It was a sunshine filled day of celebration in Downtown Muskegon as two incredible events unfolded at one time at 8 W. Walton. If you're not familiar, 8 W. Walton is a small building kind of tucked away in between Burger King, the Firestone shop and the Sheriff's office. There's some construction going on around it at the moment and if you blink while going up or down Pine or Terrace, you might miss Walton, up until March 28th anyway.
March 28th was a day of dual celebration as Walton Street was renamed "Connie Navarro Way" in the name of the longtime Muskegon resident who's work for the Latino community is the legacy she's left us all with. It's a bit of a clouded memory for me if I had ever been honored by meeting Connie in person, but to think I didn't at some point really doesn't make sense with my circle of friends. Connie spent her life advocating for Latino equality here in Muskegon in a few different ways. As the founder of Latino's Working for the Future, let's take a look at a few. One, food! Navarro's Mexican Take Out was her first way in to the hearts and minds of the community and that restaurant stands today with the best authentic food you'll find anywhere in town. Next, she shared the beauty of the Latino culture with all of us. She showed the elaborate costumes, the rich traditions, the dance music and more in a way that said "see the beauty in us". Finally, Connie worked too to help those in power understand the need for things like having things in 2 languages for those who use English as a second language and took on the battle of inclusiveness before it was a "thing". Connie...was a force for change.
Connie was also a mom and she instilled the same in her kids. One of which has a little more to do with 8 W. Walton. Angelita Esperanza has Services de Esperanza Counselling Services in 8 W. Walton and they are celebrating 10 years of helping people with some of the kinds of struggles that you can't often see. From children's mental health to adults and even dependency issues, Angelita and her team of counsellors provide hundreds with relief from their mental struggles with compassion, caring and a level of kindness not found many places. It's clear to see that generational empathy has carried over into the professional life of Angelita and her mom's legacy continues to spread to all people through the help offered at Services de Esperanza. Are you seeing the repeating pattern of good going on here? Kinda right in our groove!
Angelita was able to give us a few minutes just before the festivities began and the new signs were placed. We even got a sneak peek of the remarkably great backdrop that was brought in for the occasion and as she shared her reflections on her mom, and a lifetime of service, Services de Esperanza (which translates to "Hope") shows a little more hope than just good will, it shows more renewal in Downtown Muskegon and, for those who visit...renewal on what life can offer. Take a listen.
We're very thankful for the chance to speak one on with with Angelita on such a big day. More over, we're thankful that she carrying on her mom's legacy to be an advocate for equality for all and going about doing that with so much more than words. Her deeds equal out to helping on so many levels. From advocacy to employment, and pride in tradition and heritage with an eye toward the future, the Navarro family and the lasting impression left on Muskegon is certainly deserving of a street name and when Angelita turns the corner for work daily, she'll have a reminder both within and on top of a sign of why she's living out her purpose.