Latino Trailblazers to Be Honored at 2017 NCLR Awards Gala

PHOENIX—On Monday, July 10, NCLR (National Council of La Raza) will present six awards to Latino leaders and organizations that have demonstrated outstanding leadership in the fields of advocacy, philanthropy, communications, and sports. NCLR President and CEO Janet Murguía will congratulate the winners during the Awards Gala, a ceremony celebrating the contributions of Latino trailblazers as well as the life and legacy of distinguished Latino leaders for whom each award is named. The event will conclude the third day of the 2017 NCLR Annual Conference held July 8–11 in Phoenix.

“We look forward to presenting the awards this evening to a group of Latinos who have excelled in their particular fields and who have contributed not only to the betterment of the Hispanic community, but to the broader nation. We are honored to recognize their accomplishments and highlight their efforts to drive meaningful change in our society,” said NCLR President and CEO Janet Murguía.

The 2017 honorees include NCLR Affiliate MAAC Project, a nonprofit organization based in San Diego; Elisa de la Vara, prominent civil rights activist; BAZTA Arpaio, a group of grassroots advocates who stood up against unjust police practices; Lalo Alcaraz, political cartoonist; Earl Waton, head coach for the Phoenix Suns; and Bank of America, a frequent NCLR partner.

This year, we are proud to present the Affiliate of the Year Award to MAAC Project. Since 1965, MAAC has been a champion for underrepresented communities throughout San Diego County and provides a space where families in need can find means to self-sufficiency and improve their living conditions. Today, MAAC improves the lives of over 70,000 people each year. MAAC’s Pillars of Service—Career Pathways, Education, Health and Wellness, Housing, and Advocacy—support the mission of maximizing self-sufficiency for families and individuals through high-quality programs and advocacy in their communities. From helping more than 2,300 families get on the path to educationalsuccess, to supporting hundreds achieve sobriety and secure employment, and providing nearly 800 families with affordable housing, MAAC changes lives. An Affiliate since 1987, MAAC has worked alongside NCLR to create new opportunities for Latinos through joint efforts in immigration, civic engagement, education, and workforce development. MAAC is a tremendous force for good in the Latino community and NCLR looks forward to many more years of continued partnership.

The Affiliate of the Year Award is the most distinguished honor bestowed upon an NCLR Affiliate for its exemplary efforts in collaborating with NCLR to achieve positive, meaningful, long-term change for Latino communities.

Elisa de la Vara, a prominent Arizona civil rights activist and public servant, will receive the Graciela Olivarez La Raza Award for her unwavering commitment to promoting equal opportunities for all. As a longtime leader in Arizona, de la Vara has a distinguished background in community development. She has held significant civic leadership roles, including serving as Special Assistant to Arizona Governor Bruce Babbitt, and later as Comptroller for Governor Babbitt’s 1988 national presidential campaign. De la Vara rose through the ranks at Chicanos Por La Causa, one of NCLR’s original Affiliates, ultimately serving as Executive Vice President, the most senior position ever held by a woman in that organization at the time. She also served as Assistant to the President of the League of United Latin American Citizens. She now serves as the Chief Community Officer with the Arizona Community Foundation, overseeing relationships with the diverse cities and communities of Arizona.

The Graciela Olivarez La Raza Award recognizes an individual or organization that has made significant contributions to promoting the interests of Hispanic Americans.

BAZTA Arpaio will be honored with the Maclovio Barraza Award for Leadership. In 2016, after a decade of grassroots organizing to expose the abusive practices of the Maricopa County Sherriff’s Office, BAZTA Arpaio ended Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s 23-year reign. The campaign was launched by People United for Justice and quickly became the rallying point for young voices who’d had enough of the racial profiling that made Arpaio infamous. The campaign focused on 186,000 first-time voters and voters of color from over-policed and over-criminalized neighborhoods. Combining traditional campaign strategies with boycotts, art, and direct action, BAZTA disrupted Arpaio supporters, created media presence, and galvanized the public. Through millions of interactions including canvassing, calls, texts, and social media, BAZTA brought attention to the effects of inhumane policies. By the end of election day 2016, more than 1,000 BAZTA volunteers had moved voters to move against Arpaio. BAZTA was a strategic part of a bigger movement in Arizona rooted in mobilizing youth to organize.

The Maclovio Barraza Award recognizes those who have worked for the betterment of the Hispanic community at the grassroots level and whose leadership has served as a source of strength and support to the Hispanic community.

Lalo Alcaraz, award–winning cartoonist, will receive the Ruben Salazar Award for Communications. Alcaraz has been busy for more than two decades chronicling the political ascendancy of Latinos in America and vigorously pushing the boundaries of Chicano art. He is the creator of the first nationally syndicated, politically themed Latino daily comic strip, “La Cucaracha,” seen in scores of newspapers including the Los Angeles Times. Alcaraz has produced editorial cartoons for L.A. Weekly since 1992 and creates editorial cartoons in English and Spanish for Universal. Using art and humor to say what people want to express but can’t, Alcaraz elevates social issues relevant to Latinos in realms where they’re usually not present. By bringing this perspective to a broad audience, Alcaraz has made great strides in making Latino issues seen and heard.

The Ruben Salazar Award for Communications is given to an individual who has dedicated his or her professional life to portraying issues, concerns, or news relevant to contemporary Hispanic America and promoting the positive contributions that Latinos have made to U.S. society.

Earl Watson, head coach of the Phoenix Suns, will receive the Roberto Clemente Award for Sports Excellence. Watson is the second-youngest head coach in the NBA and the first head coach of Hispanic descent. Coach Watson helped create Emagine, an organization that provides free ACT prep courses to students in the Kansas City, Kansas schools and works with underprivileged communities in Kansas City. Off the court, Coach Watson and the Phoenix Suns partner with the Latino community for everything from building playgrounds with Chicanos Por La Causa to standing up against injustice. During the debate around SB 1070, the organization showed solidarity with Latinos by wearing jerseys that read “Los Suns.”

The Roberto Clemente Award for Sports Excellence is presented to an individual renowned in the world of sports and committed to the advancement of Hispanic Americans.

This year’s Raul Yzaguirre President’s Award, presented each year to an individual or organization that has shown outstanding support for NCLR’s mission, will be awarded to Bank of America, a frequent NCLR partner. Bank of America’s partnership with NCLR spans two decades and reflects its commitment to diversity and championing Latino interests. In 1996, Bank of America, then called NationsBank, helped jumpstart the NCLR Homeownership Network, which provides assistance to Latinos hoping to own their first homes. The Homeownership Network has since helped more than 600,000 families. Two years later, Bank of America was an initial investor in Raza Development Fund, which has become the largest Latino community development financial institution in the United States. Bank of America stood out among other national banks to support the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, established to protect Americans after the financial crisis. Its commitment to diversity led to being one of the first Fortune 100 companies to appoint a Latino board member and is partnering with NCLR Affiliates to pilot training strategies to diversify its workforce so that its staff reflects its customers.

The NCLR Awards Gala is co-sponsored by AARP, Charter Communications, Ford Motor Company Fund, PepsiCo, and UPS.