Celebrating Latino Heritage Month with the Latino
Professionals Association
Diverse Social Media Messaging
Adrianna Mena is an East Coast transplant who has gotten
involved in equity issues through a social media voice at
Step Up: Equity Matters.
By Jonathan Gramling

Growing up in a majority community in New Jersey, Adrianna Mena has been on a journey to find
herself and her social media voice. And admitted ‘Jersey Girl,’ Mena went to Arizona State
University to pursue a degree in graphic design before switching over to museum studies
because graphic studies didn’t involve the technology she wanted to learn from.

She then headed to New York City, her original plan, where she landed a number of jobs
including doing media and marketing for the East Harlem Tutorial Program. She also ventured
into teaching youth about htmls and learned that was not her calling.

Mena moved to Madison to keep her brother company as he attended UW-Madison. Madison took
some adjusting.


“I really did take it for granted how diverse New York City is,” Mena said.
“It’s not perfect, but certainly much, much more. And it made you feel safe and accepted. I’ve had some experiences in this town that were funny mostly, but
unnecessary. I think you can tell that English is my first language. But I have had a lot of times where people are asking if I spoke English to begin with. It’s a little
bit strange. I get a lot of, ‘No, no, no, where are you originally from?’ And I have to remind them that New Jersey is on the East Coast, but it’s not that exotic. I was
born in a town called Newton. It doesn’t get more American than that. It’s been interesting.”

Mena felt it was hard to hook up with the Latino community. Her entrée came as she worked for Hardin Design & Development in the Spark Building on E.
Washington Avenue and she wanted to do something to support the Black Lives Matter movement.

“I wanted to protest, but given COVID-19, I was scared of it and didn’t want to go out there and risk,” Mena said. “I felt really guilty. The little techie in me asked,
‘Well what can I do from home?’ It was small, but I made an app called ‘Your Black Friends Are Busy.’ It’s a resource with a lot of anti-racism resources so that you
could self-educate eventually. For a few weeks, it had a lot of traction and attention and it got it from the Starting Block community. Tania Ibarra just perked up and
was like, ‘What is that? Who is that?’ She asked me to a virtual coffee. From our virtual coffee and talking about what we both do and Step Up: Equity Matters had
just recently pivoted. They were a non-profit, but are now functioning as a start-up. I asked how I could help. I started a little bit part-time. I revamped the website.
And she figured out pretty quickly that I would probably be good on the team. She offered me a position and I just couldn’t say no. It’s exciting to do work that
matters.”

Right now, Mena is on board as Step Up’s brand consultant, giving advice to the organization itself and the companies they work with on branding and reaching the
Latino community. And that means a Latino presence in the outward communications of the company.

“Representation matters,” Mena said. “You definitely feel empowered when you see yourself included. I know growing up, that was something important. I grew up
in a primarily white neighborhood. And so, anytime I could see myself in something, it was wonderful. It was the only thing I saw beyond my own nuclear family. As a
matter of fact, we didn’t even have any family in the state where we lived. They were all in Texas or Mexico. All of that was very far away, so seeing it on TV was
always a treat. And I think that is pretty sad given the make-up of our nation. We’re not exactly few in number. We’re growing at the moment. And so I just think it is
important to understand that we are here. We are a huge economic force. And we should be included and it should be normalized that our culture is American
culture. Given the Madison culture, I can see that there are efforts and it is changing. I think it’s not just quick enough or big enough because we are here. I speak of
Latinos and other people of color.”

And how they are represented is equally important.
"I think a lot of people don’t realize that the vast majority of advertisements are
targeted towards white-presenting folks,” Mena said. “Even within the Latino
culture, there is colorism. And even when they do target our culture, they tend to go
toward the lighter skinned variety, if you will. And they don’t realize how many
people they are leaving out by that. You just don’t see yourself. I know that a lot off
marketing on TV has been making efforts. But I think locally we could do a little
better. I know that some of the efforts for our communities are not reaching our
communities. It’s not so much the branding as it is the reach and where they place
these ads.

Tania Ibarra, the founder of Step Up and former Latino Professionals Association
president, also got Mena involved in LPA.

“I am helping them to market the Yo Soy event that they have yearly,” Mena said.
“The live stream is going to be on October 16th. Every Tuesday, we’re going to be
holding conversations for the LPA community to discuss some topics with
facilitators about the specific impact that Latinos have and what are the ways that
we can increase that impact and how we get the attention of everyone to understand
that Latinos are invaluable to the community and really should be invested in.”
LPA will be working with the Local Voices Network to harvest some data out of the
conversations that will then come into play at the Yo Soy event.

“That event is a bit malleable right now because it depends on what comes out of
these brief conversations, which will direct the conversation on October 16th,”
Mena said. “Our hope is that by October 16th, we can have some actionable steps
and we can bring them to the larger community of people who had not participated in
those conversations. I believe that we are going to do some break-out rooms where
we bring it to the community and ask for their input on how we can attack these
issues and achieve these goals that we have. It should be a fun, interactive and
informative.

Even at a relatively young age, Mena feels that she has already found her ideal job.

“As long as I can be doing something design related and also making an impact on
society — I think right now I get to merge that because I get to do the design and
make a difference — is what I want,” Mena said. “And it is here and now. I suppose
the only other next step would be to go solo or creating my own agency that focuses
on this. But I found a great team right now and they are enabling me to do the dream.”

Adrianna Mena has found her voice in Madison and will amplify the voices of others
through the Latino Professionals Association.

To sign up for the PLA Yo Soy events, visit
www. lpamadison.org.