I serve my mission to contribute to a more just, equitable and sustainable world through my work as a scholar, a community leader, an educator and a connector.
Currently, I am a PhD Candidate in (cultural) Anthropology at Florida International University (FIU) in Miami, Florida. My research interests include race and landscape; the (racial) politics of public space and public memory; African and Cuban Diasporas; Afro-Latin America; and Afro-Caribbean religious arts. I was a Teaching Assistant in the department; now I am writing my dissertation. For more than a decade, I have also led original walking tours of Little Havana, led workshops, and facilitated dialogues. In 2018, however, I am focusing instead on finishing my dissertation and producing a project called #AfroOchoDance, for which I have received a $25,000 Knight Arts Challenge grant (funds actually go to the Miami Foundation, which serves as a fiscal sponsor).
I am widely considered an “expert” on Little Havana. I co-authored a book called “A History of Little Havana” (The History Press, 2015) and my dissertation focuses on the politics of public memory in Little Havana. I have been featured in news media worldwide for my work in and about Little Havana.
Although I am currently taking a hiatus and “leave of absence” from my community work, I have served on the boards of Live Healthy Little Havana initiative (a multi-million dollar health initiative) and Viernes Culturales/Cultural Fridays (a monthly Little Havana arts festival), and as an advisory board member for the Koubek Center (in Little Havana) and the Little Havana Me Importa! project. I am the co-founder and former Vice Chair of the Little Havana Merchant Alliance.
I am also a connector and collaborator with a long history of bringing together people and organizations from diverse sectors, places and backgrounds. My career has been purposefully eclectic and interdisciplinary: I am always crossing borders.
At FIU I am also earning graduate certificates in African & African Diaspora Studies, Latin American & Caribbean Studies, and Afro-Latin American Studies. In 2017, I was a Goizueta Graduate Fellow with the University of Miami’s Cuban Heritage Collection; In 2014, I was also a Graduate Fellow with the Smithsonian’s Latino Museum Studies Program, where I did my Practicum at the first federally funded community museum in the U.S.: the Anacostia Community Museum. There, I was engaged in research related to an exhibit on immigrants of African descent (including Afro-Latinos) to Washington, DC.
Before returning to graduate school in 2013, I directed a countywide civic engagement initiative, Imagine Miami, of the Miami nonprofit Catalyst Miami. I founded and directed a popular series of Imagine Miami Changemaker Conferences and also spearheaded a Summit on Arts, Culture & Civic Engagement.
When I first moved to Miami from Washington, DC in 2006, I served as Executive Director of Viernes Culturales/Cultural Fridays, Little Havana’s popular monthly arts and culture festival; I acted as Interim Director in late 2010.
In Washington, DC, I ran a consulting business I had originally founded in Los Angeles, specializing in developing and implementing marketing, public outreach, public education and public participation strategies, with clients including the DC Office of Planning and the DC Department of Transportation. I served as a consultant for a number of city and neighborhood planning projects in DC, most significantly the 2006 revision of Washington, DC’s Comprehensive Plan. I played a key role in developing the public outreach and participation strategy for the Plan, aimed at reaching and engaging diverse stakeholders in the process.
For one of my nonprofit clients, I developed and helped manage a national youth civic engagement program (Youth Visions for Stronger Neighborhoods) implemented for youth from low-income families in after school programs nationwide.
While living in DC, I also directed the Adams Morgan Day Festival, taught classes and workshops, and served as an active volunteer for the Adams Morgan Main Street and the Latin American Folk Institute. I also worked as Director of Communications for a DotCom focused on women in business and as Director of Interactive Media for a youth journalism organization.
I hold an M.A. in Anthropology from Florida International University as well as an MA in Speech Communication (now called Communication Studies), with Distinction, from California State University, Northridge (1996). I earned my undergraduate degree (Bachelor’s Degree with Individual Concentration) in Communications & Anthropology (minor in Geography) at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst.
As a student, I was also a researcher and cartographer for the Historical Atlas of Massachusetts.