May 2021 Newsletter
Movers and Shakers
Written by Sally Douglas Arce
Q & A with:
Douglas Mundo | MCM Executive Director
May is Mental Health Awareness Month. Why is it important?
What is Asian Pacific American Heritage Month and how does MCM honor it?
This year May 9th is Mother’s Day. How does MCM mark this holiday?
Mentoring Future Leaders
Multicultural Center of Marin (MCM) works to empower those the agency serves. One way MCM does this is by cultivating leaders from Marin County’s diverse immigrant and underserved communities. Leadership plays a critical role in advancing social, cultural, economic, and environmental well-being. Community-based leaders help the “Sí, se puede/Yes, we can” spirit grow.
The Koshland Program, established in 1982 by the San Francisco Foundation (SFF), works with select grassroots fellows from low-income, racially diverse neighborhoods across the Bay Area. The Canal neighborhood received Koshland leadership support in 2000 and it was this funding that helped start the Canal Welcome Center, which is now the Multicultural Center of Marin. The Koshland Program, with its focus on neighborhood-based projects and leadership, returned to the Canal in 2020. It has been one of the most successful Marin County leadership projects funded by SFF.
“I think one of the reasons we returned to Marin is the growth of the Canal Welcome Center,” says Retha Robinson, Director of the Koshland Program. “Now called the Multicultural Center of Marin, they have expanded throughout Marin County. Douglas Mundo’s leadership has been inspiring.”
Our hope is that participants will go back to the community and encourage community participation.
The Canal’s Amplifying Leaders Project is a two-year pilot program, funded by the Koshland Program. This Canal Amplifying Leaders Project uses a new way of working with neighborhood residents who are part of leadership development and community activities in the four participating organizations: MCM, Parent Services Project, Alcohol Justice, and Youth Leadership Institute. The participants may not hold traditional leadership positions. They are trusted members of the community, make connections with residents, and build a sense of belonging.
“Our hope is that participants will go back to the community and encourage community participation,” Robinson says. “The program encourages people to advocate for something. We use the motto ‘Each one, teach one.’ “
Once Koshland fellows complete the sessions, they will be asked to create a community project. The desire is that the project promotes unity within the neighborhood, supports the leadership development of other residents, celebrates diversity within the neighborhood, and addresses racial/economic equity.
Multicultural Center of Marin
I feel empowered within myself…
…to stand up for the community.”
Kathleen, a training coach and mentor at Marin’s Community School/Phoenix Academy is a participant in the Canal’s Amplifying Leaders Project, which began in March 2020. She works with students in grades 7 to 12, providing social and emotional supports.
“When a student does not feel supported at their school, they retreat,” she says. “They don’t go to class. They may act out.”
Kathleen helps students graduate. “It’s important to nurture who they are,” she says.
As a participant in the Amplifying Leaders Project, she has gained new skills. Now, she knows how to set a goal and come up with strategies to organize. Compared to before, she speaks up more at meetings.
“I feel empowered within myself to stand up for the community,” she says. “I have the knowledge of how to be a leader and how to pass it on.”
Multicultural Center of Marin
Youth Outreach Worker
I’m learning how to create advocacy strategies…
…and how to work with and engage community members.”
Adrían, who grew up in the Canal and is an MCM youth outreach specialist, is part of the Amplifying Leaders Project. He works with teenagers referred to MCM by the County of Marin Juvenile Probation Department. Adrían is MCM’s food distribution coordinator, serving 200 – 300 families each Saturday.
“My job is to be a team leader and support the volunteers,” Adrían says. “They are the ones out there serving the community.”
Adrían has been an eager participant in the Amplifying Leaders Project. He wants to be a role model to volunteers and community members about what it means to be a leader.
“I’m learning how to create advocacy strategies and how to work with and engage community members,” Adrían says. “I’m now more confident to voice my ideas. It has been inspiring to be part of a group that is trying to make things better for our community members.”
Adrian and his fellow Amplifying Leaders team members are creating a campaign to encourage San Rafael School District to serve better quality meals to students.
