way to the border.
The group met 18 men who openly shared their stories. One man had walked for 13 days from El Salvador to get to the shelter and arrived just the day before.
Another, a 19-year-old named Rudy who was working to return to the United States, told Ms. Votino-Tarrant he fell in love with the country and built a great passion for music, something he was able to show when he performed at the Rose Bowl.
“They wanted to know: Would they be safe? And we didn’t have really good answers for them. And it was hard, it was really hard,” Ms. Votino-Tarrant said.
She bonded with the men about soccer teams. “It was just like a normal conversation that you would have with anyone. But you know that no matter what, migrants face violence at some point along their journey. And if they haven’t faced it yet, they will.”
For Ms. Perez, a major takeaway was recognizing how trade policies, such as NAFTA, have played a role in hardships that make life difficult for people in Mexico, and as a result lead to migration north.
“The scales are so far tipped,” she said of inequalities between the local farmers and big companies that import goods into Mexico.
Also through NAFTA, silver and gold mountaintop mining by transnational companies has decimated farmland and divided communities as locals get jobs with those companies. Ms. Perez recalled meeting a woman who was working to defend the land that was being encroached by mining.
The woman was only about 26 years old, but the look in her eyes made her seem older, about 45 years old, Ms. Perez said. “She had been through so much. She had been shot in the leg. Her fellow leader in this fight against this mine happening was killed.”
The woman walked with a cane and spoke quietly.
“It was just almost chilling. You're leaning in to hear what they're saying and to grasp this fearsome, quiet, power that they have,” Ms. Perez said. “Her life is in danger, but she's meeting with us and telling us about this, and that was tremendously moving.”
One couple the delegation met stood out to Ms. Oppenheimer: The couple had returned to their home village to teach sustainable agriculture techniques, including how to grow crops without pesticides, which are difficult for farmers to afford.
“They are people who are educated and have chosen to go back and make their home villages better,” she said. “It was very moving.”
Teaching A Lesson At Home
Each of the women have thought of how they can apply their delegation experience to their lives and work now that they are back home on Long Island.
Ms. Votino-Tarrant said she wants to share what she has learned, perhaps through presentations at East End libraries.
“Basically just trying to share the information that I learned any way I can, even in just normal conversations I have with people,” she said, especially when someone might bring up a misconception about immigrants.
In terms of OLA, which focuses on arts, education and advocacy, the experience will help color choices for its annual film festival in November.
Ms. Oppenheimer, who teaches literacy at the Children’s Museum of the East End, will take what she learned to her work. While on the trip, she noticed how children in Oaxaca did not have easy access to books.
“Kids’ books in Oaxaca, Mexico, cost more than what people make in several weeks,” she learned. There was a library, she said, but it never appeared to be open whenever she passed by.
Seeing that has inspired her to start looking into how she can make sure that new immigrants become socialized into the culture of libraries and books, so that children can learn.
Springs School Board Continues To Face Community Concerns Over Latino Outreach
By Jon Winkler
A vote to form a Latino Parents Committee that some expected at Tuesday night’s Springs School Board of Education meeting did not take place, but instead the meeting became a platform for several residents to continue to speak out about what they say is the lack of connection between the school board and the Latino community of Springs.
Resident Tatiana Tucci asked the board if there would be the appointment of a bilingual clerk to help bilingual parents register their children for the upcoming school year. Keri DeLalio, the Board’s director of human resources and pupil & personnel services, said that there were bilingual volunteers working with the clerks to help make the enrollment process easier.
“A lot of times we hear that the Latino community doesn’t get involved because we don’t care or we don’t listen,” Ms. Tucci said. “We do care and we want to be informed! But most of the time we don’t feel welcome.”
Also present at the meeting was Minerva Perez, executive director of the Organización Latino-Americana of Eastern Long Island, who said she hoped to participate in a vote on the creation of the Latino Parents Committee. The organization posted on its Facebook earlier this week that a vote was to take place, but it was not on the agenda. Ms. Perez still took the time to address the board about the need for leadership within the board to connect with the Latino community. She said that the school board must blaze a path for Hispanic leadership within the school district.
The last to speak at the meeting was Chris Tucci, who is married to Ms. Tucci.
“The number of people on staff of Spring School who help Latinos are few and far between,” Mr. Tucci said.
The next Springs School Board of Education meeting will be on August 29.
Premiando a las Latinas de éxito en Long Island
May 26, 2016
El 19 de mayo la revista Long Island Latino – Magazine & TV y Empowering Women TV & Radio, llevaron a cabo la 2da. edición anual de los premios Latinas de Éxito Long Island (LELI) en el Brentwood Country Club, en el cual se honoró a aquellas mujeres que contribuyen al desarrollo integral de Long Island con su liderazgo, iniciativa, servicio, crecimiento profesional y autenticidad. Fueron nueve categorías que reconoció los logros sobresalientes en la comunidad.
La imagen de arriba registra a los organizadores y honoradas, de izq. a der., (De pie) a Wendy Rodríguez, directora ejecutiva de Empowering Women TV & Radio y USZ; Lina Cruz, coordinadora de Asuntos Latinos, NY Yankees; Lucy Reyes, vicepresidenta de Alerta TV Network; Ana Torres, directora ejecutiva y fundadora de Shepherds Gate Academy; Jairo Zuluaga, director ejecutivo y presidente de Long Island Latino Magazine & TV; Jenny Cruz, directora de Small Business de Bethpage Federal Credit Union; Minerva Pérez, directora ejecutiva de OLA of Eastern Long Island; y Dorothy Gia Santana, fundadora de Latina Moms of Long Island; (Sentadas) Margarita Grasing, directora ejecutiva de Hispanic Brotherhood of RVC; Elizabeth Custodio, vicepresidenta CRA directora de Suffolk County National Bank; Nina McCann, directora de Marketing y Relaciones Públicas de la firma de abogados Uniondale based Forchelli, Curto, Deegan, Schwartz, Mineo & Terrana LLP; Elaine Medin, directora de educación adulta de Central Islip High School; María Isabel Sepulveda, del periódico Voz Latina; y Grace Ioannidis, directora de Servicios para la Mujer, de la oficina del ejecutivo del Condado de Suffolk.
OLA to Assist NYS Attorney General’s Office in Presenting Wage Theft & Workers Rights Workshops May 16, 2016
OLA of Eastern Long Island was contacted by Attorney General Eric Schneiderman’s office to assist with a series of presentations and workshops on Wage Theft and Worker’s Rights.
OLA will be hosting this series of workshops and will be reaching out to all leadership within the Latino Community to share information and encourage participation. This series will be done in Spanish and English and it will be open to all interested persons via RSVP.
The date and location have not been set as of this press release. We are aiming for late June, July and August. All interested in attending should email or call Minerva Perez, OLA Executive Director: Olaexecdir@gmail.com – 631.871.3408.
OLA of Eastern Long Island fue contactado por la oficina del Attorney General Eric Schneiderman solicitando ayuda con una serie de presentaciones y talleres sobre elrobo de salarios y derechos delos trabajadores.
OLA of Eastern Long Island fue contactado por la oficina del Attorney General Eric Schneiderman solicitando ayuda con una serie de presentaciones y talleres sobre elrobo de salarios y derechos delos trabajadores.
OLA será el anfitriónde estos eventos y busca acercarse a la comunidad Latina para compartir información y a la vez fomentar su participación. Los talleres se realizarán tanto en español como en inglés y estarán abiertos a todas las personas interesadas vía RSVP.
Al momento de la publicación de esta nota, no se ha definido una fecha para este evento. Nuestro objetivo sería para finales de junio, julio y agosto.
OLA Looks To Bridge Gap Between Springs School District And Latino Community
April 12, 2016 By Jaime Zahl
Approximately 80 parents, students and community members packed into the Springs School Commons Room on Monday night for the district’s first Board of Education meeting to formally offer Spanish translation.
During the meeting, two bilingual Springs teacher’s assistants, Lillian Flores and Ana Jacobs, sat in the back of the room translating for about 15 Latino parents who chose to speak. Following the third budget workshop presentation for the 2016-2017 school year and other agenda items, the board announced that they are now working with Hispanic advocacy group OLA of Eastern Long Island in hopes of creating better communication between the district and its Latino community, which accounts for more than 50 percent of the district’s population. “We had a meeting last week where we were talking with that community organization about how we can improve our communication also,” said board member Timothy Frazier. “I want you to know we are listening. We’re trying our best. We’re trying to put things into practice that we can given the limited resources that we do have,” he told the crowd.
OLA’s Executive Director Minerva Perez said the group reached out to the Springs School Board and Superintendent John “Jay” Finello after meeting with many Latino parents in the district who shared stories about trouble registering their children, a lack of translated materials and problems with the language barrier over a multi-year period. In one instance, Ms. Perez said that a parent said it took over a month to register their children at the district. “OLA is doing everything it can as a local, community-based organization, with all its members living on the East End, to make this a dialogue between a local community-based organization, Latino parents and the school board,” said Ms. Perez.
Two weeks ago OLA’s board of directors and six Springs Latino parents met with Mr. Finello, school board members Barbara Dayton and Timothy Frazier and Springs School Interim Business Administrator Carl Fraser to begin a dialogue about the gap between the district and the Latino community.
“It was a two-and-a-half hour meeting and overall everything that was being expressed by the superintendent and by the board were all the things that OLA and the Latino parents would want to hear,” said Ms. Perez. “The problem is that’s not what’s been happening. The only way to reconcile that is to say ‘put it in writing and let’s commit some action. Let’s commit to some agreements that are not only saying everything you just said, but creating some actions to go along with it.’
At that meeting, Ms. Perez presented the board and Mr. Finello with specific commitments suggested by OLA, one of which was a consolidated packet of all the district’s policies for new parents that could help them adhere to registration procedures. At the time of the meeting, Ms. Perez said she requested the board’s policy for registration, but was only given a generalized registration packet that provided little insight into policies.
“OLA would love to see those policies and protocols made transparent,” said Ms. Perez. “We want to get into the business of moving everything forward and integrating and incorporating these parents who want to be better involved in their child’s education, who want to be more supportive of the school.” The district lists 24 of its adopted policies on the district website. According to Springs School Board President Elizabeth Mendelman, the district has been in the process of updating its policies with its attorneys. Ms. Perez said OLA would also like to see the addition of a Latino parents advisory committee and other ways of getting them more involved in the district that would not require additional funding. “That’s what I saw when I met with these Latino families. They were talking about being more involved, about making sure their child gets a great education. That’s really what OLA is working to put together.”
Ms. Perez said the Spanish translation at the board meeting was a great first step. “Whether or not it was a little cumbersome, they really did seem to embrace it and I thought that was great,” she said. “Now all eyes are on the board, the superintendent, to look at this and to understand that this community of Springs wants to see the right thing happen.”
OLA Mira Para reducir la falta Entre Springs Distrito escolar y la comunidad latina
April 12, 2016 By Jaime Zahl
Aproximadamente 80 padres de familia, estudiantes y miembros de la comunidad llenaron el “Commons Room” en la escuela de Springs el lunes en la noche con el Consejo de Educación para ofrecer formalmente traducciones en español por primera vez.
Durante la junta, dos asistentes de maestras bilingües, Liliana Flores y Ana Jacobs, se sentaron en la parte de atrás del salón para traducirles a aproximadamente 15 padres latinos que decidieron hablar.
