Alea Wade is a council facilitator and resource advocate for youth groups, teens, and adults. She has lived in southern California since age 3 and has no plans to leave the “sunshine state” anytime soon (travel exclusions apply). Alea is invested in the enrichment of mind, body and spirit through social and emotional programs that support community, growth, and empowerment. In pursuit of her undergraduate degree at UC Santa Barbara (Go Gauchos), Alea studied philosophy, English, and black studies. She is presently using her education in her works as a group facilitator for children and young adults and as a resource advocate for disabled adults in Ventura County. She is most recently affiliated with Celebrate Life, The Ojai Foundation, Inspire Schools, and The Independent Living Resource Center. Through her participation in the FIRE fellowship, she hopes to continue building bridges of support and access to individuals and communities in need.
Andrew Gutierrez III
Born and raised in Stockton, California, Andrew Gutierrez III has experience as an educator, service provider, researcher and community organizer with youth and families who experience homelessness, identify as LGBTQ and/or people of color. Graduating from San Francisco State University’s College of Ethnic Studies, Andrew began organizing with the Filipino American community as well as with homeless LGBTQ youth of color. Andrew specializes in creating inclusive curriculum, program development, and advocacy. He received his Masters in Education from UCLA, where he has taught courses in Ethnic Studies and LGBTQ Studies for K-12 students as well as students at SF State, UCLA, and Cal State LA. Andrew is excited to collaborate with other emerging leaders in the FIRE Fellowship and looking forward to launch a Queer Intergenerational Storytelling Project and Drag Brunch event as his intended service project. Today, Andrew manages SPY’s Host Home Program and the HOMIE mentorship program which allows community members to take an active role in supporting youth who experience homelessness.
Audrey Kuo is a genderqueer femme storyteller, transformative justice practitioner, and organizer. Their art is an extension of their commitment to collective liberation, centering queer and trans people of color. first drafts, second chances, their first chapbook, was self-published in July 2012, and their second book, Six Months of Aprils (Este) is being released as evolving prototypes throughout 2019 and 2020. Their short play “Every Story is A Love Story” will be staged in May 2020 as part of the Eastside Queer Stories festival. Audrey currently lives on unceded Tongva territory (in Los Angeles), where they are deepening their relationship with the land, water, and fire, as well as cultivating interdependent networks of care grounded in joy and bodily autonomy. Audrey believes in the liberatory possibilities of gathering to share food & stories and is interested in reconnecting with Taiwanese and Chinese food histories. They also bake bread.
China Soriano is an Indigenous/Chicana identifying youth raised in the Ojai Valley. China’s passions include learning about the school-to-prison-pipeline and efficient ways to fight against the mass incarceration of youth of color. As a youth dedicated to community service and cultural traditions, her experiences have included volunteering in support of children from Indigenous Migrant families and respectfully does Danza Mexica. Following the fellowship, she hopes to pay her service forward in continuing to advocate for communities impacted by the injustices of the prison system. China is currently a full-time student at the University of Channel Islands where she is a part of the Empowered Womxn of Color Peer Mentorship Program and Pre-Law and Society. She majors in Chicana/o Studies and plans on attending Law School to work on prison reform.
Elizeth Virrueta Ortiz
Elizeth, or Ellie, is an undocu youth organizer with the Youth Justice Coalition based out of South Central and coordinator for the California S.T.O.P. Police Violence Coalition, a statewide coalition led by impacted family members who had loved ones killed by law enforcement. Both use an abolitionist framework and are dedicated to dismantling social injustice issues and implementing community-based programs and resources. Her passion for fighting against Crimmigration and various social issues stems from her experiences as an undocumented person and experiencing the murder of her 14-year-old cousin at the hands of law enforcement.
Her intended service project is to help support the organizing and healing efforts for California families who have had loved ones killed by law enforcement.
Emily Ryan Alford (she/they) is a queer farmer and Angeleno, currently living in Echo Park, occupied Tongva land. She is driven by the guidance of Fannie Lou Hamer that “Nobody’s free until everybody’s free,” and by the wisdom of the living beings around her, geese, sagebrush, and all. Since her youth, Emily has woven together her passion for justice movements with her reverence for the natural world. Following 5+ years of organic farming, Emily began managing the Community Garden Program at Safe Place for Youth (S.P.Y.) in 2018, whose mission is to nurture and empower youth experiencing homelessness through holistic, low-barrier, trauma-informed services. Fire, and the resilience that the land embodies in response to it, is a continued teacher that Emily is eager to learn from through her time as a FIRE Fellow. In order to bring the lessons of the FIRE Fellowship back to her community, Emily’s intended service project will create new garden programming for unhoused young people that centers resilience, intergenerational connections, and healing.
