Roberto Felipe Maestas Legacy Award
Roberto Felipe Maestas
July 9, 1938–September 22, 2010
Roberto Maestas’ life was dedicated to building Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “Beloved Community” through multi-racial unity. He deeply believed that poverty, racism, and social inequity could only be eradicated if people of all races and backgrounds came together to do so. In his honor, the Roberto Felipe Maestas Legacy Award recognizes individuals who have advanced the work of Building the Beloved Community. El Centro de la Raza celebrates the recipients and their contributions by making a $1,000 gift in their name to a nonprofit organization of their choice.
Executive Director, Open Doors for Multicultural Families
“We know in this time that those who were underserved will continue to be underserved—even more.”
Ginger Kwan spoke these words back in April of this year during a virtual conversation with Gordon McHenry, Jr., who is the CEO of United Way of King County. Her experience with and deep personal commitment to supporting underserved communities, however, precedes their conversation by more than two decades. Months ago, both leaders knew that the populations that each of their organizations serve would be disproportionately impacted by what was to come. They touched on housing affordability, rental assistance and racial equity. Although the novel coronavirus has changed the way many of us live our lives, the twin pandemics of COVID-19 and racism have served to compound the challenges that vulnerable communities experience while navigating systems and institutions as they seek to access resources and services that are available to them. This is particularly true for the racially, ethnically, and linguistically diverse residents of South King County.
As the Executive Director of Open Doors for Multicultural Families, Ginger and her multicultural and multilingual staff work tirelessly to support families and their children who have developmental and/or intellectual disabilities. Open Doors makes equity central to all of its decision-making and strives to meet the needs of each family member, wherever they may be in their journey with raising their children.
Ginger also serves in a leadership capacity for Racial Equity Coalition, which is made up of 15 Black, Indigenous, and People of color serving and led organizations in King County. She has been working closely with United Way of King County to identify and understand the factors leading to the inequitable allocation and accessibility of emergency assistance. Ginger has shared her expertise on topics ranging from the intake process to collecting and reporting data with smaller partner organizations.
At times, Ginger has been an "easy target" for those who are unhappy with her challenge of institutionalized racism whenever she encounters it, but she has not given up. Her life's work has been focused on dismantling institutionalized racism and ableism to create an inclusive society for the breadth of our intersectional identities. Through her inclusive partnerships, Ginger's efforts have resulted in more than $1.5 million in pandemic related community assistance funds being allocated to the most vulnerable in our region. For her decades of work to strengthen communities of color as they navigate systems of oppression and her unwavering dedication to speaking truth to power, El Centro de la Raza is pleased to honor Ginger as a recipient of the Roberto Felipe Maestas Legacy Award.
In closing her conversation with Gordon McHenry, Ginger shared this powerful reminder, “Only when we come together, we can become stronger.”
Luis Rodriguez and Leona Moore-Rodriguez
Co-owners, The Station
As you walk up to The Station at Plaza Roberto Maestas, chances are you will hear lively music playing well before reaching the door. When it swings open as someone leaves with coffee in hand, you hear the sound of milk being steamed and the clanging of ceramic on counters, and the sweet aroma of fresh-ground espresso engulfs you.
If you frequent Seattle’s hip independent coffee shops, you might find many of the sights and sounds familiar. But then the artwork on the wall featuring indigenous faces catch your eye. The baristas behind the counter and even the customers around the café reflect a level of diversity that matches the Beacon Hill community that The Station serves. Finally, is that a food pantry you spy?
Luis Rodriguez and Leona Moore-Rodriguez built a community hub when they opened their coffee shop, which is named The Station. They have opened their doors to serve as an event space and informal headquarters for many community meetings. People of all generations, ethnicities and identities find a safe place to gather and share ideas at The Station, which has hosted everything from block parties to fundraisers for victims of violence. Additionally, Luis and Leona host youth poetry writing workshops in their café and donate coffee to many organizations for their fundraising events. They are committed to employing BIPOC and LGBTQ+ workers, who often face barriers to employment and discrimination in the workplace.
That food pantry you see? It is the result of a partnership with Cleveland High School and has been helping to feed community members since the full effects of the pandemic gripped the world. Community members have been donating groceries every day, and anyone who needs food comes and helps themselves.
Leona and Luis (and their family) live community activism and advocacy. They are on the front lines of every march and every action that needs support. They stand up for the community when they witness injustices and they open their "home" to anyone who needs it. Their commitment to bringing together people of all races and backgrounds to fight for racial and economic justice furthers the work of Building the Beloved Community and honors the legacy of Roberto Maestas.