Following the police killings of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile , Latinos have published a collective letter to their families and friends urging support for the Black Lives Matter movement.
Published yesterday, the bilingual letter to the Latinx community reads: "The peace and security, opportunities and joy we seek as Latinxs are intertwined with the Black community. The struggles we are facing overlap with theirs quite literally, and it’s time for our community to be vocal in support of what is happening."
"This is our moment to stand shoulder to shoulder with the black community with something that affects us as well," organizer Nicole Sanchez, a Berkeley, CA-based tech executive, told Univision News. "This is something we have to get behind… we need leadership in the Latino community to really speak loudly about Black Lives Matter in a way that is undeniable."
Some of that project's creators started a Slack group to allow participants to communicate, and more than 300 people around the world became a part of the impromptu community. The original letter and its translations - from Arabic to Bengali, German to Chinese - now live on Medium under a publication called Letters for Black Lives.
Karla Monterroso, VP of programs for nonprofit CODE2040 in San Francisco, CA, helped write and translate the letter for the Latino community. "The Latinx relationship to policing is really complex and often riddled with a lot of shame," she told Univision News. "And in our not talking about our own stories, we're leaving the black community on its own."
Maer Melo, a Brazilian engineer at Twitter in San Francisco, spearheaded the effort to translate the letter into Portuguese, which was published today. After spotting news about the original letter in tech blogs and on social media, he decided to pitch in and highlight the similarities with Brazil, where blacks make up the majority of police shooting victims.
Melo is black and grew up in a poor community in São Paulo, so the issue is personal. "We have these problems. But unlike the United States, we don't even have this discussion happening," he told Univision News. "I think it's important to create awareness and open up a debate. What I hope for the most is that the police are accountable."
Other communities have gotten involved in the letter-writing project. Dr. Chinyere Osuji, a sociology professor at Rutgers University, penned a letter for African immigrants in the United States. "Even as we hear about the dangers Black Americans face, our instinct is sometimes to point at all the ways we are different from them," it reads. "We are all fighting against the same unfair system that prefers we compete against each other."
Sanchez thinks Hispanics could play a crucial role in making Black Lives Matter the defining civil rights movement of a generation. "I would like to be part of increasing the number of Latinos who are significantly engaged with Black Lives Matter, she said. "We have to reach a tipping point and I don't think we're there yet."