As we look back on the past year it is thrilling to see how far the Multicultural Roots Project (MCRP) has come in such a short time. Despite being established in the midst of a global pandemic in November 2020, the MCRP has flourished. By sharing the stories and rich cultural wealth of our community, both past and present, we have been able to create space for social connecting and for uplifting our diverse communities within Santa Rosa and the greater Sonoma County area.
Reflecting back to the beginnings of the project, the seeds were planted during community listening sessions which took place during the summer of 2020. Here staff from the Office of Community Engagement heard our BIPOC community members talking about the importance and need for representation in all areas of the community, including local government. In response, Community Engagement Director Magali Telles and co-creator of the project came up with the idea to tell the stories of our past and present BIPOC community leaders, with the goal of increasing visibility of BIPOC in Sonoma County. The project would recognize the contributions and impacts of BIPOC that have shaped Santa Rosa and Sonoma County into what it is today. “It is important for community members to see themselves represented in leadership, policy development, decision-making, and community change,” Magali says. “It is also important that we know our true history and the stories of all community members who made Santa Rosa and Sonoma County what it is today.”
From there, Community Engagement staff worked with Magali to see her vision come to life. Staff formed a Project Advisory Team comprised of local community members to help review and select stories, nominate people to be highlighted and help with outreach. The historical stories are researched and written by a small team of AmeriCorp VISTAs. The VISTAs also recruit and conduct interviews with community leaders and develop outreach materials including the newsletter articles and social media content for each story. The team has also worked with local historians and several community based organizations, including the Museum of Sonoma County, to gather additional information and to promote the project in new formats.
Over the last year, the MCRP has produced 73 stories that highlight the successes, contributions, and histories of Black, Indigenous, People of Color within our community. These stories include the co-founders of the Santa Rosa-Sonoma County Chapter of the NAACP and other civil rights activists in Sonoma County during the 1950s and 1960s; survivors of the Japanese American internment camps; Santa Rosa’s Chinatown; farmworker organizers and activists; local artists and authors; local youth leaders; and many more.
Here is a timeline of the MCRP highlighting some of the major milestones our team has made in our first year: