Latino community must feel ‘a sense of ownership,’ says Living Color award winnerNov 17, 2020 01:40PM ● By Alison Brimley
By Alison Brimley | [email protected]
Business leaders from across the state were honored at this year’s Living Color Gala, held Oct. 1 at the Grand America Hotel. The awards were given in several categories to honor “the best individuals, teams, organizations, and companies who are working to foster inclusive initiatives throughout the state.” One of this year’s honorees was West Jordan’s Carlos Alejandro Moreno.
Moreno, a native of Venezuela, was given a Distinguished Leader award for his work with the cities of West Jordan, Taylorsville and Riverton, helping them to create “a different kind of diversity committee,” Moreno said. “Diversity committees help the minority community to understand American system, government, how to run cities and how to get involved in the community.”
The urgent need for this kind of effort is perhaps best represented by an experience Moreno himself had years ago when he was a resident of Taylorsville. He returned to his home one evening to find his neighbors, a husband and wife, crying outside their home. They looked “desperate,” Moreno remembers. “I asked my wife what was going on,” he said. “She said their kid was missing, and they didn’t want to call the police because they were undocumented.”
Moreno immediately went to speak to them and convinced them to call anyway. Soon, police were able to locate the child.
This kind of “disconnection” between the Latino community and public servants meant to help them is a major problem, said Moreno. “The majority [of police officers] are wonderful people and love the community,” he said. “This is their job. When people don’t have trust in the police, that is bad for the community and for democracy. That is bad for the future.”
Ultimately, it comes down to a sense of “ownership” over their country, which Moreno said some of his fellow Latino immigrants do not have. “This country is my home even if I was born in Venezuela,” he said. “You have to have a sense of ownership.”
As a political asylee, Moreno has a strong passion for human rights. Aside from his work with diversity committees, Moreno is a father of three and husband to a “beautiful Venezuelan woman.” He also works for the Libre Initiative, an organization he said encourages the Latino community to get involved, as well as supporting the free market and discouraging socialism.
“The U.S. is a beautiful and powerful country,” he said. “It’s a blessing being here. My concern is [the relationship] between the Latino community and leaders. They don’t know who their mayor, city council member or governor are. That disconnection is really bad for the community.”
On Sept. 30, West Jordan’s city council approved the creation of a diversity commission thanks to influence from Moreno. “After I talked to the mayor, he was so friendly and decided to start this committee,” Moreno said. “The city has to get more involved in all the committees and in the diversity committee.”
In his recommendation that the ordinance be approved, Mayor Dirk Burton said, “I look forward to a committee that can help us further invest in the principles of inclusion, tolerance and respect for all.”
Earlier this year, Living Color accepted nominations for the awards. Then six local chambers of commerce (the Black Chamber of Commerce, the Utah Asian Chamber of Commerce, the Utah Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, the SLC Pacific Island Business Alliance, the Utah LGBTQ+ Chamber of Commerce and Young Professionals Salt Lake City) worked together to select the winners.
The gala, hosted by Utah Business Magazine, was “a great opportunity to see what all the leaders think and say about diversity,” Moreno said. The evening featured live entertainment, a cash bar, appetizers and three-course meal.
“It’s incredible to see all the companies and people in the community that you don’t know about,” Moreno said. “And they are doing great, wonderful things for the rest of the community. This gala is a great idea because it shows the people’s work.”
Being recognized for his work means a lot to Moreno.
“Everything you do for the community is invisible,” he said. “Nobody sees what you do because that’s the way that leaders do things. Having this award is an honor because I never expected this. It’s a beautiful way to have somebody tell you that you are on the right path.”