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Questions and answers about NCLR

Who we are and what we do

What is the National Council of La Raza?

The National Council of La Raza (NCLR)—the largest national Hispanic civil rights and advocacy organization in the United States—works to build a stronger America by creating opportunities for Latinos. Through its network of nearly 300 affiliated community-based organizations, NCLR reaches millions of Hispanics each year in 37 states, Puerto Rico, and the District of Columbia. Founded in 1968, NCLR is a private, nonprofit, nonpartisan, tax-exempt organization headquartered in Washington, DC, serving all Hispanic subgroups in all regions of the country. It has state and regional offices in Chicago, Los Angeles, Miami, New York, Phoenix, and San Antonio.

What does the term “La Raza” mean?

The term “La Raza” has its origins in early 20th century Latin American literature and translates into English most closely as “the people” or, according to some scholars, “the Hispanic people of the New World.” The term was coined by Mexican scholar José Vasconcelos to reflect the fact that the people of Latin America are a mixture of many of the world’s races, cultures, and religions. The full term coined by Vasconcelos, “la raza cósmica,” meaning “the cosmic people,” reflects an expansive, inclusive view of the mixture inherent in Hispanics and that Hispanics share a common heritage and destiny with all other people of the world.

Whom does NCLR serve?

We serve all Hispanic nationality groups in all regions of the country through our formal network of nearly 300 Affiliates—reaching millions of Hispanics each year. NCLR welcomes affiliation from independent Hispanic groups that share NCLR’s goals and whose work aligns with NCLR issues. NCLR also assists non-Affiliate groups that serve Latino communities through issue networks on health, education, housing, leadership, and other areas.

How does NCLR achieve its mission?

We expand opportunities for Latinos through:

  • Capacity-building assistance to a national network of multiservice Affiliate organizations rooted in Latino communities. NCLR promotes high standards in nonprofit management, best practice in governance, leadership development, and peer exchanges.
  • Robust and tested program models. NCLR partners with Affiliates and others to implement, test, refine, and scale programs that have the potential to improve the lives of Latinos in key areas: education, health, housing/community development, and workforce development.
  • Applied research, policy analysis, and advocacy. NCLR provides a Latino perspective on: civil rights/immigration, education, employment and economic issues, and health—to increase policymaker and public understanding of Hispanic needs and to encourage the adoption of national and state policies that equitably serve Hispanics.
  • Civic engagement efforts. NCLR engages in nonpartisan efforts to expand the Latino electorate through naturalization and voter registration work; public education to amplify issues Latino voters identify with; and other activities to elevate the power and influence of the Latino vote.

In addition, NCLR strengthens these efforts with communications and collaboration with a range of external partners.

How does cooperation and collaboration with partners advance NCLR’s mission?

NCLR staff belong to and help lead many issue-focused coalitions and associations, cooperating with other nonprofit organizations and private-sector entities on issues ranging from education standards to financial capability. NCLR also seeks to educate public and private organizations about the nation’s largest ethnic group and help them develop partnerships with Affiliates and local communities. Additionally, NCLR works in partnership with other Latino organizations and its sister civil rights organizations to advocate for increased opportunities for Latinos throughout the country.

What is NCLR’s role in providing a Hispanic perspective on national issues?

NCLR’s unique capacity to provide timely policy analyses, combined with its considerable advocacy expertise, a reputation for political independence, and an identifiable constituency, permits NCLR to play an important role in policy and advocacy efforts. Its policy-oriented documents command extensive press and policymaker attention, and NCLR is consistently asked to testify and comment on a range of public policy issues, from affordable housing to health, immigration and education policy, and tax reform. NCLR uses both its capacity-building efforts with a national network and its advocacy-related activities to achieve its goals.

In addition to research and policy analysis, NCLR harnesses its variety of nationwide programs to further improve the issues Hispanics face in the United States. Affiliates provide training, afterschool programs, and counseling to the Latino public about subjects including homeownership, immigrant integration, and affordable nutrition. All of these efforts are filtered through NCLR’s communications efforts both to amplify the Latino voice and to inform the Hispanic community about issues impacting their lives.

Who are NCLR’s leaders?

As someone who has experienced the promise of the American Dream, Janet Murguía has devoted her career in public service to opening the door to that dream to millions of American families. Now, as a key figure among the next generation of leaders in the Latino community, she continues this mission as President and CEO of NCLR.

Murguía has sought to strengthen the Latino voice on issues affecting the Hispanic community such as education, health care, immigration, civil rights, the economy, and the rise of hate rhetoric and hate crimes targeting the Latino community. In her role as NCLR’s spokesperson, she has appeared on ABC World News Tonight, CBS Evening News, NBC Nightly News, NBC’s Today, CNN’s Larry King Live, PBS’s NewsHour with Jim Lehrer, MSNBC Live with José Díaz-Balart, and CNN’s Anderson Cooper 360°.

