The Community Foundation of Western North Carolina held its annual 'Power of the Purse' luncheon Tuesday. Award-winning journalist and Latino USA host Maria Hinojosa was the keynote speaker for the event. She spoke about immigration, the changing demographics of the U.S., and women in philanthropy. The last part is the focus of 'Power of the Purse' (BPR is a media sponsor of the event), and its organizers announced that $450-thousand in grants will be awarded to groups that work to prevent domestic and sexual violence.
EXCERPTS OF INTERVIEW WITH MARIA HINOJOSA -
On her story of going from immigrant to award-winning journalist to owner of a media company - "I find it interesting as a journalist I'm always engaging with the people I meet - in the many planes and cabs, et cetera. When I say 'Well...I'm a Mexican immigrant' that one of the first things some people will respond with is 'Well...you have to come in here legally! You have to have done it the right way.' My dad was hired by the University of Chicago, (my family) all came here legally. My dad was a citizen and we came in with green cards. It's kind of sad that there's just an assumption that just because your Mexican or that you're an immigrant that you're not doing it the correct way."
On how the conversation on immigration can be moved away from whether someone came the country legally or illegally - "What if we stopped telling, and what if we started showing. What if we stopped kind of being in people's faces and started - and I'm just making up this story - 'what about that guy who cleans up our tables at the diner downtown? You know Jose...such a sweet guy.' What if we thought about his position? If you were able to have a conversation that paints a picture - a human picture - because what I find oftentimes is people will be making a determination about how they feel by watching only cable news and only the channel they want to watch. I would say get rid (of those channels) at some point in your day and go talk to real people. And actually have that conversation."
On whether there is a difference in the immigration between urban and rural environments - "There's more in common than we think. In uban environments we're all just sort of mashed together in a much more hyper and intense way. In rural areas, and that's why I love reporting on rural America, because there's an assumption about rural America that I don't buy. My experience in rural America is that immigrants are everywhere. That's why I say show not tell. Let's talk about our own community. What does it actually look like? You have a generation or two now of Latinos and Latinas who came here as immigrants who see themselves now as North Carolinians. They are proud North Carolinians. They love North Carolina. They have made a choice to be here - not in Georgia, not in Tennessee, not in South Carolina, not in New York. They love North Carolina. They love Asheville or Hendersonville - just like you do."
On what has or will change the most because of shifting demographics in the U.S. - "Everything is being affected. It makes me very sad to think that there was a narrative around changing demographics that meant there was a loss. That there was a big danger coming to the United States. The reporting (Latino USA) loves to do is report on changing demographics and show organically how it is part of who we are in the United States. What if we were reporting on changing demographics in the last 20 years with a perspective of 'wow...look at the United States! How fascinating! Look at what we're going through. This is so exciting. It's going to bring new jobs, it's going to bring new intelligence, it's going to bring new languages!'"
On women in philanthropy (which the CFWNC 'Power of the Purse' luncheon honors) - "If it wasn't for women in philanthropy I would not have my own media company right now. I would not be sitting with you right now. Period. End of story. It was women philanthropists who saw me. And because they were women, I said 'OK...I can be uncomfortable and have a conversation about money with them.' Every single woman out there is playing a role in American history right now. And it may be someone who is just giving $100. But if you are backing up that $100 with a visit to the organization, with making yourself public, saying 'this is all I can give but see me'...those kind of deep connections go a long way."