The 2010 Walter Littlefield Distinguished Speaker in Rhetoric and Communication Award was presented to Giovanna Negretti '95, executive director of ¿Oíste?, at Emerson's Bright Family Screening Room on March 22.
Ten years ago, Negretti founded ¿Oíste?, a statewide Latino political organization, after working as an aide in the 1990s for former State Senator Dianne Wilkerson. She told the audience that she was disappointed in the lack of Latino representation in the Massachusetts government and channeled that anger into passion to change the status quo.
“Believe in your passion and follow it,” she advised Emerson students. “I wanted to give voice to the silenced and the marginalized, so I founded ¿Oíste? and it has succeeded beyond my wildest dreams.”
The organization's primary focus is to provide non-partisan candidate trainings, civic education, leadership development, and advocacy efforts to Latinos and members of other minority populations who plan to run for office.
Negretti has been active in numerous political campaigns and was a delegate for Barack Obama at the 2008 Democratic National Convention in Denver, where she also blogged her experiences for the Boston Globe. She was also president of the Massachusetts Chapter of the National Congress for Puerto Rican Rights (1996–1998) and currently serves on the executive committee of the National Boricua Human Rights Network.
In addition to her local political work, Negretti is an experienced trainer in leadership development, civic education, nonprofit management, politics, and advocacy. She has offered trainings and consulting to corporate, NGO, and government sectors in Latin America, the Middle East, Europe, and United States.
In her lecture, Negretti emphasized several “lessons” she hoped the students would take with them: identify your passion and seek out others who share your passion, network, don't be afraid to become a leader, and, everyone has a responsibility to give back to the communities where they live.
She also spoke about her childhood in Vieques, Puerto Rico, where she first experienced injustice and a desire to create change. She encouraged the students to start to make a difference immediately. “You don't have to have money and stature to make a difference; change can be made at any time if you have the passion to back it up. You're only a T-ride away from creating change.”
The 2010 Walter Littlefield lecture was presented in conjunction with Communication Week at Emerson, a week of engagement around contemporary communication issues.