Essential Stories is an independent, grassroots docu-series that gives a voice to people on the frontlines of our world’s most pressing social issues.
Aeiramique Glass Blake known to most as Meeka is 32 years old, Justice Candidate for the 51st Congressional District, a devoted christian and has a 10 year background in mental health and has been working in the juvenile justice field for nearly 12 years. She is a full time restorative justice consultant and founder and Executive Director of a youth led activism, organizing and advocacy non-profit organizations, “Generation Justice”. Generation Justice focuses on Juvenile Justice and school culture discipline reform. Meeka serves on multiple advisory boards representing communities of color, such as San Diego chief of police board of advisors, the City Attorneys advisory board, Restorative Justice Steering board and the Peace Promotion Momentum Team, working to keep these individuals and systems transparent and accountable. Aeiramique has a true heart and love for people and concentrates on addressing the intersectionality of social justice Issues.
Marisol Ibanez-Tintorer is a Cuban-American with over 10 years of experience working with AIM for the heArt who is currently serving as AIM 4 the HEART’s Director of Programming. She is a HEART Education facilitator, curriculum trainer, and the developer of AIM 4 the HEART’s train-the-trainer model. She is one of the co-founders of the Long Beach heArt Sessions and co-author to the-upcoming book, HEART Education. Marisol holds a Bachelor’s Degree in American Studies from UCSC and a Master’s Degree from the University of La Verne in Educational Counseling and has over 20 years teaching experience working directly with high-risk youth in California public schools. She has extensive experience in curriculum development. A full-time teacher and Activities Specialist at Polytechnic High School’s PAAL Campus, Marisol has authored and designed the framework for the Ethnic Studies, Restorative Justice and Social Justice courses. She advocates passionately for the expansion of social and emotional education, implementation of restorative practices and the development of Trauma Informed Campuses in K-12 education and serves as a consultant for Buena Park School District. Recently, she has begun to train teachers in the implementation of Restorative Practices and serves as a Restorative Justice Coordinator and facilitator for the California Conference of Equality and Justice’s Building Bridges Camp. With over 20 years of activism and organizing experience working with Indigenous Rights, Latino, Social Justice and youth organizations. She is an active poet, painter, silversmith, and multi-media artist.
Nii Armah Sowah is a Ghanaian born arts educator. He earned his first degree in Theatre Arts, with a focus on dance, at the University of Ghana in 1987. After graduating from the Africa Center for the Training of Performing Artists in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe in 1991, he obtained a Master of Arts in Expressive Arts Therapies at Lesley University in Cambridge, Massachusetts in 1997. Over the years, Nii Armah has worked professionally as a dancer, choreographer, singer, percussionist, actor (television, film, and stage), public speaker, massage therapist, and expressive arts therapist. He was the principal dance instructor and choreographer at the School of Performing Arts, University of Ghana, between 1987 and 1994. During this time, he toured extensively across Africa, Europe, Canada, and the U.S. Nii Armah has conducted residencies and master classes at several institutions including – the National Theatre of Ghana, University of California at Irvine, Bagamoyo College of Arts, Tanzania, University of Cape Town, South Africa, National Theatre of Kenya, Ethiopian National Theatre, and New England Conservatory of Music in Boston, MA. Nii Armah is currently a full-time faculty at the University of Colorado, where he teaches African Dance, Introduction to Dance and Culture, Dance & Community Engagement and African Singing. He is also the Director of the 1000 Voices Project, an arts organization that uses African songs, rhythm games, dance, and storytelling to foster human development, community/team building and cross-cultural understanding. His research interests include African centered dance pedagogy, cross-cultural education, intra-African arts exchanges, and dance for personal and community development. Nii Armah has garnered several awards over the years, including – the “Excellence in Teaching Award (2008),” the “Campus Global Citizen of the Year (2010),” the “Equity and Excellence Award (2013),” the “Marinus Smith Award for Excellence (2013),” and “Sustainability Award - Civic Engagement (2014),” all at the University of Colorado, Boulder. Nii Armah was also named the winner of Boulder County’s Multicultural Award for the Arts (2012) and a “Living Legend of Dance in Colorado (2016).”
Meral Sarper Aka Doe Renée is a community focused engineer, consultant and teacher. She also loves expressing through spoken word poetry, song and dance. Today she’ll share “Untold History” - a work about we can acknowledge the darkness and choose to rise above
Omkari Williams is Host of the podcast, Stepping Into Truth: Conversations on Race, Gender, and Social Justice, and a Certified Coach who works with ordinary people who see wrong in the world and want to make it right, those whom she calls “Everyday Activists”. Drawing on her background as an actor and political consultant she helps people leverage the power of story and sustained action to create the change they wish to see.
Ravina Wadhwani is a Mental Health Therapist, Advocate, Educator and Poet based in Los Angeles, CA. Ravina's life work is devoted to promoting holistic and decolonized mental health & well-being as a form of social justice and intergenerational healing. In her time outside of mental health work, Ravina writes and performs poetry around the greater Los Angeles area, which she sees as a necessary tool for healing and social change. Ravina is the Founder of @DecolonizingOurHealing - a consulting and social media platform to promote inclusive healing & intersectional discussion around mental health issues for people of color and marginalized folks.
Educator, Activist, and Community Leader, LaToya Fernandez, dedicates her career to teaching students equity and justice. As a Restorative Justice Coordinator, LaToya has served in local San Jose schools supporting students, educators and families through cultural responsiveness, restorative practices and community engagement. LaToya continues to serve the community in various roles : as the Dean Of Students at Downtown College Prep El Camino, District 3 Neighborhoods Commissioner and is a member for the Tech Museum's Educator Advisory Board and as Chair for the Youth Outreach Committee for Women's March- San Jose. Alongside these roles, Latoya continues to be a community advocate who is passionate about creating platforms for youth. Just one of these platforms is Youthhype, a community based organization that empowers youth in San Jose from marginalized communities to rise up. As its Founder, she facilitates workshops in self esteem, confidence, awareness and identity. Youthhype also actively participates in numerous community events, while pairing empowerment with activism, agency and leadership.
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Each panel we bring together 6 Activists to discuss topics related to the #BlackLivesMatter protest, today’s political landscape, police brutality, the upcoming presidential election, the 2 party system, the radicalization of white conservatives, alt right rhetoric, white liberal rhetoric, cult psychology, toxic masculinity, and the class war.