What is the definition of community? A brick and mortar organization that gives to the homeless? Sure. But what else can community activism and outreach be? In the social media age, online-driven Hispanic communities are making their presence felt. Maybe none more so than Latinos in Social Media (LATISM).
At an early-April event on the Penthouse floor of a building in New York City, over 100 people came together for the first LATISM Tweetup, an event with Twitter and social media on the mind, but one that hoped to turn discussion into tangible initiatives.
"We come together to discuss the issues that affect Latinos, to reassert our similarities and celebrate our differences," said Elianne Ramos vice-chair of communications for LATISM. "Most importantly, most of our initiatives are born out of those discussions, so we go beyond simply talking about things to exert real change that benefits our community."
Founded in 2009, LATISM has used the Internet and social media as tools to give back. A huge part of the effort starts with Twitter.
Ramos, referred to as the "hostess with the mostest" multiple times during the Tweetup, holds LATISM Twitter parties every Thursday at 9 p.m. ET. Those who want to take part type "#latism" into their Twitter search bar; the resulting stream of tweets is the Latism conversation and "party." Topics have included Latino health, Latino education, Latino religion and spirituality and most recently, Latino activism.
The fast-flying tweets can look more like the unending stream of green computer code in the movie, "The Matrix," than a typical conversation. But it is in these conversations that community activism is born.
Ramos said that LATISM raised $52,000 online and through Twitter with donations matched by the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) and other organizations for Haiti and Chile disaster relief.
Meanwhile, the LATISM Adopt a Library Virtual Book Drive donated over 400 books to a community library in need -- the City of Moreno Valley Public Library in Moreno Valley, California.
"With the book drive, people on Twitter knew somebody who knew somebody who worked at this place," Ramos said with a laugh. "People can spend their whole life tweeting,' I just had breakfast.' But the power of this environment is channeling all this energy that people have to things that are good."
The non-profit organization also awards 'scholarships' to Latino bloggers who otherwise wouldn't have the means to attend conferences in other states.
"The conferences tend to be expensive. Travel, hotel and tickets—that's over $1,000," Ramos said. "But they're worthwhile because what is shared at these conferences are tools, resources and knowledge that is going to help [bloggers] take their blog and business to the next level."
LATISM is taking its talents to the border of Haiti and the Dominican Republic to help children and mothers.
As the next LATISM initiative, the organization has announced a pilot venture for its Sustainable Development Project. It's a three-pronged approach seeking to create a summer camp for children, a program for mothers to learn computer skills and a cyber room on the border of Haiti and the Dominican Republic.
"The cyber room will have computers, equipment, digital cameras and more. At the end of the day we want to leave the cyber room operating," Ramos said. "There's not much in the area, its a very poor area. There are not a lot of activities for children. When kids are off from school, they're wandering around and not doing anything productive."
She said that LATISM aims to teach both children and mothers skills that will serve them.
"Mama por Mama [Mother for Mother] will show mothers how to operate computers and start cyber stores so they can sell their wares online," she said.
Ana Roca-Castro, one of LATISM's founders, closed the Tweetup by speaking not just about her organization's causes, but also about how Latinos and non-Latinos can come together for events and share initiatives that matter to them.
"Aren't you inspired?" she asked the crowd. "When I come here, I am so inspired. When I come here, I fall in love with people and their causes and that's when I visit their blogs and check out their causes. Because I feel like they are my causes."
If you know someone making a difference in the community or are excited about a community initiative let us know about it at email@example.com.