9 Latinx Inclusion Thought Leaders & Doers You Should Know

9 Latinx Inclusion Thought Leaders & Doers You Should Know

It takes a fair amount of conscious decision making when you’re a leader in the workplace. From figuring out different work styles to how to manage a team effectively, there’s already a number of challenges that stem from team environments and workplaces, regardless of industry or profession. Figuring out how to be thoughtful, conscious, and inclusive about hires, especially when working in an environment that doesn’t always prioritize diversity, is an added layer of conscientiousness. Here are a few Latinx thought leaders and doers you should keep on your radar because aside from their day-to-day responsibilities, every decision they make is with the importance of diversity in mind.

Photo Credit: @steve_e for Complex Sneaker

Lariza Quintero, Complex Networks

At the offices of Complex, you’ll find Lariza Quintero crushing SEO (Search Engine Optimization) for her team. With an extensive background in media, e-commerce, and digital marketing and technology, it’s no surprise that she has created her own unique work path. In addition to working at Complex, she is the owner of FOR WMN, an online store and social platform for bold, empowering women of color. With diversity being an important piece of her journey as a Colombian WOC, she’s a part of her company’s Diversity Committee and Latinx ERG (UNIDOS), with a focus on bringing representation to her company and awareness of the Latinx community through events (happy hours and food celebrations honoring the Latinx culture, anyone?), networking opportunities, and content ideas. I asked Lariza for some actionable steps on how to step up for fellow POC, and her direct answer was to get involved. “Get involved with your company’s diversity committees and ERGs, and if there’s nothing in place, suggest it to human resources.” When it comes to content, don’t be afraid to pitch ideas that highlight the Latinx community. “We all need to feel represented and seen,” she says. “Also, get involved in work projects pertaining to the Latinx community. Companies can use the feedback!” 

Adrianna Flax
Client Executive, Culture Shift

Adrianna Flax is a non-profit veteran with ten years of experience. Her non-profit focus has led her to have some unique insight to those who are a part of marginalized communities. Her work at Culture Shift is focused on helping organizations communicate impact and promote social justice initiatives. Culture Shift Team is a consulting agency that is a pioneer when it comes to multicultural marketing, PR, community management, customer experience, and diversity strategy. With subject matter expertise in diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI), LGBTQI+ inclusion, and social justice, Adrianna uses her intersectional identity to develop creative solutions and solve complex problems.

Before her time at The Culture Shift Team, Adrianna also worked at the Martha O’Bryan Center in Nashville, working with one of the city’s oldest, largest, and poorest public housing communities to dispel myths about poverty and race. It’s clear that Adrianna has worked tirelessly to provide an inclusive environment every step of her career.  When asked about the importance of inclusion, she makes a clear and important point: “Inclusion does not and cannot stand alone. The popular lexicon of the past was ‘diversity.’ Now it is ‘inclusion.’ Others say it is ‘equity’ or ‘belonging.’ Our firm teaches companies that no one of these can stand on its own. When an organization works to simply diversify their staff or clients, diversity becomes a numbers game or, as one of my colleagues has said, a beauty pageant. Increasing numbers of any group do not give them voice or agency,” she explained. “Inclusion is the ongoing act of inviting the differences that diversity brings into the conversation, decision-making, and shaping of systems. Inclusion is a process that honors differences. Equity comes from successful inclusion that impacts systems. Equity means that whatever differences or diversity individuals or groups may represent, these differences do not impact their ability to achieve success, build wealth, or have influence and authority in shaping the systems in which they participate. Equity means that difference does not dictate outcomes.”

Nicoletta de la Brown

If you check out Nicoletta de la Brown’s website, you’ll see that she’s a woman of many disciplines, some including: Artist, Chamána, and Producer. Not only are you greeted with a burst of color, but you’ll notice how both Brown and her work are truly captivating. First generation and Panamanian born, Brown is an adjunct faculty in the MFA in Community Arts Graduate Program at MICA, and former Visual Art Department faculty member at Baltimore School for the Arts, creating spaces for black-latinx women in educational spaces where women of color are often marginalized and ignored. When asked overall about her mission, she summarized it by saying,”“If I’m sharing something that’s culture [at an event], or if it’s supposed to be ancestry or about diversity — the thing is we should definitely have a seat at the table. I’m always looking at how to keep our seat at the table. We have the diverse skills, and we have the technical background…make sure everyone is represented in a diverse way and everyone has a way to grow and develop.”

