UNDERSTANDING THE CURRENT LEADERSHIP CONDITION The current leadership crisis condition that we are currently facing can be attributed to several factors, which have taken a number of years to unfold. The “brain drain” of upwardly mobile, more educated Latino families over the last several decades, who moved out of their former locals for luring and pre-constructed settings, has certainly been a factor in the decline of organized civic engagement. This type of engagement once demanded accountability from elected leaders in the creation of public policy and improving services to formerly ignored and neglected neighborhoods. By being dispersed throughout the middleclass mass, however, the activist voices of more educated Latinos have encountered their own set of unique issues. Despite the gains of living in larger, more comfortable and spacious homes, and enjoying more affluent lifestyles, all too many of these former Latino residents are finding themselves culturally isolated from their previous surroundings – their voices quieted, and are no longer as able to network with other Latinos who previously shared similar values of community engagement and enjoyed the rush of having an identity and community role in influencing the lives of others. In today’s world, they spend their time mostly consumed with strengthening their networking capacities mainly within their professional domains. They also become involved in efforts primarily directed at bolstering their career and business interests, and blending into the environments of their suburban lifestyles where engagement in the life of the community through neighborhood associations has become more symbolic of their declining social roles in the larger Latino community rather than the expression of their leadership values. This loss in critical human resources and skills has risen to other related problems. A disconnect is becoming increasingly apparent between the more skilled and educated sectors of the Latino community and their less prepared and educated counterparts. This separation, however, has the makings of a more endemic problem. Distance and time may no longer be the reasons for the separation. It may be that a “social class divide” has crept into the equation where one may not have been as apparent before. The increase of a social and economic Latino underclass and the unprecedented growth of nameless immigrants who now populate barrios previously comprised of American-born Latinos have fostered the formation of ‘stranger communities’ that live isolated existences, no longer familiar or attractive akin to the families who once lived there. These developments form the conditions for an increasingly fractured community headed towards social balkanization, further aiding this process are other social conditions that are too many in number and complexity to explore in-depth, but certainly worthy of brief attention.
CRISIS DEFINED As a population that has grown from less than 10 million prior to 1965, to more than 40 million forty years later, members of the U.S. Latino community’s leadership base have been losing their leadership organizational capacities to maintain communication and coordinated campaigns within the multitude of internal sectors of the Latino community that are expanding and evolving daily. Despite being viewed as the fastest- growing population segment of America (i.e., projected to become one in five four Americans in the not--too--distant future) as well as one of the largest incubators of ‘minority-owned’ (i.e., Latino-based and/or –oriented) businesses, the growth in its internal leadership base and organized sectors (i.e., whether defined as civic, business, cultural, faith-based, etc.) has not been congruent to the growth in the overarching U.S. Latino population. Simultaneously, Latinos have lost contact with one another while the organizations that seek to benefit large sectors of the community have become unrecognized and uncoordinated. As a generation, it appears that most of today’s Latinos no longer have the same capacities that their previous family members once enjoyed such as being able to influence thinking, alter the social trajectories and directions of collective bodies of Latinos, and cause significant shifts in the social perspectives, beliefs and outlooks of either various subsectors or the entirety of the Latino community. In 2006, we the Latino community appears to have become a people who are now beginning to lose their collective identity and sense of common direction—perhaps we are now a fragmented Latino collective unraveling into greater and greater degrees of disarray. As Latino community-based organizations observe this fragmentation increase, we are also able to see the Latino community’s ability to enact change or catalyze movement in new directions recede almost entirely. As a result, we find ourselves caught in the midst of a social crisis where the leadership capacity to influence and manage change from within the Latino community is daily being eroded and lost. Consequently, a pressing but unnoticed community crisis has emerged that is directly tied to the current capacities of the Latino leadership base’s to conceptualize or address the multifaceted social forces that are influencing Latinos in America. Continuing to leave these developments undeterred and unchallenged spells larger problems for a U.S. Latino community already suffering the debilitating impact of an anemic leadership base brought on by opportunities for social mobility, the unabated growth of an underclass, the balkanization of communities by according to socioeconomic class divisions, and the channeling of more talented youth away from their communities. Increased social instability, an erosion of community identity, and a loss of community cohesion and as well as common direction are outcomes already looming on the surface. Once strong community churches that provided moral and ethical direction to their respective congregations are