When former White House representative Marco Davis looks at the growing Latino community in Milwaukee and elsewhere, he knows there are challenges with educational and economic advancement. But what he sees more clearly is a youthful population with great promise whose assets and strengths are too often underestimated.
Davis is speaking at NPC’s June 29 conference, Adelante (Forward): Increasing Opportunity and Success for Milwaukee’s Latino Males. In a phone interview from his home in Washington, DC, he said his talk would focus on how Milwaukee organizations and others can tap into the hard work, creativity and innovation of Latino men and boys locally.
The conference is hosted by UMOS, an NPC Champion member. A grant from the Greater Milwaukee Foundation is making it possible for NPC to offer the conference at a significantly reduced price for registrants.
In May, the Greater Milwaukee Foundation released the first comprehensive statistical portrait of Latinos in metro Milwaukee, developed for the foundation by the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee Center for Economic Development. According to their analysis, the city of Milwaukee would have lost population in the last 25 years without the growing Latino community. Other findings include:
- Contrary to what many believe, 73% of Latinos in the Milwaukee area are U. S. born citizens, not immigrants.
- Latino school children account for all the net growth in K-12enrollment in the region.
- Latino workers account for the net growth in employment in the four -county area.
How to expand opportunities for Latinos is a subject that Davis has pursued in his career and it’s a story that hits close to home. What Latinos need to advance, he said, are services that help build self-sufficiency, such as language classes, job training, vocational and continuing education—services that help them “connect the dots,” Davis said.
For nonprofits, that means not just translating materials into Spanish, but hiring bilingual staff to engage with the community in new ways and offering programs at locations and times that are accessible.
Developing the talents and skills of Milwaukee’s growing Latino population, said Davis, is key to Milwaukee, its work force and its future.
Davis’s Path to Latino Advocacy
The former Deputy Director of the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanics, Davis recently joined New Profit based in Boston. It’s a national non-profit and social innovation organization that works with philanthropists and other partners to provide financial and technical assistance to nonprofits to break down barriers and increase opportunity and social mobility.
Previously, he was the Director of Public Engagement at the Corporation for National and Community Service and director leadership development at the National Council of La Raza.
The son of immigrants—a Jamaican father and a Mexican mother—Davis views his father as a testament to hard work and the importance of education. His father was raised by a single mother in Jamaica and was the first in his family to go to junior college. He immigrated to the U.S. and worked construction to put himself through college in the U.S. and medical school in Mexico. That’s where he met his mother.
The doctor moved his family to Mt. Vernon, NY, because of good public schools, then in sixth grade switched to a private school, Davis said. He received a bachelor of arts in history and Latin America Studies from Yale.
“Growing up, I met others who were as bright, intelligent and creative as me, but they didn’t have the resources,” Davis said. That moved him to see the potential and opportunity in others and the key role of education. “It put me on a path,” he said.