Reverend Luis Cortés, Jr., Founder, President and CEO of Esperanza, Inc., was invited to speak at various occasions during the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia.
“For the past 30 years at Esperanza, we have striven to transform communities by providing opportunities to the economically disadvantaged in North Philly and across the country,” said Rev. Cortés, “Because of the success we have had as a Hispanic organization bringing people out of poverty and to upward mobility, we have amplified the Latino voice in America, and I was honored to speak on behalf of the Hispanic and Faith communities during the DNC this year.”
On Sunday, July 24…
Rev. Cortes made ecumenical remarks and opened in prayer at “Stronger Together: Pursuing Love & Kindness”, an interfaith service organized by the Democratic National Convention Committee. He spoke about the value of the Interfaith Council in Philadelphia, and their strength in unity when members of our community were vandalized because of their faith and the hateful rhetoric being used this election cycle.
Later that day, at Afro-LatinX: An Evening of Art & Music, at the African American Museum in Philadelphia, Councilman Derek Green and Councilwoman Maria Quiñones-Sanchez honored Rev. Cortés and Senator Vincent Hughes for their life-long commitment to Black and Latino communities in the city of Philadelphia. Afro-LatinX celebrated Esperanza’s 30th anniversary, the African American Museum in Philadelphia’s 40th anniversary, and the Democratic National Convention (DNC), by uniting Black and Latino communities in our city. Leaders from Hampton University attended this event in celebration of their collaboration with Esperanza College (an HBCU and an HSI) to teach more minority students about investigative journalism. Another, more difficult focus of the evening was the exhibit Arresting Patterns: Perspectives on Race, Criminal Justice, Artistic Expression, and Community. “There are some things that bring Black and Brown together, and unfortunately some of those things are the problems that we face in our communities and in our country,” said Rev. Cortes in an interview with iHeart Radio, “While all human life matters, there is in fact structural violence against minorities and those issues need to be addressed by the structure… The message that we want to get out is that we need people of color to vote.”
On Monday, July 25…
The Hispanic Caucus meeting opened with an invocation dedicated to the victims of the Orlando tragedy, the majority of whom were Latino. Rev. Cortés issued the invocation also asking God to give strength to our delegates and advocates as they defend our children and our immigrant brothers and sisters through their work, “Lord we pray for all of our innocent children who are shamed. We pray for all of the Latino children who today are locked up in immigration jails in our country. We pray for all of the Latino children in ineffective schools in our country, because they will be in prison for life without the education that they deserve… God grant that this deliberative body, this caucus be anointed with wisdom that will be able to respond to our children, that we may be prophetic in our politic, putting our children and community first in our hearts and in our minds,” prayed Cortes. Reverend Bonnie Camarda, a board member for Esperanza, issued an invocation in Spanish, and Ashley Acevedo, a student from Esperanza’s AMLA Latin School for Performing Arts, sang a stirring tribute of “Amazing Grace.”
Rev. Cortes also made it to a rally for the National Puerto Rican Agenda, Unidos por Puerto Rico/United for Puerto Rico, calling for the release of the political prisoner Oscar Lopez-Rivera and finding a solution to the crippling debt facing the island territory, affecting millions of people.
Later that night Danny Rivera, an internationally known singer from Puerto Rico, most popularly known for this political activism, met with Rev. Cortes at Esperanza in North Philadelphia. After beginning to riff with his maestro guitar accompaniment, Papo Gely, a former instructor at AMLA, students from Esperanza College, recognizing the music that flows from their parents and grandparents homes, drifted into the meeting space to catch a glimpse. Check out a video here.
On Tuesday, July 26…
Rev. Cortes attended the Latino Leaders Network Luncheon hosted by the Honorable Mickey Ibarra, former Assistant to the President and Director of Intergovernmental Affairs at the White House for President Clinton and current President and Founder of the Latino Leaders Network. The event featured keynote speaker Julian Castro, United States Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, but did not begin without an invocation from Rev. Bonnie Camarda who recognized local Latino leaders across the room including Rev. Cortes as game-changers for Latinos in the city of Philadelphia.
On Thursday, July 27…
Rev. Cortes served on a panel at the Forum on A New Deal for a New Urban America hosted by Senator Vincent Hughes at the Arch Street United Methodist Church which aimed to focus a dialogue on jobs, wages, economic opportunity and the revitalization of urban America. Other panelists included Maryland State Senator Catherine Pugh, Executive Director for the Pennsylvania Housing Finance Agency Brain Hudson, Judge Greg Mathis, President and CEO of the University City Science Center Stephen Tang, and President and CEO of the Urban Affairs Coalition Sharmain Matlock-Turner.
Finally, recently naturalized clients from Esperanza Immigration Legal Services issued the pledge of allegiance for the official Democratic National Convention proceedings including Hillary Clinton’s nominee acceptance speech. The two EILS clients are Smith and Chafil Alvarez Hernandez, twin brothers originally from the Dominican Republic who naturalized with EILS’ assistance at the end of last year. Their ethnic heritage is of both Saudi Arabian and Dominican descent, a unique and timely combination considering the backdrop of this contentious election season. Check out the video here.
Rev. Cortés founded Esperanza with the Hispanic Clergy of Philadelphia & Vicinity 30 years ago in 1986. Esperanza employs over 300 people, has leveraged an investment of more than $90M regionally, and advocates on behalf of the Hispanic community across the country acting as an intermediary for the Department of Justice and the Department of Housing and Urban Development. Esperanza hosts the bi-annual National Hispanic Prayer Breakfast in Washington, D.C. which has been keynoted by former President George W. Bush, President Barack Obama, Vice President Joe Biden, and most recently House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi.
Rev. Cortés has worked with the past three presidents and their administrations as well as multiple international leaders as an advisor and special projects leader. Most recently, he led a delegation to Central America on behalf of the White House to address the issue of unaccompanied minors arriving at America’s southern borders and was also an advisor to President Obama, meeting with him along with other Hispanic and faith leaders on his 2014 Immigration Action.
Esperanza is proud to continue to be a voice for Latinos across the country through the work of our subsidiaries and through the national voice of Rev. Luis Cortes.