Gente Unida Board of Directors
Ari Honarvar is the founder of Rumi With A View, dedicated to building music and poetry bridges across war-torn and conflict-ridden borders. She conducts Resilience through Joy workshops for refugees and volunteers on both sides of the U.S.-Mexico border.
Peter Schey Esq.
President and Executive Director of the Center for Human Rights and Constitutional Law and its Casa Libre/Freedom House program. Mr. Schey oversees the implementation of the policies and programs of CHRCL and Casa Libre as well as all litigation of the 1997 Flores Settlement Agreement.
Juan Rosas – Juan Rosas has been an educator for more than 20 years. He also dedicates his work to advocate for immigrants and to encourage widespread community involvement, addressing social injustices experienced by migrants. Juan runs Gente Unida in San Bernardino, at which they advocate for undocumented students by presenting at local districts, schools and local universities, advising undocumented students and families on how to attend colleges and universities.
Jesus Nebot is a renowned filmmaker, social entrepreneur and human rights activist who speaks internationally on issues related to environmental sustainability, social justice and spiritual fulfillment. Originally from Spain, Jesus studied drama in Madrid, and eventually made his way to Venezuela where he became well known and loved as a telenovela star. Nebot’s eventual emigration to the United States created a crisis in self identity and 180 degree turn in the direction of his career and life mission as he found himself a homeless actor and producer in Los Angeles. Nebot recreated himself as a social entrepreneur, activist, motivational speaker and producer who now uses the arts to create awareness and social change.
After receiving his B.A. degree with honors from the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts in Madrid, Jesus completed his training at the Lee Strasberg Theatre Institute in New York on scholarship from the Spanish Government. He then became internationally known for his starring roles in the top-rated television series’ “LA LOBA HERIDA” and “DIVINA OBSESION,” distributed by Warner Brothers International in 29 countries. Seeking to expand his career Jesus came to the United States in 1995 where he was granted the green card as a “person with extraordinary ability in the arts.” In 2000, Jesus launched his own production company by the name of Zokalo Entertainment with the intent of making films that were socially relevant and thought-provoking. Zokalo’s first production was the critically acclaimed feature “NO TURNING BACK” picked up for distribution by Universal after its successful theatrical release in Europe and in the United States. Nebot’s recent acting credits include guest-starring roles in the Fox EMMY WINNING SERIES’ “NYPD BLUE” and “ARRESTED DEVELOPMENT.” His website provides information on all of his projects, www.JesusNebot.com
Nebot’s mission has always been to inspire personal and social healing and transformation through his speaking engagements, training seminars and artistic endeavors, including writing, producing, directing and acting.
Hugo Castro is a courageous humanitarian who has worked for decades to protect the lives and well being of migrants on both sides of the US Border.
He has worked in shelters in Tijuana, and has been a guide, friend and advocate for many in their times of need. Hugo is an American Citizen born to migrant farm working parents. Hugo’s life was greatly influenced by the lives and work of Cesar Chavez and Dolores Huerta. It is fitting that this interview that allows us to take a look at his many accomplishments and trials falls on this day.
Hugo’s spirit is indomitable, it is our hope at Gente Unida that his message touches your heart as it has ours. Please share our new podcast with your friends and family. BuenHombre.org and MagnificentMujer.org
Omkari Williams is an activist, artist, fundraising professional and storytelling creative who emerged from a family lineage and heritage of African and Afro-American leaders in the fields of education, law, humanitarianism and activism across both sides of the Atlantic. Her first incarnation in this life was a New York stage actress whose audiences weren’t broadway stages but regional hospitals and special populations with disabilities. Her next major career move was as to transform herself into a high powered Washington political fundraiser where she learned how the most powerful need powerful stories and lots of funding to get reelected. Disillusioned with the over emphasis on money machine in Washington she moved on to mentor grassroots activists across the globe on communicating their unique story as a strategy for building their own movements. Today Omkari Williams is an acclaimed storytelling coach, mentor, speaker and podcaster.
Omkari is a sought after speaker internationally on issues related to social, economic and racial justice, gender equality, womens issues, abortion rights, feminism, self healthcare and spiritual fulfillment. She is the newest member of the Gente Unida Board.
For Omkari, “Being an activist means that you are someone who takes consistent action, whether in front of the scenes or way behind the scenes, to advance a cause that you are passionate about. For me the size of the action isn’t the point, what matters is that you are regularly taking action to make a difference. That’s my definition of activism.”
The two major influences of Omkari’s life was her father’s influential legacy as a powerful Black Humanitarian Activist and on being a black woman herself in the context of life in the US and what that means in terms of being a Black woman and having to work twice as hard to achieve anything close to professional status and the challenges of inclusion at all levels of society.
For over the 30 years Omkari has been helping others tell their stories through her role as community actor, then political fundraiser, and grassroots activist, mentor and host of the podcast, “Stepping Into Truth”:
“Knowing that I’m really good at leveraging story to advance social justice causes has led me to take actions such as organizing abortion speak-outs, advocating for those without the ability to speak for themselves, e.g., children and undocumented people, and to teach others how to do the same.”
