To see a list of all panelists we’ve worked with in the past, click here.
Ramon Marcel Abad (he/him/his) is a Filipino American puppeteer, artist, and teacher. Since the mid 90s to present day he has performed solo puppet shows at Bay Area Filipino American festivals and events. His current puppet booth project “Tito Ramon’s Pop-Up Puppet Show” was the first puppet show performed at Kapwa Gardens post Covid-19 lock-down. He was a shadow puppeteer and maker with Larry Reed’s ShadowLight Productions and was in a show that toured in the Jim Henson International Puppetry Festival. As a company member of the Fil Am sketch comedy troupe “tongue in A mood”, Ramon has made and performed with puppets on countless skits at Bindlestiff Studio.
He has directed in-person stage productions and online shows using puppetry. Ramon has lead puppetry residencies in the US and the UK. As a workshop leader, he seeks to engage all communities to explore modern puppetry regardless of age, background and skill set.
Robin Abad Ocubillo (he/him) is an Urban Designer and Planner with a passion for film. His career has focused largely on public space design, management, and policy. Currently with SF Planning, he manages the Central Waterfront-Dogpatch Public Realm Plan, a multi-agency effort to scope and program streetscape and open space infrastructure projects into the City’s capital implementation plan. He also serves as the Lead Policy Planner for Places for People, the first municipal placemaking ordinance of its kind in the country for amplifying tactical urbanism activity in San Francisco’s streets and open lots. Prior to his current role at the San Francisco Planning Department, Robin worked with LADOT People St. and the Mayor’s Great Streets Project on advocacy and performance evaluation of projects throughout L.A. Before that, he served for several years as a Project Manager in the Golden Gate National Parks, working on cultural landscape and visitor access projects at sites throughout Bay Area parklands.
Christine Abiba (they/she) is a queer, non-binary pinay born and raised in the Bay Area. Christine’s experiences in collecting oral hxstories and navigating care with elder family and community members fuels their interest in deepening our relationships across generations. Currently, Christine is an Advisory Board Member for the Queer Ancestors Project and supports SOMA Pilipinas – the Filipino Cultural Heritage District with their public art projects and cultural events as an Arts Administrator.
Shalini Agrawal (she/her) is trained in architecture and is founder of Public Design for Equity. She is director for Pathways to Equity, a leadership program of Open Architecture Collaborative that trains architects and designers in racial justice workshops. She works with interdisciplinary practitioners, firms and organizations to address equity in the workplace and community engagement. She teaches at California College of the Arts, facilitating curriculum aimed at decolonizing design and architecture practices.
Paula Smith Arrigoni (she/her) is the Executive Director of BAVC Media (Bay Area Video Coalition), where she’s focused on expanding opportunities for media makers and preservationists who reflect pluralism, complexity, and connection. Her leadership style centers on collaboration, as demonstrated by her recent co-founding of the Bay Area Media Maker Summit (BAMMS), and BAVC’s recent move into the Ninth Street Independent Film Center. She currently sits on the Board of The Roxie Theater and the Watsonville Film Festival. Paula has been an executive producer of feature and short independent films, and enjoys training emerging professionals in nonprofit management. Paula’s urban planning education from UCLA, and early career in community development, greatly influence her work in independent media making today.
Kristal Çelik (she/her) is a first-generation Turkish-American civil engineer, environmental designer, and cultural worker who previously served as the Festival Manager for the SF Urban Film Fest. With a B.S. in Mechanical Engineering from UC Berkeley, she has a background in clean energy engineering. Having worked on environmental justice campaigns, providing tenants’ rights counseling, and serving as a peer support volunteer with the Shanti Project, Kristal is particularly grateful to participate in local interdisciplinary community-based organizations. She focuses much of her energy on continually learning and unlearning about the bioregion she occupies.