Siguiendo la presentación del tercer taller del presupuesto para el año escolar 2016-2017 y otros puntos en la agenda, el consejo anunció que están trabajando ahora con el grupo de asesoría a hispanos, OLA del Este de Long Island, con la esperanza de crear mejor comunicación entre el distrito y su comunidad latina, quienes constituyen más del 50 por ciento de la población del distrito.
Timothy Frazier, miembro del Consejo de Educación dijo: “También tuvimos una junta la semana pasada con esa organización de la comunidad donde hablamos de cómo mejorar nuestra comunicación”. También dijo, “Queremos que sepan que estamos escuchando. Estamos haciendo nuestro mejor esfuerzo. Estamos tratando de poner las cosas que podamos en práctica, dados los limitados recursos que tenemos”.
Minerva Perez, la directora ejecutiva de OLA, dijo que habían contactado al Consejo de Educación de Springs y al superintendente, John “Jay” Finello después de haberse reunido con varios padres latinos en el distrito que compartieron historias sobre problemas al registrar a sus hijos, la falta de materiales traducidos y problemas con la barrera del lenguaje en el transcurso de varios años.
En una ocasión dijo la señorita Perez que un padre dijo que tomó más de un mes registrar a sus hijos en el distrito.
“OLA está haciendo todo lo posible, como una organización local basada en la comunidad, con todos sus miembros viviendo en el este de Long Island (o el “East End”) para hacer esto un diálogo entre la organización, los padres latinos y el Consejo de Educación”, dijo la señorita Perez.
Hace dos semanas el Consejo Directivo de OLA y seis padres latinos de Springs se reunieron con el Sr. Finello, los miembros del Consejo de Educación, Barbara Dayton y Timothy Frazier y Carl Fraser, administrador de empresas interino de la escuela de Springs para empezar un diálogo sobre la brecha entre el distrito y la comunidad latina.
“Fue una junta de dos horas y media y en general todo lo que estaba siendo expresado por el superintendente y el Consejo eran todas las cosas que OLA y los padres latinos querían escuchar”, dijo la señorita Perez. “El problema es que eso no es lo que ha estado pasando. La única manera de reconciliar eso es decir, pónganlo por escrito y comprometámonos a tomar alguna acción. Comprometámonos a algunos acuerdos que no sólo digan lo que acaban de decir sino creando algunas acciones que vayan de la mano con eso”.
En la junta, la señorita Perez le presentó al Consejo y al Sr. Finello compromisos específicos sugeridos por OLA, uno de los cuales era un paquete consolidado de todas las políticas del distrito para nuevos padres que les pudiese ayudar a adherirse a los procedimientos para registrarse. Durante la junta, la señorita Perez dijo que solicitó la política para registrarse del Consejo pero sólo le dieron un paquete de registro generalizado que sólo proveía una pequeña visión de las políticas.
“A OLA le gustaría ver que se hicieran transparentes esas políticas y protocolos”, dijo la señorita Perez. “Queremos que las cosas avancen integrando e incorporando a estos padres quienes quieren estar más involucrados en la educación de sus hijos y quienes quieren dar más apoyo a la escuela”. El distrito lista 24 de las políticas adoptadas en la página de internet del distrito. De acuerdo con la presidente del Consejo de la escuela de Springs, Elizabeth Mendelman, el distrito ha estado en el proceso de actualizar sus políticas con sus abogados.
La señorita Perez dijo que a OLA le gustaría ver la adición de un comité de asistencia a padres latinos y otras formas de tenerlos más involucrados en el distrito y que no requiera de fondos adicionales.
“Eso fue lo que vi cuando conocí a estas familias latinas. Ellos hablaban de estar más involucrados, de asegurarse de que sus hijos tengan una buena educación. Esto es en lo que realmente OLA está trabajando”.
La señorita Perez dijo que la traducción al español durante la junta con el Consejo fue un gran primer paso.
“Haya o no haya sido un tanto incómodo, realmente parecieron acogerlo y creo que eso fue increíble”, dijo ella, “ahora todos los ojos están en el Consejo, el superintendente, que vean esto y entiendan que esta comunidad de Springs quiere ver que sucedan las cosas correctas.”
"Soy Maria, Soy Mujer”
A celebration of the power, beauty, and triumph of the Latina
Featuring Live Mesmerizing Drumming to mixed Latino Music by Carolina Fuentes Staged reading of "Soy Maria" by Minerva Perez Spoken word performances by Latinas
OLA Tackles Domestic Violence With 'Soy Maria' At Guild Hall Saturday
March 30, 2016 By Jaime Zahl
Organización Latino-Americana of Eastern Long Island, popularly known as OLA, is kicking off its 2016 season of events with a one-night-only performance of the original play “Soy Maria,” written by the advocacy organization’s newly instated executive director, Minerva Perez.
The play, spoken entirely in Spanish, tackles the issue of domestic violence in the Latino-American community. Ms. Perez originally wrote “Soy Maria” five years ago based on her experiences serving as The Retreat’s director of residential and transitional services, running a 24-hour domestic violence crisis shelter. She said the play’s focus did not stem from any indication that domestic violence is more prevalent in the Latino community; rather, it stemmed from the taboo surrounding its discussion.
“In the Spanish community, although we’re in the 21st century, there’s still a stigma,” Ms. Perez said. “Your mother tells you that, ‘That is life. You have to suck it up.’ I think this is important because it gives people a voice. It puts a face on the problems we have within the Hispanic community.”
In order to portray that sense of community, Ms. Perez wrote the play as a series of 16 monologues—each read by a different character. She said she wanted to convey that a victim of domestic violence is never in it alone—there is always someone else who is a witness, or who will be affected by what’s happening to the victim. “There’s going to be a whole community of people that are connected to this victim of domestic violence ... it’s not just how we look at domestic violence, as one single victim. It’s the entire community of so many different socioeconomic backgrounds. It’s everywhere,” she said.
Playing the lead role of Maria, a woman trapped in a domestic violence situation, is radio personality Ana Maria Caraballo. Born and raised in Puerto Rico, Ms. Caraballo moved to the U.S. to study radio and has climbed the ranks in recent years to become promotions director for JVC Broadcasting, which includes popular Long Island radio station La Fiesta 98.5, where she hosts the morning show.
Ms. Caraballo, who has worked with Ms. Perez on four other productions including an all-Latino staging of “The Vagina Monologues” in Bridgehampton, said that “Soy Maria” struck a nerve when she first read it a few years back.
“When I was in high school … I was a victim of that type of violence—more psychological abuse than anything—with my ex-boyfriend,” Ms. Caraballo revealed. “And you don’t think that it happens at that young age, but it does and you stay there because you don’t tell anyone. You don’t tell your parents, you don’t tell anybody.
“And I’ve seen it,” she continued. “I’ve seen it with my family. I’ve seen it with relatives. I’ve seen it with friends, and they go back and they stay and then something bad has to happen for them to understand it. Sometimes they had the opportunity to look for support and not just say, ‘This is the cards that I was given, I have to deal with them.’ Because a lot of [victims] feel guilty too.”
For this particular production, Ms. Perez decided to alter the original ending. Looking to make an impact on the audience, she had written a tragic end for Maria. Taking into consideration the real-life death of Lilia “Esperanza” Aucapina—the Ecuador native who was found hanged in Sagaponack late last year—Ms. Perez opted for an alternate conclusion.
“I wrote that five years ago, so it had nothing to do with her,” Ms. Perez said of the original script. “But because of her, I wanted to change the ending and make it a happy ending. Not just happy, but a hopeful ending.”
The entire evening of entertainment, which is titled “Soy Maria, Soy Mujer,” or “I Am Maria, I Am Woman,” will also feature the drum stylings of Chilean musician Carolina Fuentes of the band Mr. No Shame, as well as a series of spoken word poetry presented by local performers.
“This is a celebration, essentially,” Ms. Perez said. “It’s a celebration of the beauty, the power, the triumph of a Latina woman ... And it is a celebration because that kind of strength and spirit is hard won. It can’t just be given to you. ... You have to win it hard and that’s what Maria shows everyone.”
“Soy Maria, Soy Mujer” will take place at Guild Hall, 158 Main Street, East Hampton, on Saturday, April 2, at 7 p.m. Tickets are $11.54 for general admission and $22.09 for reserved seating. Visit soymariasoymujer.eventbrite.com.
"It was completely tragic," Southampton Town Supervisor Jay Schneiderman said this week, discussing the death of Lilia Aucapina. "The circumstances around it are very sad. I can't undo that. But we can discuss the commitment police made in investigating the situation and we can do a better job communicating."
This week, Schneiderman plans to meet with Aucapina's family, police, and Latino advocates to review an analysis of the investigation.
Aucapina was reported missing in October. The Sagaponack woman's body was found in the woods near her home 40 days after the initial report. Police deemed the death a suicide, but the medical examiner's ruling wasn't handed down until the end of February.
As time wore on, family members and eventually representatives from the advocacy group LatinoJustice raised questions about the way Southampton Town Police handled the case. Theories abounded, with some feeling police were too quick to determine the deeply religious woman killed herself. People wondered why it took so long to find the body, why a "thorough" search that included a K-9 unit was fruitless. Misinformation about the location of the body spread. People wondered whether local cops investigated the case aggressively enough, whether they committed adequate resources to the case, whether Latino lives matter to police.
Within weeks of the discovery of Aucapina's body, family members asked the case to be turned over to the county homicide squad. Suspicion was cast on Aucapina's estranged husband, Carlos, who allegedly violated an order of protection his wife had in place the day she went missing.
Schneiderman took office in January and the family and LatinoJustice continued to ask for a probe into how police handled the case. Last week, the supervisor met with police and poured over details of the investigation. He reviewed the long- aborning coroner's report, which affirmed the preliminary determination.
It was a suicide.
"Everything matches up," Schneiderman said.
Within four hours of the missing persons report filing, police began a parallel track of investigating it as a homicide, the supervisor reported. "You can't say police didn't devote enough resources, they absolutely did. You can't say they didn't investigate other possibilities [besides suicide], they absolutely did."
Schneiderman vowed to share any element of the investigation that can be discussed with Aucapina's family. "Whatever the family wants, I'll give them," he said.
While Schneiderman hopes a thorough briefing will assuage the family's concerns, he realizes there may be a broader issue – a general reluctance on the part of the Hispanic community to trust police. "If people feel we don't value Latino lives as much as others, we have a problem with perception," he said. He hopes representatives from LatinoJustice and Minerva Perez, the new executive director of OLA, can help bridge any divide between law enforcement and the Latino community.
"When something like this happens, you think, "How do we prevent the next one? Is there more we can do as a community?" Schneiderman observed.
He believes there are resources to help people in crisis that they may not be aware of. "I want to make sure people are aware there are services available and if there are holes, I want to make sure they are covered. Whenever there's a tragedy, you want to prevent the next one," he said.
While reaching out to the victim's family and the community at large is a socially just act, it's also a practical one. Schneiderman noted that in some Southampton School districts, Latinos are no longer the minority. Population numbers prove outreach to the Latino community is more than merely kind; it's a necessity.
Beginning a conversation that enhances relations will, said Perez, "strengthen the whole fabric of the community."
The idea of finding ways to reach out to immigrants is in "such a beginning stage," Perez noted. But, she continued, "It's definitely hopeful."
