March 12, 2019
Washington Performing Arts and NYU DC convened immigration policy experts and civic leaders who examined contemporary issues in U.S. immigration policy since the 1980s, and led a discussion of the role of state and local government in supporting immigrants as federal policies have shifted over time. Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton, fiftheenth term as the Congresswoman for the District of Columbia and Chair of the House Subcommittee on Highways and Transit, gave the opening remarks.
The panel included David Grosso, Councilmember at-Large, Council of the District of Columbia, Lori Kaplan, Former President & CEO, Latin American Youth Center, Mary Ann Gomez Orta, President & CEO, Congressional Hispanic Leadership Institute, Laura Vazquez, Senior Program Manager, Immigration Initiatives, UnidosUS, and Nicholas A. Brown, Director of Special Productions & Initiatives, Washington Performing Arts, who served as moderator for the evening.
This conversation was presented in conjunction with the premiere of Washington Performing Arts’ co-commission Dreamers, a new oratorio by composer Jimmy López and Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Nilo Cruz on March 17, 2019 at Sidney Harman Hall (via simulcast). Dreamers explores contemporary stories of Latinx so-called dreamers who are caught in the middle of the current national immigration policy debate.
Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton, now in her fiftheenth term as the Congresswoman for the District of Columbia, is the Chair of the House Subcommittee on Highways and Transit. She serves on two committees: the Committee on Oversight and Reform and the Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure.
Before her congressional service, President Jimmy Carter appointed her to serve as the first woman to chair the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. She came to Congress as a national figure who had been a civil rights and feminist leader, tenured professor of law, and board member at three Fortune 500 companies. Congresswoman Norton has been named one of the 100 most important American women in one survey and one of the most powerful women in Washington in another. The Congresswoman's work for full congressional voting representation and for full democracy for the people of the District of Columbia continues her lifelong struggle for universal human and civil rights.
Congresswoman Norton's accomplishments in breaking barriers for her disempowered district are matched by her success in bringing home unique economic benefits to her constituents. Among them are senatorial courtesy to recommend federal judges, the U.S. Attorney, and other significant federal law enforcement positions for the District; up to $10,000 per year for all D.C. high school graduates to attend any public U.S. college or university and up to $2,500 per year to many private colleges and universities; a unique $5,000 D.C. homebuyer tax credit, which has sharply increased home ownership in the District and was a major factor in stabilizing the city's population; and D.C. business tax incentives, including a significant wage credit for employing D.C. residents, which has maintained businesses and residents in the District.
Congresswoman Norton also has brought significant economic development to the District of Columbia throughout her service in Congress, creating and preserving jobs in D.C. The most significant are her work in bringing to D.C. the U.S. Department of Homeland Security headquarters compound, now under construction, and is the largest federal construction project in the country; her bill that is developing the 55 acre-Southeast Federal Center, the first private development on federal land; her work that resulted in the relocation of 6,000 jobs to the Washington Navy Yard; and her successful efforts to bring to the District the new headquarters for the U.S. Department of Transportation, and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms, along with an additional Metro station at New York Avenue, which has resulted in the development of the NOMA neighborhood.
Congresswoman Norton helped end the city's most serious financial crisis in a century, in the 1990's,by achieving a historic package that for the first time restructured the financial relationship between Congress and the District, by transferring $5 billion in unfunded pension liabilities and billions more in state costs to the federal government.
The Congresswoman, who taught law full time before being elected, is a tenured professor of law at Georgetown University, teaching an upper-class seminar there every year. After receiving her bachelor's degree from Antioch College in Ohio, she simultaneously earned her law degree and a master's degree in American Studies from Yale University. Yale Law School has awarded her the Citation of Merit for outstanding alumni, and Yale Graduate School of Arts and Sciences has awarded her the Wilbur Cross Medal for outstanding alumni, the highest awards conferred by each on alumni. She is the recipient of more than 50 honorary degrees.