Francesca Balagtas (she/her) Born in San Francisco and raised in Las Vegas, Francesca grew up always dancing. Starting from a young age, Francesca’s dance journey consisted of ballet, tap, jazz, hip hop, street jazz, Hula, Tahitian, Maori, and Kpop. In 2017, she co-founded K-Pop-Up, a kpop dance class and community based in San Francisco, with her friend Patrick Santos. They both had a deep love for dance and an obsession for kpop and wanted to start the class and group to meet more kpop dance fans in the Bay Area. Over the past 6 years, K-Pop-Up has grown tremendously as a bi-weekly dance class that sells out almost every single class and a community of kpop lovers that has grown to over 200 members. K-Pop-Up strives to be a warm, welcoming, and inclusive environment to strengthen the Bay Area Kpop community.
John M. Brett (he/hym/hys) has accompanied unhoused neighbors in a variety of settings, including as the former Program Director of The Gubbio Project & as a chaplain & Community Programs Director for the SF Night Ministry. Through Faithful&Fabulous, he offers events & programs for queer people of faith, seekers, & those constructing their own spiritual paths. Prior to seminary, John completed his BA in Spanish & Performance Studies at Dartmouth College & served as the Executive Director of a regional legal aid program in Washington State. His favorite ministry experience to date involves offering spiritual care while in drag at a taco truck. Each year he chaplains at Burning Man through Camp ReligiousAF.
Emma Marie Chiang (she/her/hers) @echiangphoto is a multiethnic Bay Area filmmaker and storyteller who see arts as a means of healing and connection. Emma focuses on documenting stories in the San Francisco Chinatown community, ever since her two-year-long documentary project called Coming Home: The 990 Pacific Relocation Story (2018). She hopes her stories have the power to plant seeds of curiosity, dialogue, inclusion, reconciliation, and hope. She is currently earning her Doctorate of Acupuncture and Chinese Medicine at The American College of Traditional Chinese Medicine (ACTCM) at the California Institute of Integral Studies (CIIS) in San Francisco, California. Emma integrates her creativity as a medical clinician by providing holistic, compassionate, and trauma-informed care to her patients.
Fay Darmawi (she/her) is a film festival producer, community development banker, and urban planner interested using all forms of storytelling and media to create lasting social change. She is the Founder and Executive Producer of the SF Urban Film Fest, a film festival focused on civic engagement inspired by great storytelling. Her 25-years of experience as a leader in affordable housing finance, including managing the low income housing tax credit platform for Silicon Valley Bank, as well as 5-years of screenwriting training, informs her media-related work. She is a screenwriter alumni of the Community of Writers at Squaw Valley, a Yerba Buena Center for the Arts community fellow and was recently awarded a National Arts Strategy Creative Community Fellowship. Fay served on the Boards of Directors of Chinatown Community Development Corporation and the American Institute of Architects San Francisco Chapter, and is currently on the Board of Livable City organizing ten Sunday Streets open streets events per year in San Francisco. Fay is the recipient of the Community Alliance Award from the American Institute of Architects San Francisco Chapter, and the Special Recognition Award for Accomplished Planner from the American Planning Association, California Northern Chapter. Fay’s formal urbanist training is from M.I.T. and the University of Pennsylvania but her love of cities is from her childhood growing-up in the epicenter of Jakarta, Indonesia.
MARIO DE MIRA (he/him/his) has been doing community development work for the Filipino community in San Francisco since 2008. Is early beginning were in youth and student organizing and migrant worker organizing. Mario joined SOMA Pilipinas in 2017 to take on the infrastructure building and and organizational development. Mario is also a hip-hop artists by the name of Power Struggle and a contributing member for the Beatrock Music Collective.
Kim Diamond (she/her) has split her life between California and Louisiana. As a teenager she dreamed of motherhood, and—living that dream into reality—is about to welcome a great grandson. Kim’s first poem, written in eighth grade, was titled “Brotherhood,” and reflected her early concern about racial equity. The years after that were filled with challenges which she says helped her develop radical empathy, and at the end of that journey, she arrived in the Tenderloin. She came to work with poet Jessie Johnson, a foundational mentor, who encouraged Kim to “write about (her) life.” Six years ago, she joined the Skywatchers ensemble and has never looked back.
