WE CELEBRATE FOUR EXTRAORDINARY COMMUNITY MEMBERS
As an out LGBTQ Filipino and first-generation US citizen, Commissioner Alex Villafuerte formerly served as the Marketing and Communications Manager at San Diego Pride from 2016 – 2021. In his role within the organization, he built a team of marketing and communications professionals and volunteers to amplify the messages of our region’s LGBTQ community and issues. His efforts grew the all-volunteer team from around 20 to over 60 individuals during his tenure. Villafuerte’s work helped reach over 33 million people with affirming LGBTQ messages in 2021 alone.
Alex also led the charge to found the San Diego Queer APIMEDA Coalition in 2018. Through his efforts, he brought together LGBTQ Asian, Pacific Islander, Middle Eastern, and Desi folks who created safe, welcoming, and joyful civic spaces, year-round programming, and advocacy initiatives for people whose lives rest at the intersection of these identities.
Building upon that work in 2020, Alex organized a joint statement with over 70+ API-serving organizations denouncing xenophobia, racism, and the increasing acts of violence targeting Asian and Pacific Islander communities. From that response and collaboration, organizations and their members worked together during the pandemic to found the San Diego API Coalition whose mission is to facilitate conversations with API communities and advocate for representation by amplifying and cultivating leadership, acting as a hub for API organizations to collaborate and building a more inclusive and equitable San Diego. Villafuerte currently serves as the co-chair of the coalition.
Currently, Alex is also the Director of Communications and Membership for the Asian Business Association San Diego. Alex Villafuerte serves on the Leon L. Williams San Diego County Human Relations Commission, the ABC 10 News Community Advisory Board, Public Relations Society of America San Diego/Imperial County Diversity Advisory Board, and Social Media Team for InterPride and World Pride.
Through his roles within the ABA and the SD API Coalition, Alex helped increase community participation in the San Diego region’s redistricting efforts and played a key role in ensuring the City of San Diego will now have an API empowerment council seat with over 40% API representation in the general and voting population.
Alex’s insights, skills, and leadership truly built capacity for some of this region’s most marginalized, elevated the voices and stories of the LGBTQ community, and helped the City of San Diego respond to the rise in anti-API hate.
Rickie Brown is a proud mother, grandmother, black activist as well as an LGBTQ+ community activist and fundraiser.
She was born in Louisiana and is proud to be a part of San Diego‘s LGBTQ+ community, but she does not like labels. A family tragedy brought Ricky to San Diego when her 19-year-old son was murdered because of mistaken identity. Her heart broken, it became difficult for her to continue living in Louisiana as she felt she needed a new start and so she moved to San Diego where her father lived as a successful businessman. It’s no wonder that her beloved grandmother, Edna Rose, is her personal hero. “She taught me the meaning of entrepreneurship and how to love unconditionally. She also taught me to be of service and help others,” said Rickie. She most certainly lives by this creed. Within a year of moving to San Diego she got involved with the annual Scott Carlson Community Thanksgiving Dinner. She also got involved with her neighborhood’s planning and redevelopment committees. Rickie also got involved with Democrats for Equality and the Martin Luther King Jr. Democratic Club being elected an officer to both organizations. And, in honor of her beloved son, she joined the San Diego Chapter of Crime Survivors for Safety and Justice for those who have lost loved ones to violent crimes.
Her passion for community service organizations got her elected Princess Royale of the Imperial Court de San Diego and she currently serves on its Board of Directors.
Before leaving office, Mayor Kevin Faulconer nominated Rickie Brown to become a City Commissioner, and last year Mayor Todd Gloria made that a reality and also appointed her to his LGBTQ+ Advisory Group. She also serves on the Sheriffs LGBTQ+ Advisory Council and is an outspoken advocate for police reform. Last year she was also elected to the 80th State Assembly District Committee. Ricky is a tireless volunteer and civil rights advocate who speaks truth to power and can be found picketing for causes demanding equality and non-discrimination for all people. Her hope for our LGBTQ+ community is “that our community learns to truly be in unison with one another and not just talk about being inclusive but make it a priority”. She credits attorney Bruce Abrams for helping her and taking her under his wing as a friend and mentor when she first arrived in San Diego.
“As a person who has faced racism, sexism, ageism, and discrimination, my advice is always to be true to yourself and always stand up and speak up on what you believe in”, Rickie encouraged our younger generation.
Rickie lives in City Heights with her 19-year-old grandson who she has raised since he was 5 and he hopes to be a veterinarian one day. We are proud to name Rickie Brown as one of our Persons of the Year.
Ian Johnson is a community activist, Development Director of the San Diego LGBT Community Center, and possibly best known as an organizer of the annual San Diego AIDS Walk.
