Round Table: The Concerns of Latino Leaders About Their Community

Compiled by Mary Helen Berg / Times community correspondent

* Sean Carrillo: former film editor; founder of Troy Cafe, a Downtown meeting place for Latino artists In my life what was important was having a neighborhood center that gave us the supplies to do anything we wanted to pursue art. That's how I became an artist. Today that center no longer exists. When you have drugs and gangs you can't leave out of the equation that there are no places for kids to go. I think that's really a shame. The arts are a way to vent your feelings and these centers serve as a way for us to grow as a culture. Without them you have a gaping hole. What happens to kids with artistic inclinations? The artists sort of lead the culture. If we don't have a training ground, what will happen to the culture?

* Carlos Montes: community organizer and sales representative for the Xerox Corp. The top issues for the community include police abuse, the drugs forced on our youth, violence and the "push-out rate," or what they call the dropout rate in the high schools. But our main concern is the recession. People are not able to afford adequate health care, decent housing, food and education for the family. We need to take over the institutions that govern our lives: the schools, police, political and economic institutions. We need to build our own independent economic institutions, cooperatives, tenant associations and credit unions. By the end of the '90s we can be more independent and have more economic and political power.

* Genevieve G. Lopez: director of community outreach for El Centro Mental Health and Human Services Corp. The three top issues are: education, health and jobs. Without good health you can't go to school and without school you can't get a good job. The school system and mental health programs are being cut off from us. Latinos need to be educated in order to gain positions of power and to acquire things due to us. With cutbacks in welfare and other programs, more people will be without health care and we'll see the disruption of the family and problems like drug addiction and abuse. Through parent education we could make a lot of changes. Parents need to be able to find resources like classes on child care, discipline, family and community, and communication.

* Father Joseph D. Pina: pastor of St. Alphonsus Church, the largest parish in East Los Angeles A very major concern is gang violence. We have to show kids that there is hope for the future. When there's a lack of hope for the future, people tend to be more hedonist and live for the moment. When they think they don't have any future to live for, it leads to violence. Part of the problem for youth is: Who are their heroes? Their heroes should be their parents, ministers and teachers, not people they see on television. We also need to have a strategy to train our people for jobs that have potential. The lack of affordable housing is also a problem. I encourage home ownership because it's hard to build up a community when it's made of people who come and go. We focus so often on our differences that we forget that we are all in this together.

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