Local activist encourages ways to help Latinx community during Hispanic Heritage Month

Published: Sep. 20, 2022 at 3:58 PM CDT
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - One Latina activist is setting an example of how active service can positively impact the Memphis Latinx community.

Sept. 15 marked the beginning of National Hispanic Heritage Month, which recognizes and celebrates the influence of Hispanic Americans on the country’s history and culture.

“We celebrate these events, and we share them with our community across Memphis,” said Maria Oceja, a community organizer. “It just adds to the value and diversity here in our community.”

Oceja said she is no stranger to Memphis.

“This is where I grew up,” Oceja said. “This is my community; I am Latina, and my parents came here from Mexico.”

She said social change within the Latinx community is pivotal for the city.

Oceja works with 901′s Rapid Response Hotline. She also advocates for youth about social change among youth, pushes the need for more resources within Latinx schools, and organizes community meetings.

“Maria is a critical example of the value and amazing things that having immigrants in our community creates,” said Michael Phillips, executive director of SuCasa Family Ministries.

Phillips said he knows all too well the impact of active service.

“For me, the key thing that I see with Maria is someone from the neighborhood, in the neighborhood, who’s now working on behalf of the neighborhood,” Phillips said.

During National Hispanic Heritage Month, several events and festivals are planned to expand the Hispanic culture and educate others in Memphis.

However, Oceja said there’s a more significant way to make an impact this month.

“What we really need is more support for translation,” Oceja said. “Learn Spanish or another language or learn an indigenous language. We have a very diverse community here that not only speaks Spanish but may speak other indigenous languages from Latin America.”

On Monday, Sept. 26, at 6 p.m., SuCasa Family Ministries will host a community meeting with parents, teachers, and youth to address educational issues impacting Latinx schools.

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