Like Schneiderman, the advocate believes that communication with the Aucapina family in the specific case and with the Latino community in general, is key. "I was so happy to hear Jay was ready . . . to have the hardest questions come your way and allow a dialogue to happen that wasn't happening last year . . . what we do now is really about dialogue."
Even if it wasn't the case, the message put out during the Aucapina investigation was that it wasn't okay to ask police questions. "Perception is reality and we're responsible for that. You have to be responsible for the perception you're creating," she said. "You have to start off being okay having questions asked of you."
On Monday, Southampton Town Police Chief Robert Pearce acknowledged, "There are definitely a lot of things we have to work on as far as cultural awareness." Interacting with the surging Hispanic population, "There are challenges, without a doubt," he said.
Speaking generally, he said one can understand the fear that interaction with police could lead to deportation. "But that's not our mission," he emphasized.
As the Latino population has grown, he said, "We have more and more encounters with the Hispanic community. We have to adjust."
The use of a language line program to interpret for non-English speakers has been expanded in the department, and Pearce is looking to hire more interpreters.
"We're always looking for ways to address the concerns of the public," Pearce continued. "We want to have open ears."
STPD's handling of the Aucapina case "rocked the community," Perez opined. But with the meeting planned this week, and Schneiderman's willingness to begin a dialogue aimed at enhancing trust between the police and the public, she believes, "Southampton Town is in a good position to completely turn it around."
Minerva Pérez, nueva directora de la fundación OLA
Minerva Pérez, es otra de las Latinas que se unen a la lista de personalidades que vinieron a conquistar el Corazón de los estadounidenses, su amplia experiencia en temas relacionados con la migración la acaban de convertir en la nueva directora de OLA, una organización que se preocupa por la comunidad latina.
La promoción de las artes y la educación son los pilares de su trabajo, en 2008 asumió el cargo directivo de voluntarios de OLA, luego trabajo durante seis años como directora de servicios residenciales y de transición en el refugio Hampton, donde dirigió el departamento de emergencias que recibía a mujeres y niños víctimas de la violencia doméstica.
En el 2008, Minerva estuvo a cargo del festival de cine; dirigiendo y produciendo la obra Monólogos de la Vagina en español presentado en Long Island. Destacado en caja de texto dentro del contenido
OLA como organización de defensa latina, ha buscado ayudas para educar y capacitar a los inmigrantes esta líder de procesos de migración piensa que “Será importante para la comunidad latina construir puentes culturales, con todas las comunidades para romper con la barrera cultural que en ocasiones nos impide luchar como latino “
La fundadora de OLA, Isabel Sepúlveda de Scanlon, quien también es presidente de la organización, dijo que Minerva Pérez asumirá este nuevo reto con altura, “Ella es genial, ella es fuerte,”
Como directora ejecutiva, uno de los logros que deberá enfrentar Minerva, será el de educar a la comunidad latina sobre la inmigración y la seguridad de los trabajadores, para que logren alcanzar una estabilidad para ellos y sus familias.
Voice for Latinos in Long Island Reaches Across Cultural Divide
By EMILY J. WEITZ FEB. 26, 2016
It would be impossible to try to find one voice for the estimated 25,000 Latinos on Long Island’s East End. Some are wealthy, some are struggling; some are undocumented, and others are American citizens.
But to have no unifying voice in her community was unthinkable for the Chilean-born activist and businesswoman Isabel Sepulveda-de Scanlon. So a decade ago, she created Voz Latina: a volunteer-run monthly newspaper that caters to the Spanish-speaking inhabitants of La Isla Larga (Long Island, to English speakers).
“The community needed information,” Ms. Sepulveda said. “Worldly information.”
Unlike East End publications that mostly report local stories, Voz Latina also features news from other countries.
“It’s about connecting the Latino community with their culture, their world,” Ms. Sepulveda said. “We live here, but we have our tentacles back at home. Voz Latina doesn’t have one place, one community.”
Roger Acosta, a lawyer with a practice in Huntington Station and Riverhead, found Ms. Sepulveda’s passion so inspiring that he wrote the check for Voz Latina’s first ad.
“Newspapers are what create our freedom,” said Mr. Acosta, who lived in Cuba until he was 9. He said he remembers his parents lamenting the lack of freedom of the press.
Ms. Sepulveda said she believed being informed was critical to being empowered. As a co-founder of Organización Latino-Americana, she has striven to strengthen the Latino community on the East End through workshops, celebrations and advocacy. In Voz Latina, she informs readers about local leaders who are sympathetic to the Latino experience, which means that the publication admittedly has political leanings.
“I put things in there so people know who represents them,” she said.
Columns in Voz Latina offer advice on immigration issues, as well as problems out of the public eye such as domestic violence and alcoholism.
“After September the economy really slows,” Ms. Sepulveda said, “and people get stressed there’s not enough money to pay the bills. There’s insecurity, and machismo, which can lead to these issues.”
Ms. Sepulveda said she felt that her mission was to connect the Anglo and Latino worlds on the East End, and she is consciously looking for places where they overlap, like the dance floor.
“There are people who won’t even walk down Main Street because they’re afraid the police will stop them. But when Mambo Loco plays,” she said, referring to a popular local band that specializes in Afro-Cuban and Puerto Rican music, “you see everyone on the dance floor. It doesn’t matter if you’re a citizen or if you’re undocumented.”
Ms. Sepulveda said she hoped that Voz Latina, like music, could create a space for communication. She said she often received phone calls and messages on Facebook from readers who needed help and wanted to connect.
“Someone called me up and told me immigration took her son,” she said. Ms. Sepulveda included the story in the paper, along with an article in Spanish that explained what to do if immigration agents came to the door.
“People need to know their rights,” she said.
Angela Quintero, who taught business administration in her native Colombia before moving to East Hampton, writes a column that addresses topics like effective communication and leadership. These are important and often-overlooked skills for people coming to the United States, she said.