Ian is a native Californian and his teenage and high school years were those of an “all American teen” being not only voted class President, but Homecoming King as well. Ian knew he was different, and when at 19 he came out, like many LGBTQ+ children, he was kicked out of the home. At that time Ian was living in Orange County and without the support of his parents he had to drop out of college. He decided to move to San Diego and immediately landed in Hillcrest which for him was seeing a whole new world of in an openly LGBTQ+ neighborhood. His first years in San Diego were rough and at times he was homeless, facing many of obstacles and challenges that LGBTQ+ youth experiencing homelessness face today- but he was a survivor. Ian is also probably well known as the friendly award-winning waiter at Martinis restaurant where he worked for nearly a decade (2004-2012) and found his “chosen family”, that being the popular owners of Martinis, Chaz Weathers, Dale Dubach, and John Osgood, who he highly respects to this day. While at Martinis he got involved and helped organize their annual Christmas Wreath Auction which raised tens of thousands of dollars for the San Diego LGBT Community Center and the Queen Eddie Youth Fund.
In time Ian’s parents not only accepted Ian, but also his younger brother who is gay and he and his husband now live with Ian’s father.
What attracts many people to Ian is his positive outlook on life and his outgoing and friendly personality which almost always has him smiling. To this day his heroes are his parents. “I watched them growing up trying to raise a large family with limited resources while still giving back. They were always involved and instilled work ethic and giving back which are two pillars I live my life by”, said Ian. His message to our younger LGBTQ+ generation is to “learn about our history, learn about the disparities of our community, besides your own. Take time out and sit with someone from the Stonewall generation and give thanks”. Always positive Ian believes “although the past two years have been challenging for all of us, the LGBTQ+ community has supported each other tremendously including small businesses and restaurants that have always given back to each other. We’ve instituted patience and kindness with each other, and my hope is we continue that even after the pandemic.”
Yes, Ian Johnson is a survivor, an activist and a man who loves his community and he is one of our Persons of the Year!
I don’t remember when I met Jamie, but I do remember the smile and the positive energy she has when I come in contact with her. I always love watching our community build within to help and support one another. Seeing this fantastic individual come together with her fellow Trans sisters to form a group that, not only is social, but a support system and resource provider for the Latina Trans community and the entire LGTBQ+ Latin community as well. Together they have created a network by doing events, food sales, and everything they can to provide resources such as food and selfcare kits to the homeless settlements in town – and she does it all with a smile showing the true act of resilience. We want to introduce you to Jamie as we learn what motivates her and what her goals are because in the great history of our community the people who create change are usually the folks who needed the help to begin with – folks who took it upon themselves to find the ‘how’ and offer others the knowledge. I feel that Jamie is a perfect representation of this – a warrior for the Latina Trans Community who fights to help others with a smile.
Tell us about you. Where are you from, how long have you been in San Diego, and so forth?
My name is Jamie Arangure, my pronouns are She/Her/Ella. I’m a Trans woman, Latina migrant from the state of Tecuela, Nayarit Mexico. I’m the youngest of nine sisters. I finished high school in the US at Grand High School in Van Nuys, California in 1994 and I continued my studies at the Universidad Autonoma de Nayartit where I got a degree in tourism in 2000. I migrated to the US in 2008 and settled in San Diego to look for new opportunities professionally and as a Trans female.
How did Proyecto Trans Latina start?
Proyecto Trans Latina started in 2008 from a group of Trans women that saw all the need and lack of services and the marginalization of the Latino LGBTQ+ community especially for our Trans Latin community in San Diego County.
What is the objective of the Proyecto?
Our principal objective is to empower, educate, and inform our Trans LGBTQ+ community and connect them with legal services, healthcare, housing, and education to name a few. In the future we want to have a facility for the senior Trans community where we can house our sisters who are in need of housing or have problems finding housing.
What motivates you to help?
What motivates me is the feeling of personal satisfaction that I get in my heart in the moment the person you help gifts you a smile or a hug and when they vocalize their gratitude. And as I mentioned before, the need for services or information about prevention, access to programs that the county has, and where our Latin community can benefit.
What are your goals?
At the moment I continue to learn English, and, in the future, I would like to revalidate my career in business and tourism and continue to prepare myself as a social worker to help the people who need it.
What are some of your plans for the start of 2022?
One of the most important goals is to register our organization so we can become a non-profit and be independent. Personally, I want to continue to educate, inform and prepare myself to be able to offer the best of me as a human being and representative of my community. But above all, to continue in the fight raising our cumulative voice to make alliances with other groups and agencies locally or in other cities that support and help our LGBTQ+ Latin community.
What events are coming up for the Proyecto Trans Latina?
We have a lot of plans but one of the most important is our Second Annual National Meeting of Trans Latina Women that will take place the 29th and 30th of April in the city of Long beach – the only one of its kind in the US and our biggest event of Proyecto Trans Latina. But we have so much going on throughout the year. We have our first Trans Ballet Folklorico in San Diego County. We have our Makeup Workshops that start in February, our Health Fair in March, and our participation in Trans and Gay Pride 2022.
How can folks get in touch with the group?
Anyone can get in touch with us by our Facebook: Proyecto Trans Latina, Instagram: Proyectotranslatina2018, Twitter: ProyectotranslatinaSD. Or Directly with me on Facebook: Jamie Arangure, 760.750.2511, firstname.lastname@example.org