Murguía has also focused on strengthening NCLR’s relationship with sister civil rights and advocacy organizations, spearheading efforts to build bridges between the African American and Latino communities in conjunction with organizations such as the NAACP and the National Urban League. She was the first Hispanic leader to give the keynote speech at the annual Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Unity Breakfast in Birmingham, Alabama.

Murguía currently sits on several boards, including the Partnership for a Healthier America, the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, Achieve, and the Hispanic Association on Corporate Responsibility.

Murguía has been recognized on numerous occasions for her work. She was recently named one of Elle magazine’s “10 Most Compelling Women in Washington,” has been selected twice as one of Washingtonian magazine’s “100 Most Powerful Women in Washington,” and was featured in Newsweek magazine’s “Women and Leadership” issue. She has been chosen as one of the NonProfit Times’ “Power and Influence Top 50” leaders, named to People en Español’s “100 Most Influential Hispanics,” and selected as one of Hispanic Business magazine’s “100 Most Influential Hispanics,” Hispanic magazine’s “Powerful Latinos,” Latino Leaders magazine’s “101 Top Leaders of the Hispanic Community,” and Poder magazine’s “The Poderosos 100.” In 2005, she received the KU Law Alumni Association Distinguished Alumnus/na Award.

Janet Murguía grew up in Kansas City, Kansas. She received three degrees from KU: a B.S. degree in journalism (1982), a B.A. degree in Spanish (1982), and a J.D. degree (1985) from the School of Law. In 2011 she received an honorary degree—Doctor of Humane Letters—from California State University, Dominguez Hills.

NCLR Board Chair Renata Soto is co-founder and Executive Director of Conexión Américas, a nonprofit organization based in Nashville, Tennessee, and founded in 2002 to promote the social, economic, and civic integration of Latino immigrant families. Following a holistic approach, Conexión Américas supports more than 6,000 Latino immigrant families in achieving their dreams annually: becoming homeowners, starting businesses, learning English, supporting their children’s school success and path to college, and becoming an integral part of Nashville’s social, cultural, and economic vitality. Soto is the visionary behind the nationally lauded nonprofit collaborative Casa Azafrán, a community center standing at the gateway to Nashville’s International District that houses 10 nonprofit and government groups.

The Nashville Scene chose Soto as the 2013 “Nashvillian of the Year” and in 2014 recognized her as one of “Twenty-five Nashvillians who’ve shaped the city for the better” over the past 25 years. In 2015, the Nashville Business Journal included her in Power 100, “a list of the 100 most influential people in Nashville business.”

Soto obtained a bachelor’s degree in communications from the University of Costa Rica. She also attended Kenyon College, in Ohio, and completed graduate coursework at Georgia State University, in Atlanta, Georgia.

What constitutes NCLR’s governing structure?

NCLR’s governing Board of Directors represents the constituency it serves. Bylaws require that the Board include representatives of all geographic regions of the U.S. and all Hispanic subgroups, that one-third of the Board represent Affiliates, and that the Board include equal representation of men and women. The Board’s leadership consists of a Chairperson and an Executive Committee—members who share responsibility for Board governance and organizational oversight issues.

NCLR also benefits from the guidance of its Affiliate and corporate partners. NCLR’s Affiliate Council represents the on-the-ground perspectives of NCLR’s Affiliates and provides first-hand experience to propose solutions to challenges facing Hispanics. In addition, in 1982, NCLR established a Corporate Board of Advisors (CBA) made up of senior executives and liaison staff from 25 major corporations. The CBA meets with NCLR leadership to discuss issues and develop initiatives of common concern. CBA members also assist NCLR and its network through financial, in-kind, and programmatic support.

What resources are available from NCLR?

NCLR has produced a variety of resources to educate the public, policymakers, and the Latino community about relevant issues facing Hispanics in the U.S. This credible source of facts and information present a uniquely Hispanic perspective, particularly on issues affecting limited-English-proficient, and low-income families and aspiring Americans. Materials include research and policy papers, training materials, statistical analyses, fact sheets, issue updates, congressional testimony, and selected speeches and presentations.

NCLR’s annual events and programs provide face-to-face engagement on issues and opportunities for Latinos. The NCLR Annual Conference convenes the largest gathering of individuals, organizations, and institutions working with the Hispanic community. The accompanying National Latino Family Expo® offers free entertainment, demonstrations, and health screenings to the public. The NCLR Capital Awards and National Latino Advocacy Days recognize policymakers who champion Latino issues and emphasize the importance of Latino civic engagement and participation. NCLR programs promote successful integration into U.S. society, providing guidance on education, employment, health, and housing. More information about these materials can be obtained through NCLR’s website. Updates on NCLR’s work can be found on its Facebook and Twitter channels.