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

May is Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month!

Amplifying and Honoring Our Asian American and Pacific Islander Communities

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May is Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month (AAPIHM). AAPIHM is dedicated to celebrating, honoring, and amplifying the vibrant and diverse histories, cultures, and contributions of the Asian American and Pacific Islander communities. Education and appreciation of the great many cultures that comprise the AAPI identity is vital to overcoming false narratives that are driven by fear of the unknown. Having a commemorative month is a great way to start conversations surrounding AAPI communities, and presents an opportune time for sharing, education, and remembrance. AAPHIM allows us to create and strengthen community, raise consciousness, and build connection. READ MORE

May 2022: Historical and Current Community Leader Spotlight

Melvin Encarnacion: Finding Style Through Sustainability

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Melvin Encarnacion is the embodiment of the modern entrepreneur. His store, Melvintage Thrifts in Santa Rosa, specializes in vintage sportswear, Y2K apparel, anime-related merchandise, and more. His personal style and aesthetic shines through in everything his shop has to offer. Melvin has not only built a successful business and brand, but also wants to motivate and encourage others who aspire to go into business for themselves. He became interested in thrifting vintage finds when he was 14 years old, realizing he had an appreciation for older styles of clothing. He spent his free time hunting down vintage goods at thrift stores and flea markets. READ MORE

Rima Makaryan & The Monarch Project: Art and Social Justice Take Flight

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Art can make us think, it can make us feel, and it can make us reflect. For Rima Makaryan, Founder and Executive Director of The Monarch Project, art has been a tool to advance social justice causes in a way that encourages the viewer to welcome new perspectives and learn from the lived experience of those who may be different than us. Rima’s passions lie at the intersection of art and social justice, and her work embodies the beauty, boldness, and reverence she has for the subjects of her artwork. In her young life, she has provided opportunities to use art as a tool for positivity, healing, and conversation in communities all over the world. READ MORE

Grace Cheung-Schulman: Volunteering to Find and Foster Community 

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Grace Cheung-Schulman exudes warmth and wisdom. She is a woman who is unafraid of change and embraces the beauty of the unknown.  Grace dedicates much of her time to the Asian American Pacific Islander Coalition of the North Bay (AAPIC North Bay) and is a Co-Founder and Co-Chair of the coalition. In honor of Women’s History Month, Grace wanted to share some words she lives by for her fellow women, “work hard, be self-reliant, be generous to others, and [most of all] don’t be afraid to learn and try new things. Be brave and seek knowledge.”   READ MORE 

April 2022: Lowriding in Sonoma County

Women Cruising their Way to the Top of the Lowriding World

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Lowriding has historically been a male-dominated space, and it is common to see men involved in lowrider car clubs and cruising into car shows with their Chevy bombs, Impalas and Crown Vics. However, now more than ever, women are out cruising their own lowriders and carving out a space for themselves in the lowrider community. Seeing more women buy, restore and cruise their cars in the last decade has empowered a whole new generation of women to take on lowriding as their hobby and passion. Raquel Sanchez’s love for lowriding began at a young age and she now has a car of her own called “El Camaleon.” READ MORE

Remembering Rene “La Borrega” Urena, Co-Founder of 1 Firme Car Club

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Rene “La Borrega” Urena’s zest for life was unmatched by many. He was kind, giving, and passionate about life, and it showed in his commitment to his family, friends, coworkers, and beyond. As the co-founder of 1 Firme Car Club, he was considered an original member of the Sonoma County lowrider community. He took tremendous pride in his craft and could often be seen cruising Mendocino Avenue in Santa Rosa in his gorgeous gold 1964 Ford Galaxie lowrider. His legacy and his passion for lowriding continues to live on within the Sonoma County lowrider community and beyond. READ MORE

The Sonoma County Lowrider Council: Changing the Narrative Around Lowriding 

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“We guard the image of lowriding fiercely. That’s why we do what we do, to change the narrative.”  Jose ‘Mico’ Quiroz 

Lowriding at its core is much deeper than just the flashy paints, how low it lays, or the cars themselves; it's a cultural way of life. Self-expression, pride in one’s culture, and a way to find and foster community are all things the lowrider lifestyle provides. The Sonoma County Lowrider Council was established in 2015 as a way to unite the local lowriding community. By prioritizing and promoting family and community within the lowriding community itself, the Lowrider Council has been able to shift the narrative around lowriding in the greater community. READ MORE 

Lowriding: Healing from Generational Trauma

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Lowriding is more than just old cars; it is about cultural identity, creativity, social change and healing. It has its roots here in California as well as New Mexico and has grown to be embraced globally. Lowriding culture came from the Pachuco zoot suit era of the 1930s and 1940s and expanded during the Chicano Rights Movement of the 1960s. While lowriding has been around for nearly 80 years, it has more recently become recognized as a violence and gang prevention strategy and a strategy for healing from multi-generational trauma. Several communities around the U.S., including Oakland, San Diego, Stockton, Albuquerque, and now Santa Rosa, have embraced lowriding and have begun developing their own prevention and engagement programs coupled with the build of lowrider patrol cars.  READ MORE

Previously Featured Stories

  1. Melvin Encarnacion: Finding Style Through Sustainability

    Melvin Encarnacion is a young entrepreneur and owner of Melvintage Thrifts in Santa Rosa. He also sells his vintage finds on Depop and at local markets all over northern California, including SoCo Market held in downtown Santa Rosa and downtown...

  2. Rima Makaryan & The Monarch Project: Art and Social Justice Take Flight

    Art can make us think, it can make us feel, and it can make us reflect. For Rima Makaryan, Founder and Executive Director of The Monarch Project, art has been a tool to advance social justice causes in a way that encourages the viewer to welcome new...

  3. AAPI Heritage Month: Amplifying and Honoring Our Asian American and Pacific Islander Communities

    May is Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month (AAPIHM). AAPIHM is dedicated to celebrating, honoring, and amplifying the vibrant and diverse histories, cultures, and contributions of the Asian American and Pacific Islander communities....

  4. Women Cruising their Way to the Top of the Lowriding World

    Lowriding has historically been a male-dominated space, and it is common to see men involved in lowrider car clubs and cruising into car shows with their Chevy bombs, Impalas and Crown Vics. At one point in time, women were not allowed to participate...

  5. Remembering Rene “La Borrega” Urena, Co-Founder of 1 Firme Car Club

    Photo Credits: Matthew Pak (left photo); Pocho Photos (right photo) Everyone who knew Rene “La Borrega” Urena could testify to the strength of his character. He was kind, giving, and passionate about life, and it showed in his commitment...

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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.

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
  • Alicia Sanchez, Community Member

Celebrating the Multicultural Roots Project One Year Anniversary! 

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As we look back on the past year, it is exciting to see how far the Multicultural Roots Project has come in such a short time. Despite being established in the midst of a global pandemic in November 2020, the Project has flourished. Over the last year, the MCRP has produced 73 stories that highlight the successes, contributions, and histories of Black, Indigenous, People of Color in our community. By sharing the stories and rich cultural wealth of our community, both past and present, we have been able to create space for connection and uplift our diverse communities within Santa Rosa and the greater Sonoma County area. READ MORE