Daniel Díaz (He/Him/Él) Based in San Francisco, Daniel is a Colombian-British filmmaker, founder of Latin American documentary platform CiNEOLA and Director of Marketing & Communications at the Bay Area Video Coalition (BAVC Media). He is also a founding member of the Bay Area Media Maker Summit (BAMMS).
Daniel has worked across film marketing, digital distribution, audience strategy and production in Europe, South America and the US—managing campaigns for films such as 12 YEARS A SLAVE, SPRING BREAKERS and THE LOBSTER. His credits include producer on award-winning Chilean feature film CAMALEÓN (BFI London Film Festival 2016) by Jorge Riquelme Serrano and co-producer of climate activism documentary FINITE: The Climate of Change (FIPADOC 2023, Impact Award winner) by Rich Felgate.
Sue Ding (she/her) is a filmmaker and artist based in Los Angeles. Her work explores race, gender, and diaspora through the lens of art and everyday life. Her short film The Claudia Kishi Club premiered at SXSW and was acquired by Netflix. She also directed and produced the Emmy award-winning documentary Artbound: Light and Space. Sue works in a variety of nonfiction media across platforms including digital, broadcast, and interactive apps. She also serves as a creative producer for docuseries, consults and lectures on nonfiction storytelling, and programs the XR/emerging media section at the Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival. Sue is an alum of MIT’s Open Documentary Lab and Comparative Media Studies program, and a Senior Civic Media Fellow at USC’s Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism.
Rebecca Foster (she/her/hers) is the founding CEO of the San Francisco Housing Accelerator Fund, a public private partnership that provides powerful new tools to improve the delivery of affordable housing. Since 2017, the Fund has invested nearly $400 million in housing preservation and development projects throughout San Francisco, supporting over 1,800 permanently affordable homes for more than 3,300 residents vulnerable to displacement and homelessness. Previously, Rebecca served as an advisor to the late Mayor of San Francisco Ed Lee, and before that as a Vice President at Goldman Sachs, where she raised capital for local governments, universities, non-profits, and utilities around the country. Rebecca was appointed to the Board of Directors of the California Housing Partnership Corporation by Governor Newsom, and also sits on San Francisco’s Inclusionary Housing Technical Advisry Committee. She lives in San Francisco with her husband and three boys.
Sarah Garrahan (she/her) is a documentary producer and editor from San Antonio, Texas (occupied Somi Se’k land). She is based in Los Angeles, CA (occupied Tongva land). She co-produced and was an additional editor on the hybrid documentary The Infiltrators by Cristina Ibarra and Alex Rivera, which premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in 2019 and was awarded the NEXT Audience and Innovator Awards. She edited the Emmy-nominated feature documentary Building the American Dream by Chelsea Hernandez, which premiered at SXSW in 2019 and was broadcast nationally on PBS. She edited the short documentary Status Pending by Priscilla González Sainz, which was supported by IF/Then Shorts and acquired by Al Jazeera. She edited the feature documentary Silent Beauty by Jasmin López, which premiered at the 2022 Hot Docs Film Festival. She holds an MFA in Experimental and Documentary Arts from Duke University. She is a former Flaherty Fellow (2013) and Felsman Fellow (2015).
Rev. Dr. Glenda B. Hope (she/her) Retired Presbyterian Minister. Founder and 40 years Director of SF Network Ministries in the Tenderloin conducting house churches, a programmatic CoffeeHouse on Bush St, over 1,000 Memorials for TL residents and homeless, founded SF SafeHouse for Women, Created Urban Ministry training involving 7 seminaries, constructed family apartment building. Named UnSung Hero of Compassion by Dalai Lama.