“Most immigrants come here looking to achieve their dreams,” Ms. Quintero said. “But they arrive at this totally different culture, and often they have to change their focus.”
Ms. Quintero hopes that instead of surrendering their dreams, her readers will learn how to take an idea that she writes about, combine it with their own aspirations, and create a business plan.
Voz Latina is bilingual: Ms. Sepulveda said she wanted Anglo readers to pick it up to connect to the Latino community, as well as the other way around. Some columnists, like Javier Pérez Mandujano, a life coach from Mexico by way of France, write in both languages.
He said that he wrote in both languages because a column could not simply be translated into another language, because of cultural nuances and sensibilities.
“Sometimes we try so hard to define our culture, we end up confronting,” said Mr. Pérez Mandujano. He said that, while it is important to maintain cultural identity, it is also important to connect. “Voz Latina,” he said, “is a bridge.”
Whether the Latino community has been integrated into East End culture remains a controversial subject. You need only look at the cafeteria tables in the local public schools, Ms. Sepulveda said, to see how the communities are stratified.
Ms. Quintero expressed more optimism. “I believe that there are two communities,” she said, “but we are on our way.”
On Feb. 4, East Hampton started a Latin Advisory Committee, a group of 10 people, eight of whom are Latino. Ms. Quintero is a member of the committee, charged with community outreach. Larry Cantwell, East Hampton town supervisor, said he hoped the Town Board would introduce and facilitate new bilingual workshops with the police and housing departments.
“This population is a significant part of the community, and we want to break down the communication barrier,” Mr. Cantwell said.
Ms. Quintero attributed the strides being made in communication between Latinos and the broader East End community, in large part, to the efforts of Voz Latina.
“It’s not just about language, it’s about culture, it’s about communication,” she said. “Voz Latina connects the community by opening doors into different cultures.”
A month after being named the executive director of the Organizacion Latino-Americana, or OLA, the East End Latino advocacy group, Minerva Perez has hit the ground running.
This week, Ms. Perez will join with a group of other Latino advocates to press their case on a number of key issues, from workers rights, to driver’s license reform, with New York State lawmakers on Long Island. Later, she will take part in a meeting with Southampton Town Supervisor Jay Schneiderman and the family of Lila “Esperanza” Aucapino, whose death by suicide last year led to charges from the Latino community that police had not taken her disappearance seriously and failed to keep the family informed of developments in the case. In the meantime, she is busy organizing classes for youths and a performance next month at Guild Hall in East Hampton based on a play she wrote.
It’s all part of OLA’s mission to serve as an advocacy, arts and educational organization for the growing Latino community on the East End, Ms. Perez said.
“Within each of those three categories, there is significant work to be done,” said Ms. Perez. “I want to be involved in things that are vital to our community.”
Not only is the local Latino community “a hard working group of people who are constantly being maligned and scapegoated,” but it is much more diverse by age, education and economic class than many East End residents may realize, she said.
Although many Latinos are successful business owners and their children make up a sizeable portion of the East End’s school enrollments, it is still a largely invisible segment of the population when it comes to the political world, she said, with no Latinos in elective office in either East Hampton or Southampton town.
“A lot of them may not be able to vote right now, but they are surrounded by people who can vote, whether it is their kids or relatives,” she added. “To assume they have no voice is to make a big mistake.”
That is a divide the newly formed Latino Advisory Committee in East Hampton Town is hoping to bridge.
“Our goal is to inform and integrate the Latino community into the local government process and provide a link for that community to town government,” said Maritza Guichay of East Hampton, who is serving with Angela Quintero as co-chair of the group.
East Hampton formerly had a Latino advisory committee about a decade ago, but it became inactive, according to Ms. Guichay, who noted that it was Supervisor Larry Cantwell who reconstituted the group last month.
One of its first orders of business, she said, would be to hold a workshop at Town Hall on March 18 at 6:30 p.m. on the town’s new rental law for Spanish-speaking residents, which will be presented in English with Spanish translations.
She envisions the committee holding public forums about once every other month on a variety of local government issues including code enforcement. “We need to get informed about our lives and our responsibilities,” she said. “It is a two-way street.”
Ms. Guichay said the group has a Facebook page, Latino Advisory Committee, and those interested in attending the rental registry workshop can call her at 631-352-0666.
At OLA, Ms. Perez, a native of Miami who studied theater at New York University and ran a small theater in the city before moving east in 2001, said she will embrace the organization’s role as a sponsor of the arts by moving beyond its sponsorship of an annual film festival featuring Latino films.
OLA was founded by Isabel Sepulveda, who for many years served as its de facto director, but she said in a recent interview that Ms. Perez would bring new energy to the organization. “Many of us in OLA believe that arts is an excellent way to build bridges and Minerva has a very strong background in the arts,” she said.
On April 2, OLA will present “Soy Maria, Soy Mujer,” a spoken word and live music performance based on a play Ms. Perez wrote about a victim of domestic violence and her survival and triumph. OLA is also offering art for children, English as a second language, and other classes. Ms. Perez is also working on readying OLA’s new website, olaofeastendlongisland.org, for launch.
“I don’t want OLA to try to recreate the wheel,” she said, noting that many other organizations also provide needed services to the Latino population. “But we can link people together who are doing this good work and bring up the level of discourse.”
Minerva Perez, a familiar face at the Organizacion Latino-Americana, is ready to get down to business as the organization’s first paid executive director, focusing on the arts, education and advocacy for the Latino community.Ms. Perez, a Sag Harbor resident, had previously served in 2008 as OLA’s volunteer executive director. She went on to work for six years as director of residential and transitional services at The Retreat in East Hampton, where she ran a 24-hour crisis shelter for women and children fleeing domestic abuse. There was significant Latino involvement at the Retreat as well, she said.
