Executive Director
Raizes Collective
Isabel Lopez is the Executive Director Raizes Collective. Isabel Lopez is a mother, advocate, activist, Executive Director, neighbor, daughter, and first-generation woman of color born in Morelos, Mexico. Her parents migrated to Sonoma County to support the family doing field work picking grapes. So at 7 years old, Isabel and her 6 siblings, live with their parents in a one bedroom home. She did not speak English and life was very different from the conditions she experienced in Mexico. She noticed the inequities and unfairness in the Immigration system when she became a citizen in 1994; was fortunate to benefit from the Amnesty Program that gave her citizenship just 6 months after her father became a US citizen under this program.
Then she questions why those under the age of 18 could become citizens, while those 18 and over could not. Even though her family was not able to share a college experience with her, she was the first and only member of her family to obtain a 4-year degree. She attributes this to many mentors, the support of her family, programs, and community. She is especially grateful to the formerly funded Upward Bound Program that exposed her to numerous educational, art and cultural opportunities. She marveled at how such crucial and beneficial programs could be slashed over time. Isabel is keenly aware of how current youth are struggling without such opportunities; given the current education, cultural and political and economic climate, the youth have an additional barrier of having to work to help support their families. “It is s important for me to be able to hold this kind of artistic and transformative programming…it is a way for me to contribute to the positive…creating pathways for these children in a way that is culturally relevant to them, with for and by people who look like them and share their experiences”. Isabel is most profoundly affected by her relationship with her daughter, and her daughter’s relationship with the world. She is 10 years old, bright, inquisitive, insightful and aware. She participates in creative writing, poetry festivals, and other cultural activities with individuals who look like her. She is courageous and confident, characteristics that make her mother beam with joy and pride. Because of the people, communities and opportunities she has been exposed to, she speaks up, shares her writing at school, teals and adult and discusses freely with her mom when she sees something that is “not right”. Isabel and her daughter talk a great deal about the world we live in. Isabel wants other children and people of color to experience the confidence and pride she works to instill her daughter. Even the events hosted by Raizes Collective do not have babysitting services but instead have programing that includes children and youth, “ because they have so much to say!”, exclaims Isabel. Isabel is the founder and Executive Director of Raizes Collective. Raizes Collective was established in June 2015 after returning to Santa Rosa after graduating from Sacramento State. During her time away she was introduced to organizations that had developed interesting models for affecting social change through the arts and cultural programming. She also experienced a more distanced, yet clearer, perspective on the current reality of living in Santa Rosa as a person of color. She was awakened to the variety of inequities that existed in multiple communities in Santa Rosa – health, education, economics, access to culture, and more. After spending several years re-learning her hometown, and logging many commuter miles to neighboring cities to access the kind of community activism she was craving in Santa Rosa, she determined that the time was right to develop Santa Rosa’s own community organization, following the effective models of those experienced in action elsewhere. Being a graduate from the ArtQuest program in Santa Rosa High School, she was well aware of the impact that the arts can have in addressing many of the issues she was exploring. She also recognized that art, culture and environmental programming are a very effective tool for activism. As a result, she established a nonprofit organization, the Raizes Collective to empower and mobilize community through the arts, culture and environmental education. Raizes has had a remarkable level of success for its young life. A slate of over 90 art and cultural workshops and events have been produced, including our annual Noche de Cultura or Cultural Night fundraising event, weekly bilingual yoga sessions, Parking Lot Poetry spoken word sessions, and Write the Power creative writing workshops which are based on the concept of “La Cultura Cura” or cultural-based healing; a method for healing and healthy development which is inextricably linked to restoring one's true cultural identity as the foundation of well-being for individuals, families and communities. Other Non-profit organizations are approaching Raizes to partner on new projects such as Sonoma County’s first Youth Environmental Artivist Summit organized in collaboration with Stewards of the Redwoods and Coast in August 2016. The Sonoma County Library continues to contract the collective to organize art and cultural workshops in 2018. Taking advantage of this great momentum, while transitioning from a volunteer-run organization to a nonprofit with its first paid staff, is the most immediate challenge facing the organization.

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