Ellen Sebastian Chang
Xochitl Nevel Guerrero
Editor in Claudine Naganuma (she/her) founded GIRL Project in 2014, which offers dance and empowerment classes for 11 to 14 year-old girls in East Oakland. She is the director of dNaga Dance Company which just celebrated its 20th anniversary. She served as the Artistic Director of Asian American Dance Performances from 1992–2004 and was a founding board member of the Asian Pacific Islander Cultural Center in San Francisco. In 1999, she was selected as an international exchange artist between the Hong Kong Fringe Club and the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts. She was also the recipient of a young presenter’s award from Jacob’s Pillow. She is a teacher and program director of the Dance for PD® program at Danspace and created the PEACE Project in 2009 to explore finding personal peace through the lens of those living with Parkinson’s disease. Naganuma’s choreography was included in Dave Iverson’s documentary called “Capturing Grace” about dance and Parkinson’s. dNaga is an intergenerational dance company, which recently performed at the World Parkinson’s Congress in Kyoto. She is also the author of PEACE About Life; Dancing with Parkinson’s. Naganuma is a certified Dance for PD® teacher and holds a B.A. in English Literature, Creative Writing from Dominican College and an M.F.A. in Dance in Choreography and Performance from Mills College.
Joan Tarika Lewis (she/her) was born and raised in Oakland California. She is a well-known visual artist, Jazz violinist, educator and community activist. The projects she brings to GIRL Project have been healing through the arts exercises shared with hundreds of students in the Bay Area. Ms. Lewis currently works with MUSE, sponsored by the Oakland Symphony Orchestra which brings instrumental music instruction to schools as well as murals for children with disabilities at Santa Fe campus, Verdese Carter Oakland Recreation Center, and Oakland Fine Arts Summer School. She is also engaged in cross-cultural arts organizations providing visual art instruction, murals and lectures on Oakland History. One of which she is extremely proud of is turning a liquor store into a grocery store on 85th Ave. and International Blvd. Ms. Lewis has appeared in several documentaries about Oakland’s Civil Rights era, including the PBS show “Finding Your Roots”. Oakland community artists continue to honor her by painting images of her on the “Homies Empowerment Community Van”, on the 87th Avenue Wall of Fame portraits, and on Women in Oakland at 27th St. near MLK, and a mural by Brett Cook at Defremery Park.
Shaunnah Ray (she/her), GIRL Project’s Program Coordinator, is an Oakland native who is committed to applying her passion for the performing arts and expression to perpetuate effective activism in her communities. Shaunnah pulls inspiration from working with Oakland youth and from her work with organizations that focus on the wellbeing and nurturing of Oakland’s girls. Shaunnah is honored to foster space rooted in the crucial priorities of safety, specifically, in her work with dNaga’s GIRL Project where she has served as Program Coordinator since 2017. Shaunnah is honored to participate in a program such as GIRL Project which is committed to spreading love and togetherness amongst the city’s most promising and most vulnerable demographic. To nurture her own creative outlets, a cornerstone of Shaunnah’s life has been the sisterhood she has found through dance; it is an ever-constant place for refuge and rejuvenation. Harvesting love from the Oakland Haitian, Hip Hop, and House dance community to keep her spirit right. Shaunnah is currently pursuing an interest in lighting design, a craft that she has been honing at EastSide Cultural Center through EastSide’s Live Arts and Resistance Theater programming. Using some of the skills she acquired after graduating from KPFA Radio’s First Voice Apprenticeship Program which lead her to become a radio producer for KPFA’s Full Circle, Evening News, and Free Speech Radio News, as well as National Radio Project’s, Making Contact, Shaunnah is now working on a collaborative filmmaking project called Hella Love. Stepping into the role of writer, director, and actor. The Hella Love project is a way to flex her creative muscles and create art that pays homage to the city that raised her, and that she loves.
