2016 LA Convergence Presenters


MaydadelValle.jpgPoet and performer Mayda  Del Valle has been described by the Chicago Sun Times as having “a way with words. Sometimes they seem to flutter and roll off her lips. Other times they burst forth like a comet streaking across a nighttime sky.” A proud native of Chicago’s South Side, she appeared on 6 episodes of Russell Simmons Def Poetry Jam on HBO and was a contributing writer and original cast member of the Tony Award winning Def Poetry Jam on Broadway. She has been featured in Latina Magazine, The Source, The New York Times and was named by Smithsonian Magazine as one of America’s Young Innovators in the Arts and Sciences. Oprah’s “O” Magazine selected her as one of 20 women for their first ever “O Power List”, a group of visionary women making a mark in business, politics, and the arts. In May of 2009 she was invited to perform at the White House for President Obama and the First Lady. She is currently Program Director with the poetry-based non-profit youth organization Street Poets Inc.,and is also a dancer and vocalist with the Los Angeles based Afro-Puerto Rican bomba group Cunyá.

Renee_Tajima-Pena_headshot.Credit_Claudio_Rocha.jpgRenee Tajima-Peña is an Academy Award nominated filmmaker whose credits include Who Killed Vincent Chin?MY AMERICA...or Honk if You Love BuddhaThe New Americans: Mexico Story, Calavera Highway, and her newest film, No Más Bebés. Her films have screened at the Cannes, Hong Kong, New Directors/New Films, SXSW, Sundance and Toronto film festivals and the Whitney Biennial and she has been awarded the Guggenheim Fellowship, USA Broad Fellowship, Alpert Award in the Arts for Film/Video, a Peabody and a Dupont-Columbia Award. Tajima-Peña teaches social documentary at UCLA, where she is a professor of Asian American Studies, the director of the Center for EthnoCommunications and holds an endowed chair in Japanese American Studies. She is the inaugural Filmmaker-in-Residence of the International Documentary Association. Tajima-Peña never went to film school, but traces the origins as a filmmaker to her student activism. She was chair of the United Front Against Apartheid at Harvard, and while a student, made her first short film documenting the Socialist New Jewel Movement in Grenada. She has been deeply involved in  filmmakers of color movements and started her career as a member of the Third World Newsreel film collective. 



Dr._Yvonne_Contreras.jpegDr. Yvonne Contreras serves as the Director III, Division of Curriculum and Instructional Services for the Los Angeles County Office of Education. In this position, she leads and supports the fifteen separate projects and units that serve the curricular and instructional needs of the 80 school districts in Los Angeles County.  The mission of the Division of Curriculum and Instructional Services is to offer high quality, gold standard professional learning in a manner that best meets the varied needs of our schools and districts. In addition, she also serves on the Leadership Sub-Committee for the Curriculum and Instructional Services Steering Committee (CISC) at the state level, ACSA Region 14 representative to the Curriculum, Instruction and Assessment Council, and she is a member of the Executive Committee for Arts for All.  Dr. Contreras has served as a secondary teacher, middle and high school principal, an Associate Superintendent of Educational Services, and a Deputy Superintendent in schools and districts in Los Angeles County. Dr. Contreras earned a Doctorate Degree in Organizational Leadership from the University of La Verne.  In her free time she enjoys reading, traveling, gardening and taking her 95-pound rescue dog for long walks at Dog Beach. 


Mario_Davila.jpgMario Davila is the Director of Visual and Performing Arts Education for LA’s BEST, an after school enrichment program currently serving over 25,000 children in 193 public schools within the Los Angeles Unified School District. Prior to joining LA’s BEST, Mario taught for a variety of museums and organizations including MOCA, LACMA, Watts Towers Arts Center and ArtworxLA. In addition to his professional work, Mario has developed a number of volunteer community-based public art projects, including Poetic Action, which produced multidisciplinary events designed to introduce poetry and other art forms to broader audiences. He was also founder and Project Coordinator of LAartlab, an artist collective which provided youth with opportunities to design and produce art events at venues such as the Japanese American National Museum, Ave 50 Studio, the Craft and Folk Art Museum, MOCA, and The Music Center. Mario has a Masters of Art History, Art Education and Nonprofit Management.


