The W.K. Kellogg Foundation’s Latinx affinity group, RAÍCES, is proud to celebrate Latinx/Hispanic Heritage Month (Sept. 15 to Oct. 15) by honoring the culture, pride and contributions of Latinx peoples – past, present and future – in the U.S. and throughout the diaspora. Staff across the foundation share their stories of pride in heritage, philanthropy rooted in history and family tradition, and how their identity strengthens their work with communities.
“roots” – something that is an origin or source; an underlying support; close relationship with an environment; the part by which an object is attached to something else.
WKKF staff are invited to voluntarily participate in affinity groups, which are a big part of the foundation’s racial equity journey. The goal of these affinity groups is to promote and honor the wisdom, experience and histories of people of color; foster intercultural knowledge; and offer opportunities for advancement through peer mentoring. Affinity groups play a critical role in the talent development of people of employees of color and helps the foundation grow in its commitment to racial equity – from the inside out.
The Roots of RAÍCES / Las raíces de RAÍCES
As we enter the second half of Latinx/Hispanic Heritage Month, we wanted to take a moment to highlight the comadres—Emma Suarez, Anna Miller, Javon Dobbs, Xiomara Enriquez and Natalie Slone—who are some of the founding architects of RAÍCES and were instrumental in seeding and growing the Latinx affinity group. We heard from Anna Miller, Emma Suarez, and Xiomara Enriquez to capture the origin story of RAÍCES:
What was it like to identify as Latinx when you joined WKKF?
Anna: “When I was first hired at WKKF in 2002, I didn’t see many people within the organization that reflected who I was or where I came from. When I was introduced to Alicia Santiago and Emma Suarez, and learned they were both Puerto Rican I was delighted! I felt an instant connection and shared understanding. We formed a bond and kinship as Boricuas, and it felt welcoming and safe.”
Emma: “When I was first hired in 1991, there were few Latinx people, and they mostly worked at WKKF’s offices in Latin America. When we moved over to the building in downtown Battle Creek, I became interested in celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month—it was a space to hold discussions of what we wanted to share with our colleagues regarding who we were. It was not very impactful, as people just identified Latinidad as having good food and great music. We had to be more intentional to bring our voice to the table and unite the Latinx staff that were already here.”
What did you want people to experience from RAÍCES when the group first came together?
Emma: “When RAÍCES was formed in 2018, we talked a lot about the impact we wanted to have on the foundation and our communities. We wanted to be more than just food and fun. Being able to be part of the founding members of RAÍCES was one of the best experiences I have had at WKKF. I felt welcomed and understood. Initially we were a small group. We created a strong bond with each other… RAÍCES provided a space to understand who we are and our contributions to the organization; we wanted to be known, acknowledged, and connected with the new Latinx hires.”
Anna: “We wanted people to learn more about our Latinx culture and to understand that we are a diverse group of people with differing ethnicities, which cannot be singularly defined. We wanted to share about our history, our struggles, and our triumphs. We wanted to come together, learn, and grow together not only within our group, but as a network of WKKF staff.”
Xiomara: “We want to create a space where everyone can show up as their authentic self, including their background, language, culture and traditions. Community is what we aim to create — a community where everyone feels they belong and where they can thrive.”
What is the living legacy you are leaving behind for future RAÍCES members to enjoy?
Anna: “I want every future member of RAÍCES to feel that they have a safe, brave and nurturing space within WKKF. I want my Latinx colleagues to feel welcomed in a space where their ideas and points of view are valued. My hope is that we will continue to learn from each other and grow together, and that we have many opportunities to share the beauty and complexities of Latinx culture throughout the organization.”
Emma: “We are stronger and mightier together. Being able to learn from each other and be involved in networks outside of the foundation is a very important part of what you become. We are in this together…”
Xiomara: “When it comes to legacy, one of the most important things to acknowledge is RAÍCES members’ commitment to WKKF’s values and approaches around leadership, community engagement, and especially racial equity and racial healing. This commitment speaks to the work we must continue to do to improve the conditions of our Latinx communities. The legacy we leave behind is the commitment to continue to do what is needed at the individual and organizational level. This is a journey. The work belongs to all of us.”
We are deeply grateful for these brave women who were not afraid to stand out and prepare the soil for us to enjoy RAÍCES’ harvest. Watch and learn more about the impact that RAÍCES continues to make on Latinx staff at WKKF today: