Honoring community and cultural leaders during Covid-19
Project by Stephanie Thayer

Local artist Stephanie Thayer was inspired to do this project when quarantine started due to COVID-19, in part to keep busy, but ultimately to honor members of Davis and Sacramento who give back through activism, volunteering, art, music, dance, and to uplift the community in these uncertain times.  Stephanie hopes that her series inspires others to feel connected despite our physical distance, remember that we are still a "comunidad," if you will, and hopes to bring a smile to your face. In this series Stephanie used colored pencils for the faces of the community members, and acrylic paint for the backgrounds. 

Dzokerayi Mu. Dzokerayi (who also goes by Nathalie) was born in Zimbabwe and moved to Davis in 2010. Dzokerayi lives with her husband, Fungai, and their three children. Dzokerayi is an activist and the director of TESE Foundation, a 501(c)3 non-profit serving high school students in Zimbabwe. Her mission is to alleviate poverty from children through providing tuition, uniforms, personal hygiene packs, and paying students’ exam fees. Dzokerayi is a firm believer in the role of the community in her work, and that is reflected in the Shona name of the organization “TESE”, meaning “together.” Her work has been to mobilize communities in two different countries to meet the needs of the children in rural Zimbabwe. Dzokerayi hosts events in Davis to raise money for her organization, and is a positive force in our community and world. For more information about TESE Foundation, visit http://www.tesefoundation.com/. Thank you for all you do, Dzokerayi. 💜

Dzokerayi Mu (Nathalie Minya)
Saara Burga
Saara Burga, CEO of the Brazilian Center of Sacramento. The mission of the Brazilian Center is manifold, and includes introducing participants to Brazilian and Latin American culture in an enriched, vibrant, rhythmic, friendly, and fun-loving environment utilizing the performing arts, culture, food, socializing, and entertainment, advocating for and empowering youth, as well as providing a forum for people to exchange ideas to enhance the community. The Brazilian Center of Sacramento offers classes in capoeira, Portuguese language, samba, drumming and more as well as hosts many events (with Brazilian food!). Saara also heads the amazing samba group Mistura Brasileira and the drum group Unidas da Capital (Ayeeee 😉). For more info about the Brazilian Center of Sacramento visit http://www.braziliancentersac.org/. Saara, thank you for sharing your culture and positive energy with the community! Obrigada! ❤️🙏🏼

Daniel Smith aka Dan the Man was born in Vallejo, CA and graduated from VHS in 91′. Dan is currently the music director of the Shady Lady Bar and Saloon in Sac, as well a board member of the non-profit organization Bigger Than Us youth arts program in Sac. Dan also organizes and books gigs for bands/ musicians all over Sac including at Drake’s: The Barn in West Sac. Dan is also an MC for the one and only Element Brass Band. 🎤 🙌🏽🔥. Dan attributes his love for music in part to his upbringing. His mother grew up as a church singer and is now a blues singer in Vallejo. His father was always playing music while working at home. Dan grew up a hip hop head but being exposed to a variety of genres helped Dan expand his love for all types of music. Dan is also involved in Youth Live, a monthly youth program for jazz musicians, and “Musical Mashups” where two new bands play in one night. Dan is an instrumental (pun intended) and vibrant part of the Sacramento music scene and believes we can move forward with positive energy. Thank you, Dan, for all that you do for the community and the world. 💙

Daniel Smith
Tapua Gwarada

 If you have met this Davis human you have undoubtedly felt the love and kindness that emanates from her at all times. Tapua Gwarada is one of the kindest people I have ever met, is constantly smiling, and fills Davis with a joy and positivity recognizable by everyone I talk to who knows her. Tapua was born in Seattle Washington on April 28th, 1980 and moved to Davis in 1993. Tapua has a half-brother and a sister-in-law in Texas and lives with her mom in Davis. Tapua volunteers at Logos Books and has also volunteered at North Davis Elementary School (in the kindergarten classroom, what what!). Tapua has also been known to cut a rug at the Wednesday night farmer’s markets when they have live music. Tapua loves the color purple and wants to see more love in the world. Thank you for all you do for the community, Tapua, and thank you for being you! 💜