Jeantelle Laberinto (she/her) is a Filipina community organizer, researcher, and writer– born, raised, and currently residing in San Francisco. Jeantelle is deeply committed to building power with communities to cultivate self-determination and challenge inequitable systems that perpetuate disinvestment, displacement, and cultural erasure. She currently works as a Community Organizer and Staff Writer at [people. power. media], where she helps lead the Race & Equity in all Planning Coalition, a coalition of nearly 40 grassroots organizations throughout San Francisco fighting for racial and social equity in city planning. Prior to her role at [people. power. media], Jeantelle served as a consultant for SOMA Pilipinas, leading the extensive community engagement, research, and development of a strategic report in partnership with the City to outline strategies for place-based cultural and community stabilization.
Sam LaDue (she/her) revels in opportunities to build community at the intersection of the human voice, presence, art, and environment. She spent over ten years connecting people through communications. Sam has spent time as an opera singer, Medical Spa General Manager, Director of Music and Liturgy, and in software development. She holds Liturgy Certificates through Loyola Marymount University and a BA in Communications through Southern New Hampshire University. Sam is pursuing a joint MDiv/MA at Pacific Lutheran Theological Seminary and the General Theological Union.
Lex Leifheit (she/her) leads business development strategies for San Francisco’s “doing good” sector in the Office of Economic Development. OEWD recently launched Nonprofit Sector: Impact Development Grants to assist community-focused, mission-driven organizations by expanding equitable access to flexible early-stage project funding. Previously Lex directed SOMArts Cultural Center where she launched a curatorial residency program and assisted LGBTQ+ cultural producers in response to the closure of nightlife and performance venues in SOMA. Together with Ebony McKinney she co-founded Arts for a Better Bay Area, a coalition that organized support for an historic ongoing increase to cultural equity funding. Lex began her professional career as an artist, activating vacant storefronts and coordinating street festivals.
Diego Jesus Bartesaghi Mena (El, He, Him) I was born and raised in Lima, Peru. As a queer person of color, I have the privilege to document the experience of my community. I worked as a reporter for two years after graduating from Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism. As a reporter, I wrote about the Latinx community and produced human focused stories for a local news paper in New Jersey. Currently, I am the communications manager for Make the Road NJ, an organization focused on building the power of immigrant and working class communities. On my free time, I like to read books, play video games and explore the world with my husband.
Reetu Mody (She/They) is a lawyer, project manager, organizer, researcher, facilitator, and trainer. Her focuses include housing rights, criminal justice, sanctuary policies in immigration, digital and on-the-ground organizing strategies for campaigns, racial equity, diversity, and inclusion, and disability rights. Reetu believes justice work is foundation to a world where people are seen as whole, multidimensional, and nuanced, allowing us to live freely and joyfully. She is a former Q Lab Screenwriting Fellow, VONA Screenwriting Fellow, and YBCA Fellow. Reetu is also a classical Kathak dancer, a folk dancer, a performance artist, and poet.
John Moody (he/him) is a creative director, urban designer, and filmmaker focused on creating places of inclusion and imagination. With an approach to change that emphasizes people’s lived experiences and collective storytelling, he has played a pivotal role in helping designers, organizations, and cities to find hidden power in their work and to catalyze progressive transformation in their environments. He currently serves as a creative director and design strategist at Arup, a global design firm. After leaving full-time work as a digital imaging technician on Hollywood film sets to study urban planning at MIT, he co-founded Invisible Cities Studio, a collaborative design practice that helped people create inclusive cities and spaces using art and storytelling. He directed two award-winning films that have screened at SFUrban Film Fest: Redemption Square and the cerebral city. He currently lives in Thai Town, Los Angeles.
Carlo Nasisse (He/Him) is a director pursuing long-form projects that explore regional culture, ecology, and the relationships between humans, landscape, and politics. His work has been featured in the New Yorker, SXSW, Slamdance, and Big Sky and screened as part of exhibits at the Times Art Center Berlin and the Rockbund Museum of Art in Shanghai. He is currently completing his MFA at Stanford University.
