Actor, LGBTQ and Animal Rights Activist
Bárbara Hernández (aka Bárbara Herr) is an actress, writer, and a veteran transgender artist and activist. After 40-plus years in show biz, life become a bit of a drag for one of the Big Apple’s oldest living — and working — lip-synch legends. Over the last few years, Barbra staged several incarnations of her first one-woman show, “I’m Still Herr.” The live cabaret debuted at the Duplex in the West Village, followed by performances at the Bronx Academy of Art & Dance and the FUERZAFest: LGBTQ Arts Festival at Julia de Burgos Latino Cultural Center in El Barrio, NYC. Bárbara’s most recent work was “Trans-Mission,” a one-woman show about her transition, directed by Helen Hayes Award nominee Luis Caballero (“DC-7: The Roberto Clemente Story”) and staged off-off-Broadway at Teatro Círculo. This alternately hilarious/heart-tugging story of struggle and survival is told through the memories and psychiatric sessions of the transgender artist/activist recently seen in HBO’s “Habla: Men.” Make no mistake, Bárbara is very proud of her hard-earned “Drag Queen” status (Lady Bunny once declared Herr a “hysterical and great old-school Latina lip-synch artiste”), but she actually broke into show business as an 8-year-old nightclub singer, circa 1963. After more than two decades of channeling other divas in NYC, this transgender trailblazer is relishing being her true self.
Film Director and Author
Paola Mendoza served as Artistic Director for the Women’s March on Washington, the largest one-day mass mobilization in the history of the world. In addition to her role in the March, Paola is a critically acclaimed film director and author. Her award-winning films tackle the effects of poverty and immigration on women and children in the United States and have premiered at the most prestigious film festivals around the world which include: Toronto, Berlin, South by South West, Pusan, Deauville, HotDocs and Tribeca. Most recently, she directed Behind the Headlines, a documentary series executive produced by America Ferrera. Paola was recently named one of Filmmaker Magazine’s 25 New Faces of Independent Film. She has also published her first novel, The Ones Who Don’t Stay, published by Penguin Books. She is the proud mother of Mateo Ali.
Director of Community Development, Broadway Housing Communities
Ana-Ofelia Rodríguez was born in San Pedro de Macoris, Dominican Republic and migrated to the United States in 1965. She completed her high school at La Cite Technique de Boulogne-Sur-Mere in France, and obtained a degree in French with a minor in Spanish Literature of the Middle Ages from the City University of New York. Rodriguez attended graduate school at the University of Seville while directing a Foreign Cultural Exchange and Study Abroad Program, and earned a Doctorate Degree in 19th Century Spanish Literature at Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri. In 1992 she joined the staff of the first Dominican elected to a U.S. public office, the Hon. Guillermo Linares, where she began to realize the great need that artists had for space to exhibit their work, and used the Council Member’s community office as gallery space. In 1997 she became the Community Development Director for Broadway Housing Communities and established the first community gallery in Washington Heights. The Rio Penthouse Gallery, sponsored by Broadway Housing Communities, opened its doors to local artists in 1997, and in 2003 a second Gallery (Rio II) was inaugurated in their new site in West Harlem. Rodríguez has been the recipient of many awards, and most recently was featured in a book by Nicole Sanchez and Giovanna Bonnelly as one of the most outstanding Dominican women in NYC (2009).
Poet, Writer, Arts Activist, Administrator
Sandra Garcia-Bentancourt is the author of Ombligo de Luna and Memorias y Olvidos, poetry books. Her work has appeared in several publications, most recently in Breaking Ground: Anthology of Puerto Rican Women Writers in New York 1980-2012, edited by Dr. Myrna Nieves and published by Campana, as well as Amanecida, an anthology of poems by Latin American writers celebrating renowned Puerto Rican poet Julia de Burgos, edited by Etnairis Ribera. Previously, Garcia-Betancourt served as the founding Executive Director & CEO of the Northern Manhattan Arts Alliance (NoMAA), an arts organization launched in 2007 with the mission to cultivate, support and promote the works of artists and arts organizations in Northern Manhattan. Most recently, she served as Interim Director of the Sugar Hill Children’s Museum of Art & Storytelling in Harlem, NYC. Garcia-Betancourt has a Bachelors from Union Institute University in Vermont, and a Masters in Fine Arts in Creative Writing (Spanish) from New York University.
