Board of Directors

LJR.jpgLuis J. Rodriguez, Executive Board Member, President, is a leading Chicano writer with fifteen books in poetry, children’s literature, fiction, and nonfiction. His first memoir, 1993’s “Always Running, La Vida Loca, Gang Days in L.A.” has sold close to 500,000 copies and is considered one of the 100 most censored books in the U.S. by the American Library Association. He is cofounder of Tia Chucha’s Centro Cultural & Bookstore and founding editor of Tia Chucha Press. He is also a renowned gang intervention/urban peace leader and has traveled throughout the U.S., Canada, Mexico, Central and South America, Europe, and Japan to read poetry, do workshops and speak — including in prisons, juvenile lockups, universities, colleges, public & private schools, homeless shelters, migrant camps, conferences, libraries, and more. His book “Hearts and Hands: Creating Community in Violent Times” offers experience, analysis and advice on healing through community building.In addition, he is a Native American/Mexican healer and thinker, and has been involved in revolutionary social change for over forty years. His sequel memoir is entitled “It Calls You Back: An Odyssey Through Love, Addiction, Revolutions, and Healing,” which in 2012 became a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award. His latest poetry book is "Borrowed Bones," a chapbook from Curbstone Books/Northwestern University Press. Luis was the official Poet Laureate of Los Angeles from 2014-2016.


unnamed.jpgRobyn Gomez, Executive Board Member, Secretary, is an Associated Clinical Social Worker in the local community. Raised in the Northeast San Fernando Valley, she attended L.A. Mission College, CSU, Northridge and USC. She first became involved at Tia Chucha’s Centro Cultural in with Tonantzin Del Valle, our first women's circle which became its own non-profit in 2004 (Huexotlalli Tonan Foundation). She has over 15 years of community organizing experience working with local families in mental health, medical-social work, gang intervention, and school (K-College) settings. She utilizes her clinical skills to engage families and the community through healing in the arts and literacy. She is a long time supporter of Tia Chucha’s and also volunteers with Comision Femenil San Fernando Valley.


FullSizeRender.jpgDolores Villanueva Harriman, LCSW, Executive Board Member, Treasurer, is a longtime supporter and volunteer, as well as a Licensed Clinical Social Worker with a long history of working with immigrant and under-represented communities. She obtained a MSW degree from the University of Southern California in 2005 with an emphasis on Community Organizing and Public Administration. She has worked in various settings including community mental health agencies, gang prevention programs and school settings.  She grew up in the West San Fernando Valley and is a strong advocate for art as a form of healing for both the individual and community at large.


MDLR.jpgMichael De La Rocha, Board Member, drawing inspiration from soul music, classic singer-songwriters and socially conscious artists like John Lennon and Bob Marley, Mike de la Rocha has been described as a modern day Bob Dylan who’s taken his brand of acoustic folk-rock all over the United States and Europe. As a featured artist for Rock the Vote and a contributing writer to Russell Simmons’ Global Grind website and, Mike continues to garner national attention as a writer and musician. Mike’s also actively involved in reforming the juvenile justice system and advises a number of Congressional members and elected officials on the issue of violence prevention. for more info.


Daniel_Olivas_-_1_op_640x480.jpgDaniel Olivas, Board Member, is the author of seven books including the award winning novel, The Book of Want (University of Arizona Press), and Things We Do Not Talk About: Exploring Latino/a Literature through Essays and Interviews (San Diego State University Press). He is the editor of the anthology, Latinos in Lotusland (Bilingual Press), and co-editor of The Coiled Serpent: Poets Arising from the Cultural Quakes and Shifts of Los Angeles (Tía Chucha Press). Widely anthologized, his writing has been featured in Sudden Fiction Latino (W. W. Norton), and New California Writing 2012 (Heyday Books). Daniel has also written for The New York Times, Los Angeles Times, El Paso Times, Jewish Journal, Huffington Post, and La Bloga, among other print and online publications. By day, he is a supervising deputy attorney general in the Public Rights Division of the California Department of Justice. Daniel and his wife make their home in the San Fernando Valley, and are the parents of a son (and UCLA graduate), Benjamin. Website:


