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Q&A with Isabel Contreras
EventsSponsored Events
onMay 26, 2023

This Sunday from 11:30 am-3 pm, Mi Gente invites the community to its Brown Babes Brunch with special guest, activist, and author Dr. Terence Lester who will speak about his triumphant story, his nonprofit Love Beyond Walls, and what it means to lead with compassion, love, and acceptance for our community and ALL of its members.

We spoke with Isabel Contreras, founder of Mi Gente and 2023 Nexties Awardee for Community Builder of the Year, about upcoming events and what drives her to create spaces where Black and Brown people can connect, relax, and celebrate their cultures.

The Upcoming Brown Babes Lunch sounds inspiring. What’s it all about?

We’re bringing Dr. Terence Lester to Santa Cruz from Atlanta, Georgia. He’s the founder of the Love Beyond Walls organization, an author, a powerful advocate for raising poverty and homelessness awareness, and a community mobilizer. We’re hosting the event at Oswald Restaurant with a soul food brunch by This Moment Catering and Oswald Restaurant. Terence will give a talk, and people will have a chance to mingle. We’ve also partnered with Bookshop Santa Cruz for folks to preorder Dr. Lester’s new book, All God’s Children. When they do, 20% of the sales will support Mi Gente. The first ten guests to arrive will get a free signed copy of Dr. Lester’s book, “Where We Stand.” Space is limited to 50, and allies are welcome!

What inspired you to start Mi Gente events?

I grew up in Stockton, California, where there was an abundance of different cultures, including my own. I remember frequently participating in cultural festivities with my family growing up, and it was just a normal part of Stockton’s culture. When I moved to Santa Cruz, I was struck by how few spaces there were for people like me. I couldn’t find many places that embodied a full representation of our community, where we can walk into an event and feel like it is made intentionally for us. I missed being in spaces filled with families, and people of all ages and backgrounds, taking pride in their culture. And as an artist, I decided to contribute to the community the main way I knew how: through the arts. To present events where Black and Brown people walk in, take a deep breath, and look around to see/realize, “There I am.” Safe spaces filled with comfort, acceptance, and vibrancy.

Sometimes, I think it could be hard to find these types of spaces, especially as adults. At Brown Babes events, we provide a more intimate space for connection, support, and vulnerability. We share our stories, learn more about one another, and encourage friendship and collaboration to explore outside of these spaces, as well. It’s all about pouring more positive things into our cups and showing our community that these environments are sacred and necessary.

Mi Gente is all about collaboration. Are any new ones coming up?

Yes, I love collaborating when I can! I’ve definitely had to challenge myself to ask for help. When I do, I experience how rewarding it is when we bring our unique skills and energy to the work. Mi Gente is collaborating with Mozeart Designz this summer to present the Melanated Expressions Showcase at the Radius Gallery at the Tannery. The call for art centers on what artists want to say. For me, it feels like we’re passing the mic to those who might not be used to the opportunity and asking, “What are YOU passionate about?” Show us that! Through visual art, many stories will be represented.

We’re calling all BIPOC creatives in Santa Cruz County and surrounding areas to submit their work to be a part of a collective voice in our community. The deadline for submitting work is June 5th. Artists can apply and submit art on Mi Gente’s website. We’ll present related events throughout July, including an opening bbq & market, a First Friday party, and a closing celebration. Stay tuned for details.

About Mi Gente and founder, Isabel Contreras

Mi Gente organizes culturally curated events for the community to support and spotlight BIPOC & AAPI entrepreneurs and creatives in spaces where they have historically been overlooked. For more information about Mi Gente and its events, visit

Isabel is a mixed Indigenous artist who received her BFA in Communication Arts from Virginia Commonwealth University and has since been exploring positions in graphic design, illustration, and marketing. Whether it's a new art piece or a community project, Isabel primarily focuses on prioritizing culture, representation, and inclusivity in her work. She enjoys creating work that people can identify with and aims to create and build spaces that support and give back to the community.