The 2021 UnidosUS Conference awardees are making our country better for Latinos

By Stephanie Presch, Content Specialist, UnidosUS

Every year, UnidosUS honors leaders across sectors in our society who have created important change for Latinos. This year we honored individuals who are fighting for inclusion and helping us all reimagine the future of our community and our country.

This year, Lulu Garcia-Navarro is being honored with the Ruben Salazar Award for Communications. The award is named in honor of acclaimed journalist Ruben Salazar, who was killed on August 29, 1970, when he was struck by a policeman’s tear gas projectile while covering an anti-war march in East Los Angeles.

Lulu Garcia-Navarro has established herself as a journalist with experience abroad in Brazil, Israel, Mexico, and Iraq, as well as a courageous storyteller when she was one of the first reporters to enter Libya in 2011 after the Arab Spring. She has elevated stories about vaccination in our community, which has been disproportionately impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I don’t only do stories about Latinos, I make sure that Latinos are included as subject matter experts…,” Garcia-Navarro said. “Because we are everywhere, and if you don’t see that, you must be looking away.”

Stacey Abrams is this year’s recipient of the Graciela Olivarez La Raza Award. Named in honor of Graciela Olivarez for her lifetime commitment to Hispanic women’s rights, this award is given to the person who has made significant contributions to the lives of Hispanic Americans.

As the founder of Fair Fight, Stacey Abrams has worked hard to combat voter suppression and make it easier for all Americans to make their voices heard.  Abrams’s voting rights efforts are credited with increasing voter turnout in Georgia during the 2020 election, in which President Joe Biden won Georgia,  Rafael Warnock became the state’s first Black Senator, and Jon Ossoff won as the first Jewish Senator from the state.

“People of color are critical to shaping the future of this nation,” Abrams said. “…if it didn’t matter, there wouldn’t be people trying to stop us…our voices matter. Our futures matter.”

David L. Cohen is this year’s recipient of the Raul Yzaguirre President’s Award, which is awarded each year to the person or organization that shows outstanding support for UnidosUS’s mission and vision for opportunity for Latinos.

As chair of UnidosUS’s corporate board of advisors, he’s welcomed the Latino perspective into the corporate sector.

David and the Comcast Corporation have championed numerous causes to improve the lives of Latinos across the United States, such as digital access, placing special emphasis on empowering Latino youth. And, during the pandemic, Cohen and Comcast supported the UnidosUS response to the COVID-19 crisis, the Esperanza Hope Fund.  Cohen’s vision led to Comcast’s support for UnidosUS Affiliates through Comcast’s Community Cares Days events across the country.

“I can honestly say that it is a profound honor to be presented with this award from UnidosUS,”” Cohen said. “Thank you so much for this award named for Raul Yzaguirre, who made a larger-than-life contribution to this organization and the Hispanic community.”

The Roberto Clemente Award for Sports Excellence is being awarded to Ron Rivera this year. The Roberto Clemente Award is awarded to the person or organization in the field of sports that is committed to the advancement of Hispanic Americans. The award is named after Roberto Clemente, who is widely considered to be the greatest outfielder in sports history.

Ron Rivera, coach of the Washington Football Team, has been outspoken in supporting players who choose to take a knee during the national anthem to protest police brutality and racial inequity and hired the first Latina chief of staff of an NFL team, Natalia Dorantes.

“I want to do the best I can as a coach as I go forward and give young people the opportunities that I’ve had,” Rivera said.

This year, The Honorable Lina Hidalgo is being honored with the Maclovio Barraza Award for Leadership. Named in honor of UnidosUS’s founding chairperson, this award honors someone whose leadership is a source of strength in the Hispanic community.

Judge Hidalgo has pushed for more transparency in government, championed an end to the cash bail system, and implemented public health measures early in the COVID-19 pandemic to help slow down the spread of the virus. Additionally, her work making voting easier in Harris County is credited with turning out eligible low-propensity voters to the polls.

“There’s a lot of work to do, and there are challenges,” Judge Hidalgo said. “But we’re continuing to push forward. We’re continuing to ensure that we can enact these reforms and channel that history of activism and fight.”

We thank each of this year’s honorees for their commitment to making a difference in the country. After four years of divisive policies and rhetoric, we are heartened by examples of Latinos and allies to our community moving the country forward, fostering unity between communities, and showing America at its best.

Registered attendees of the Conference can watch replays here.

If you were unable to attend this year, replays will be available in September. Meanwhile you can catch an encore presentation of featured remarks from UnidosUS President & CEO Janet Murguía, who shares how our personal stories as Latinos can help us reimagine the future of this country.

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