Multicultural Roots Project: Stories from Santa Rosa's Black, Indigenous, People of Color

Engage with the Multicultural Roots Project

Help us expand this rich and important historical record of our community! Do you have ideas for past or current BIPOC community leaders that we should highlight? Would you like to share your own story with us? We'd love to hear from you. Check out our interactive Multicultural Roots Project site where you can share your stories, ideas and even use an interactive map to highlight places in Santa Rosa and Sonoma County that are important to our communities of color. VISIT INTERACTIVE SITE

Summer 2021 Community Leader Spotlight

George Ortiz: Social Worker, Activist and Community Hero

Web_George Ortiz

It takes a special kind of person to dedicate their lives to improving the lives of others. George Ortiz was that person. He helped to create Latinos Unidos del Condado de Sonoma in 1965 and also rallied Latino farmworkers to march with Cesar Chavez. In 1967, George helped establish the California Human Development (CHD), a non-profit human services organization that helps low-income pursue their vision of the American Dream. Through his life’s work, George Ortiz transformed the lives of countless people throughout Santa Rosa and Sonoma County as a devout social worker striving toward equal treatment and opportunity for all. READ MORE

Pomo Activist, Educator, and Basket Weaver: Elsie Allen's Legacy

Web_Elsie Allen (1)

Born Ellie Comanche, Elsie Allen was an esteemed Pomo basket weaver, educator, and activist who fought to preserve her Native American culture. She authored a book titled Pomo Basketmaking: A Supreme Art For The Weave, that allowed anyone in the world to learn and craft Pomo baskets. Elsie was also a part of the Pomo and Hintil Women’s Clubs that fought against segregation and engaged in community outreach. Elsie Allen’s life story perfectly embodies the rich, complex discipline of her Pomo basket making, as her inspirational leadership has significantly impacted Santa Rosa and Sonoma County. READ MORE

Rafael Morales: Co-Founder of Latinos Unidos

Web_Rafael Morales

Rafael Morales was a dedicated worker, loyal friend, and family man. He was born in 1919 and raised in the town of Tequixtepec in Oaxaca, Mexico. He was a legend in his hometown and became a prominent leader in Sonoma County. READ MORE

Nicole Myers Lim: A Trailblazer for Native American Representation

Web_Nicole Myers Lim (1)

Nicole Myers Lim is an exemplary leader who advocates for the Native American community in Sonoma County and California. Through her education and community outreach work, she has transformed lives, empowered marginalized communities, and inspired justice. She currently serves as Executive Director for the California Museum and Cultural Center and is the founder of the Tribal Youth Ambassadors Program in Santa Rosa. She is also a part of the California Democratic Party Native American Caucus, the University of California Native American Advisory Committee, and the National Tribal Geographic Informational Support Program. READ MORE 

Detrás de Cada Mujer Exitosa Está Ella Misma: Getting to Know Stephanie Manieri

Web_Stephanie Manieri

Daughter of Mexican immigrants and social justice advocate, Stephanie Manieri is a Santa Rosa native fervently dedicated to helping her community. Through her prolific efforts in public health and education, she has played an integral role in creating a more equitable and safe Santa Rosa and Sonoma County. READ MORE

Mr. and Mrs. Healdsburg: The Story of Daniel and Eva Novella 


In 1943, two young people came to Sonoma County for a fresh start. Determined teenager Eva S. Basurto brought her four siblings and newly divorced mother in a pickup truck from Arizona to California. Around the same time, Mexico City barber Daniel Novella came to Sonoma County as a contract laborer. With his fútbol (soccer) shoes in hand, Daniel arrived in Healdsburg, California, to work for Bob Goodyear at Alexander Valley Vineyards. Within a few years, he found a job in the Champagne Bottling Department at the Italian Swiss Colony in Asti, where he met Eva. Eva and Daniel came to be known as “Mr. and Mrs. Healdsburg,” as they hosted dances at Hoof Beat Park, and their restaurant served as an informal cultural center for the Healdsburg Mexican community.  READ MORE

Dr. John A. Ray: Educator and Founder of Santa Rosa Junior College's Ethnic Studies Program

