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The Staff

Robin Toma, Executive Director

Robin S. Toma, the Executive Director of the Los Angeles County Human Relations Commission, has broad experience in the field of human relations. He was appointed by the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors in 2000 after working five years with the Commission. He was invited to be a member of the US Delegation to the 2001 UN World Conference Against Racism, held in South Africa, Japanese American Leadership Delegation to Japan in 2003, and the Climate of Trust Delegation to Russia in 2005. He is co-author of the manual: “Day Laborer Hiring Sites: Constructive Approaches to Community Conflict,” and authored “A Primer on Managing Intergroup Conflict in a Multicultural Workplace."

Toma was lead attorney in seeking redress for over 2,200 Japanese Latin Americans who were forcibly brought to the U.S. and imprisoned by the US government during World War II. He is also part of an ongoing gathering of leaders known as the Executive Session on Criminal Justice and Human Rights organized by Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government. Previously, he served as staff attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Southern California for nearly 7 years, promoting human rights and building multi-ethnic coalitions to bring about institutional change. A native of Los Angeles, Toma received his Bachelor’s Degree in Sociology and Economics at the University of California, Santa Cruz, and his Master’s degree in Urban Planning and his Juris Doctorate from UCLA. He completed a three-year Kellogg National Fellowship/Leadership Program studying how genuine democracies can be built in culturally diverse societies around the globe. Toma lived two years in Barcelona, Spain and is fully fluent in Spanish.


Elena Halpert-Schilt, Assistant Director

Assistant Director of the Human Relations Commission, Elena Halpert-Schilt , brings a wide array of talents and skills to this key position. She has dedicated her career of over twenty years in community-based organizations to improving the health and well being of Los Angeles County families. Ms. Halpert-Schilt will use her extensive experience in organizational development and administration and program implementation to add to the Commission staff's expertise, working in partnership to help strengthen the overall efficiency of the organization. In her current position she directs the activities of the Department's administrative division, including refining internal systems to improve Department functions and leading the preparation and implementation of the annual budget and finance system

While working primarily in community-based organizations that focus on improving maternal and child health in economically-challenged and disenfranchised communities, Ms. Halpert-Schilt has helped develop systems and partnerships that have contributed to improved life outcomes for community members. Her prior experience has been with such important, Los Angeles-based organizations as Los Angeles Best Babies Network, Healthy African American Families, MotherNet LA, the March of Dimes, Cedars-Sinai Medical Center Department of Pediatrics and others.

Ms. Halpert-Schilt has a Bachelor of Arts in Sociology from the University of California , Los Angeles. She is a member of the Board of Directors of CoachArt, a non-profit organization that provides free art and athletic lessons to children with life threatening illnesses, and the Parent Advisory Board of Children's Hospital Los Angeles' HOPE Program. Ms. Halpert-Schilt lives in Westchester with her husband Alan, son Brad and daughter Erica.



Sikivu Hutchinson, Senior Intergroup Relations Specialist

Dr. Sikivu Hutchinson brings a wealth of experience to the Commission. She was most recently Chief of Staff for Los Angeles Unified School Board member Genethia Hayes where she researched and provided analyses on issues before the school board, supervised the staff, served as community liaison and facilitated parent and community meetings.

Dr. Hutchinson has a doctorate in Performance Studies from New York University and a Bachelors of Art in anthropology from the University of California at Los Angeles. She has lectured on Critical Studies at California Institute of the Arts, where she developed and taught courses on Ethnic Studies and Women's Studies and has lectured on Liberal Studies at California State University Los Angeles. She also has developed and taught courses on racial identity and post modernism at Cal Arts, and has published several scholarly works on race and gender, including "Moving to the Center: Culturally Relevant Education and Student Agency in LAUSD," in California English, April 2002.

In her free time, Dr. Hutchinson is an avid long distance runner who loves New York, electric guitar and fiction. Her favorite authors include Toni Morrison, Don DeLillo, Joyce Carol Oates and Sherman Alexie.


Grace Lowenberg, Executive Secretary

Grace Löwenberg graduated from East Los Angeles College and attended California State University, Los Angeles. Grace has been with the Commission on Human Relations since 1974 and has served as the Executive Secretary for three Executive Directors. In addition, Gracecoordinates all activities and scheduling for Commissioners. She currently serves on the Boards of Directors for the City Terrace Coordinating Council, Autumn Pointe Homeowners Association and the East Los Angeles Community Scholarship Foundation. She has coordinated fundraisers for both entities and other community service organizations. Grace also participates as a volunteer for the Los Angeles County East Los Angeles Sheriff's Station.


