I will never forget the day Miami, the city I call home, experienced the devastating Liberty City riots. I watched the Miami skyline burning from the roof of the hotel where I worked, witnessing the raw edges of our city’s racial tensions split open. We finally saw each other for who we really were.
At the time, I was hit hard not just by the realization of what was happening but, more importantly, why it was happening. Many people lost their homes and livelihoods in those three days. They were frustrated with a system that reeked of embedded racism and institutional bias. They lacked opportunity and hope, which led them to desperation.
Witnessing the city’s destruction and frustration nearly forty years ago inspired me to dedicate myself to address the injustices I learned about firsthand. I vowed to make it my life’s mission that neither Miami nor any other city would ever burn again. I found my voice and my calling here in Miami.
While my journey began being fueled by injustice, it is now powered by hope. During the past few years, I have seen the collective power, resilience, and strength of the Latino community amidst growing global uncertainty. In mobilizing to provide aid in the wake of Hurricanes Harvey and Maria, we demonstrated that the collective intelligence, wealth, strength, and generosity of our community should not be underestimated. Yet again, we are truly seeing each other. Yet, so much remains to be done.
I believe that philanthropy is the key to demonstrating and strengthening our collective power. As the new president of Hispanics in Philanthropy, I am working to usher in a new era of philanthropy for the Latino community — one that is for us, by us and about us. Imagine if we took just a small fraction of the $1.4 trillion buying power of Latinos in the U.S. and invested it back into our communities. We could address issues that prevent us from fulfilling our potential and securing our future.
We could equip our youth with the resources they need to take the Latino community — and America — into the future. We could empower more families with knowledge and tools to make good financial decisions that lead to long-term stability (like credit counseling, budget planning, retirement, and estate planning). We could launch more entrepreneurs so we can expand opportunity, grow our wealth and encourage them to invest back into our community. Most importantly, we could assert the sovereignty of our community and control over our own destiny.
The time to affirm our leadership is now. This great city was built on the diversity of many cultures and entrepreneurial immigrants. Their hard work and generosity helped create the many community institutions that we benefit from today, but I believe that we can do more. By investing in our community we can usher in positive change, trust and civic power. Each of us has the power to be a philanthropist. We can all be givers — people like me, people like you and even your abuela.
I know we can bring this vision to life, but only if we all rise up and take a stand for our community together. We can start moving the needle in Miami and inspire other communities across the country to get involved. Our collective impact has the potential to influence funders and philanthropic change beyond our city and across the Americas.
Although it may seem daunting, I believe that we can address the injustices facing our society — those same injustices that set the streets of Miami ablaze so many years ago. By investing in our community, we can harness our collective power and assert our position of influence and power in American society. The stakes are higher than ever and we need everyone to help. I hope you’ll join our fight to create a more equitable world together by making a new generation of Latino philanthropy a reality.
Ana Marie Argilagos is president of Hispanics in Philanthropy.