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As the first Black female host of PechaKucha San Antonio, Christian Reed-Ogba found an array of creative ways to magnify social justice issues as part of the online event.
Just as Reed-Ogba was about to begin the evening’s presentations Thursday, she appeared to have misplaced her script, so she exited the video frame and in walked activist Kimiya Factory, president of Black Freedom Factory.
“What a wonderful day to get justice for Breonna Taylor, because Black lives matter,” Factory said.
Factory then proceeded to introduce the first presenter. The event continued in the same fashion, with Reed-Ogba appearing after each presentation, then devising a segue for another social justice advocate to make a brief statement before introducing the next presenter.
“It’s amazing that I get to do this,” said Reed-Ogba, the founder and CEO of Echü Public Relations, of hosting the event. “This is good. This is fun. This is everything.”
In the 39th installment of the PechaKucha speaker series, a common theme was supporting underserved communities in San Antonio.
Angelica Holmes, executive director of Black Outside Inc., highlighted the trailblazers in her life who motivated her in reviving Camp Founder Girls, a camp for Black girls founded in 1924. The camp stopped operating in 1960, but a meeting with former camper Gaynell Gainer sparked the effort to re-establish the camp.
While she enjoyed the outdoors growing up, Holmes said she began attending retreats with her high school youth group, but felt excluded because of the lack of diversity in the programs. She’s happy that she gets to create better experiences for Black girls today.
“I get the fun job of reimagining what an inclusive outdoor space feels like for our girls,” Holmes said. “…They can explore the wild freely knowing they’re loved and safe. It’s my job to remind my campers and remind myself that we deserve to take up space in the outdoors because we belong there.”
Celina Montoya, a Democratic candidate for the Texas House of Representatives in District 121, explained how her passion for literacy led her to form Literacy San Antonio, which has branched into several programs that facilitate reading education in San Antonio communities.
Other presenters shared their efforts and initiatives to aid the San Antonio community during the coronavirus pandemic.
Cherise Rohr-Allegrini began her work as an epidemiologist in the 1990s and has traveled to places such as Costa Rica and Kenya to study disease transmitters and sicknesses. When she returned to Texas, she began specializing in respiratory virus pandemics.
Rohr-Allegrini began working in San Antonio’s COVID-19 response and education in February beginning with finding ways to address the pandemic and informing the population of the seriousness of the virus.
“As an epidemiologist that’s been studying these [diseases] for years, part of it is really exciting to you,” Rohr-Allegrini said of the coronavirus pandemic. “It’s like a firefighter in a fire that breaks out. This is exciting to fight the fire, but of course, you never want the fire to break out because it’s better if you never have to do it. You just want to prevent it from happening. So that really is our goal.”
Also on the frontlines of the pandemic is Eric Cooper, CEO of the San Antonio Food Bank, which feeds 120,000 people each week. Cooper said he learned about sharing and sacrifice early in his life growing up with a fraternal twin brother. His life changed when he found his father homeless in Oregon, and seeing the nourishment his father received from his community motivated Cooper to shift his career focus from for-profit to nonprofit.
“My journey brought me to the city I love,” he said, “with all these ingredients mixed around in my head and a desire to see everyone thrive, wanting all families to have access to opportunity and hope – knowing your zip code should never determine your life expectancy.”
Food also figured significantly in the presentation by coffee shop owners Tatu and Emilie Herrera, who related the hardship of their youth and the strength they witnessed in their parents and grandparents.
As of August, they have handed out over 30,000 bags of food to senior citizens, feeding between 100 and 200 people per day. The Herreras plan to form a nonprofit organization to continue their efforts.
“No one in San Antonio should go hungry,” said Emilie Herrera, who with her husband own and operate Folklores Coffee House on the South Side. “My grandparents shouldn’t go hungry. Your parents shouldn’t go hungry. Your neighbors shouldn’t go hungry. We do this for one reason, and one reason only, that is that we should be taking care of each other.”