Dr. John A. Ray was a long-time civil rights activist and educator. Among many other degrees received, he received a Master of Social Work from UC Berkeley and a Juris Doctorate (J.D.) from the Empire School of Law. In 1970, John joined the Santa Rosa Junior College (SRJC) as a behavioral sciences professor and helped found the Ethnic Studies Program. He created and taught courses in ethnic studies, political science, and sociology. The students were always significant to him and led him to become a pivotal force for social change in the Santa Rosa community. READ MORE

Javi Cabrera-Rosales: El Curandero Cultural

Web_Javi Cabrera-Rosales

Javi Cabrera-Rosales is an inspiring, engaging leader in Sonoma County who strongly advocates for mental health. Growing up in a large Latin American family, Javi was raised believing that individuals must conceal their emotions and struggles. Throughout his life, he hid his feelings when he experienced hardship, but concealing these feelings took a toll on his mental health. These experiences taught him to openly express his feelings and acknowledge areas necessary for his personal growth. Today, Javi serves as the Program Director for La Plaza: Nuestra Cultura Cura, an organization that aims to provide pathways to wellness for Sonoma County residents. READ MORE 

Previously Featured Stories

  1. Rocio Rodriguez: Director of Sonoma County’s Community Organizing After Disaster (COAD)

    When Rocio Rodriguez was appointed as Sonoma County Community Organizing After Disaster (COAD) Director last summer, it couldn’t have come at a better time. Amidst a global pandemic and wildfires raging across California, Sonoma County was in...

  2. George Ortiz: Social Worker, Activist and Community Hero

    Photo Credit: California Human Development It takes a special kind of person to dedicate their lives to improving the lives of others. George Ortiz was that person. He transformed the lives of countless people throughout Santa Rosa and Sonoma County...

  3. Pomo Activist, Educator and Basket Weaver: Elsie Allen’s Legacy

    Center Photo: Courtesy of Sonoma County Library Right Photo: Santa Rosa Junior College Multicultural Museum The Pomo artform of basketmaking is an extraordinary process. Over the centuries, the Pomo people of Sonoma County have perfected their style...

  4. Rafael Morales: Co-Founder of Latinos Unidos

    Rafael Morales was a dedicated worker, loyal friend, and family man. He was born in 1919 and raised in the town of Tequixtepec in Oaxaca, Mexico. He was a legend in his hometown and became a prominent leader in Sonoma County. At a young age, Morales...

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What is the Multicultural Roots Project?

"This project is important to me because I grew up thinking my community was diverse only because of the people I saw. I didn't know the history was so rich and included leaders and social justice pioneers from BIPOC communities." - Monse Salas, AmeriCorp VISTA and Youth Intern at Latino Service Providers

The Multicultural Roots Project was created to increase visibility for Black, Indigenous, People of Color (BIPOC) in Sonoma County, with a particular focus on Santa Rosa; and to recognize, through historical stories from BIPOC, contributions and impacts that have shaped Santa Rosa and Sonoma County. Working with local historians and community partners, Community Engagement staff gather stories and facts about local BIPOC leaders, as well as historical events and places that have shaped Santa Rosa and Sonoma County into what it is today. Each month, we will share five of these stories with the public through multiple communication channels, including the City’s website, social media and this newsletter.

Selection Process

Stories are selected using a variety of sources including local historical books such as Glimpses by Rev. Ann Gray-Byrd, Santa Rosa: A 19th Century Town by Gaye LaBaron, et. al.; Sonoma State digital archives; Sonoma County Library resources; and articles from local media such as the Press Democrat. The Community Engagement Office's AmeriCorp VISTAs select stories to focus on and conduct research on six (6) historical leaders or events and four (4) current community leaders. These ten (10) stories are then given to the Project Advisory Group for review and selection of five final stories. The City's Community Advisory Board provides assistance with the Project by brainstorming current and historical leaders and by assisting with disseminating the stories.

Project Advisory Team

  • Ariana Diaz de León, Community Member
  • David Escobar, Sonoma County Lowrider Council 
  • Kristi Gray, Community Member
  • Felecia Ford, Community Member 
  • Evette Minor, Community Member
  • Guadalupe Navarro, Latino Service Providers
  • Shawntel Reece, Community Member
  • Evan Phillips, Community Member
  • Alicia Sanchez, Community Member