Diversity Is Our Mission

Diversity Is Our Mission

At our most recent Castellano Family Foundation meeting, the Trustees – myself; my mother, Carmen Castellano; my sister, Maria West; and my brother, Armando Castellano, all voted to include the values of diversity, equity and inclusion into our overall mission.  In addition to supporting grantees in the areas of education, art and leadership, our mission now also states that we will, “Use our leadership and leverage to promote social equity, inclusion, and diversity for Latinos and other people of color.”  I am extremely proud of the fact that our Foundation has taken the opportunity to build on the legacy of diversity my family has embodied through the example set by my parents, Carmen and Alcario Castellano.

From a young age, I remember how important diversity issues were to my parents, something they instilled in me and my siblings very early on. I remember vividly when my parents urged the elementary school leadership to hire a minority educator at the school I attended in San Jose, which had an all-white faculty.  I also recall my father pushing the San Jose Mercury News to include a Latino journalist on their editorial board, feeling that our voice was missing from weighing in on important issues within the community.  My mom started the Latino Education Association at San Jose City College and was a member of the College’s original Affirmative Action Advisory Council. My parents always led by example and that is why it is so important for our Foundation to ensure these values – diversity, equity and inclusion – remain at the forefront of our mission.

As children, we were taught to love and value our culture. During that time, my sister and I were Ballet Folklorico dancers with Los Mestizos de San Jose and Los Lupenos de San Jose.  It was a great gift from my parents to have us understand our rich and diverse Mexican heritage through Mexican folk dancing. Through the art of dance we learned about both inclusion and diversity – telling stories of our rich cultural heritage through dance and promoting our culture in the broader community.  My parents exemplified these values themselves, volunteering for organizations that promoted diversity and fostered our cultural heritage. I remember my father, working with the San Jose GI Forum to showcase Latino culture through the annual Cinco de Mayo and 16th of September parades and art shows. These events were important to the community and to my family, building a strong and diverse culture within San Jose, and being proud of our Mexican heritage.

The commitment to the Latino community and Latino diversity has rubbed off on me and my siblings.  My brother founded Quinteto Latino, a unique wind quintet that plays chamber music from composers from Latin America and spreads this music to schools and to the greater community.  I have focused my career on advancing Latino and multi-cultural health issues as the founder of the Latino Coalition for a Healthy California (LCHC) and as CEO of the California Primary Care Association (CPCA) for the past 19 years.  My sister has been a leader in keeping ballet Folklorico alive in San Jose as a board member of Los Lupenos de San Jose and now, the Cashion Cultural Legacy organization.  Our family’s commitment to diversity continues to be strong and is being passed down to future generations through the work that we do.

When my parents started the Castellano Family Foundation in 2001 after my dad won the lottery, they felt it was important to advance the issue of diversity – both in the organizations they supported and in the broader arena of philanthropy. Our Foundation funds community-based organizations in Santa Clara County which serve the Latino community in the areas of art and culture, education and leadership.  In order to be eligible to apply for funding, an organization’s board of directors must reflect the population served. My mom has also served as a spokesperson for this issue of diversity in philanthropy – both concerning the importance of having diverse boards and staffs at Foundations and concerning the issue of funding to Latino community-based organizations.  She travelled the country attending philanthropy-related conferences, where she and my dad had the opportunity to promote diversity via their role of heading a unique Latino family Foundation focused on supporting the Latino community.  I tagged along to these events over the years and was disappointed to see firsthand the lack of diversity that existed in the world of philanthropy. Unfortunately, not much has changed in the past 15 years.

According to a recent report from the D5 coalition, the percentage of CEOs and program officers in Foundations who are people of color has flat-lined over the past five years.  It is clear that the voluntary measures in place to move more people of color into philanthropy are falling short and more needs to be done. A recent survey of its members by the Council on Foundations (COF) regarding diversity in philanthropy found a “backwards ladder of opportunity” in that white men still seem to be excelling faster than minorities and women, of which both groups are trending downwards.  It is most unfortunate that philanthropy as a whole is not adequately practicing the value of advancing diversity.

I hope this will change, and we at the Castellano Family Foundation are committed to pushing the issue forward. An article in the April issue of the Nonprofit Quarterly looked at the COF survey results and stated that the “lack of racial, ethnic, and gender diversity in philanthropy enlargens the understanding gap between philanthropy and the communities meant to be final beneficiaries.” Thus, without representation, many issues important to minority communities are being overlooked, programs and organizations remain underfunded, Foundation staff and leadership do not reflect the diverse populations served, and diversity and inclusion are pushed farther down the ladder of important issues.

Which is why I am so proud of the Trustees of the Castellano Family Foundation and the commitment that they have made to make diversity a priority not only for our organization, but to also promote the need for other organizations to embrace this value. The legacy of diversity and inclusion that started with my parents so many years ago is now being carried forward by their children and will continue to drive the organization for years to come – because it is our mission.

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