Over the last 37 years, the United States Hispanic Leadership Institute (USHLI) has hosted the nations largest, premier Hispanic leadership conference, attracting a complete cross-section of changemakers from around the country. One movement builder chosen by the USHLI is Indigenous human rights leader, Alray Nelson, as a guest speaker on February 16, 2019, in Chicago, Illinois. Over 6,500 present and future leaders representing 40 states will attend various events throughout the four days. Most conference participants are or will become the most influential Hispanic leaders of their generation and will help govern cities, schools, states and, indeed, a nation that will become 25% Hispanic during their lifetime.
“Collaborating with Alray over the last few years from New Mexico to Washington, DC, and throughout the country has not only been a pleasure but a true blessing,” said Cindy Nava, USHLI Chief Administrative Officer. “I know that his work and passion are grounded on serving the communities he comes from and on expanding opportunities to create collaborative and innovative alliances to unify our people and communities of color at large.”
With 17 years of community organizing and campaign management experience, Nelson has served as an advisor to two former Navajo Nation Presidents, as the Native American Vote Organizer for Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and recently, the Native American Outreach Director for the gubernatorial campaign for New Mexico Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham. She is the first Democratic Latina Governor elected in the United States.
The USHLI will also be honoring one of the first Native American women elected to Congress, Representative Debra Haaland (Laguna Pueblo) during the conference with the prestigious William C. Velasquez Trailblazer Award. The award is presented in memory of a true trailblazer who prevailed in 44 gerrymandering lawsuits across the Southwest, especially in New Mexico, Texas and Arizona, reconfiguring the political landscape for those who would come later.
“Over the last six years, Diné Equality has been fighting for our right to be as LGBTQ+ members in our Sovereign Nations. The struggle of oppression we face daily in all our communities should never deter our common story as the First Americans to this country,” said Alray Nelson from his home in New Mexico. “For millennia, our ancestors did not build walls or draw colonial borders. Our stories in North America are intertwined deeply with families in Central and South America. Now is our time as a coming majority to transform our country with compassion, understanding, and bold leadership.”
Alray Nelson is the co-founder and lead organizer for the Coalition for Diné Equality – the largest Native LGBTQ+ advocacy organization in the country. He is the Board Chairman of the Equality New Mexico Foundation, an honoree of the prestigious Rainbow Champion Award, and was selected by the National Center for American Indian Enterprise Development as a Top 40 Native American Leader Under 40.