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

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

  • Veronica Cruz, Community Advisory Board Member - Reviewer and editor
  • Ariana Diaz de León, Community Member
  • David Escobar, Sonoma County Lowrider Council 
  • Dr. Di Grayer, Member, NAACP Santa Rosa-Sonoma County Chapter
  • Kristi Gray, Community Member
  • Felecia Ford, Community Member 
  • Evette Minor, Roseland Community Building Initiative 
  • Guadalupe Navarro, Latino Service Providers
  • Shawntel Reece, Member, NAACP Santa Rosa-Sonoma County Chapter
  • Evan Phillips, Community Member
  • Alicia Sanchez, Community Member

January 2021 Stories: Spiritual Leaders and Community Builders

Evangelist Marteal Perry: Community Builder and Founder of Santa Rosa's Juneteenth Celebration

Web_Marteal Perry

Born Evangelist Marteal Perry and known to many as Mother Perry, she was a dedicated, passionate leader and staple in the community. Marteal Perry focused on teaching the community about the significance of Juneteenth and was the founder of Santa Rosa’s Juneteenth celebration. She also brought people and groups together, supported and raised children in the community, and built community. She used her vision to create the Prayer Chapel Outreach Mission Church in south west Santa Rosa in 1953. She was also a member of the Santa Rosa – Sonoma County Chapter of the NAACP and a founding member of the Head Start Program in Santa Rosa.  READ MORE 

Photo Credit: David Buchholz Photography  

Kashia Pomo Shaman: Essie Parrish

Web_Essie Parrish

One of the most important members of the Kashia (Kashaya) Pomo community was Shaman Essie Parrish. Before 1871, it was almost unheard of for a woman to be a Shaman. When the Spanish, Mexicans and Americans invaded the Pomo territory, capturing the men to be sold as laborers; it became common for the political and religious leadership roles to be taken on by the women. 

Born in 1902, in a shack on the rancheria north of the Kashia Reservation, Essie would quickly prove to be an asset to the community. By the time she turned six years old, everyone from Kashia could see that she had special powers, earning her the role of Shaman. Although the word shaman is commonly interpreted as a doctor, to the Pomo it means much more. Essie was not only a doctor, but a priest, a prophet, interpreter of dreams, dedicated teacher, and advocate of the Native culture. READ MORE

January 2021 Current Community Leaders Spotlight

Getting to Know Maria Cardenas: Chairwoman for Ya-Ka-Ama

Web_Maria Cardenas

“It takes a lot of work to bring visibility to a problem that doesn’t affect other people as it does my family and myself.”

Maria Cardenas is a dedicated, driven and selfless multicultural woman. Maria serves as Chairwoman on the Board of Directors for Ya-Ka-Ama Indian Education and Development Inc. During her first two years on the board, she was successful in applying for and obtaining a digital media grant, starting a garden on the land, organizing and running cultural events, hosting arts and crafts for children, and assisting with the creation of the Sonoma Earth School. Maria is also President of the Native American Student Council at Santa Rosa Junior College and creator of “Wrap Them in Love, Blankets for Foster Youth,” a local non-profit organization. READ MORE

Getting to Know Nancy Rogers: Mentor and Activist for Students and Local Businesses

Web_Nancy Rogers

Nancy Rogers strives to shape her community in the same way of those who came before her and for the generations to come through her continuous support, activism, mentorship and contributions to the Black community in Santa Rosa. Mrs. Rogers is the chairperson for the annual MLK Juneteenth Community Celebration. She is also the Vice President of the North Bay Black Chamber of Commerce; a Board Member of the Sonoma County Black Forum; President of Entrepreneurs of Tomorrow; and the facilitator for Blacks United, an organization that brings other Santa Rosa and Sonoma County Black groups together to connect, share resources, and support for one another. READ MORE

December 2020 Stories: Historical Leaders and Community Spaces

A Gift from Jeju: Dol Hareubang Statues


Across the street from Santa Rosa City Hall, on Sonoma Avenue, are two large stone statues. They resemble older men, with their slight grins, bulging eyes, mushroom-shaped hats and hands on their bellies. These statues are called Dol Hareubang, which were given to Santa Rosa from our Sister City of Jeju, South Korea in 2003. Dol Hareubang translates to “grandfather made of stone.” These statues are thought to provide fertility, protection and seen as the guardians of the island. These sculptures symbolize the relationship and cultural exchange program that has allowed these two cities to create deeper connections and participate in special projects.  READ MORE