Ellen Sebastian Chang(she/her), a storied figure in the performing arts, is a director and arts educator whose career spans 50 years. Her current projects include an ongoing collaboration with AfroFuturist Conjure artist Amara Tabor Smith and the Deep Waters Dance company’s House/Full of BlackWomen, a multi-year site-specific dance theater work that addresses the displacement, sex trafficking, and the creative well-being of Black women and girls in Oakland, California. Sebastian Chang was the cofounder and artistic director of Life on the Water, a national and internationally known presenting and producing organization at San Francisco’s Fort Mason Center from 1986 through 1995. She serves as the creative director of The World As It Could Be: Human Rights and the Arts Education Program. In the past five years she has collaborated with the HBO production "Whoopi Goldberg Presents Moms Mabley"; Maya Gurantz "A Hole in Space (Oakland Redux)"; Film Project with Sunhui Chang and Maya Gurantz "How to Fall in Love in A Brothel"; Campo Santo and Ben Fisher’s “Candlestick”. She is a recipient of awards and grants from Creative Capital, MAP Fund, A Blade of Grass Fellowship in Social Engagement, Art Matters, K. Rainin Foundation, NEA, Creative Work Fund, California Arts Council and Zellerbach Community Arts Fund.
Malkia Chionesu (she/her, Big Sista). Born and raised in the diversely rich community of Oakland, California, Malkia Chionesu found her purpose of helping to illuminate the lives of others. With over 13 years of experience working with community-based organizations, educational institutions and businesses, Malkia discovered that she could deeply and intuitively understand the intricacies of these places. This inherently gave her the opportunities to educate, serve, and work congruently and nationally with a variety of populations. She received her master’s degree in Organizational Psychology and continues her studies in the intersectionality of Logotherapy and Spirituality. Malkia leads her own consultancy, M.CHIO, supporting non-profits, independent artists, and everyone in-between with business development and transformative alignment. She is currently working on a documentary series called Innerviews on Purpose Series focused on understanding the concept of purpose as it pertains to artists and healers from around the world. As a multi-faceted connector, Malkia desires to transform the lives of the people she works with, to empower them to shift their corners of the world.
Hamida Yusufzai (she/her, Big Sista) is a Youth Resource Center leader who is known for her movement building and community organizing work to address commercial sexual exploitation of children and youth as a health care issue. Her work is very much grounded, rooted, and based in her connection to young folks and our most vulnerable community members. Hamida launched her advocacy work by training in London with Eaves for Women, and then by working with a variety of anti-sexual violence services across the sector including Rape Crisis. She has always and continues to keep her grassroots work with youth at the core of her advocacy and movement building work, centering women and girls from disadvantaged backgrounds.
Xochitl Nevel Guerrero (she/her) is a Bay Area practicing artist, who began her career in Oakland over five decades ago, creating paintings, public murals, masks, and gourd crafting. Before the age of 5, she recalls knowing she would become an artist and teacher, inspired, and influenced by her parents. Also, with a background in dance, music and theater during her childhood and teen years, her creativity expanded. While working primarily in East Bay, Xochitl’s fine art paintings, and Day of the Dead masks or altar installations have also been shown in La Galeria De La Raza, The Mexican Museum, The Museum of Black Hawk, Danville, CA, the Oakland Museum and Sanchez Contemporary Gallery in Oakland. Public Art murals and painted tile walls have been at The Spanish Speaking Citizen’s Foundation, St. Elizabeth Elementary School, Cesar Chavez Elementary and Dolores Huerta Academy schools, EastSide Arts Cultural Center entrance (mosaic facade), La Clínica de La Raza, Cesar Chavez Park all in Oakland a Day of the Dead mural at AutoBody Gallery, in Alameda, the Savant cafe (formally the King’s Coffee shop, and Mujeres Unidas Activas immigration women mural. She has exhibited locally, state-wide, and nationally. Xochitl received a BFA degree in Studio Arts at Cal State East Bay (formally CSU Hayward, CA) in 1980. She has a Reiki Energy Healing 3rd Degree Master level since 1993 and certification in Hypnotherapy in 2005. In addition to being designated Master Muralist by Precita Eyes Mural Center in San Francisco in 2000, Xochitl received a Certificate of Special Congressional Recognition from Congresswoman Barbara Lee in 2006. In 2015, she received a nomination for a business Indie Award as a “Pillar” through the City of Oakland, and in 2017 received a Local Hero Award issued by Vice Mayor Annie Campbell Washington from the City of Oakland for her community murals at the Savant Cafe (formerly the King’s Coffee Shop) in the Laurel District.