Charlie Julian Hilliard! Charlie Julian is an activist and artist. They are genderqueer and use the pronouns they/them/theirs/themself. Charlie was born in San Francisco in 2001 and has lived in Davis since 2003, growing up a true Davisite. Charlie attended six different high schools and graduated from King High in January 2019. They had the honor of being the founder and head of the King High Gender and Sexuality Alliance Club. Charlie has received the Golden Heart Award from the City of Davis and the first ever Mikey Partida Realizing Resilience Award from the Davis Phoenix Coalition. Charlie is currently volunteering with Davis Food Not Bombs, a local mutual aid organization that cooks and serves free plant based food for Davis community members affected by food insecurity. Influenced by their mother, who is also a poet, Charlie has been writing since they were a child, and is working on editing their first ever poetry manuscript, a compilation of some of the poems they have written during the last five years. Charlie is also currently working on putting out a free digital newsletter called Love Notes & Liberation about “nothing and everything” – the first issue will be out Saturday 3/28/2020, and you can subscribe here: https://tinyletter.com/liberationandlovenotes . Charlie encourages you to get involved in your community, volunteer, do the things you are afraid to do, and get out there and change the world! Thank you for all you do in the community Charlie! 😊✌🏼🧡

Charlie Julian
Dr. Stephen Moon and Grace K Moon

Dr. Stephen Moon and Grace K Moon were both born in Korea, and came to Hawaii in 1983 to study and later start a family. As parents of two millennial children, they have a strong passion and desire to reach younger generations. Steven and Grace run an organization called, “Mosaics” at the Davis Community Church (where Steven is a Pastor) which has been sponsored by the Davis Community Church since 2015. Mosaics offers various language, music, spiritual and cultural classes free of charge to the public (but please donate to keep them afloat). To access Mosaics’ spring schedule check out http://www.nextg.org/mosaics-2020-spring-class-schedule/ (classes are now being offered on zoom. Check the schedule here http://www.nextg.org/mosaics-zoom-classes/). I’ve taken Portuguese and Spanish classes there and the teachers are excellent. While community members take language classes at Mosaics on Saturday afternoons, Grace is busy preparing a free community meal for 60 people (with the help of volunteers) which is served at 6 pm. It’s ALWAYS delicious and nutritious. During dinner there is usually an open mic night where people can perform solo or in groups. The Moons have truly created an amazing space that has brought people from all walks of life together and built community. All faiths are welcome. Steven and Grace, I am so glad I met you this year and thank you for all you do for the community! 💜🙏🏼

Gloria Partida is a mom, grandmother, retired scientist, a small business owner, founder of a non-profit focused on inclusion, and a deeply committed community advocate.  She has a long-time passion for building community and caring for the quality of life of the spaces she lives in. Growing up in Boyle Heights, CA, Gloria joined The Mothers of East LA and advocated for the under-resourced issue of her neighborhood. In 1989 as a single mother of three small children, one with special needs, she moved to Davis determined to better the opportunities for herself and her family. She attended UC Davis and earned a B.S. in Zoology and later worked as a neurobiologist.  Throughout the time she studied and worked to support her family, she advocated for her own and all children in the school system.

Over the years, in collaboration, she improved education for special needs students, established a community-based work program for people with disabilities and founded the Davis Phoenix Coalition (https://davisphoenixco.org/) to promote inclusion and prevent hate crimes.

As a lab manager she mentored and advocated for opening opportunities to minorities and women in science. In 2016 she ran for Davis City council. As the highest vote getter in that election, she became Mayor Pro-Temp and will become Mayor in 2020. Gloria is the first Latinx women elected to the Davis City council.

Gloria enjoys gardening, Hiking, camping and especially dancing.  Gloria, thank you for all you have done and continue to do for the community. 

Gloria Partida
Denise Larani Castillo

Denise LaRani Castillo was born in Los Angeles, California, spent her childhood in Caribbean Guatemala on a banana plantation, and her adolescent years in Maracaibo, Venezuela and later Guatemala City.  Denise grew up in a non-religious half Guatemalan, half Chinese family.  As a child, Denise started dancing salsa, merengue, cumbia, punta and reggaetón with family and friends. She has been studying cultural dances since approximately 1992, mostly Flamenco and Latin Styles. She has also studied 11 different types of martial arts.

