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Latino Empowerment Spotlight; Legends From The Hood by Hector Lopez

Born in New York City, raised in Yonkers by a single parent, I was 1 of 11 brothers and sisters living in the Projects in Yonkers, known today as the Hole (Schlobohm Housing Projects). To make a long story short, there is nothing that we didn’t see growing up. Growing up we saw domestic violence, gang violence, alcohol sold to minors, drugs available to anyone who had money regardless of age, racism, prostitution, the senseless murder of two of my brothers and much more. Most of us were able to get out of this alive but the memories are there forever. Some of my brothers and sisters began working for Westchester County, another one joined the Marines and is currently working in Peru for the U.S. State Department combating drugs with the Peruvian Police, while another brother owns a car dealership in Ocala Florida. One of my sisters is Vice President of HSBC Bank and my other sister Lorraine became the first Latina ever to get elected to the Yonkers City Council in the history of Yonkers.

In December 1997, I became a Westchester County Corrections Officer and in 2012, I was promoted to sergeant. Thirteen years ago, I joined the Westchester Hispanic Law Enforcement Association (WHLEA) today, I am currently President of the organization. I am also Chairman of the Yonkers Hispanic Cultural Foundation (YHCF) which now organizes the Yonkers Puerto Rican / Hispanic Day Parade. As had I mentioned before, I am President of WHLEA, Chairman of the YHCF, Vice President of the Yonkers Hispanic Federation Chambers of Commerce, (with President Grace Borrani and Chairman Ed Aponte do an excellent job in educating present and future Latino Business in Yonkers), Member of the Westchester County District Attorney’s Transition Team, Board Member of the Westchester County Executives Hispanic Advisory Board, former elected Westchester County Corrections Benevolent Associations Delegate (COBA), former elected 2nd Vice President of the Westchester Superior Officers Association (SOA) for 4 years.

WHLEA is a diverse organization which comprises of members of not only Hispanic origins, our board members consist of African American, Italian, Brazilian, Puerto Rican, Cuban and so on. They come from the following various Law Enforcement Departments, Westchester County PD, Westchester County Probation, Westchester County Corrections, US Marshals, Hastings PD, Larchmont PD, Sleepy Hollow PD, Yonkers PD, New Rochelle PD, Mt. Vernon PD, New York Port Authority PD, Bedford PD, Bronxville PD, White Plains PD, North Castle PD, SUNY PD just to name a few. But an organization is judged by what they do, not just the name. It is also judged by how they represent themselves to the public, for example, if you are an organization and want to be taken seriously, and you are holding an event, then you need to make a first impression on those you seek support from. If you are having an event and you show up in jeans, sweat shirts, or any other attire not appropriate for the event, I guarantee you that you will lose those supporters forever. When it comes to events, you do not have a second chance to make a first impression.

WHLEA, in conjunction with various law enforcement agencies, has been able to collect over 500 bullet proof vests and ship them to the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico, who are in desperate need of them. Last November, in conjunction with Don Coqui in White Plains and the YHCF, we collected over $18,500 and medical packs for Hurricane Maria Relief efforts for Puerto Rico. The money was given to the AFYA Foundation, a prominent relief organization which will ensure that every penny is used for the relief efforts. WHLEA members also held a Toy Drive at the Yonkers Whiskey House in December and received over 400 toys, including a $1500 donation from the Yonkers Whiskey House for toys, and over 130 toys from the students and teachers of Gordon High School in Yonkers. WHLEA members always remain active in their community. We have participated in various community activities such as Child Fingerprinting Program, Toy Drives, National Night Out Program, Charitable events, Drug Awareness Programs and much more. One of my goals was to have the community, businesses and local politicians join our law enforcement family and to take part in some of our events, and develop a trusted relationship with law enforcement. I believe we have accomplished that. Today, WHLEA is one of the most prominent and well respected Law Enforcement Associations in Westchester and in its surrounding areas. Our WHLEA Annual Scholarship Dinner Gala is attended by NY State Senators, Congressmen, Mayors, NYS Assembly members, local politicians, PBA’s, Businesses and community leaders.

As far as the Latino community, some of the problems that I have seen is when two Latinos/Latinas decide to run against each other in both national and local elections. They start attacking each other rather than attacking the issues in their communities. Others try to run for high office without ever holding any office at all. But one of the biggest problem we have is when members of the community voice their valid complaints, yet when it is time to vote, they don’t go to the polls. This is a problem in both the Black and Latino communities. But there needs to be more Latinos stepping up to the plate. We have the numbers. Why aren’t they out there? Is it the lack of motivation? You have to be in it to win it.

As far as the Immigration Protection Act is concerned, speaking as Hector Lopez, I am personally against deporting the DACA people that have been here in this country for decades. I am personally against deporting those undocumented immigrants that have come here and are law abiding citizens, pay taxes every time they purchase something and do the jobs that no one else wants to do. I am against Trumps policy of rounding up every undocumented immigrant and deporting them with his total disregard if he is breaking up a family. Let’s say that the father is the sole supporter of his family and is deported, but his partner is an American citizen with 5 children. Who is going to support this family with healthcare, food and housing now that their sole supporter is gone? The tax payers. Multiply this scenario by 10 million and figure out the math. There needs to be a path to citizenship somehow or another. However, I am totally against protecting any undocumented violent criminal, drug dealer, gang member, etc.

There is no room in this country for them. The Westchester County Immigration Protection Plan that was voted on last year by the WC Legislators, but vetoes by then CE Astorino, had its issues. Late last year I spoke very briefly to the New County Executive George Latimer and he told me that he was going to re-introduce the bill, but that it was going to be tweaked. This year Chairman Boykin also stated on People Before Politics that the bill was being tweaked to address some of the issues. A final note on immigration, President Trumps recent racist remarks about Haitians is a disgrace. My mother was a single parent when I was about 5 years old. Her then boyfriend was Haitian. He was the only father figure that I have ever known and I thank him for being in my life for those few years he was there while I was growing up. In my family, we have Mexican, black, and Italian nieces and nephews. There is no room or place for racism in this family.

As far as advice for young Latinos, get involved with your community and its issues. If you want change, you need to be part of it. As far as my advice to the young Black men and women out there, the advice is no different than what I said to the young Latinos, get involved. If you want change but you are not involved, change will come, but not in your favor.

Finally, if you are an active or retired Law Enforcement officer and would like to become a member, go to www.whlea.com and download our application. If you are a business owner, community leader and would like to become an Associate Member, you may also download the application by going to www.whlea.com.

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About AJ Woodson (2375 Articles)
AJ Woodson is the Editor-In-Chief of Black Westchester and Co-Owner of Urban Soul Media Group, the parent company. AJ is a Father, Brother, Author, Writer, Journalism Fellow, Rapper, Radio Personality, Hip-Hop Historian and A Freelance Journalist whose byline has appeared in several print publications and online sites including The Source, Vibe, the Village Voice, Upscale, Sonicnet.com, Launch.com, Rolling Out Newspaper, Spiritual Minded Magazine and several others.
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