Before Coronavirus hit, Brown was working on an event at MICA (Maryland Institute College of Art) with the theme How are we finding Our Own Way in Life & Practice, led by a woman of color panel (including Natalia Celine Arias, who is also in this article!). The panel planned on exploring boundaries to stay in alignment with your direction, as well as discussing how their work honors their identity. “A lot of the students were asking for more diverse content. They were constantly seeing types of artists presenting at these panels, and the background of the artists that were in the pool of students didn’t match the people who were coming to talk to them. How can a freshman figure out what their career is going to look like if the people in front of them don’t look like them? How can they envision their future if they can’t even see someone who could be their future?” said Brown about the project.

So, what’s Brown working on next? She’s working on a new series called Bodega, where the final piece will be an immersive installation and interactive performance. Bodega focuses on the role food plays in our lives, including how we get food today, our relationship with those who provide it, and how self-care ties into some of these themes. Brown, like many in the Latinx community, grew up going to bodegas, and asks the question: could the bodega be the space where you can get everything to care for yourself in that place? It is clear that Brown does encompass some of the first words you see when you click her website: vida, mágica, and love.

Tehlor Kay Mejia

A key question to ask: what does diversity look like when you’re an author or freelance writer? Tehlor Kay Mejia, author of the critically acclaimed young adult fantasy novel, We Set the Dark on Fire, as well as its sequel, We Unleash the Merciless Storm, notes that diversity and inclusion are key to every industry – including publishing. When asked about diversity in the workplace, specifically in her industry, Tehlor made it clear that diversity in children’s publishing continues to be critically important, and that it’s a key part of creating a cultural shift. “As authors and writers, this means an uphill battle to get our own stories included in the first place, but once we achieve that goal we need to advocate for inclusion in other areas of our industry. Pushing for more Latinx folks in gatekeeper positions in our industries — agents, editors, publishers, etc. But also requesting Latinx artists, designers, and illustrators. Trying to make the cultural experience we portray as immersive and accurate as possible for the kids we represent while using whatever foothold we can gain to share opportunities within our communities. That’s how we move forward.”

Natalia Celine Arias
Multidisciplinary Designer
Multimedia Designer at Hungry Harvest

Belizean and Cuban, Natalia Celine Arias, is a Multimedia Designer born and raised in Miami, Florida. During her time in school, she was a mentor to incoming freshman students for Maryland Institute College of Art’s Office of Diversity and Inclusion. “My mixed-race identity influences my work in many ways, bringing women of color and diversity to the forefront of everything I do” she says. “This shined through mostly in my senior thesis project, Curly Sue Found Dead, a culmination of design, video, and sound.” Since graduating, Natalia has worked with clients such as The John. F Kennedy Center, and is currently the Multimedia Designer at Hungry Harvest, a company whose focus is to eliminate food waste, hunger, and insecurity in the Baltimore community and beyond. At Hungry Harvest, she feels fully heard and supported. With a department dedicated to Diversity Equity and Inclusion (DEI), Natalia is actively participating in company-wide initiatives alongside the DEI’s manager, Vanessa Paige. 

“In the many art/media/design industries and spaces that I am a part of, many POC and especially WOC voices are simply not heard or brought to the forefront. I am looking forward to continuing to shift and change. Inclusion and diversity are important to me in the workplace because I believe that it is the strongest way to innovate, to create unique ideas, and to have perspectives considered from all walks of life.”