As a young adult, Denise trained and worked as an ESL/SSL teacher. She also studied chemical engineering in Guatemala before moving to California to complete a B.S. in Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biology at UCLA and an M.S. in Neuroscience at UC Davis. In Davis, Denise taught dance and fitness throughout her graduate school career.  She started SynRG, formerly known as Fiesta DanceN’ Fitness, which was a cultural arts and wellness center in Davis in 2008, where she taught world dance and fitness alongside over 80 diverse instructors (over a period of 8 years), offering a multitude of world music (instruments), dance, fitness, yoga, martial arts, and meditation. Denise also hosted various regular social and fundraising events at her studio to bring the Davis community together. SynRG dance teams of all ages performed in many community events and fundraisers in Northern California for over 10 years. Denise has also volunteered.  Most of her volunteer work has centered around children and teens, offering world arts (dance) in after school programs throughout Yolo County. She has also done some work with Science Outreach (also to children) and programs that support low-income Latinx women. Currently Denise has moved back to Guatemala to start programs that support low-income artisans, mostly indigenous and with limited educational backgrounds, in order to help them to increase their revenue through novel and more sustainable, environmentally-friendly designs, access to marketing, and by encouraging the public to “buy locally.”  Denise started the global movement #LETSMARCH4th, which she conceptualized as a child, as an initiative to instill cooperation, camaraderie, solidarity and unity across the human race around the globe.  Her childhood motto was, “If every human being had each other’s back, no one would ever need to worry about anything.”  This was recently launched on Denise’s birthday, March 4th, 2020, on the brink of the unprecedented worldwide COVID-19 pandemic. “LetsMarch4th calls on every person of this beautiful planet to come together at a time when our ability to work as a team may determine the fate of many. Lets march forth as one!” – Denise Larani Castillo.  Thank you, Denise, for all you do for the community and the world! 💙

Darren Virassammy was born in Minneapolis, Minnesota and grew up in the Bay Area. Darren’s parents are from British Guyana (hence his love for Reggae, Calypso, and Soca music). Darren is a TEDx Speaker and Co-Founder and Chief Operating Officer of 34 Strong, an organization comprised of a team that believes everyone deserves a great place to work and that any workplace can be great. A leading expert in the global employee engagement community, the 34 Strong team leverages the Strengths-Based approach to human development to create massive shifts within organizations, both culturally and on the bottom line. He and his team have created sustainable change in small microbusinesses, all the way up to large organizational teams at the FDA, Bank of America, and The California Department of Public Health.

Darren’s work has been featured in several publications including Gallup, The Sacramento Business Journal, and the Executive Magazine. He has been featured in 2 books, Mike Michalowicz’s Clockwork and 15 Five’s The Great ebook of Employee Questions alongside thought leaders like Simon Sinek and Rand Fishkin. Darren is a regular guest on many podcasts and virtual conferences. Some notable engagements in early 2020 include speaking at the 15Five Best Self Conference alongside Simon Sinek, Keynoting the PHCC conference in Las Vegas, and co-facilitating the 2020 Vision Camp with 5 time Grammy-award winning bassist Victor Wooten. Recently, Darren has keynoted for Hitachi Global Women’s Conference, The Rotary World Peace Conference, The Professional Grounds Management Society, and Author Mike Michalowicz’ Profit Con. Darren’s 34 Strong Business partner, Brandon Miller is the co-Author (with his wife Analyn Miller) of a Strengths-Based Parenting book titled: Play to Their Strengths and their upcoming books: Incredible Kids and Incredible Parents.

Darren is also an electric bassist and closed down Profit Con 2018 by performing a solo bass guitar piece he composed titled, “Metamorphosis” as a tribute to the journey of entrepreneurs. He also plays in one of my favorite local Sacramento bands, Zorelli.

Darren holds a black belt in Kyokushin Karate, and a black belt in Aki-jujitsu and loves training in and teaching Martial arts. He has a wife, Lisa, and two children, Kira and Preston. Darren also enjoys daily cold showers, Wim Hof Breathing and regular cold water plunges. Thank you for all you do in the community, Darren, and keep slappin’ that bass! 💚

Darren Virassammy
Christina Marie Pires

 

 Cristina Marie Pires! Cristina grew up in São Paulo, Brazil where she lived with her parents and 4 other siblings. She moved to Davis in 1995 to visit a long time friend whose parents were also from Brazil and were here working on their PHDs in agronomy. Cristina loved Davis and decided to stay! She graduated from Davis Senior High School and started taking courses at UCD Extension. Around this time, Cristina met a lady who was quadriplegic and started working for her to practice her English. Through this work Cristina became interested in the field of healthcare. After going to Sacramento City College, she transferred to Sac State and got a degree in Nursing Science. Right after that she became pregnant and stayed home for 10 years taking care of her 4 kids. She now works in-home with people with spinal cord injuries and dialysis. She will be moving to the hospital setting soon. Christina has also volunteered for the Davis Phoenix Coalition and has been actively involved in an anti-bullying movement which she partnered with Eva M. Dopico (rest in peace querida) to bring about positive change at Cesar Chavez Elementary School. Christina is a huge supporter of all the major yearly events in Davis and she loves the Davis community! Cristina wishes we could all live in peace and love one another more. She wishes we would take more time to thank each and every person each day for their share in making our world livable. She is also thankful for the nurses and doctors for helping in this disastrous moment, but above all she wants to thank each and everyone in our community for sheltering in place so we can get healthy again. “I miss all of u! I love u Davis people!!” -Cristina. Thank you for all you do for our community Cristina! You rock! 😊❤️