Michelle Onong McCurdy
Michelle McCurdy is currently serving the diverse student body at San Diego City College as a nurse practitioner in their student health clinic where she has provided primary care and health education for the last six years. In addition to her passion for maintaining the physical and emotional health of her students, she is extremely concerned and dedicated to addressing injustice and inequality at its root. She was selected for Mid-City CAN’s Boards and Commissions Leadership Training program and completed it in the fall of 2019. She has worked as a volunteer for Jewish Family Services helping at their refugee shelter and provided medical care in Tijuana through Bridges to Healing International. She is also an active member of multiple local groups involved in critical causes such as Doctors for Camp Closure (D4CC) and Moms Demand Action (SD4GVP).
Her nursing career began when she joined the U.S. Navy after graduating with her bachelor’s in nursing from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. After earning her masters in nursing at the University of San Diego, Michelle served on the San Diego Chapter board of the California Association for Nurse Practitioners (CANP) as president-elect, president, and past president where she advocated for autonomous nurse practitioner (NP) practice legislation. Through her father’s work with a non-profit organization, Michelle was privileged to spend her childhood growing up in several countries, namely, the Philippines, India, Sierra Leone, and Ethiopia, with intermittent visits to Sabah, Malaysia where her mother was born and raised. She has been happily settled as a San Diego resident since 1997 where she and her husband are raising their three children and four cats.
Gente Unida Advisory Board
As president and chairman of the Cesar Chavez Foundation, Paul F. Chavez has spearheaded the impressive expansion of the organization his father founded in the 1960s. The Foundation has grown and adapted into a successful group of social enterprises that support hundreds of thousands of Latinos and working families, inspiring and transforming communities from rural to urban areas throughout the Southwest and across generations.
One of eight children of Cesar and Helen Chavez, Paul has spent his entire life with the farm worker movement. Prior to his work with the Cesar Chavez Foundation, he served with the United Farm Workers of America as a union organizer, contract negotiator, political director, lobbyist in Sacramento and Washington, D.C. and director of marketing operations. He was also a personal assistant to Cesar Chavez.
Paul earned an A.A. degree in negotiations and collective bargaining at the Fred W. Ross Labor Education Center’s School of Collective Bargaining.
Josefina Lopez is an award-winning Screenwriter/Playwright/Novelist and Performer who co-wrote the screenplay to the Sundance Audience Award winner, Real Women Have Curves. She is the Founder and Artistic Director of CASA 0101 Theater Art Space in Boyle Heights, where she presents plays, film festivals, teaches and empowers a new generation of Latino and women writers.
Erica Alfaro is a business owner, keynote speaker, Latino Education Advocate and the Vice-president of Toastmasters. An Educational organization that promotes the skills of communication, public speaking and Leadership. Erica often speaks to middle school, High school, community college and undergrad students across the country. Her story made headlines all over the world when her graduation pictures went viral.
Franciscan Friar Adolfo Mercado
Education truly transforms individuals, families, and communities. Schools serve as catalyst or agents of change, and Adolfo finds it exciting to be a part of this process. This is a value his family cultivated in him and relied upon to move away
from laboring as migrant farm workers. Adolfo’s earliest memories are playing in the tomato fields while his family worked harvesting tomatoes in the fields of Woodland, (Yolo County) California. As a student at Christian Brothers HS, Adolfo
saw the power of education and started working as a tutor. Time at Kresge College at UC Santa Cruz (B.A., Anthropology) was even more impactful, although the year at UNAM in Mexico City was transformational. He taught in a classroom
briefly, but realized that he wanted something faster paced and moved into non-profit programming. After a detour working for the Roman Catholic Bishop in Youth and Young Adult Ministry, he returned to education. For 12 years he served
as the Executive Director of Breakthrough Sacramento at Sacramento Country Day School and now works for the California Charter School Association. Adolfo is a proud native of Sacramento and is eager to see Sacramentans own their power
as residents of the capital city of the 6th largest economy of the world. He also volunteers with Saint Francis of Assisi Parish, Sacramento Stonewall Democrats, and the Latino Democratic Club of Greater Sacramento.
In 2018, I resigned from my position as Regional Director for Advocacy with the California Charter Schools Association to begin formation to become a Franciscan Friar. In August of 1998 I joined as a postulant with the Franciscan Friars. The
postulancy was at Saint Camillus Parish in Silver Spring, MD. After a year there, volunteering at a day center for folks experiencing homelessness, and deepening my relationship with God, I was recommended to move on to the novitiate. That
was in Santa Barbara, at the old mission. Thanks to God, and some hard work, I professed first vows on the 2 nd of July 2020. This year was supposed to be an immersion year and I was hoping to go to Morocco, the Philippines, or Mississippi.
Because of the pandemic, it was best to begin studies at the Franciscan School of Theology, affiliated with USD. I am completing a Master of Divinity concurrently with a Master of Theological Studies. Gente Unida has been part of my settling into life in San Diego.
For over a decade, Yadira has collaborated with students, families, staff and faculty in the educational system to advocate for procedural and institutional change. She has continuously been an advocate for students and works to ensure that students are empowered, engaged and encouraged. Yadira has also mentored students, student organizations and their allies in becoming agents of change for themselves and others.
Witnessing the lack of assistance for undocumented students in higher education has pushed Yadira to research, create and establish resources, programming, emergency grants and trainings in the CSU and other educational systems. She has created workshops and presentations regarding the following topics: higher education, the needs of undocumented students, ally trainings, how to establish resource centers, the importance of networking and more. Yadira was fundamental in founding the Dream Success Center at California State University, San Bernardino and is currently the Executive Director for Pre-Health Dreamers.
Yadira has years of experience in community outreach, advising, and presenting at local and national conferences.