Movers and Shakers
Celebrating the Lives of Inspiring Marin County Social Justice Leaders
Marin County leaders no longer with us have lit the torch for the struggle for economic and racial justice and are now passing that torch to the next generation. They embraced and celebrated the community. They may be gone, but they are not forgotten.
Man Minh Phan
He constantly listened to people…
… and knew that, through telling their stories about past experiences and struggles with challenges in the U.S., they would teach each other about how to get help.”
For more than 20 years, Mr. Man Minh Phan lived in the Canal neighborhood. He has been called the “Mayor of Pickleweed” and “The Angel of the Canal.”
Vinh Luu, a social worker and project manager of the Marin Asian Advocacy Project, worked with Mr. Man. Noticing that there were no activities for seniors, Mr. Man launched the Vietnamese American Friendship Association of the City of San Rafael. The association invited seniors to gather and talk about their life and cultural experiences in their native Vietnamese language.
“He and I, along with community members, went to the County Board of Supervisors and they adopted a resolution to acknowledge the Republic of Vietnam’s flag to represent the Vietnamese refugees in Marin County,” Luu says.
Now, every April 30th, a community event is held at which the Vietnamese freedom flag is displayed to commemorate all Vietnamese and American citizens, who died in the Vietnam War. The Vietnam War Memorial Walk, which U.S. Vietnam War veterans and Vietnamese Americans attended, took place at the Marin County Civic Center Park. But, it did not take place this year and last year due to COVID-19 safety measures. The Vietnam War ended on April 30, 1975.
Mr. Man was dedicated to making things happen. “I learned a leadership style from him,” Luu says. “He constantly listened to people and knew that, through telling their stories about past experiences and struggles with challenges in the U.S., they would teach each other about how to get help.”
He launched a children’s Vietnamese language class so youth could talk with their parents and grandparents. Beginning at 5:30 am, Mr. Man picked up aluminum cans in the Canal, He sent the money from the recycled cans to wounded Vietnamese citizens facing hardships after the Vietnamese War ended. Mr. Man was on the Pickleweed Park Advisory Board and organized an English as a Second Language class. For about eight years (starting in 2002), He served on the board of the Multicultural Center of Marin, formerly Canal Welcome Center. As part of the MCM board, Mr. Man advocated for a Vietnamese-speaking and a Spanish-speaking part-time coordinator. As a result, MCM hired Tho Lee and Douglas Mundo.
Mr. Man was a South Vietnamese army captain and an army Christian Chaplain. He spent six years in a communist prison camp before immigrating to the U.S. In 2007, he was proclaimed Citizen of the Year by the City of San Rafael. MCM staff honor Mr. Man and the important work he did in the early days of the organization. He transformed the lives of Vietnamese and Spanish speakers in the Canal.
Marin County Grassroots Leadership Network
…he inspired people to get involved.”
John Young grew up in Marin City and worked locally, regionally, and nationally advancing social justice and equity. His leadership journey started as a community organizer at the Marin City Community Development Corporation and at Canal Community Alliance. John founded and was the executive director of Marin County Grassroots Leadership Network from 1997 to 2016. Marin County Grassroots Leadership Network (commonly called Marin Grassroots) was a nonprofit dedicated to advancing social equity and the quality of life of local underrepresented communities through civic engagement, advocacy, and leadership development. Marin Grassroots supported local projects, including the Canal Welcome Center, which is now the Multicultural Center of Marin.
Under his leadership, Marin Grassroots implemented various leadership development training programs including the Grassroots Leadership Academy, the Equal Voice Leadership Academy, and the Boards and Commissions Leadership Institute. Over 300 community members graduated from these programs.
Leading up to election time, Marin Grassroots organized civic engagement campaigns that included voter education and registration, as well as forums about propositions and candidates.
”His heart was in the community,” says Ericka Erickson, who worked with John for about 13 years. “A lot of people went to him for advice. As a true community leader, he inspired people to get involved. He gave the community the support to lift their voices and to improve their quality of life.”
