All month long, as part our Hispanic Heritage Month celebration, we’ll be highlighting and honoring some of our 2019 Líderes.
HIP’s Líderes Fellowship cultivates mid-career Latinos working in philanthropy and nonprofits by gaining knowledge, learning new practices, and building relationships within a network that supports their ability to advance and thrive.
This year’s HIP Lideres represent 19 grantmaking institutions and 12 nonprofits from across the United States. Lideres were chosen on the basis of demonstrating a commitment to working for racial equity to achieve social justice. The Fellows represent diverse Líderes — including indigenous, Afro, women, and LGBTQI Latinos — who have the courage to work in the complexity of the intersections in which we all live, including race, class, education, gender identity, ability, etc.
Meet Mary Cruz
Tell us about yourself. What do you want people to know about you as a Latinx professional in the philanthropic and social sector?
I carry my family and community in the work that I do. As a Latina with Zapoteco roots, Latinidad for me has meant a duality of culture, language, and tradition. Working in a field where the Latinx community is still largely underrepresented, especially in key leadership roles, I am committed to uplifting the diversity of voices within our gente, especially that of indigenous and afro-Latinx’s whose presence is even more marginal. As a Latinx professional in the social sector, I see our diversity as a strength. It allows us to work in partnership and solidarity with other diverse communities with whom we may also share common backgrounds, histories, and struggles. Our success in building a movement of transformational change hinges on our ability to build these interrelationships. When I think about the future of the philanthropic and social sector, who we serve, and who I’d like to see leading in these spaces, I want those leaders to be a true and inclusive reflection of our comunidad.
What calls you to do this work today?
As the daughter of indigenous immigrants, my community grounds me in my work. Growing up in Los Angeles I had the opportunity to experience the diversity of the immigrant community, all while seeing the challenges immigrant families face while trying to build safe and thriving communities here. Despite the language, economic, and cultural barriers, my community taught me resilience, hope, and the impact of collective power. We are at a moment in history where our communities are under constant attack by an administration that does not value the diversity of our nation nor the dignity of its people. I do this work because I am committed to investing in our communities and building broad partnerships with different communities to advocate and demand the change for the equity and dignity we deserve.
What brings you joy?
Sitting at the beach just before sunset! The sound of water has always reminded me of home and centers me wherever I go. There is nothing like listening to the flow of water and feeling the evening breeze to let go of any stress.
How will you transform Philanthropy?
I plan to transform philanthropy by breaking down the silos of power built into the institutional framework of this field. My experience in the nonprofit sector from an advocacy and community lens is a strength I bring into the philanthropic space. Working in the nonprofit sector and understanding the challenges, needs, and commitments as part of the power dynamics between these stakeholders allow me to navigate structural imbalances in philanthropy. I would like to shift the power dynamics between philanthropy and nonprofits by ensuring philanthropic leaders see nonprofits not as vehicles for their funding priorities, but rather partners for change. Though philanthropy provides financial resources to support nonprofits in their work, philanthropy must first see “grantees” as partners and as experts in their field to best support the needs of the communities they seek to serve. Imagine a social sector where philanthropic giving was centered on participatory grantmaking, where philanthropy was in constant conversation with community partners and giving was determined by this mutually built trust. What would that change look like? How much more could we then accomplish?