County Executive Calvin Ball marked the beginning of Hispanic Heritage Month by announcing the newly formulated La Alianza Latina Workgroup (Latin Alliance) and recognizing Indigenous People’s Day in place of Columbus Day.

“Diversity is a hallmark of Howard County, and our Latino community serves a vital role in contributing to the cultural vibrancy that makes our County one of the most attractive locations to live, work and play in the country,” said Ball. “But for many of our new residents – and those who have lived in Howard County for years – certain services and programs seem out of reach. La Alianza Latina Workgroup will not only provide a seat at the table, but access to government to implement long-lasting change. Additionally, we’re pleased to take another step to rectify and recognize the impact of Native Americans and Indigenous people whose land we occupy today. Celebrating Indigenous People’s Day does not absolve us from our history, but we hope that it sets a tone and opens up discussions on the importance of restorative practices throughout our government and our community.”

La Alianza will be made up of 16 Howard County residents, representing backgrounds throughout Central and South America. The workgroup will address many of the concerns and struggles of the Latino and immigrant community – such as how to access community resources, support for starting a business or buying a home, health disparities and outcomes, and ensuring there is adequate support for young Latinos in Howard County schools.

“La Alianza Latina will further the County’s commitment to equity and inclusion and will allow the Latino community to know their voices matter and are being heard. This workgroup will serve as the bridge between the Latino community and County Administration and the Office of Human Rights,” said Yolanda F. Sonnier, Administrator, Office of Human Rights. “Indigenous People’s Day recognizes and affirms the legacy and contributions of Indigenous people here in Howard County and throughout this Country.  This change will be an opportunity to also discuss history which will impact our future.”

“America is in the midst of the greatest reckoning of systemic discrimination since the mid-1960s. This presents a needed opportunity to create a just society,” said Janssen Evelyn, Assistant Chief Administrative Officer. “Howard County Government is committed to doing the hard work – and La Alianza Latina is the latest step in County Executive Ball’s prioritization of building a Howard County reflective of Rouse’s vision.”

“La Alianza Latina will work to empower and fully embrace our Latino community through tangible change and actionable steps. Our mission is not a slogan; it is a promise to our Latino neighbors that we are here to ensure they are represented in government decision making and the future of the County. Through this collaboration, we will continue building a better community together,” said Megan Williams, Executive Liaison to La Alianza Latina.

“There is an outpour of excitement and energy from individuals that have offered to participate in the formation of the La Alianza Latino Workgroup, and these individuals, including myself, are ready to determine and develop recommendations to meet the needs of the Latino community here in Howard County,” said Gabriel Moreno, Foreign-Born Information and Referral Network.

“Like most immigrants, when I first arrived to this country my English was not very good, even though I had studied it from pre-k to high school, and I was completely clueless to the way things worked in this country from simple things like following the bus schedule when taking the bus,” said Cris Oviedo, La Alianza Latina Representative. “This workgroup will help immigrants like me with finding the right people to ask these questions to, somebody who you can trust and can guide you in the process.”

Ball also announced Howard County will officially observe Indigenous People’s Day in place of Columbus Day this year October 12, 2020 and moving forward.

“The National Congress of American Indians applauds Howard County, Maryland for its decision to celebrate the second Monday of October as Indigenous Peoples Day,” said Kevin Allis, CEO for the National Congress of the American Indian.  “Howard County joins the growing number of tribal nations, states, counties, cities, and school districts that are honoring the true history of America. This gesture signifies that our country is in a moment of truth and remembrance and it is time to set the record straight. By casting away the inaccuracies that we’ve held onto for so long, we are honoring and celebrating the first people of this land while recognizing the thriving, vibrant American Indian and Alaska Native cultures that are present today. We encourage others to join this important movement.”

“Indigenous Peoples Day is about acknowledging the First People, the Treaty People, of the land we now call home,” said Ani Begay Alud, Navajo Nation representative. “It is a first step in honestly addressing the legacies and costs of our prosperity, both imparted unevenly to this day. We do not get to choose our past, but we get to choose our values: How we live up to and celebrate them. This moment in history is our opportunity to choose, with the clarity of historical perspective as to the true measure of those long celebrated as heroes, to celebrate legacies that represent our values. Today, Howard County’s choice is local. Today we choose Civility and Indigeneity.”

For more information about the workgroup and/or to get into contact with them, please email  alianzalatina@howardcountymd.gov.

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Scott E

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