EvonneGallardo.jpgPassionate about the role that arts and culture play in society, Evonne​ ​Gallardo ​works to advance and resource artists and the organizations that serve them.​ ​Evonne held ​key leadership positions in arts organizations for over a decade, before launching an independent arts and culture management practice in 2014.  Her experience includes a wide range of organizations from Dia Center for the Arts in New York to Self Help Graphics & Art in Boyle Heights, where she worked to create and implement sustainable programs​ that emphasized relevance, innovation as well as integrated community-based approaches. More recently, ​Evonne has worked with the California Community Foundation, Grand Park, Los Angeles, Los Angeles County Arts Commission, and the Vincent Price Art Museum. She currently serves as Vice Chair of the Board of Directors for the National Association of Latino Arts and Culture.


Maria_Rosaria_Jackson_for_Web.pngDr. Maria Rosario Jackson’s expertise is in comprehensive community revitalization, systems change, the dynamics of race and ethnicity and the roles of and arts and culture in communities. She is Senior Advisor to the Kresge Foundation and consults with national and regional foundations and government agencies on strategic planning and research. In 2013, with U.S. Senate confirmation, President Obama appointed Dr. Jackson to the National Council on the Arts. She is on the advisory boards of the Lambent Foundation and L.A. Commons and on the boards of directors of the Alliance for California Traditional Arts and The Music Center of Los Angeles County. Dr. Jackson has been adjunct faculty at Claremont Graduate University and at the University of Southern California. In the 2014-2015 academic year, Dr. Jackson was also the James Irvine Foundation Fellow in Residence at the Luskin School of Public Affairs at UCLA. Currently she is a visiting professor at the Herberger Institute of Art and Design at Arizona State University. Dr. Jackson earned a Ph.D. in Urban Planning from the University of California, Los Angeles and a Master of Public Administration degree from the University of Southern California.


AMJ_Headshot.jpegAlex Johnson is the Executive Director for the Children's Defense Fund-California, the state office for the Children’s Defense Fund; a national organization founded in 1973 by Marian Wright Edelman.  As Executive Director, Alex leads the organizations statewide advocacy, policy, program and organizing efforts to ensure access to quality affordable health coverage and care for children and low income families, reforming the juvenile justice system, promoting educational equity, and ending child poverty. Previously, Alex served as Assistant Senior Deputy for Education and Public Safety to Los Angeles County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas.  Prior to returning to Los Angeles County where he was born and raised, Alex worked with school instructional leaders in the New York City Department of Education where he provided counsel to school leaders and departmental executives as well as managed complex civil litigation, policy matters and special disciplinary proceedings as part of a teacher quality initiative. He taught high school students as a Fellow with the Marshall Brennan Constitutional Literacy Project and has served as an adjunct lecturer at Lehman College.


Karen_Mack.jpgKaren Mack is founder and Executive Director of LA Commons, an organization dedicated to promoting Los Angeles' diverse neighborhoods through locally based, interactive, artistic and cultural programming.  LA Commons has implemented community art projects, tours and other activities in neighborhoods throughout LA; and works in partnership with other institutions around the city and the nation to further the role of art and culture in community development.  She holds an MPA from Harvard University and an MBA from the John Anderson School of Management at UCLA.  She is the former president of the board of Los Angeles Neighborhood Initiative and of the City’s Board of Neighborhood Commissioners.  



Xochitl.Morales_solo.jpegXóchitl Morales a junior in high school at Wonderful College Prep Academy and from the Central Valley of California, specifically a small town named Delano. She is the co-director of Mariachi Mestizo, a nationally recognized mariachi group that has played at the Hollywood Bowl and recorded at Capitol Records. She also teaches music to young children in her community at her family's local studio. Along with playing mariachi, she is also a Get Lit Player, a student ambassador for the non-profit poetry program Get Lit. She is very passionate about preserving arts programs around her area, as well as reviving them or even starting her own.


Price_updated_photo.jpegZachary Price 
is currently a Postdoctoral Fellow at UCLA in the Department of African American Studies.  He works at the intersection of performance studies, black studies, film studies, and ethnography, drawing from his experience as a playwright, actor, educator, martial arts practitioner, and cultural producer. He is currently working on his first book manuscript that is a study of comparative ethnic relations and the making of Black subjectivity across multiple performance modalities such as martial arts, music, theater, and dance from 1945 to the present. Zachary’s work has been published in The Drama Review: A Journal of Performance Studies, Theatre Topics, The Postcolonialist, and the Journal of Asian American Studies. In addition, Zachary has taught courses on Acting, Black Theater History, Black Arts and Black Publics, Afro Asian Studies, and African American Urban History.