Nicholas Alexander Brown is a Honduran-American arts producer, conductor, and musicologist based in Washington, DC. He currently serves as the inaugural director of special productions & initiatives at Washington Performing Arts, where he leads the Mars Urban Arts Initiative and produces special productions, such as the recent Yo-Yo Ma Bach Project Simulcast & Livestream. Previously, Brown served on the Librarian of Congress' strategic programming team (Office of Special Events and Public Programs), developing and coordinating selected institution-wide public programs and outreach initiatives. He held the position of music specialist/concert producer for the Library's Music Division from 2012-2017, programming the historic Concerts from the Library of Congress series, developing and managing strategic partnerships, overseeing or supporting selected commissioning projects, and promoting the Library's performing arts collections. Brown co-produced the Library of Congress Bibliodiscotheque series, featuring Gloria Gaynor and Tim Gunn. He was the lead producer for major projects such as the Irving Fine Centennial Festival, the Oliver Knussen Residency, and the DC-debut of Ensemble Intercontemporain.
Brown is currently the president of the District of Columbia Library Association and president of the Iota Chapter of the Beta Phi Mu International Honors Society in Library and Information Science. He is also an adjunct faculty member in the Department of Library and Information Science at The Catholic University of America and chair of the American Library Association's GLBTRT Membership Promotion Committee. He previously worked in the Office of the President and Provost at Harvard University, and held internships in the Office of the First Lady at The White House (Obama Administration) and in the Boston Symphony Orchestra Press Office.
Brown also has a wide-ranging career as a conductor, French horn player, and vocalist. He is the music director/founder of The Irving Fine Society, and recently concluded tenures as conductor of the Library of Congress Chorale and Washington Sängerbund. He led the Library’s Chorale in performances during recent Gershwin Prize festivities, honoring Billy Joel and Willie Nelson. Through service in the Army National Guard, Brown was the junior enlisted conductor and principal horn player of the 215th Army Band. He has performed at venues such as Carnegie Hall, Boston's Symphony Hall and Jordan Hall, Tanglewood, Philadelphia's Kimmel Center, The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, the Barbican, Royal Albert Hall, Royal Festival Hall, Cité de la Musique (Paris), Salisbury Cathedral, the Embassies of France, Germany, and Austria (in Washington, DC), DAR Constitution Hall, the University of Klagenfurt (Austria), Mirabell Palace in Salzburg, and Teatro Nacional Manuel Bonilla in Tegucigalpa, Honduras.
Previous conducting posts include music director and founder of Boston Unhinged Chamber Players, staff conductor for Boston Opera Collaborative, and assistant conductor of the King’s College London Symphony Orchestra, Brandeis University Chorus, Brandeis University Chamber Choir, and Brandeis-Wellesley Orchestra. As a guest conductor, he has collaborated with the Orquesta Filarmónica de Honduras, Orion Symphony Orchestra, Kammerphilharmonie Graz, Durward Contemporary Chamber Music Ensemble, and Friday Morning Music Club Chorale. In conducting workshops and master classes he has studied with Jorma Panula, Markus Lehtinen, Achim Holub, Diane Wittry, and Anthony Maiello. His principal conducting teachers include Jeffrey Rink, Toby Purser, Dominic Grier, Neal Hampton, and Stephen Czarkowski. Brown has conducted the London Philharmonic Choir, the U.S. Army Band "Pershing's Own", the U.S. Army Orchestra, and the U.S. Navy Band Northeast in rehearsals.
Brown is a Baritone vocalist and has performed as a chorister with the London Symphony Chorus, London Philharmonic Choir, BBC Symphony Chorus, and Tanglewood Festival Chorus under the batons of Sir Colin Davis, Lorin Maazel, Christoph von Dohnányi, Rafael Frühbeck de Burgos, Sir Andrew Davis, Michael Tilson Thomas, Yannick Nézet-Séguin, Oliver Knussen, Vladimir Jurowski, Edward Gardner, and Keith Lockhart. He has also performed with the Brandeis University Chorus & Chamber Choir and Voices of Freedom. As a soloist he has presented programs in the United States and Europe. He regularly sings the national anthem at government and military events, as well as major sporting events. Brown performed the anthem at Carla Hayden’s swearing-in ceremony as Librarian of Congress, with Chief Justice John Roberts and Speaker Paul Ryan presiding. His credits as a French horn player include Orquesta Filarmónica de Honduras (soloist), Commonwealth Brass Quintet, King’s College London Symphony Orchestra (associate principal), Brandeis-Wellesley Orchestra (principal), Opera Camerata of Washington, Wellesley Symphony Orchestra, Brandeis Wind Ensemble, and the Valley Forge Military Academy & College Regimental Band (principal).