Celestina Pearl (she/her/meow) a.k.a. The Van Lady is an artist, nurse and longtime sex worker with many years experience in many facets of the sex industry. She currently is the Outreach Director for St James Infirmary and drives a van around San Francisco serving the health and occupational needs of folks working and living on the streets, trains medical students to perform sensitive, competent pelvic exams and is raising a brilliant trans teen.
Dyan Ruiz (she/her) is Co-Founder of the non-profit investigative journalism and media organization People Power Media based in San Francisco. Dyan is Co-Directer, Head Writer and Producer of Priced Out: Why You Can’t Afford to Live in San Francisco, an animated web series selected by 13 film festivals and awarded Exceptional Merit by the WRPN Women’s International Film Festival and an Award of Excellence from the Canada Shorts Canadian & International Short Film Fest. She is the Co-Director, and led Story Development for the recently released documentary film, Sa Amin: Our Place, the untold story of Filipino activists and intergenerational families fighting to preserve the cultural heart of the Filipino-American community in San Francisco’s South of Market (SOMA) neighborhood.
Dyan was born in Quezon City, Philippines and grew up in Toronto, Canada. She has reported for US and Canadian independent media, and the largest daily newspaper in the Philippines.
Dr. Christopher Schell is an urban ecologist whose research sits at the intersection of animal behavior, ecophysiology, urban biodiversity conservation, environmental justice, and One Health. Specifically, he and his lab examine how urban heterogeneities and disturbances influence the behavior, cognition, endocrinology, and epigenetic traits of urban carnivores. Moreover, his lab integrates critical discourses on how structural oppressive forces (e.g., redlining, pollution burden, socioeconomic disparities) directly shape the very urban features associated with urban wildlife adaptation. This interdisciplinary work aims to disentangle how environmental injustices have structured our urban ecosystems and how we can harness those lessons to build more just, biodiverse, and resilient cities. Chris received his B.A. in Psychology from Columbia University (2009) and his masters and PhD in Evolutionary Biology from the University of Chicago (2015). In 2021 he joined the faculty in the Department of Environmental Science, Policy, and Management (ESPM) at the University of California, Berkeley as an Assistant Professor. Since his arrival, he has worked with multiple park agencies, local wildlife professionals, city officials, cultural institutions, and community members in the Bay Area to conserve and regenerate nature and access for all peoples.
Richard Smith, Ph.D. (he/him/his) is Priest Associate at St. John the Evangelist Episcopal Church in San Francisco’s Mission District. A retired Vicar of St. John’s, he holds a doctorate in Ethics and Social Theory from the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley and has taught Religious Studies at various Bay Area universities. To make faith communities more visibly present to the pain of gun violence in his neighborhood, he started Mission Nightwalks. He has been outspoken for both immigration reform and police reform at the city, state, and national levels. He lives in the Mission with his husband Rob Tan and their son David.
Joseph Smooke (he/him) is an internationally-known photojournalist and videographer with extensive experience in San Francisco’s media and housing rights spaces. As videographer and editor for “Sa Amin”, he has been integral to giving the film its visual and narrative power. Joseph is co-founder of [people. power. media], a grassroots platform that centers communities of color in issues of housing and redevelopment. He has served as editor of a community newspaper, program director at a community center and at the Housing Rights Committee of San Francisco, and legislative aide to two San Francisco Supervisors; he also develops affordable housing and founded the Race & Equity in All Planning Coalition. Film credits include Priced Out: Why You Can’t Afford to Live in San Francisco, an animated documentary series he wrote, directed, and produced that was selected by 13 festivals and received awards from the WRPN Women’s International Film Festival and the Canada Shorts festival.