PastedGraphic-11.pngAlberto Retana serves as the President and CEO of Community Coalition a nonprofit organization based in South Los Angeles that empowers residents to transform the social and economic conditions that foster addiction, crime, violence and poverty From 2009 to 2011, Alberto worked for the Obama administration as Director of Community Outreach in the U.S. Department of Education.  During his time in D.C., he organized the Department’s first National Youth Summit bringing attention to the school to prison pipeline. In 2011, Alberto returned to Community Coalition to lead its civic engagement strategy engaging 40,000 African American and Latino voters in various statewide ballot initiatives including Proposition 30 and Proposition 47. Alberto also helped to build Community Coalition’s cultural arm by launching Power Fest—South Los Angeles’ premier political concert drawing thousands of South Los Angeles residents to a day of celebration and empowerment. Alberto was introduced to organizing at the University of California, Los Angeles, where he graduated with a degree in Political Science. 


Kamal_Sinclair.pngKamal Sinclair serves as the Director of the Sundance Institute’s New Frontier Labs Program, which supports artists working at the convergence of film, art, media and technology; as a Consultant to the Ford Foundation's JustFilms program; and as artist and producer on the Question Bridge: Black Males transmedia art project. At New Frontier, she partners with Chief Curator, Shari Frilot, to development and platform landmark projects in the evolution of story, including experimentations with VR, AR, and data as storytelling mediums. At Ford Foundation's JustFilms, she consults on trends in emerging media as a tool for social justice. At Question Bridge, she and her collaborators launched an interactive website and curriculum; published a book; exhibited in over fifty museums/festivals; won International Center for Photography’s 2015 Infinity Award for New Media; and was archived at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture.  Previously, Kamal was a Transmedia Producer at 42 Entertainment and worked on projects such as Legends of Alcatraz for J.J. Abrams, Mark of the Spider-Man and Random Acts of Fusion; and as Principal at Strategic Arts Consulting. Her career began as a cast member of the Off-Broadway hit STOMP.


Ella_Turenne.jpgElla Turenne is an artist, activist and educator. She is the editor of a volume of visual art and poetry commemorating the Haitian revolution entitled "revolution|revolisyon|révolution 1804-2004: An Artistic Commemoration of the Haitian Revolution." Ella is also a filmmaker whose work has been an official selection of various national film festivals including the Hollywood Black Film Festival and the Montréal International Haitian Film Festival, where her short film "woodshed" was nominated for Best Short Film. In response to the Jan. 12, 2010 earthquake in Haiti, Ella co-edited a volume of poetry on Haiti called For the Crowns of Your Heads; the funds raised were used to aid a library that was destroyed in Port-au-Prince. Ella recently wrote and performed her first one women show, Love, Locs & Liberation, a solo show about beauty identity and empowerment. 


Carolyn_Wagner_headshot_2012.pngCarolyn Wagner is a leader in the social sector, having served in senior administrative, fundraising and consulting capacities at nonprofit and academic institutions in the Los Angeles area and abroad. She is the founder of Do Good LA, which celebrates and promotes social entrepreneurism in Southern California. In addition, she advises clients regarding social enterprise, philanthropy, nonprofit management and higher education. While Executive Director of the Kravis Leadership Institute at Claremont McKenna College, Carolyn launched the Kravis Prize in Leadership, which recognizes extraordinary accomplishment in the nonprofit sector worldwide. She is a graduate of Scripps College and earned her Ph.D. from Johns Hopkins University.


SabraWilliams.jpegSabra Williams has received international acclaimfor her work as an artist and founder of The Actors' Gang Prison Project, including being namedby President Obamaas a Champion of Change.  After establishing a body of work as an actress and television hostin the United Kingdom and internationally, Sabra became an “alien of exceptional ability” upon her arrival to Los Angeles in 2002. Among several awards, in 2014, The Martin Luther King Westside Coalition gave their Community Light Award and California Lawyers for the Arts gave their Artistic License Award to The Prison Project for the work.Sabra served on the 2016 NationalEndowment for the Arts Grant Panel.

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