My name is Gloria Gonzalez, I am a Latina from South Central Los Angeles. Life has provided me with the people, spaces, and resources to survive the struggle within my community. I am twenty-two years old and a mother to a beautiful two-year-old named Violet. My passion revolves around youth development and building alternative opportunities for youth to end the cycle of the school to jail-track incarceration. I am Motivated to work with communities that provided the environment and role models for me to grow and become the woman I am today. The inspiration to assist my community came from having an abundance of family and friends being incarcerated, and also very few resources in my community. When I was eleven years old I was bullied in my middle school by the same boy for months, and as a sixth-grader someone who was new to middle school I was afraid. Eventually, I stood up for myself and told him I would no longer allow him to call me names and use me to cut the lunch line, but I told him in front of all his friends, so he told me that he would find me and beat me up. That same day for lunch he found me and tried to punch me in the face but I moved. When I moved I fell to the ground and next thing I knew I saw a lot of students defending me and one of them the students told me to climb the fence to get out of school, so I ran to the fence and when I was climbing up I felt someone pulling my foot down, and that was when I saw the police officer and he told me to climb down. The school police officer then told me was going to arrest me to make an example of what happens to students that brake rules. I was then taken to the school police room for 2-3 hours and wasn’t allowed to speak to my mom although I was crying asking the officers to please let me call. I was then taken to the principles office and they had already spoken to my mom about the situation, but they had told me I was a bad student for standing up against this boy, I was transferred to another school miles away from my home, and I was given a citation of five-hindered dollars. I went to court 4 times because I wouldn’t plea guilty, but at the end of the third court date, my mom told me she couldn’t take any more days from work because her boss was treating to fire her if continued to miss work, so on my fourth court day I plead guilty and I couldn’t get a drivers license until the ticket was paid. Lastly, my future goals are to create a space where formally incarcerated youth and young mothers can create their own craft, market it, and earn their own income. From this experience, I hope to gain a lot of skills in event creation and popular education to take back to my community.
Irving Leonardo Alvarez 25 years old (May 27,1994) Gemini season born in Northridge, CA. 2 sisters one older and one younger. Cancer & school to prison pipeline survivor on that vegan and organ donor lifestyle. Trying to leave the world a better place being a youth organizer.
J Nyla McNeill
J. Nyla McNeill (she/they) identifies as a genderfluid Afrohispinxy person. They are an early career research scientist in the fields of psychology and gender studies. By day they canvass for human rights campaigns; by night they are a cultural worker and artist (writer, poet, skateboarder, musician). They are also a green thumb.
Michaé De La Cuadra
Michaé (they/them) is a genderless being that is working toward financial, social, and political liberation for the many communities she is a part of. Currently, Michaé is working with the TransLatin@ Coalition as the Manager of Policy and Community Engagement, where she is changing the political presence of trans folx of color and working toward accountability from political systems through trans-inclusive legislation. They have worked on issues related to sex work decriminalization, ending trans detention and incarceration, housing for trans women, and much more. Navigating this world post-gender, Michaé sees the direct impact of a corrupt social, economic, and political system that hurts those that choose to not live abiding by the norm. They intend to uplift the real experiences of the trans community, not just what is glamorized. In becoming more fluent in the policy process, they bring information about the system back to her community and works to improve conditions for future generations of black, brown, indigenous, queer, and trans people.
They are also a cultural producer and uses mediums such as performance, music, and writing to challenge societal norms. They have been featured in Teen Vogue, the Los Angeles Blade, the Intercept, among others.
May smiles and good food be in abundance for you. My name is Raquel Apolinar. I am from the Mexica tribe, and a Xicana. I feel more in touch with my spirit, therefore I use any pronouns, including she/hers. My journey has included years of involvement with community healing, positive mentorship, creative outlets including social justice activism, filmmaking, cooking, and entrepreneurship. In Boyle Heights, I worked to bridge communication between youth of color and law enforcement and policymakers with Legacy LA. While at CSUN, I joined the Young Warriors mentorship program, instilling in me values of indigenous wisdom and tradition. Through experiences such as these, I have learned much about the power in each of us to embody change and growth. I am motivated by others tapping into modes of creation that create positive impact for others, such as using the arts to release pain in search of healing. We are seeds, exploring soil and sunlight and water. At Tia Chucha’s Centro Cultural I currently work with a team who organizes youth-led open mics, practices sustainable business, community gardening, and participates in indigenous spiritual practices. I look forward to continuing to use passionate creativity and advocacy as a tool for transforming communities.
Shlomo Pesach (they/them) is a community organizer devoted to cultivating flourishing queer futures . Shlomo lives as a white settler on Chochenyo Ohlone Land , and traces their ancestry from diasporic Ashkenazi Jewish peoples immigrating from Romania and Poland . They are neurodivergent , working-class , chronically ill and transgender , with citizenship and education privilege . Shlomo believes in land-based communities of practice as critical ecological and political technology in the context of climate injustice — in the face of histories of white supremacist colonialism and ableist cisheteropatriarchy , Shlomo is romanced with a vision of liberation that places people back in their bodies , back in relationship , and back in the landscape . To this end , Shlomo’s offerings in the world take the form of council facilitation , Jewish chaplaincy , and somatic coaching — they are a ritualist with experience holding space for individuals , partners , and groups . They are a song-leader and organizer with the Thrive Street Choir , a direct action community of singers that believes music is a powerful force which mobilizes change , builds community , and strengthens a sense of resilience . They are a co-visionary and collaborator of the Queer Ecologies Cohort , a seasonal cohort of LGBTQ2SIA+ and QTBIPOC farmers, ecologists , artists , and organizers gathering in study of queer-centered ecology and land-based practices . Shlomo works as a social media strategist who offers communications and marketing consultation — they value storytelling as a vehicle for strengthening alliances and networks in the service of collective liberation . They manage communications for Black Mountain Circle, Weaving Earth , and Music as Medicine project . Shlomo is an apprentice of bird-language , the tarot , and challah baking .
Yessica Gonzalez Rodriguez