“I left that organization and I was really looking for ways I could be integral and really help grow an organization,” said Ms. Perez, who is 49.
She had moved to the East End in 2002 from New York City, and she raised her now college-age daughter in Sag Harbor. She had studied theater at New York University.
OLA, as the Latino advocacy organization is commonly called, was formed in 2002 to help educate and empower immigrants on the East End, as well as help them to have a real presence in their communities.
“We have to raise discourse on what the Latinos and Spanish community represents,” Ms. Perez said. “It will be important for the Latino community to build cultural bridges, not only with other communities but even within itself. We have to lock our arms together and show that kind of unity without erasing what is so different between these different Latino communities.”
Ms. Perez will also focus finding office space for OLA, although it does have a post office box in Sagaponack.
OLA’s founder, Isabel Sepulveda de Scanlon, who is also the organization’s president, said Ms. Perez is perfect for the job. “She is great—she is strong,” she said. “I know that there is a lot to be done in all advocacy, culturally. It is so much for the youth, for the women, for the family, and it has to be done by a serious organization and a serious person like Minerva.”
As executive director, Ms. Perez also will focus on educating the Latino community about immigration and worker safety. Back when she was volunteering with OLA in 2008, she also directed and produced the only Spanish language “Vagina Monologues” performance on the East End, which she said she hopes to do again, as well as to continue to expand the Latino film festival.
Previously, Ms. Sepulveda had been “trying to do everything” for OLA, she said. “I can see the future of OLA growing, becoming a more professional not-for-profit and going to a higher level,” she said.
“We cover everything for the Latino community, and she really cares—I mean, that to me is the most important thing” she said of Ms. Perez.
Spanish-speaking communities on the East End need more representation, says new director of OLA
February 10, 2016 by Katie Blasl
Though the East End’s Latino population has grown explosively over the past decade, you wouldn’t know it by looking at the boards of local governments, which do not count a single Latino member among them.
That’s just one of the issues Minerva Perez hopes to address as the new executive director of Organización Latino-Americana of Eastern Long Island, a non-profit organization that promotes education, the arts and advocacy for the East End’s Latino communities.
“We’re here, and we need some equal representation,” Perez said in an interview yesterday.
Former director of the East Hampton-based domestic violence shelter, the Retreat, Minerva Perez is taking over OLA as its first full-time director. Courtesy photo.
She is the first full-time dedicated director of the organization, which was founded in 2002. It has so far focused most of its efforts on the South Fork and is especially known for holding an annual Latino film festival in Water Mill, but Perez hopes to expand OLA’s advocacy efforts as well as the organization’s presence on the North Fork.
Unifying the Latino communities across the East End, she says, will allow them to speak with a single, clear voice to express their needs – both in the community and in local government.
“If we can’t show that kind of solidarity, we are not going to get what we need, which is, very simply, some equal representation,” she said.
Immigrants on the East End hail from a diverse variety of Central and South American countries, and Perez hopes to use that diversity to strengthen the local Spanish-speaking communities rather than divide them.
“There is so much that is being offered, all the riches of these very specific cultures – whether it’s Columbian or Ecuadorian or Chilean – that unifying this Spanish-speaking population is key to helping raise the whole ship,” she said.
She expressed disappointment with the lack of Latino representatives in local government, both as elected officials and appointed positions. “We’ve got a whole array of experiences to bring to the table,” Perez said. “We have all these folks here doing great work. We’ve got very successful business owners, and we’ve got new immigrants to this area. They need to have a voice.”
One of her first priorities as director of OLA will be to map out the needs of the local communities the organization serves.
“There are so many different aspects to the Latino community,” she said. “It’s not all about immigration and overcrowded housing and 7-Elevens.”
Perez is reaching out to local officials and community leaders to get a better sense of what those needs are and what work is being done to meet them. She sat down with Sister Margaret Smyth, who runs the North Fork Spanish Apostolate in Riverhead, for almost two hours yesterday to discuss the Riverhead Latino community.
“We don’t have any desire to reinvent the wheel,” Perez said. “Rather, we’d like to work with these existing organizations and groups that are already doing such amazing work and see where we can add to that conversation.”
One of the ways OLA has brought the Latino community together on the South Fork is through its annual film festival, which will be held again this fall, along with numerous other performances and art events. Before Perez became director of OLA, she worked with the organization to direct a Spanish-language production of the Vagina Monologues on the South Fork, which was “crazily well received” with more than 150 people in attendance.
“Celebrating these things is what starts raising everything up,” she said. “If all you do is focus on the fight, then you kind of forget what you’re fighting for.”
OLA also holds seminars and panels aimed toward Hispanic residents on topics like immigration, computer literacy, legal education and entrepreneurship. Perez hopes to involve the North Fork in some of those educational events this year.
The OLA Film Festival returns to the Hamptons to present three films over three days at the Parrish Art Museum. Presented by Organización Latino-Americana of Eastern Long Island, the 10th annual edition opens on Friday with a screening and live music performed by Mambo Loco. The festival continues with a single screening held on Saturday and Sunday. The OLA Film Festival is designed to reveal Latin American culture by presenting well-crafted documentaries and films.
On Friday, the OLA Film Festival begins at 5 p.m. with a screening of the Oscar-winning documentary “Inocente.” Following the 40-minute film, live music by Mambo Loco takes place from 6 to 8 p.m. on the Mildred C. Brinn Terrace. Visitors can bring chairs or blankets. Food and drink is available for purchase from the Café by Art of Eating.
Mambo Loco is steeped in the classic music of Afro-Cuban and Puerto Rican. Their concerts present the “the best of ‘old school’ Latin and Latin Jazz music,” according to The Parrish. Mambo Loco features Larry Belford (drums and lead vocals), Alfredo Gonzalez (trombone, violin, percussion, and vocals), Bill Smith (piano, melodica, and vocals) and Wayne Burgess (bass and vocals).