Avni Shah (she/her), AIA is an Oakland, CA based architect and documentary filmmaker. She is a co-founder and principal at Xenia Projects, a multidisciplinary architecture and design firm that works on projects at the intersection of architecture, urbanism, and development. Avni and her team are driving design and construction on various projects for nonprofit housing developers, health and wellness service providers, and other private clients across California. Avni is also conducting interviews for a forthcoming mini-series about multigenerational housing design, highlighting stories of minority American families as they adapt existing housing in the San Francisco Bay Area to meet their needs. Avni’s documentary work has a common thread of investigating the disconnect between design and policy intent versus the lived experience in our built environments.
Ronald R. Sundstrom (Dude, dude, dude) is a Professor of Philosophy at the University of San Francisco. He is also a member of USF’s African American Studies program and teaches for the university’s Honors College. He is the Humanities Advisor for the SF Urban Film Festival and is involved with academic organizations seeking to build bridges between academic philosophy and public policy, such as the Public Philosophy Network, the North American Society for Social Philosophy, and the Philosophy of the City Research Group. His areas of research include philosophy of race, mixed-race identity and politics, political and social philosophy, justice and ethics in urban policy, and African American and Asian American philosophy. He published several essays and a book in these areas, including The Browning of America and The Evasion of Social Justice (SUNY 2008). His current book project is titled, Just Shelter: Integration, Gentrification and Race and Reconstruction (Oxford, forthcoming).
Skywatchers Founded in 2011, Skywatchers brings artists into durational collaboration with residents of San Francisco’s Tenderloin neighborhood. We believe that relationship is the first site of social change, that large-scale transformation begins with intimate, interpersonal interaction, engendering change for all involved—artists, participants, and audiences. Centering resident lives and experiences, the multi-disciplinary, mixed-ability ensemble creates art works that amplify neighborhood stories, interrogating the poverty industrial complex, illuminating narratives too often invisible in our collective cultural production, and positioning community voices in the civic discourse through the arts. The Skywatchers Ensemble of Tenderloin residents and artists co-create multi-disciplinary art works that range from formal and site-specific performance to intervention, ritual, visual art, and multi-media works as part of a long-term community-embedded social practice. In addition to our core ensemble, our programs include workshops in SROs, a youth partnership with Larkin Street Youth Services, and a health equity collaboration with Faithful Fools and UCSF, as well as partnerships with over a dozen Tenderloin non-profits and community groups. To learn more, visit https://www.abdproductions.org/about-skywatchers/.
Shavonne Wong (she/hers) is a first generation San Franciscan. Soon after her birth at Mt. Zion Hospital in the Fillmore, hers became yet another family displaced by urban renewal. During the course of her education, she lived in many different neighborhoods across the city. After school, at work as a paraprofessional teaching aide, she experienced a series of life-altering events. Today Shavonne is in the recovery community, continuing to grow, heal, and give back by sharing her stories. In the Tenderloin community she finds purpose, contributes to solutions, and has an opportunity to be an agent of real change.
Tito Até Ninong is a trio based in SF Bay Area whose members are Filipinx community cultural workers. Frontwoman Rachel Lastimosa’s soulful songwriting, bassist Ninong J’s (Aninoko) punk/new wave sensibilities and drummer Paolo Asuncion (TNT Traysikel), the former roommate of the brother of a student of Stewart Copeland, all converge in a tselog of musical delight.
Joel Yates (he/his) is a writer and 4th generation San Franciscan. His words have been molded by active truths pressed through history and handed down to him. In these decades he has experienced and witnessed both loss and the struggle to breathe. While reclaiming himself and recording the world in concert with a myriad of voices in the Skywatchers Ensemble, he works creatively towards alignment and encourages the conduction of life. Through art he fills spaces in his personal journey. His stage experience started with acting and dance, and he has never moved far from words, whether oratory, poetry, or story. Each art form and line of poetry is used with the hope it can demolish obstacles and broaden the sights of those they touch.