CHARLESTON, SC (ThePeoplesBeat.com) – The Lowcountry Black and Latine Coalition launched a campaign to demand “that Charleston municipal/county governments” provide language access to the fast-growing Spanish-speaking population.
The campaign #HOLACharleston specifically calls on Charleston, Dorchester and Berkeley county governments to “translate all public documents, public service announcements, websites, court notices, practical and written tests, and all other information disseminated to the public, via the local government, into the Spanish language.”
A report published in 2017 by the Avery Research Center at the College of Charleston found that there are more Black and Latino residents in Charleston living in poverty compared to white residents.
Feidin Santana, member of the coalition, says that the “ Lowcountry Black and Latine coalition is a coalition focused on the union of minorities to work together…It is time for people of color to unite in Charleston to fight our common fight… the abuse of power. ”
The coalition says that language access could open up opportunities for Spanish speakers seeking employment, vocational training and resources for grants, business compliance, school and more. “Many Spanish-speaking residents suffer from the same marginalization and neglect as African Americans and other oppressed communities in Charleston on the part of local government.”
ThePeoplesBeat.com reached out to three local governments asking if they were aware of the campaign and requesting a formal response from the Charleston County Administrator, Mayor Keith Summey and Mayor John Tecklenburg.
On April 26, Jack O’Toole, Director of Communications for the City of Charleston, responded to our email request saying he would “be reaching out to the appropriate officials on this today.” As of the publishing of this article, the City of Charleston has not responded to our questions.
The City of North Charleston did not reply at all. A spokesperson for Charleston County said they are preparing a response.
Dr. Patricia Williams Lessane, who was the executive director of the Avery Research Center at the time the report was published, said they “encountered multiple barriers to obtaining accurate and up-to-date data, including stakeholders who evaded sharing direct information on race and local jurisdictions that do not, for whatever reason, keep county-level records on race. In some cases, people were reticent to share information due to fear of retribution.”
Santana says local governments need to act fast to meet the needs of the Latino community. Pew Research shows that between 2010 and 2019 the Latino community in South Carolina grew by 70,000 residents.
“Our community is real. We need to see change fast,” said Santana. He says the coalition is uplifting a community that is growing its voting power. In South Carolina, over 40% of Latinos are eligible to vote.
ThePeoplesBeat.com continues to cover language access. If you are a government employee who wants to talk to us you can reach us on signal 843.732.4202.
Note: This story was updated to include the response from Charleston County.