Juan Carlos Martinez, Senior Intergroup Relations Specialist

Juan Carlos Martinez is a native of Mexico City, Mexico, and came to the United States as a youth. Martinez has extensive experience working with diverse groups of people, and as Resident Leadership Training Coordinator, trained adults and youth in leadership skills for the Housing Authority of the City of Los Angeles.

Martinez has extensive experience in program development, including work with elementary school children on after-school tutoring programs, conflict resolution, youth leadership development, and in teaching college students and adults in a classroom setting.

Martinez has two masters' degrees - in Urban Planning from the University of California, Los Angeles, and in History from the California State University, Fullerton. He also is a Pew Foundation Entrepreneurship Fellowship recipient. He also is proficient in using advanced Geographic Information System (GIS) and is bilingual (Spanish).

A naturalist in his spare time, Martinez enjoys visiting state parks and places full of history and culture. An admirer of folk music from around the world, music composed by Phillip Glass, and Art Deco Architecture.


Tony Massengale, Senior Intergroup Relations Specialist

In mid-2007, Tony Massengale joined the Commission as Racialized Gang Violence Prevention Coordinator, to lead efforts in creating a new model for inter-ethnic youth and gang violence prevention. He will also inform the Commission's work with other stakeholders involved in developing the first comprehensive regional gang violence reduction strategy. Both goals will draw on Tony's 30 years of experience in youth development, gang intervention, and community organizing. His core approach will be to organize collaborative human relations and civic engagement infrastructure that helps build safe and healthy neighborhoods and improves the quality of life for youth and families on the margins and in the middle of society.

Tony has conducted specific inter-group/human relations work with Korean Youth & Community Center, Inter-ethnic Children's Council, Los Angeles City Human Relations Commission, Orange County Human Relations Commission, California Association of Human Relations Organizations, and other agencies working across lines of ethnic and cultural difference.

In 2000 Tony was invited by the Association of Community Based Gang Intervention Workers, to design and teach the gang intervention unit in the nation's only Certificated Specialist Training Program in Youth and Gang Violence Intervention. Sponsored by California State University's "Pat" Brown Institute of Public Affairs, approximately 400 graduates have taken his course, Community Intervention and Transformation: A Civic Organizing-Leadership Approach to Building Gang Violence Prevention Infrastructure.

Tony served as co-director of the, Unity Collaborative gang intervention network, growing its membership from five to twelve agencies that have mediated or maintained several gang "understandings", truces and cease fire agreements across Los Angeles. He led the first-of-kind 2007 LAPD Gang Intervention Training Workshops for South Bureau police trainees, co-led the 2005 Southern California Gang Intervention Summit on Latino-African American Relations, assisted in the 2005 start-up of the countywide Cease Fire Committee, and is a consulting organizer for the Regional Violence Prevention Coalition and Inland Empire Violence Prevention Collaborative.

After serving in leadership, executive and community organizing roles with school and community programs--including Liaison Citizen, Community Youth Gang Services project, Industrial Areas Foundation's South Central Organizing Committee, Community Reinvestment V.P. at Drew Child Development Corporation-Tony served as an organizer and educator, in his own consulting practice, introducing his Civic Organizing Framework and Organizing-Leadership Tools to over 7,500 service professionals, educators, students, and grassroots practitioners in over 150 schools, colleges, government departments, youth and community nonprofits, in 12 states and six California counties. He helped start or strengthen over 30 collaboratives and his Civic Organizing framework has been taught at Los Angeles Trade Technical College, California State University Los Angeles/Pat Brown Institute of Public Affairs, Stanford University; and by colleague, Paula Strand, at Georgetown Law School.

He was appointed Sr. Associate to Project Public Life at the University of Minnesota Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs; first "Visiting Mentor" to Stanford University's Haas Center for Public Service; Lead Planning Consultant for the James Irvine Foundation's Youth Development Resource Project (YDI); and, through Civic Organizing, Inc., was awarded over $360,000 from W.K. Kellogg Foundation (1997-98) and the Stassen-Taylor Family Fund (1998-2003).

Tony has co-authored or been interviewed for several national journals, magazines, news letters and books, and is featured in the forthcoming book, Hope Matters-The Untold Story of How Faith Works in America, by John A. Calhoun, President of Hope Matters; consultant to California Cities Gang Prevention Network, and former President of the National Crime Prevention Council (published in Fall 2007).

Born and raised in South Los Angeles Tony is a 19 Year resident of Pasadena, were he lives with his wife and two children who are college students. Tony is a graduate of Crenshaw High School, California State University Los Angeles, Zoe Christian Leadership Center, and has taken coursework at APU Haggard Graduate School of Theology.