Robb Davis grew up in rural south-central Pennsylvania, in Amish Country.  He never traveled more than 300 miles from home until he flew to Paris on an adventure with his wife Nancy that changed everything. They ended up two years later living on the edge of the Sahara Desert working on a child health project in one of the most challenging environments on earth.
That initial experience led Robb to study public health—specifically child health and the dynamics of human migration in a risk-filled world.  His public health career, which spanned 25+ years and took him to over 30 nations for work eventually brought him and his family (two children and his lifelong companion) to Davis.
It would take too long to describe the many factors that led him to leave the international, community-based work in malaria control, child nutrition, and HIV/AIDS prevention that defined his career.  But after 25 years he left it to engage in local challenges in his “nearby”.
 
In Davis he has helped launch a bike advocacy organization, several initiatives related to engaging the challenges of people living without homes, and two local restorative justice programs that provide an alternative to our punitive forms of justice.
 
He served briefly on the City Council where he focused on these issues and police oversight, local control of electricity provision, and housing.
And now he has the pleasure of working with students at UC Davis to provide them with opportunities to engage in intercultural learning—to prepare them to share their talents in this globally interconnected (but troubled) world.  His passion is to help them be reflective about their own identities and the way their cultures shape them in hopes of helping them gain insight into the value of alternative ways of looking at the world.  Robb, thank you for everything you do and have done for the community and the world! 🙏🏼🤎
Robb Davis
Kate Mellon- Anibaba

 Kate Mellon-Anibaba lives in Davis, CA with her husband and two sons. She is most well known for founding the group “Statement of Love” in response to Trump’s Election in 2016. That same year she organised a 1,00 persons rally in response to the hateful vandalism of the Islamic Center of Davis. She is also the curator of the “Statement of Love Mural/Mosaic” located in downtown Davis celebrating diversity, immigration, social justice and LGBTQ rights. The Installation supported by a “Davis Community Art Grant” includes over 500 heart shaped tiles hand painted by local community members. Kate was awarded Women of the Year in 2017 from Congressman John Garamendi for her commitment to love in the face of hate. She continues to bring community together virtually by starting the Covid-19 Community Response Facebook group and Website this year. She asked me to paint her with her children because they are the driving force behind her fierce advocacy for those most marginalized. She hopes they grow up seeing her create change towards a more inclusive and loving society and feel empowered to do the same. 

Thank you for all you do for the community and the world. 

💖

Deema Tamimi is a New-York born, Seattle raised, sun-loving Davisite. She made her way to Davis with her 2 young kids and husband in 2014 and is an entrepreneur, creative maker, and sustainable and communal food advocate who embraces fairness, peace, love and happiness. 

Because Yolo led her to assist in the The Gatherings Initiative with civic and elected leaders to bring Davisites together to discuss their concerns in a changing political climate. This initial taste of community organizing led her to volunteer on the Downtown Plan Advisory Committee, helping to provide a recommendation to Davis City Council on a future vision for downtown Davis. She also partnered with other organizers to gather community input and draft the FED (Food & Economic Development) Report, which presented the public and city officials with a vision for Davis that put sustainable, equitable and communal food at the center of its economic growth and prosperity.

In the past three years Deema started her own consulting company, a food-focused startup, and a non-profit, which all three blended her interests in both technology and food. This gave her the opportunity to work on innovation projects in both Davis and SF as well as local projects of interests and volunteering, including Davis Eats, a communal meal series, The StrEatery, a street-food and music event with The Davis Food Co-op, and a series of educational events for the Davis community on sustainable and equitable food systems, partnering with UC Davis experts and divisions. In addition, she’s volunteered for Davis Farm to School, co-chairing The Village Feast, an annual fundraiser that assists the orgd-sharing app, Giving Garden.

A passionate advocate for reducing food waste and combating food insecurity, Deema has made every effort to ensure minimal waste and the donation of either funds or food to local non-profits focused on getting food to those most in need, including The Freedge, The Davis Night Market and Yolo Food Bank.

When asked what Deema most wants to see in the world, she noted “I’d love for everyone in the world to have a meal together, not in the same place, but on the same day in each of our communities. We would come together as a human family, sit down, put our differences aside, eat a meal, realize our common humanity and work together for a better world. It’s a pipe dream, but perhaps, bit by bit, community by community, we can get closer to a vision of solidarity and community. And maybe food could be what brings us together.”