Vanessa Sandoval
Senior Director of Human Resources at Hearst Magazines

As Senior Director of HR at Hearst, Vanessa describes herself as being driven by curiosity and continuous performance improvement. With over a decade of HR experience, she’s a key resource for understanding how to create diverse programs that, importantly, keep employees invested. Before her shift into corporate life, Vanessa was a part of Teach for America and got hands-on experience in the classroom by helping those in low income and low resource communities. A value that comes into inclusion and diversity that is often missed is safety –  and this is a cornerstone attribute to creating diverse workforces in her mind. “Beyond valuing a diverse workforce is the importance of practicing inclusion and safety. When we’re able to allow someone to bring and share their stories and their differences, it promotes an environment of acceptance. New ideas are created and new business solutions present themselves because each person is able to consider the impact on the groups that they self-identify with. Regardless of whether an organization is mission-driven or product-driven, I have found that when leadership truly values its employees and prioritizes their experience, the business’ return and impact are ten-fold. Diversity, equity and inclusion are what allow companies to stay in business and stay at the top of their industry.”

Mal Aldrich
Operations Lead – Training for Starbucks Reserve

Over at Starbucks Reserve, Mal Aldrich has inclusion at the forefront of every step they take. As a non-binary, Mexicanx individual, Mal was misgendered daily, despite tirelessly correcting folks, and having others on their staff correct them as well. While frustrated, Mal saw an opportunity for change when they were given the role as Head of Training for a new concept store. With every cup of coffee you drink, the industry is built on the backs of black and brown individuals and farmers that make it happen. Mal wanted to make sure their voices were heard, and created a storytelling process and journey for each customer that starts with their efforts, devotion, and processes. They feel like it is their responsibility to include these hard-working individuals in the day-to-day interactions with customers so they are seen and journeys are not forgotten. In terms of navigating pronouns, Mal has also figured out ways for their team to take small, personal steps in learning about their fellow team members, and sums up their commitment to inclusion perfectly: “Inclusivity in the workplace isn’t just a trend; it is a necessary way of operating in modern business, especially as a leader. It can look like a lot of different things. It doesn’t have to be some grand, sweeping HR decision. It can be personal, something YOU choose to do, something as simple as “Qué pasa?”, or “Do you mind if I ask your pronouns?”

Natasha S. Alford
Vice President of digital content, The Grio

Natasha S. Alford, is an award-winning on-camera host, journalist, writer and producer. As the Vice President of digital content for TheGrio digital network, Natasha is making strides as a proud Afro-Latina. She uses unique storytelling to amplify social issues including criminal justice reform, education, politics and culture.

Named “Emerging Journalist of the Year” by the National Association of Black Journalists in 2018, Alford also is a 2019 Pulitzer Center grantee for her series on race, policing, and identity called: “A Revolution for Puerto Rico’s Afro-Latinos.”

With an extensive background in education, writing and commentary, Alford served as an Adjunct Assistant Professor in visual journalism at the Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism at CUNY.

Natasha uses her platform to not only amplify stories of overlooked minorities, but also shares resources through her platforms that provides opportunities for minorities to uplift their communities.

9 Latinx Inclusion Thought Leaders & Doers You Should Know

Leslie Lozano aka Ella Ella
DJ & Social Media Marketing Freelancer, Self Employed

Lozano is a Chicana DJ from Texas and is making waves in the industry since her debut in 2017. She summarizes her goal with music to  “always be for those ni de aquí/ni de allá (not from here, or from there) to hear, feel, and see all of their parts beautifully meshed together.”  For many immigrants and children of immigrants, there’s a sense that you don’t belong in a typical society in the United States, nor do you fully belong to your country of origin due to being Americanized or having a different experience as the child of an immigrant.

“When we offer opportunities to diverse groups of people it makes us all better. One of the most important parts of having diversity within DJing is the opportunity to create physical safe spaces. I have had countless women and non-binary folks tell me they frequent my events because they know they are safe,” Lozano explained.  “They won’t be harassed by other attendees and IF they are, there will be consequences and people will be held accountable.” 

DJing and music, historically, like many other industries, remain predominantly white. Lozano states that it’s important to provide opportunities for all people, especially those that don’t identify as cis-males. When asked what diversity means to her, Lozano kept it simple: “diversity to me is seeing and hearing those that look like me and don’t look like me in all positions of power and fully taking up space.”

Rebecca E. Carvalho is a Latinx Writer and Marketing Strategist based in New Jersey, where she focuses on creating curated written content and experiences in a variety of industries including: sex/relationships, hospitality, and wellness. When she’s not working, she’s searching for the best empanada or whipping sweets up in the kitchen. www.rebeccaecarvalho.com 

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