RiKu Matsuda, Senior Intergroup Relations Specialist

riKu Matsuda started with the Commission in 2004 and is currently a Senior Intergroup Relations Specialist. riKu serves as an analyst on the annual Hate Crime Report and coordinator of both the annual John Anson Ford Human Relations Awards and the Hate Violence Prevention Practitioners Network. He is also the Commission’s liaison to the Media Image Coalition and the Anti-Bullying Coalition. riKu was born in Garden Grove and raised in the Antelope Valley and currently resides in Boyle Heights, the neighborhood his great grandparents migrated to in the early 1920s from Japan by way of Hawai’i. riKu graduated from California State University at Long Beach in 2000 with a Bachelor’s degree in Women’s Studies and Sociology and has worked in areas of youth organizing, leadership development, media justice, immigrant/refugee rights, multi-ethnic community building, gender justice and sexual rights. He has served on many boards and is currently an advisory board member for Leadership Development for Interethnic Relations (LDIR). riKu can be heard live every Monday from 8:00 to 8:30 p.m. throughout Southern California on Pacifica’s KPFK 90.7 FM, hosting Flip the Script, a radio program that he has hosted for over 10 years.


Gustavo Partida, Intergroup Relations Specialist

Serving as one of the Commission’s Intergroup Relations Specialists, Gustavo Partida is a member of the Los Angeles County Racialized Gang Violence Prevention Initiative team concentrated in the Harbor Gateway area. This project serves youth, young adults, and families that are in 4 high-risk target communities to reduce the rate of violence and strengthen the capacity of the communities for generating workable, sustainable solutions to violence that does occur.

Gustavo began his Los Angeles County service in 2007 in the Office of the Ombudsman as an Assistant Ombudsman. In this role he assisted members of the public to resolve complaints involving employees from the L.A. County Sheriff’s Department and the Office of Public Safety. In addition, He managed work-load statistics for the office, and administered the pilot program for the Graffiti Abatement Project. Prior to working for the county, he specialized in conflict resolution while employed with a county-contracted community mental health center.

Mr. Partida holds a B.A. degree in Spanish with an emphasis in Public Service from California State University, Dominguez Hills. He also is currently working toward attaining his M.A. in Public Administration from California State University, Northridge.


Ray Regalado, Senior Intergroup Relations Specialist

Ray Regalado comes to the Commission with an extensive human relations background. He was on staff of the Orange County Human Relations Council where he worked in the area of hate crime victim support, hate crime awareness training and assisted in the compilation of the annual Orange County hate crime report. In addition, Mr. Regalado is a trained mediator with skills in conflict resolution. Ray has experience working with at risk youth, community organizing and leadership development. These skills were developed while working for a gang intervention agency. More recently, Ray worked as a Field Deputy for First District Supervisor Gloria Molina.


Fidel Rodriguez, Senior Intergroup Relations Specialist

Fidel Rodriguez serves as Team Lead for the Project One Music Initiative. In this role he has guided the development and deployment of The Bricks, a contemporary band of formerly at-risk youth who compose and perform music focused on social justice issues. He also works on the juvenile justice and youth reentry teams and as a human relations trainer.

Fidel’s experience before becoming a Senior Intergroup Relations Specialist with the Commission included extensive travel in Africa, Europe, Asia, and the Americas. He also has visited numerous Native America enclaves throughout the United States. His gang violence and conflict resolution curriculum for incarcerated youth and probation officers, entitled “Breaking the Cycle with Dignity”, is certified by the State of California and is taught at juvenile detention facilities in the state. In addition, he developed and is leading a rites of passage process called “Spreading Seeds: Mind, Body, Spirit” project in collaboration with Homeboy Industries. His award winning radio show, Divine Forces Radio, focuses on popular culture and music.

Fidel was a McNair Scholar and earned two degrees at the University of Southern California, one in Chicano/Latino Studies and the other in African-American Studies. He currently is working on a graduate degree that combines his interests in Chicano and African studies with his passion for conflict resolution and peace making.


Robert Sowell, Intergroup Relations Specialist

Robert Sowell is a member of the WIN grant initiative team focusing on Washington Preparatory High School and feeder schools, assists with Hate Crime Report data collection and analysis, and helps to manage the web site. In addition, he serves as staff liaison with members of the Commission on Human Relations.

Prior to joining the Commission staff, Robert worked for more than 25 years in a variety of nonprofit human service organizations, including a private junior high school, consulting and planning agencies serving congregations, and inner city neighborhood community development organizations. He was also employed previously by the L A County Department of Children and Family Services as an Emergency Response Children’s Social Worker, investigating reports of child neglect and abuse.