Thank you, Deema, for all you do for the community and the world! 💚

Deema Tamimi
Dillan Horton
Dillan Horton (he/him/his) is from Los Angeles, where he was raised in a union household by a single mother who was a veteran and later became a nurse. 
 
In high school he became involved in Amnesty International and Young Black Scholars, helping to organize things like the Multicultural Week and human rights awareness campaigns. In college Dillan represented students in student government at El Camino College & UC Davis, advocating for transfer students, securing sustainable funding for student activities, and opposing tuition hikes. 
 
Dillan has always been active in campaigns, working for candidates like former Secretary of State Debra Bowen,  former Superintendent of Public Instruction Delaine Eastin, and Congressman John Garamendi. Since 2017 Dillan has served as regional delegate to the California Democratic Party and Vice Chair of the Yolo County Democratic Party.   
 
In December of 2018 Dillan was appointed to the Davis Police Accountability Commission, and currently serves as Chair. On the commission he works with his colleagues to reform the department’s structure, improve training, and make sure department policies reflect the community’s values.  
 
Professionally Dillan works as a Community Development Specialist at Community & Employment Services, a local non-profit that supports people with developmental disabilities to find and maintain employment.        
 
Personally Dillan is an almost 27 year old, gay, Black, man in Davis who enjoys discussing government/politics of course, gardening, and the world’s greatest TV show Rupaul’s Drag Race.
 
Dillan, thank you for all you do for the community and the world! 💙

Devayani Varma moved to Davis when she was three years old. From preschool to college and from learning to run to learning to drive, she did it all here (in Davis)! However, her roots lie in Kerala, the spice garden of India and the land of coconuts. She is the only child of Resmi and Anuj Varma. Devayani began her dance journey the day after her parents found her bobbing in the living room to music, back in India. The shift across the world didn’t stop her either! She has been learning Bharatanatyam under Katherine Kunhiraman for around 16 years. She has performed at numerous charity and cultural events, including Mondavi Center, Sahaya International, I-House, Visions Global, and Habitat for Humanity to name a few. Her favorite stage she has ever performed on is Guruvayoor Temple in Kerala. She received a diploma in Bharatanatyam in 2017 from Kalanjali Dances of India. Devayani is an undergraduate senior at University of California, Davis pursuing a bachelor of science degree in Cognitive Neuroscience. Her volunteering started in middle school when she became a summer camp instructor at Explorit Science Center. From there, she moved on to various community service events through Key Club at her high school, such as helping out at events in the Davis Art Center and Girls Scouts. She is currently the secretary of India Association of Davis. Volunteering for the community over the years led Devayani to want to start a free dance class, which she does every Saturday at the Community Church. It is one of her biggest accomplishments and something she loves to do. Devayani has already begun exploring other forms of dance. No matter what she does or where she goes, dance is something she won’t let go. Thank you for all you do for the community and the world, Devu. 💚🙏🏼

Devayani Varma
Venita Sivamani
Venita Sivamani is a California native who spent her childhood summers in her mother’s homeland of Sri Lanka. Her parents, Easan and Sundari Katir, currently reside in Davis after falling in love with the town when Venita went to UC Davis for undergrad. Venita first completed her BS in human development and later returned for her MBA. During both tenures, Venita received the university’s highest awards: the college medal and “Most Outstanding Woman” as an undergraduate and the Newberry award for her leadership at the Graduate School of Management.
 
Venita is passionate about education and improving healthcare. A former teacher, Venita founded LearnSkin, a dermatology education company for healthcare professionals, where she serves as CEO. The mission of LearnSkin is to bridge the gap between patients and practitioners through integrative medicine and a complete approach to healthcare. LearnSkin launched in 2018 and has quickly become one of the largest platforms for professionals in dermatology with programs online and an annual Integrative Dermatology Symposium attended by practitioners from around the world. Venita believes the future of medicine is integrative, advancing from sick care to health care. She is also a huge animal lover and plant-based advocate.
 
More recently, Venita was a Sacramento 40 Under 40 honoree, winner of the NAWBO Woman on the Way award, and recipient of the Emerging Leader award from the Sacramento Asian Pacific Chamber of Commerce for her entrepreneurial impact and community service. Venita is past president of the Rotary Club of Midtown Sacramento and currently serves on the board of Visions Global Empowerment, a nonprofit dedicated to youth leadership.
 
Professionally trained in classical South Indian dance, Bharatanatyam, Venita’s repertoire also includes Bollywood, Salsa, and Hula. Dancing is her favorite hobby, a close second to traveling, which she finds nourishes her senses, soul, (and skin)! 
Venita, thank you for all you do for the community and the world! 💜