Brown was regular program annotator for Concerts from the Library of Congress and has guest co-hosted the Library’s concert broadcasts on WETA. He has lectured for the Library of Congress, Boston Lyric Opera (at the Boston Athenaeum), and Boston Modern Orchestra Project/The Irving Fine Society. Brown has been a panelist at the Chamber Music America National Conference and has presented at academic conferences hosted by the University of Oxford, Carleton University (Ottawa), and Technische Universität Dortmund. He is a contributor to the Oxford Encyclopedia of the Bible and the Arts (Oxford University Press, 2015) and Popular Music and Public Diplomacy (Transcript Verlag, 2018) and has blogged for the Library of Congress and HuffPost Blog. Brown is a past chair of the Library of Congress GLOBE Steering Committee, past president of the Library’s Hispanic Cultural Society, and is on the board of directors of the District Arts Collaborative. He is a member of Phi Alpha Theta, the international history honors society.
Brown holds a Master of Music in Music (Musicology) from King's College London and a Master of Science in Library and Information Science from The Catholic University of America, where he now serves on the Advisory Board for the Department of Library and Information Science. He graduated Magna Cum Laude from Brandeis University, receiving a B.A. in Music (High Honors) and History, with a minor in Medieval and Renaissance Studies. Brown’s Master’s dissertation is entitled “That New American Salute: Leonard Bernstein’s Examination of 20th Century American Social Identity in Songfest,” completed under the supervision of Dr. Andy Fry. His research and performance activities have been supported by grants from the Brandeis University Office of the Arts, the Center for German and European Studies, and the Max Kade Foundation.
David Grosso is chairperson of the Committee on Education of the Council of the District of Columbia. David was elected to the D.C. Council as an at-large member in November 2012 to represent residents in all eight wards. During his time in office, David has focused on many issues with one main goal always at the forefront of his mind: making D.C. a better city. Central to that goal is education. A high quality public education system and an innovative public library system help residents gain fruitful employment, attract newcomers, and make the city appealing to businesses. Under David’s leadership, the Committee on Education’s work will be collaborative and forward thinking. From early childhood education to adult learning, David is committed to the well-being of students, ensuring that they are in the best position to succeed.
In addition to his focus on education, David is committed to addressing inequities within the criminal justice system, improving health outcomes throughout the city, promoting transparency and open government, strengthening the creative economy, and further engaging residents in the political process.
Earlier this summer, president and CEO of Latin American Youth Center (LAYC), Lori Kaplan, stepped down from the role in which she has served for 30 years. In Lori’s total 38 years with the organization, her leadership has solidified LAYC as a nationally-recognized, award-winning youth organization. Her legacy as a leader, advocate, and trailblazer who has worked tirelessly to make DC and our region a place where all can succeed sets a strong precedent and a shining example for every one of us in the social sector.
As Lori became the executive director at LAYC, the organization first launched programs aimed at promoting youth leadership and advocacy, and began social services and mental health counseling programs for immigrant youth who had experienced trauma fleeing civil wars in Central America. In the years that followed, under Lori’s leadership, LAYC went on to create and further develop programs aimed at addressing youth violence, youth homelessness, teen motherhood, youth job training, and the educational needs of recently-arrived multicultural students. The Meyer Foundation’s first grant write-up for LAYC’s grant application back in 1984 describes a fast-paced organization, which had already gained notable partners including DCPS and DC Employment Services. It reflects a growing organization working to adapt to the needs of immigrant youth. This adaptability has always been one of Lori’s greatest skills and LAYC’s successes. By adapting its program to meet the changing needs of youth, LAYC has been able to both support its youth in new ways and take advantage of new funding streams to create a robust program and organization.
