We are very excited to welcome Esmeralda Xochitl Flores to LACHSA as our new Equity Coordinator. This position was developed in response to key recommendations established by the Equity and Inclusion Task Force to improve the diversity, representation and equity of LACHSA's programming. Esmeralda brings years of advocacy experience with LACOE and community organizations, and she has already begun the important work of evaluating and enhancing LACHSA's ongoing efforts to provide high quality arts education for young artists who were born to create.
We wanted to get to know Esmeralda a bit better, so we asked her a few questions about her life and experience. Read her interview below and get to know our new Equity Coordinator!
How long have you lived in LA County?
I have lived in LA County for the majority of life. The first 30 years in the San Fernando Valley…a born and raised valley girl!
Where did you go to school/what did you study?
I graduated from the Chicano/a Studies Program at Cal State University, Northridge. I used to say I received a second degree in Community Organizing, because my experience as a leader in multiple student organizations and associated students was instrumental experience for my work as a community organizer.
I earned my MA in Communication Studies from San Francisco State. I focused on three areas; conflict resolution, teaching (Speech 101), and learning to use performance art to communicate a message or tell a story.
What is your experience in equity work?
I have had the privilege to recognize inequities early in life and part of my training for this work started at home. My parents often provided access and opportunities for members of our community, and consistently challenged in equities at our schools.
As an undergrad at CSUN, I focused my efforts in collaboration with other student leaders to provide and enhance services for students through organizations, student government, and departments (specially, Chicano/a Studies and American Indian Studies). My focus at the time was on amplifying diverse student voices and decision-making power. I was also an active performer and event organizer for cultural and education activities and events.
In my work as a community organizer with the Children’s Planning Council, I was able to lead and facilitate change with community, parents, and youth groups towards positive changes that they wanted to see made. By teaching groups on the process for collective action, creating asset-maps, and providing access to resources, these members were able to determine their needs and advocate for themselves. Some of these community-lead equity changes were; a community pocket-park, a stop sign and safety valet at school, and design and lead their own health and resource fairs.
At the Broad Center I was co-founder of The Broad Center’s Raza committee, the first affinity group, which aimed to promote the Chicanx/Latinx community through a series of open discussions, building professional development, and strengthening cultural awareness in alignment with the mission of The Broad Center. This initially informal group was the spark for the organization to place a focus on Diversity, Equity and Inclusion in the workforce and through their programs. I was instrumental in initial conversations about the importance of this for our colleagues and was a member of the later-formed DEI Committee. Collectively, we created avenues for open conversations, representation of minorities to various committees and support for upward mobility, trainings on DEI, the creation of cultural learning experiences, and an inclusive and intentional on-boarding process.
Through this organization I also met my co-founder for the Tiahui Scholarship Fund, where we provided two small scholarships a year to graduating Latinx and Indigenous students of El Rancho Unified in Pico Rivera who will attend a 4-year university.
Most recently, I co-lead the 2020 Census campaign at LACOE with the goal of increasing participation of hard-to-count communities. Los Angeles County is the hardest county in the nation for self-participation in the count. Through working with 38+ districts and charter schools, cities, LA County government, and various community organizations, we aimed to education and help communities complete their questionnaire. The results of the Census count are a direct connection to federal funds and political representation for communities. I was very passionate about this work because the impact would be felt for the next 10 years and every person in the United States counted.
Do you have experience in art?
I have enjoyed being involved in the arts in some way for the majority of my life. I loved to act and sing since as far back as I can remember, but I was super shy about doing it in public. My parents were supportive in my desire to be involved in school plays, provided me accordion lessons, and other opportunities to be creative.
In undergrad I performed in several theatre productions, but my favorite was those who told the stories of Chicanos, most notably “Pancha” in Real Women Have Curves, written by Josefina Lopez and “young Lucero Trevino” in August 29th, written by the Latino Theater Lab.
Also, as my graduate creative project I wrote and performed in a play call “Kids? No Thanks.” This presentation is the culmination of a personal life journey to engage others in conversations about Chicana and Latina women who have chosen not to have children. The voices heard throughout these scenes reflect the stories told from a compilation of twelve personal interviews, scholarly research, online blogs and my personal experience. I was able to share this performance at Tia Chuchas in Sylmar and Little Casa 0101 in Boyle Heights. Link to evite
What are some of the most important social issues you’re passionate about?
I am passionate about addressing many social injustices and I have to thank my parents for that! My father was a social worker and community organizer and my mother was a teacher for 30+ years. Both of them instilled in me a sense of purpose and duty to help others.
From their influences and life experiences I became passionate about the Chicano/Latino community and educational justice. Yet in my time at CSUN, that is when I solidified my passion for supporting other injustices, in particular, a focus on the American Indian/Indigenous communities and women’s rights.
I believe that through education (formal and informal), is where one learns to address these and other issues. I am also very interested in growing my own skills in using the arts (specifically theatre and comedy) to address these issues, creative dialogue, and help people critical think about the world around them and what they can do to make it better.
What keeps you motivated during quarantine?
What has kept me motivated during the majority of the quarantine is the work that I was leading with the 2020 Census count. I came into the work knowing that LA County has historically been hard-to-count (HTC). The HTC communities tended to be low-income, renters, black, brown, immigrant, etc. I wanted to do what I could to ensure that they were counted. The Census was about representation, voice, and funding – the one nation-wide government-lead action where every single person mattered.
Favorite thing to do for fun?
I enjoy being silly and having fun at home and in my work. I also like convincing those I love to get involved. One thing I did often was create memes, funny photos and videos. This year in particular, I did several about the 2020 Census.
My nephews doing a Census zombie pitch
In Spanish Novela style pitch to be counted
Picture – What’s hotter than a red-fire chips?
Favorite place to eat in LA?
Although, I don’t go as often as I did as a child, one of my favorite places is Tito’s Tacos. My father used to take us there as a family after we would visit gramma.
What are you looking forward to the most in working with LACHSA?
I am looking forward to being in a school environment again. I am also excited about engaging more in the arts and collaborating with talented instructors and students. But most importantly, I'm looking forward to making sure the amazing arts program at LACHSA is available and accessible to every community- especially communities of color- throughout LA County.