ANA M. LOPEZ
Assistant Professor of the Humanities Department/Latin American and Caribbean Unit at Hostos Community College
A native of Cerro Gordo, Bayamón, Puerto Rico, and raised in El Barrio, New York City, Ana M. Lopez is an Assistant Professor of the Humanities Department/Latin American and Caribbean Unit at Hostos Community College holding a Juris Doctor (1982) and Political Science (2001) degree. For more than 35 years López has been actively organizing and raising conscientiousness in Puerto Rican/Latino communities in which include: freedom campaigns of Puerto Rican political prisoners (securing their release 1979, 1999 and 2017), the independence of Puerto Rico, education, workers, women & prisoners’ rights, community organizations’ empowerment and human rights mainly in New York, but also in areas such as Connecticut, New Hampshire, Ohio and in her island-nation Puerto Rico. In 2008, López developed a strategic and effective campaign against the federal grand jury persecution of Puerto Rican cultural activist youth in favor of independence. López also served as the main strategist /organizer for the campaign to Free Oscar López Rivera in New York.
Family Leadership Coordinator, Community School District 4
With more than 20 years of working in parent advocacy, Nancy Pereira began her career as a Parent Leader and former CEC6 member in District 6 from 2003 – 2006. In February of 2006, she began working with the Department of Education as a Parent Coordinator and then transitioned to District 4 as the Family Leadership Coordinator, providing professional development and learning opportunities for School Leadership Teams, Parent Coordinators, Parent Associations, as well as developing new parent leaders. This year Ms. Pereira is celebrating 8 years working with District 4 families, Parent Coordinators, Principals, and Community Based Organizations.
VANESSA PÉREZ ROSARIO
Associate Professor, Puerto Rican and Latino Studies/Managing Editor, Small Axe
Vanessa Pérez Rosario, Ph.D. is Associate Professor in the Department of Puerto Rican and Latino Studies at Brooklyn College, City University of New York. She earned a Ph.D. in Comparative Literature from the University of California, Davis with a Designated Emphasis in Critical Theory. Her teaching and research areas include U.S. Latino/a literature, language, culture and society, and Latinos and education. She is an Associate Investigator on the City University of New York – New York State Initiative on Emergent Bilinguals, a project of the Ph.D. program in Urban Education and the Research Institute for the Study of Language in Urban Society at the CUNY Graduate Center. She is also on the board of the Recovering the U.S. Hispanic Literary Heritage project at the University of Houston. Vanessa is author of Becoming Julia de Burgos: The Making of a Puerto Rican Icon (University of Illinois Press 2014) and the editor of Hispanic Caribbean Literature of Migration: Narratives of Displacement (Palgrave 2010)
Director of Community Affairs, Manhattan North Management
As Director of Community Affairs, Jaritza Taveras-Caba is responsible for creating and maintaining relationships with tenants and community stakeholders. Her collaborative efforts have strengthened the Manhattan North Management’s relationship with elected officials, community based organizations, religious groups, the District Attorney’s office and local police precincts. Previously, she worked with then Manhattan Borough President, Scott M. Stringer as the community liaison. She represented President Stringer in East Harlem, Washington Heights, and Inwood for over three years.