Robert earned a Master of Science of Social Work degree from the University of Texas at Arlington and another graduate degree in education from SWBTS. In addition, he completed post-graduate studies at UTA’s School of Public and Urban Affairs.


Joshua Tanamachi Parr, Senior Intergroup Relations Specialist

Tanamachi Parr, joins the HRC staff as a Senior Intergroup Consultant. Stories of his grandmother's internment by the US government during World War II lead Mr. Parr to critically examine cultural identity and social justice. After an early career as a journalist in Cambodia, South Korea and Venezuela, he returned to the U.S. in 1994. Here, he began organizing communities of color to fight for educational and economic equity in the Bay Area. From editing a youth publication, to running writing workshops in maximum security Juvenille Halls, to starting gang violence prevention and post-911 hate crime programs, Mr. Parr has worked with a variety of diverse communities.

In 1999, he joined Youth Together, a cutting edge youth leadership development organization in the East Bay, where he learned the principles of youth advocacy, and the tools of community building. Mr. Parr then joined Intergroup Clearinghouse, a top human relations organization in San Francisco. There, he consulted for the San Francisco Unified School District to assess and prevent hate crime and hate violence in K-12 schools. From there, he graduated with a Master's Degree from USC's School of Planning, Policy and Development, studying Multicultural Community Development.

At the Commission, Mr. Parr works in the School Intergroup Conflict Initiative, working in LAUSD District 7, which includes Watts. There, he facilitates programs in youth leadership development and parent education. In the community at large, Mr. Parr is spearheading an effort to update community policing protocols with LAPD's SE Division. Soon, he will be moving the HRC into the schools of Western San Gabriel Valley.

Additionally, Mr. Parr is a Board member for the Asian Pacific American Dispute Resolution Center (APADRC), plays blues guitar, writes fiction, and coaches his son's basketball teams (this year, their team is undefeated.) He is known to travel whenever possible, and is involved in several international organizing efforts to promote meaningful cultural exchange.


Gustavo Adolfo Guerra Vasquez, Senior Intergroup Relations Specialist

Gustavo Adolfo Guerra Vasquez is a native of Guatemala, who came to Los Angeles at the age of eight. Guerra Vasquez has lived in many different parts of Los Angeles. He received his Bachelors of Art in Spanish Literature from the University of California, Santa Cruz. Guerra Vasquez went on to pursue a graduate degree at the University of California, Berkeley where he acquired a Masters Degree in Ethnic Studies and also became a doctoral candidate. This unique individual has also developed talents as a multi-disciplinary artist and has performed and toured with different spoken word groups who use their performances to improve Human Relations among individuals and communities.

Gustavo Guerra Vasquez co-leader of the Commission's youth initiative work will deal with Day Laborer issues, Immigration issues, and will provide assistance to some L.A. Unified School District schools as well as Pomona Unified School District.


Sharon Williams, Senior Typist Clerk

Sharon Williams is a 1987 graduate of Manual Arts High School and has taken additional courses at Abram Friedman Occupational Center, the National Business Academy, and Los Angeles Southwest College. She worked as a Typist Clerk for Atlantic Richfield Company and Accelerated Micro Computers, and as an Intermediate Typist Clerk for the Board of Supervisors before joining the Commission in the same capacity in 1990. In March of 1995, Sharon Williams was promoted to Senior Typist Clerk. On October 31, 2000, Sharon gave birth to her first child, Kordell Keshaun Handy.


Marshall Wong, Senior Intergroup Relations Specialist

A native of Los Angeles, Marshall has served as a Senior Human Relations Consultant with the Commission since 1999. He is the Commission's Hate Crime Coordinator, has developed human relations curricula for County employees, and established the agency's Hate Crime Victim Assistance and Community Advocacy Initiative. Previously, he held positions with the Smithsonian Institute and the Mayor of Washington, D.C. From 1991-1994, he was a Fellow in the Kellogg National Leadership Program and has been a recipient of the Community Service Award from the National Multicultural Institute, the Abacus Award from the Organization of Chinese Americans, and the Mayor's Distinguished Service Award from the District of Columbia. Currently, he serves on a Community Funding Board for the Liberty Hill Foundation. Marshall received his Bachelor of Arts in Sociology and his Master of Social Welfare from the University of California at Los Angeles. Additionally, he has studied Spanish in Cuernevaca, Mexico and Antigua, Guatemala, has co-authored, "Organizing in Communities of Color: Addressing Inter-Ethnic Conflicts," for Social Justice, and has written articles for the Washington Times and Asian Week.

 


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