Irma Solís, a community organizer with Make the Road New York (MRNY), informed La Tribuna Hispana that the organization will hold a festival at its Brentwood headquarters (previously the site of the Salvadoran consulate) on Saturday, July 19 in order to raise awareness among Long Island’s Latinos of MRNY’s community activities.
“We believe that Long Island’s large Latino community should get to know Make the Road, all of the efforts we’ve been developing to benefit this community, as well as the services we offer and the accomplishments we can show since we’ve been operating in Brentwood,” she said.
LTH: Since MRNY has been operating on Long Island, can you point out some of its most significant achievements?
Solís: I think one of the most important successes is that together with other organizations, we got Suffolk County to legally require that information and county services be provided in Spanish. This helps our community tremendously, and we consider it a victory for our people.
LTH: What about other social issues?
Solís: In terms of labor rights, we’ve monitored cases of abuse where workers are paid less than minimum wage or don’t get paid overtime, such as the situation of car wash workers, whom we’ve organized so they can learn about and claim their rights.
Regarding environmental contamination, specifically the case of Robert Clement Park, which deeply impacts many people living in Brentwood and Central Islip, we’ve taken part in the protests to further the recommended efforts to protect residents from contamination.
We’re currently working to get a law passed at the county level to protect the homeowners in our community so they can receive help to fight discrimination and other related problems. The idea is for residents to be protected. The legislature will hold hearings this month on the issue.
LTH: What about other areas?
Solís: Other issues we’re working on include protecting the labor rights of pregnant women; we’ll elaborate on other matters later.
LTH: Do you think MRNY is filling the gap left by the Workplace Project, where you also worked?
Solís: The community needs a lot of support, not just from one organization, but from many groups focused on defending their rights. Today we’re doing so through MRNY, like I did for eight years at the Workplace Project. I mostly work on housing issues, which is what I have experience in.
LTH: Do you think community organizations lack leadership, judging by their scant participation in conferences such as the one that MRNY recently held in Brentwood on the topic of immigration?
Solís: I think it’s a combination of a lack of enthusiasm and the need for leaders who can bring the community together on important matters like immigration, which concerns us all. There are other community and representative organizations, which I think is encouraging, but we also have to recognize that the community isn’t receiving information.
LTH: What is the purpose of the festival on July 19?
Solís: The Latino Festival will happen on Saturday, July 19 in the parking lot of our office at 1090 Suffolk Ave. in Brentwood, from 12 p.m. to 5 p.m. Through LTH, we’d like to invite the Long Island Latino community. One of the goals of the event is to spend time with members of the island’s Latino community and give everyone the chance to learn more about MRNY, our committees, our campaigns, victories, upcoming workshops, and our support services.
Seven years of serving the community
MRNY was founded in 2007 with the merger of Make the Road by Walking and the Latin American Integration Center, two organizations with a prominent history of advocating for immigrants in New York City.
The merger happened organically and was built on proven successes, and led to the creation of a new organization – MRNY – with branches all over the city. MRNY blends low-income people’s democratic responsibility with an innovative combination of strategies to address inequality and economic injustice, encouraging deep roots in the community and activism.
MRNY is mostly active in low-income communities in Bushwick, Brooklyn; Jackson Heights, Queens; and Port Richmond, Staten Island. It has 7,000 members, mainly low-income Latinos, 75 percent of them women.
MRNY’s Long Island office is located at 1090 Suffolk Ave. in Brentwood, New York. For more information, call (631) 231-2220 or (631) 231-2229.