Brother Jesse Love: World War II Veteran and Santa Rosa Deacon

Web_Jesse Love

Photo Credit: (Left) From Museum of Sonoma County Video - Voices of Sonoma County: Jesse Love (; (Right) From the Press Democrat - Santa Rosa embraces Pearl Harbor vets (2011) (

Jesse Love was an incredible and resilient man. He was among the first African Americans to live in SantaRosa; he was a veteran and one of the founding members of The Community Baptist Church.  Mr. Love was born in Grace, Mississippi in 1922 to sharecropper parents and grew up in Greenville. His family was very poor. For each year, he only received four months of schooling. This was part of his decision to leave and enlist in the Navy in 1939. He dreamed of being a mechanic but the limited opportunities for African Americans at the time proved his only option was to cook and clean in the messmens’ corps. While in the Navy, he was stationed in many places, including Hawaii in 1941, before being transferred to Santa Rosa’s Naval Auxiliary Air Station. 

On the morning of December 7, 1941, the 19-year-old was serving as a cook at Ford Island Naval Air Station inside Pearl Harbor. He and others were in their bunks, in the bachelor officers’ quarters, when they started hearing gunfire. They began to hear blasts of bombs and torpedoes when three injured men were rushed into the quarters. Mr. Love helped wrap the horribly burned young American soldiers in clean linens while hearing more explosions and cries for help. Following the attack, Mr. Love was transferred aboard a ship to the South Pacific where he saw several battles before being transferred back to the states. READ MORE

Santa Rosa's Lost Neighborhood: Chinatown


Photo note: Song Wong Bourbeau in the Jam Kee Restaurant (Left); Chinese Guardian Lions that once guarded the temple in Chinatown (Right).

Before the flourishing and thriving of Chinatown, Chinese migrants in Santa Rosa were subjected to racism, exclusion and boycotts of any Chinese businesses or any place where Chinese people worked. In the 1880s, white residents started an anti-Chinese movement that cut the Chinese population by 80 percent, forcing them to relocate to other places. Chinese residents were denied employment opportunities and signs were put up saying, “The Chinese Must Go” or “No Chinese Employed.” They were stereotyped as dangerous and unpredictable people who were taking jobs away from Americans. Since they were being deliberately excluded from society and unable to receive access to jobs, many were left with no choice but to move elsewhere. 

However, by the 20th century, Chinese residents made their way back to the area, where attitudes seemed to have changed about them. The set of challenges and horrible treatment they experienced did not stop them from striving for more in their communities. They went on to develop their own safe haven and community that encompassed their culture beautifully. READ MORE

December 2020 Current Community Leaders Spotlight

Getting to Know Rose Hammock: Indigenous Community Leader, Educator, and School Design Coach

Walking life with an open mind is easy but walking life with an open heart is the hard part.”

Web_Rose Hammock

Growing up in an educational system that showed no representation of her indigenous community, from the teachers to even the bus driver, experiencing discrimination and racist comments from her non-indigenous peers, and not learning about her own culture in her academic courses, Rose Hammock knew she wanted to give back to her community and pass down her knowledge and teachings to the younger generation. Rose works with many different organizations throughout Sonoma County serving as a cultural resource and as a school design coach with youth. She stresses the importance of putting her heart into the work she does in the community, referring to it as “heart work.” READ MORE

Getting to Know Arthur B. Chaney: President of 100 Black Men of Sonoma County

Web_Arthur Chaney

Arthur B. Chaney is a man who has devoted his life to bettering the lives of others. He grew up in Oakland and although he originally went to school for hotel management, he quickly found his calling in law enforcement. Mr. Chaney attended Santa Rosa Junior College, where he received his Associates of Arts in Administration of Justice. He later attended Sonoma State University, where he received his Bachelor of Arts in Criminal Justice. He worked as a Child Support Officer in San Francisco, until serving as a Peace Officer in Santa Rosa. Now, the retired officer is President of 100 Black Men of Sonoma County.  

A national organization that started in New York City, 100 Black Men’s mission is to make a positive difference in the lives of children and has over 100 chapters globally. Sonoma County’s Chapter was founded in 1990. It is a non-profit community action organization consisting of successful men who are committed to improving the economic and educational conditions for African Americans and others in need. Their particular focus is on the development of youth. READ MORE