Latino V.O.I.C.E.S. won the 2022 Chaska Human Rights Commission's annual award at the sixth annual Martin Luther King, Jr. Day Breakfast on Monday, Jan 16 at the Chaska Event Center.

The award is given to "individuals or organizations who make a special effort to ensure that all Chaska residents can have equal opportunities, employment, housing, accommodations, public services education and other factors related to the social well-being of the Chaska community," according to Libby Fairchild, former chairperson for the commission.

"The goal of this organization is to assist everyone who needs support to navigate and obtain services from local organizations, businesses and government agencies," said chairperson Sarah Carlson. "This includes translation services to come alongside and explain programs to individuals who experience English as their second language. Additionally, Latino V.O.I.C.E.S. hosts educational and cultural activities to help foster a community that is respectful and engaging."

Some of the organization's big events from the year include the Latin Music and Food Festival and the ofrenda at the Chaska Community Center for Day of the Dead.

"Working with a community that is so vulnerable, such as immigrants and people of color, we understand that it takes a lot to build trust in an organization and an individual," said Grecia Lozano, Latino V.O.I.C.E.S. "We deeply thank you for placing your trust in us and allowing us in your life and in your community to do the hard work that it takes to build this community."

Prior to the presentation of the award, the program included a reading of Martin Luther King, Jr.'s "Beyond Vietnam" speech from Chaska High School students sophomore Adonai Yidnekachew and junior Fatoumata Sanneh, two musical performances from Matt Vinge of Chaska Music Studios and a keynote address from Dr. Timothy Berry, interim associate vice president of faculty affairs and equity initiatives at Minnesota State University, Mankato. 

"Far too often, the opportunity is missed to openly and honestly examine how hard the struggle really is and why there is such a struggle," Berry said. "We go far enough to just touch the edge, but we don't go far enough to actually do something so that we may have to repair the harm caused by systemic and structural racism. I am cognizant of the fact that when I talk about the realities of racialized outcomes caused by systems of oppression, it can trigger discomfort and unease. But I'm here today to also say that that's sometimes how we need to process and experience this phenomena."