Denisephoto.jpgDenise M. Sandoval, Ph.D Board Member, is a Professor of Chicana and Chicano Studies at CSU, Northridge since 2002.  She received her doctorate in Cultural Studies from Claremont Graduate University in 2003, her Masters of Arts  in Chicana/o Studies from CSU Northridge  in 1995, and her Bachelor of Arts in Ethnic Studies from UC Berkeley in 1993.  She was the guest curator/community researcher for two exhibitions on lowrider culture at the Petersen Automotive Museum in Los Angeles:  La Vida Lowrider: Cruising the City of Angels (2007-08) and Arte y Estilo: The Chicano Lowriding Tradition (2000).  In May 2012, she co-edited a book with award winning author Luis J. Rodriguez titled  Rushing Waters, Rising Dreams: How the Arts  Are Transforming a Community for Tia Chucha Press which documents art activism in the Northeast San Fernando Valley. The book was awarded a bronze medal from the Independent Publisher Book Awards (IPPY) in June 2013 and also was awarded the PEN Oakland-Josephine Miles Award in December 2013. Her next book project is titled White Washing American Education: The New Culture Wars in Ethnic Studies, which is a co-edited two volume set with contributed essays on Ethnic Studies in K-12 and higher education to be published by Praeger in Fall 2016.  She has been a professor in Chicana/o Studies/Ethnic Studies for over 17 years and  teaches courses such as Introduction to Chicano Culture, History of the Americas, History of the Chicana/o and Third World Woman and La Chicana.  Her research interests include popular culture and the arts, cultural histories of Los Angeles, oral history and community histories.


Neela.jpgNeelanjana Banerjee, Board Member,is the Managing Editor of Kaya Press. Her fiction, poetry and essays have appeared in Prairie Schooner, The Liner, PANK Magazine, The Rumpus, World Literature Today, The Literary Review, Asian Pacific American Journal, and many other places. She is a co-editor of Indivisible: An Anthology of Contemporary South Asian American Poetry (University of Arkansas Press, 2010), and The Coiled Serpent: Poets Arising from the Cultural Quakes and Shifts of Los Angeles(Tia Chucha Press, March 2016). She teaches fiction writing through Writing Workshops Los Angeles at her home in El Sereno, where she lives with her husband, son, and dog.


Karina.jpgKarina Ceja, Board Member, is a Queer Xicana grassroots community organizer raised in Pacoima since age 2. She began to work with Tia Chucha’s in 2008 and has participated as a volunteer, staff member, and now currently into her first year as a Board Member for the Centro.  A graduate from the Chican@ Studies Department at Cal State University, Northridge, Ceja went on to co-establish the collective home of El Hormiguero, the all womyn mural collective HOODsisters and the valleys own grassroots bike co-op Bikesan@s del Valle. She believes in the power of the arts and music as holistic tools for healing, transformation and self-empowerment among youth and communities of color.


Silvestre-cropped.jpgSilvestre Vallejo, Board Member, born and raised in Long Beach, California, Silvestre was the first in his family to go to college. After graduating Magna Cum Laude from USC with a B.A. in Cinema-Television Production, Silvestre briefly worked in the entertainment industry before finding his passion working with youth. Silvestre has an extensive history of promoting college access in underserved communities. He worked in East Los Angeles for Project GEAR UP, was Program Director for The Posse Foundation, and later worked as the National Program Manager for After-School All-Stars. Silvestre currently serves as the Site Director for College Track Boyle Heights, a non-profit college access and college completion program focused on helping students in Boyle Heights obtain a college degree. In his spare time, Silvestre enjoys hiking, photography, and, given that he is a new father...changing diapers. 


Rebecca Liliana Gomez, El Nido Program Assistant, Rebeccastarted off as a student of Son Jarocho music at Tia Chucha’s, andcontinues to study the beauty of this Veracruz,Mexico tradition of artistic expression.  Apart from her time at Tia Chucha’s, Rebecca is driven by social justice, education and history. She graduated from California State Polytechnic University, Pomona in 2012 with a B.A. in Gender, Ethnic and Multicultural Studies, and is completing her Master of Arts in Chicana/o Studies at CSU, Northridge.  Learning the history relevant to her in Chicana/o Studies and Ethnic Studies courses made her realize her potential to live a life of organizing and activism to work toward social justice. She hopes to continue to be an educator in  cultural centers, universities and colleges, and K-12 educational settings to encourage students to work toward a better world.

Vianey.jpgVianey Moreno, Board Youth Representative, is an Alumni Association First Generation Scholarship recipient and a freshman at CSU, Northridge where she is working toward her BA in Political Science. Vianey has participated in various community-driven organizations in the San Fernando Valley. She was an intern for the Visual Arts Program at Youth Speak Collective, an organization that empowers youth by implementing community programs that help them expand their creativity and academic skills. Vianey enjoys programs that raise her understanding of the world around her, and graduated from the Mountains Recreation Conservation Authority, earning the title Naturalist Explorer for her demonstrated leadership skills, responsibility, and commitment to the protection of the environment. Vianey continues to engage in her community as a participant and volunteer in Tia Chucha’s  youth program Young Warriors, where youth are self-empowered to find their voices and mend their wounds on their path of becoming strong and compassionate adults.


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