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The Hispanic Professionals Networking Groups seeks to increase the visibility of Hispanic business professionals by fostering a great unity through networking opportunities. NEW YORK * MIAMI

Friday, April 20, 2007

What Do I Do? I Empower Latinos!

I was at a social event and someone asked me, "What do you do?" Without hesitation I answered, "I empower Latinos!"

Three years ago, "I ran Hispanic networking events" and "produced conferences."

It kinda crept up on me actually, this new direction.

It was a balmy Spring night, May 2003, I sat around with Edelman's Heidi Eusebio and NY1 Noticias' Juan Manuel Benitez as they patiently listened to me rant about how bad Latino networking events were. "Non-Latino networking events," I complained, "really have it together. People aren't just there to pick each other up and get drunk. Is this really the best we can do as Hispanic professionals?"

So they talked me into producing my own networking events. Events that would focus on OUR community, reflected our concerns and ingnited our dreams of success. "If you build it," they said "we'll bring our friends." Fair enough.

It started at the Kitano Hotel. Not bad for our first event. However, me and the brave group of committee members like Leticia Reyes, Max Ramirez and Wanda Castillo found ourselves looking for a new "home" every month. The hassle of looking for a new place every month, coordinating the logistics of invitations, new locations and the newly added speakers series, took its toll.

Was this worth it? I though so.

Then came encouragement and support in the form of an email:

Dear Ali,

First, let me say I am grateful for the existence of HPNG and your courage in having formed this organization. It takes great courage and sacrifice to not merely walk a road less traveled but to actually pave a new road that may cause some to be uncomfortable. That's courage and I commend you highly for your beliefs, desires and positive acts. I believe HPNG to be a positive influence on me and other professionals in the Hispanic communities. I remember telling you that years ago I became part of a networking organization begun and geared by and for Hispanics that attempted to do what you have done. The problem is that it initiated and continued as a coffee-club event. People gathered at a chinese food restaurant during lunch hour in the city and spent the time eating and talking about things that had no relevance to any group or individual that would benefit Hispanic professionals looking at seriously networking.

After the 3rd meeting I disengaged myself and decided not to involve myself in any more Hispanic networking groups because it became nothing more than a chit chat club. (This was my view). I remember feeling disappointed and disgusted because while other groups have long understood and enacted upon the true significance of a networking group, I felt Hispanics have not and never would. For so many years I watched as other groups moved forward but Hispanics remained stagnant. I often thought of starting a Hispanic networking group; designed to go from point A to point Z in its' progressive escalating stages that would somehow benefit each and every member. I even designed a plan on how this would work; from conceptualization to realistic comprehension and completion. Alas, I discarded the idea. I write the above preamble so that you understand how difficult it was for me to attend even the first meeting. The fact that I attended the 2nd meeting and look forward to a 3rd is a positive in my book.

Ali, thank you again for enabling me to join you and others at the HPNG meetings. For now, I'm an apprentice learning all I can learn and sharing all I can share with my Latino & Latina professionals.

Muchas gracias,

T. Luis Cruz
Commonwealth Packaging Company

Then it hit me. This was about something else altogether. It's about providing a forum for collaboration and empowerment for the Hispanic professional community.

And that's how it all began.

The story continues...be a part of it on April 26th.

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