Today, LAYC works with over 4,000 youth and their families in Washington, DC and Montgomery and Prince George’s counties in Maryland – all made possible under Lori’s visionary leadership. As Lori steps down, Meyer is honored to reflect on the Foundation’s history with LAYC, and its significant growth and reach over the years.
Lori has served as a leader across sectors, a regional voice and conscience, as well as a mentor to so many of us coming up in the nonprofit sector. I experienced that mentorship firsthand when, early in my tenure at the Washington Area Women’s Foundation, I reached out to Lori as I learned to effectively manage a nonprofit. Lori was always willing to offer her counsel, guidance, and much-needed words of encouragement.
Lori has dedicated her entire career to the lives of multicultural youth in the Washington metropolitan region and has been recognized and acclaimed for her outstanding leadership. We will miss Lori’s strength, leadership, and wisdom. But we know she leaves LAYC in good hands, and we welcome and congratulate her successor, Lupi Quinteros-Grady, as she takes the helm.
Mary Ann Gomez Orta joined the Congressional Hispanic Leadership Institute (CHLI) in 2011. Prior to joining CHLI, she was the Executive Director of the National Association of Hispanic Publications. She is a former corporate marketing manager with Coors Brewing Company and McDonald’s Corporation. She managed multi-million advertising and marketing campaigns, collaborated with advertising and public relations firms as well as multi-lingual broadcast, print and outdoor media to executive local, regional and national promotions. She represented the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA) as a National Alliance Development Consultant and managed business development and multi-cultural projects for small and mid-size public relations agencies and also national ones.
Mary Ann currently serves as the Vice Chair of the Hispanic Association on Corporate Responsibility; Co-Chair of the New America Alliance Latina Caucus Washington, D.C. Chapter; Co-Chair of the College Relations Committee for the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA), Miami Chapter and member of the Latino Jewish Leadership Council.
Mrs. Orta is a teacher at heart. She has taught public relations, business, marketing and public speaking at American University, University of Phoenix and Heald College. She has also conducted workshops for small business owners on marketing, public speaking tips for women, networking and Hispanic marketing. She is a former board member of the University of the Pacific’s Alumni Association; former President of the Chicano Latino Youth Leadership Project; and former member of the Astronaut Jose M. Hernandez Reaching for the Stars Foundation.
Mary Ann earned a B.A. in Communications at the University of the Pacific in Stockton, California and an M.B.A. at St. Mary’s College in Moraga, California. She strongly believes that diverse points of view create exponentially better results for all and it is with that passion and commitment she prepares and promotes Hispanic college students to be global leaders at CHLI.
Gomez Orta is extremely proud of her parents. Her father is from Michoacán, Mexico and her mother is from Brownsville, Texas. They raised five children while working in the fields of California’s Central Valley and encouraged and watched as all five earned undergraduate degrees and two went on to obtain master's degrees.
Laura Vazquez is the Senior Program Manager for Immigration Initiatives at UnidosUS, working with the organization’s affiliates to expand and sustain their immigration legal services programs. Previously at UnidosUS, she conducted legislative and administrative advocacy to advance just and humane reforms to the current immigration system. Prior to UnidosUS, she served as a constituent caseworker for Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton, assisting D.C. residents with their immigration applications. Laura holds an MA in Latin American Studies from the University of California, San Diego and a BA in Political Science and Spanish from Kenyon College.
Co-presented with NYU DC and the Congressional Hispanic Leadership Institute.
This event is part of Washington Performing Arts’ global programming initiative, The World in Our City: Latinx in D.C., which provides perspective on what it means to be a citizen of the world through a unique arts-based lens.
Washington Performing Arts’ Mars Urban Arts Initiative is generously supported by Jacqueline Badger Mars and Mars, Incorporated. This program is made possible by Tom Gallagher, in honor of Turnaround Inc.; Events DC; Fred and Lucia Hill; and Gary and Silvia Yacoubian.