Thank you to all our sponsors and to everyone who attended this year's Latino Awards. It was great to see our community celebrating the great work of prominent Latinos and advocates of the Latino community in the city of Knoxville. Check out our award winners, and some event highlights below!
The Latino Leader Award - Given to a Latino or Latina whose work directly impacts the lives of Latinos in Knoxville. Someone who works to ensure that our community thrives culturally, educationally and economically.
The Humanitarian Award - An exceptional award for an exceptional occasion given to either an individual (Latino, or non-Latino) or an organization (nonprofit or for profit) that has gone above and beyond to help our community in a specific circumstance.
Best Latino Restaurant - Given to the restaurant voted the favorite by the Centro community. The only criteria is excellent food!
The Latino Leader Award - Valeria Gomez
Valeria Gomez embodies the qualities of leadership through her inherent selflessness, self-sacrifice, bravery, integrity, resourcefulness, and perseverance in service to immigrant children in Knoxville, TN. As the only non-profit immigration attorney in an area encompassing 32 counties and over 13,000 sq. miles, she courageously fights against systemic oppression. On numerous occasions, she stood boldly in the face of adversity to hold the legal system accountable for protecting human rights through her tangible advocacy and her astute nature. Notably, Ms. Gomez’s devotion to immigrant children is apparent in the many miles she travels between Memphis, New Orleans, rural Tennessee, and beyond to meet the needs of clients. To address the lack of counsel in the Southeastern region, Ms. Gomez worked with an attorney in Chicago to set up the Volunteer Immigrant Defense Advocates (“VIDA”) with an office in Knoxville, Tennessee. VIDA provides direct representation for unaccompanied children in removal proceedings before the Memphis Immigration Court and mentors attorneys to expand access to justice for immigrants in Tennessee. Her clients are children applying for humanitarian forms of immigration relief. In addition to her work with VIDA, Ms. Gomez taught for the University of Tennessee College of Law and worked as an attorney in a prestigious Tennessee law firm. She has also co-authored an article published in the Fordham International Law Journal documenting her work for refugees in detention facilities and proposing alternatives to detention of arriving asylum seekers in the United States.
The Humanitarian Award - Hola Lakeway
On April 5th, 2017 federal immigration enforcement agents raided a meatpacking factory in Grainger County, Tennessee. More than 100 people were arrested and over 260 children were directly affected. Hola Lakeway took immediate action in partnership with the TN Immigration Refugee Rights Coalition (TIRRC), St. Patrick Church, and other organizations to support the families affected by the largest workplace raid in a decade in the nation. Hola Lakeway connected and mobilized resources so that no child was released into DCS custody and that every family secured legal representation. Through generous donations of people from the community, and around the world, HOLA Lakeway raised over $120,000 dollars to help with the basic needs of the families (rent, lights, gas, phone, etc.), legal fees/bonds. Through community partnerships nurtured and fostered prior to the crisis, Hola Lakeway partnered with organizations and private donors that provided several truckloads of material goods such as hygiene items and culturally appropriate food. This raid, and many like it, have long lasting ripple effects that often lead to unemployment, displacement, and a host of traumatic outcomes. Hola Lakeway has demonstrated commitment to empower and restore the lives of families affected by the raid. The true heroic efforts of Hola Lakeway are evident in their ability to face crisis and mobilize forces to fight injustice that often seem bigger than us all. As a result of their valiant efforts, we see what can happen when forces join together in the face of stress, tension, and hostility to resist conflict by channeling energy and strengths of team members and community leaders.
Best Latino Restaurant - Casa Don Gallo
Gabriela Zendejas, co-founder sat down with Centro to tell us about their story. Casa Don Gallo was established by the Zendejas family in 2006 in the heart of Rocky Hill. The restaurant’s opening was a huge success, and it didn’t take long for Knoxvillians to give a warm welcome and bring genuine curiosity to learn about the Mexican food culture. “Hiring Latinos has also contributed to our success” says Gabriela, “We appreciate their perseverance and excellent work ethic”. Thanks to the community’s continued support, Casa Don Gallo has opened 2 more locations in Greater Knoxville. The Zendejas family loves calling Knoxville home. They enjoy the beautiful green mountains and the warmth of the people. They are blessed with the opportunity to generate jobs for both their family and those of many others in the community. They are proud to contribute to the economic, social and cultural growth of the city of Knoxville while always feeling welcome. Their dream was to run to run a successful business and contribute to the development of the community. “Every family should have the right to to pursue and achieve their dreams, which is the eternal inspiration of all who come to this country” says Gabriela. Her dream for the Latino community to be unified, to support each other, to culturally enrich Knoxville. “Thank you Knoxville for making Casa Don Gallo a landmark in our community, we are grateful for your support”. Gabriela Zendejas
If you weren't able to donate at the event, but would still like to contribute to our work, please use the form below to make a donation. Thank you!