Artistic Director, Pregones/Puerto Rican Traveling Theater
Jorge Merced currently serves as the Artistic Director of Pregones/Puerto Rican Traveling Theater (PRTT) and is instrumental in the ongoing development of the company’s original repertory and programs. A company member since 1987, he is an acclaimed theater artist, who trained with Osvaldo Dragún, Eugenio Barba, Miguel Rubio and Teresa Ralli (EITALC 89 – Cuba), Augusto Boal (Brazil & France), and at the Alvin Ailey Center (NY). Merced’s New York directing credits include: Jordi Casanova’s Gazoline, Fellini’s La Strada with René Buch, El huesped vacío and The Smell of Popcorn (IATI). Pregones directing credits include: El Bolero Was My Downfall, Baile Cangrejero, El Apagón, Blanco, Aloha Boricua, Migrants!, Las facultades, Neon Baby, Marchers Trilogy, and 11 years of readings and workshop productions for the LGBTQ-themed Asunción Playwrights Project at Pregones. He is a graduate of City College-CUNY and Board member for the National Center for Creative Aging.
M. TONY PERALTA
Designer/ Artist/ Creative Force, The Peralta Project
New York native and first generation Dominican, M. Tony Peralta, is a contemporary artist and designer known for his fusion of pop art aesthetics, cultural iconography, and vibrant hues. While living in a home dominated by Dominican culture, Peralta developed a deep appreciation for American art and influences. His admiration for Andy Warhol, Keith Haring, Frida Kahlo, and Hip-Hop culture inspired him to creatively explore his identity. Using screen printing, painting, and mixed media techniques, Peralta has paid homage to his heritage, showcased the stigma of Blackness in Dominican identity, and tipped his hat to the golden age of Hip-Hop. His personal depiction of the Latino American experience fills a need for ambicultural representation. Through social media and an e-commerce undertaking known as The Peralta Project, he continues to artistically connect and engage with his followers. His work has been collected by notable public figures like Junot Díaz, Lin-Manuel Miranda and Swizz Beats. Currently, Peralta’s “Celia Con Rolos” art piece is on view at the Smithsonian Anacostia Community Museum in Washington D.C. This work of art has been acquired and added to the institution’s Permanent Collection.
Director of Programs and Community Engagement, The Laundromat Project
Hatuey Ramos-Fermín is an artist, educator, and cultural producer based in The Bronx. He is the co-founder of meta local collaborative, a Bronx-based artist collective, Boogie Down Rides, a bicycling and art project celebrating cycling in the Bronx, and the open streets event Boogie on the Boulevard. He has organized projects and made presentations at a security guard training school (in tribute to Fashion Moda), community centers, churches, restaurants, laundromats, as well as galleries and museums. He has mentored young adults at the Center for Urban Pedagogy, and The Bronx Museum of the Arts, where he also served as Curator of Education. Ramos-Fermín has also participated in the Elizabeth Foundation for the Art’s Shift Residency, and The Laundromat Project’s Create Change Public Artist Residency. He received his BA from the University of Puerto Rico and his MFA from St. Joost Art and Design Academy. Currently Hatuey is Director of Programs and Community Engagement at The Laundromat Project.
ADRIÁN ‘VIAJERO’ ROMÁN
Visual Artist, Viajero Art
Viajero is a visual artist that focuses on issues of race, migration and identity while exploring both personal and historical memory of the two disparate world that he lives in. He combines drawing, painting and sculpture within immersive installation environments composed of objects collected from different communities. He’s inspired by his interest in the continuity of time and how those interventions may bring those living histories forward to the present.
Deputy Director at Bronx Council on the Arts / Director, Bronx Writers Center
Author Charlie Vázquez is the Deputy Director at Bronx Council on the Arts, where he also directs the Bronx Writers Center. He is the former NYC Coordinator for Puerto Rico’s Festival de la Palabra as well as a freelance editor, youth mentor and activist.
Abya Yala Arte y Cultura, a New York-based non-profit cultural organization, presents diverse art projects that maintain Andean cultural expressions and promote cultural awareness. Their programs are community grounded, intergenerational and inclusive. Each year, Abya Yala presents and produces a season of events that include: educational and artistic workshops, art exhibitions, community forums, theatrical representations, and culinary and art festivals. Their mission is to present, promote and celebrate the cultural identity of the native communities of Peru, focusing on the Andean region and the diffusion of its living and thriving culture.