In addition to how to take on the struggle for social justice, John taught Ericka about life and about friendship. He was like a family member to her, she says.
When it comes to equity and racial justice, John was ahead of many community members. In the 2000s, John called for a housing state of emergency to shine a light on the shortage of affordable housing in Marin County. Also, at that time, he emphasized the need to elect people of color as decision-makers. He did not hesitate to point out racism when he saw it. For some, John was the right guy, with the right idea, in the wrong moment. However, thanks to John’s and other social justice leaders’ efforts, equity is on the agenda in Marin County.
Marin County Human Rights Commission
Justice is not free.
In order to achieve justice, sacrifices need to be made.”
Kerry Pierson was a Marin County activist who grew up in Berkeley. In the late 1990s and early 2000s, along with Cesar Lagleva, MCM’s Director of Programs, Kerry led an initiative to remove the San Rafael School District Superintendent. Parents living in the Canal neighborhood, who wanted access to quality education for their children, did not feel that their voices were being heard.
“He was a fearless advocate,” Lagleva says. “He was one of the most loving, kind, and loyal friends and allies that anyone could have.”
Cesar and Kerry had a constant mantra – Justice is not free. In order to achieve justice, sacrifices need to be made.
“What he offered me was love, a lot of humor, a lot of support, and loyalty,” Lagleva says. “He supplied me with the sustenance of courage and being in the social justice struggle together.”
A graduate of Howard University, Kerry helped co-found the Phoenix Project in Marin City and the Marin Action Coalition for Equity (ACE). He co-led a 22-year community-driven campaign to rename the Dixie School District in San Rafael.
Kerry served on the Marin Community Foundation’s Board of Trustees as the “Representative of the Poor and Needy,” a position appointed by the Marin County Board of Supervisors. He was also on several nonprofit community boards, including the Marin County Human Rights Commission (twice as chair) and Marin County’s Affirmative Action Advisory Committee.
Kerry’s legacy, life, and friendships with so many in Marin County – in the nonprofit, philanthropic, local government, and community sectors – will always be remembered.
Jimmy “Justice” Geraghty
Marin County Community Activist
He was the activists’ activist and went to more meetings than anyone else.
There are 100s of people who consider him their mentor.”
Jimmy “Justice” Geraghty was a Marin County activist, who lived in the Canal neighborhood for a few decades. He cared deeply about righting injustices through organizing and videography. Community members could easily spot Jimmy, as he rode his bike everywhere, had a full beard, and long hair. Most recently, Jimmy was involved in the Change the Name Campaign. The names of the school district and middle school in San Rafael were changed from “Dixie” to “Miller Creek.”
“He cast the widest net and had the widest number of friendships than any activist in Marin,” says Craig Slater, who met Jimmy through the Marin Peace and Justice Coalition. “He was the activists’ activist and went to more meetings than anyone else. There are 100s of people who consider him their mentor.”
Slater said that Jimmy was the most well-informed person in Marin with a broad understanding of issues in the county. He was on the boards of Community Media Center of Marin, Marin Community Clinics, the Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee, City of San Rafael, and a longtime Marin Green Party Councilmember.
“He was a man of few words,” Slater says. “When he spoke, his words were extremely impactful and effective.”
Jimmy called for restricting Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) activities in Marin County. He took his video camera and documented immigration at the Mexican border, producing the 45-minute documentary “Why We Come/Por Qué Venimos,” which chronicles the stories of 12 migrants and their journey from their home country to Marin County.
“What he gave me is similar to what he gave others – organizational support, personal generosity, technical advice, and political wisdom,” Slater says. “His presence was gentle but unshakeable. His spirit, indestructible.”
Jimmy was a great supporter of the Multicultural Center of Marin. The MCM staff, board of directors, and the Canal community appreciate his unselfish dedication to MCM’s work to empower community members and to improve the quality of life for those less privileged in Marin County.
Rest in peace our friend Jimmy “Justice.”
Details for Jimmy’s memorial service can be viewed here.
“It is time to be bold.”