“I know them for years and they are very well received” said Isabel Sepulveda, founder and president of OLA. “That is why I proposed them for the Parrish. People always enjoy dancing to their music.”
The film festival continues on Saturday at 3 p.m. with “Tanta Agua,” a narrative film from Uruguay. The final screening takes place on Sunday at 3 p.m. with the Chilean documentary “Salvador Allende.”
“The films presented at OLA are always impressive, thought-provoking, and award-winning,” stated Andrea Grover, Curator for Special Events for The Parrish Art Museum. “Like the kickoff title, "Inocente," which won Best Short Documentary at the 2013 Oscars and tells the real-life story of a Mexican-born, homeless teenager who finds solace in painting. We are especially proud to be celebrating 10 years of OLA with the festival's founder and curator, Isabel Sepulveda.”
Directed by Sean Fine and Andrea Nix Fine, “Inocente” documents the coming-of-age story of a young woman’s drive to overcome the severity of her surroundings. Inocente is a 15-year-old immigrant, homeless and undocumented, who refuses to give up her dream of becoming an artist. Told entirely in her own words, the film meets Inocente at a turning point, when she decides for the first time to take control of her own destiny.
Irreverent, flawed, and funny, the young artist channels her irrepressible personality into a future she controls. Her talent has been noticed, and if she can create a body of work in time, she has an opportunity to put on her first art exhibition. “Inocente” is both a timeless story about the transformative power of art and a timely snapshot of homelessness in America.
“Tanta Agua,” directed by Ana Guevara and Leticia Jorge, tells the story of an ill-fated family holiday. Alberto has not been able to spend much time with his children Lucia and Federico since his divorce, so he decides to take them to a hot springs for a short vacation. But when they arrive at their rented cabin they learn that the pools have closed until further notice because of thunderstorms.
Alberto tries to remain enthusiastic, but moods inevitably turn sour as the rain keeps falling and the walls seem to be closing in. When Lucia meets friends her age, equally bored at the rained-out resort, her vacation starts looking up, but her adolescent rebellion clashes with her father's enthusiastic efforts to have some quality family time.
Chilean filmmaker Patricio Guzmán is one of the international film world’s most acclaimed documentarians. In “Salvador Allende,” he turns to the life of a controversial leader, whose overthrow by an American-backed military destroyed not only his dream of Chilean socialism, but the lives of many of his supporters.
On November 4, 1970, Allende was elected president of Chile and committed himself to the socialist transformation of his country. Three years later, he was deposed by a right-wing coup led by Augusto Pinochet, and he committed suicide before being taken prisoner. His country faced two decades of military-led dictatorship, and his followers faced repression, exile, or death. "Salvador Allende marked my life," Guzmán says in this heartfelt work. "I will never forget.”
“Salvador Allende” holds personal importance to Sepulveda, OLA’s founder and president.
“The Sunday movie is really important for me, because it follows the life of Salvador Allende, the democratic socialist president elected in Chile in 1970, who was overthrown thanks to the involvement of the CIA and Nixon and Kissinger pouring in money to create chaos there,” she wrote.
The Organización Latino-Americana of Eastern Long Island presents the 11th annual OLA Latino Film Festival, a dynamic weekend showcase of acclaimed and award-winning recent Latino cinema for a broad audience. Screenings will take place in the Lichtenstein Theater.
Set in Santiago, Chile, Gloria tells the unapologetically frank story of a free-spirited middle aged divorcee’s whirlwind relationship with a former naval officer.
The film depicts with great realism life in modern day Chile, addressing how gender roles and family life have—and have not—changed despite sexual liberation, consumerism, and capitalism. Gloria was awarded Best Film in the San Sebastian International Film Festival and the 63rd Berlin International Film Festival. Paulina Garcia, in the title role, won two awards for best actress (Hawaii International Film Festival and 63rd Berlin International Film Festival).
Una historia ambientada en Santiago y se centra en Gloria, una mujer mayor de espíritu libre, y la realidad de su relación torbellino con un ex oficial de la Marina quien conoce a cabo en los clubes.
Esta película retrata la vida cotidiana de Gloria, un chileno promedio se divorció 50-algo mujer. La trama, como tal, no puede parecer emocionante o innovadores al principio, pero el personaje de Gloria lo compensa todo. Se nos invita a compartir la forma en que Gloria se enfrenta a diferentes situaciones de su vida, y estamos impresionados por su pasión, sentido del humor y la independencia. Se puede estar diciendo que incluso varios días después de ver la película me encuentro pensando en Gloria y sonriente. Un retrato honesto que funciona sin problemas gracias al excelente actuación del personaje principal y la combinación adecuada de los paisajes y la banda sonora. Muy recomendable.
Director: Sebastián Lelio
Writers: Sebastián Lelio (screenplay) and Gonzalo Maza (screenplay)
Starring Paulina García, Sergio Hernández, Diego Fontecilla | See full cast and crew
R, 1hr. 10 min.
Sunday, September 14, Gloria, Dir. Sebastián Lelio (Chile) 70 min
The Museum's programs are made possible, in part, by the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew Cuomo and the New York State Legislature, and the property taxpayers from the Southampton School District and the Tuckahoe Common School District.
Friday Nights are made possible, in part, by the generous support of The Corcoran Group. Public Funding provided by Suffolk County.
The 12th annual OLA Film Festival, co-founded by Isabel Sepulveda-de Scanlon and co-presented by the Parrish Art Museum in Water Mill and the Organización Latino-Americana of Eastern Long Island (OLA), took place September 25-27, 2015, at the Parrish, which has hosted the event for seven years. Mambo Loco performed at opening night.