Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Event focuses on Latinos in South

Event focuses on Latinos in South
By Ashley Boyd, Tuscalossa News, February 18, 2010

TUSCALOOSA | Latin America will take center stage Friday at the Hotel Capstone during the “Latinas/Latinos in the U.S. South: Immigration, Integration and Identity” conference.

What: Latinas and Latinos in the U.S. South, Immigration, Integration and Identity
When: 8:30-5:30 p.m. Friday
Where: Hotel Capstone, 320 Paul W. Bryant Drive
Info: Call 205-348-9764 or 205-348-3782.
Cost: Event is free; Luncheon is $20

The conference, hosted by the University of Alabama, will bring together activists and scholars to look at the lives of Latinas and Latinos in the southern U.S. It is part of a series of national conferences scheduled to address issues affecting the Latino community.

“It's an important conference because it's one of the first interdisciplinary conferences of the study of Latinos in America,” UA professor Michael Innis-Jiminez said.

Innis-Jiminez, a newly hired assistant professor of American Studies specializing in Latino studies, co-organized the conference with Suzanne Oboler, professor of Latin American and Latina/Latino Studies at John Jay College, where she edits “Latino Studies,” an international, peer-reviewed journal.

By presenting research about Latinos and their communities in Alabama and other parts of the South, Innis-Jiminez hopes to help local service providers, advocates and governments find solutions to issues that are new to Alabama.

“These scholars are examining communities that are going through or have gone through the same influx that Alabama is going through right now,” Innis-Jiminez said. “The Latino immigration network is much more established in Georgia and the Carolinas. Alabama is having to play catch up.”

The conference will feature speakers from universities around the U.S., including Rutgers, Emory, California State University-Long Beach, the University of California at Los Angeles, UC Berkeley, Stanford and the University of Texas, and a host of Latino advocacy and education organizations.

Saket Soni, founder of the New Orleans Workers' Center for Racial Justice, will be the keynote speaker. Soni has worked with Latinos and African-Americans from all over the world in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, and is experienced in Latino advocacy and legal rights.

Another featured speaker will be Caitlin Sandley, the organizing and education coordinator with the Hispanic Interest Coalition of Alabama, which works to improve the quality of life for Latinos in Alabama.

“I think it's a great opportunity to talk about what changes we've seen in our community,” Sandley said. “I'm excited that there will be a panel of people from the field who deal with these issues every day. It's important to know what the situation is.”

Work presented at the conference will be published in a special issue of “Latino Studies” focusing on the South. That issue will be the first of a series of special issues of the journal examining Latinos in U.S. regions.

Innis-Jiminez expects the conference will strengthen UA's support and involvement with the Latino community.

“I think this conference is a new beginning,” he said. “UA is in a great position to facilitate dialogue and programs that will help everyone. My hope is that this conference is the start of a new partnership between the university, community advocates, service providers, local governments and businesses.

“A thriving Latino community is good for everyone in Alabama.”

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