We are a group of organizers, educators, visionaries, cultural workers, thinkers and fighters committed to the systemic transformation of a society rooted in equity, justice and human dignity.

 

Manolo de los Santos

Executive Director

Manolo is a popular educator and organizer from the Caribbean. He is committed to the radical transformation of the world at the hands of the poor and oppressed. Versed in the histories of struggle and methodologies of education, Manolo seeks to engage a new generation of visionaries and fighters.

Before joining TPF, he organized solidarity and education programs in Latin America. When in need of leisure time, nothing makes him happier than the fresh breeze of the Caribbean and good books at hand.

Contact Manolo at manolo.e@peoplesforum.org

Claudia de La Cruz

Director of Culture

Claudia was born in the South Bronx to immigrant parents from the Dominican Republic. She is a popular educator, community organizer and theologian. In her role as Director of Culture at The People’s Forum, Claudia is committed to contribute her experiences and skills in the creation of cultural-educational space with organizers, educators and cultural workers/artists to continue producing, promoting and uplifting the cultural traditions that nourish and strengthen our communities in our struggles towards social justice.

For over 20 years, she has been committed to movement building, and has actively participated in collective grassroots spaces, particularly in the communities of Washington Heights and The South Bronx.

Claudia was Pastor of her home-church, Iglesia San Romero de Las Americas-UCC- a community church rooted in the traditions of Latin American Liberation Theology and grassroots organizing. Through her ministry she found her passion, and has dedicated most of her life to the leadership development of youth through political education and culture.

In 2004, she co- founded Da Urban Butterflies Youth Leadership Development Project (D.U.B). Her experiences in D.U.B informed her participation in the development of cultural and political education programing at The Rebel Diaz Arts Collective (RDAC-BX) for almost 5 years.  

Contact Claudia at claudia@peoplesforum.org

Chris Caruso

Director of Education

Chris is a popular educator, community organizer, and educational technologist. He has been active for over 25 years in the movement to end poverty, led by the poor.

In 1989 he got involved with the National Union of the Homeless, and was brought into social consciousness by homeless families taking over abandoned homes. Since then, Chris has lead popular education workshops for social movement organizations on five continents. He has been recognized as a pioneer in the grassroots use of the Internet and has trained dozens of grassroots organizations across the globe in the strategic use of new media.

Chris was mentored in popular education by leaders of the League of Revolutionary Black Workers, the Union of the Homeless, and the Welfare Rights Organization. As Education Director for The People’s Forum, he is excited to continue this grassroots educational tradition.

A first-generation college student, Chris received his BA from the University of Pennsylvania and his MPhil from the CUNY Graduate Center. Currently, he is a PhD candidate, also at the Graduate Center, under Professor David Harvey.

Contact Chris at chris.c@peoplesforum.org

David Chung

General Manager

David is the General Manager at The People’s Forum where he handles administrative responsibilities and supports the efficient operation of The People’s Forum.

David was born in Korea, immigrated at the age of three, and grew up in Woodside, NY. Before joining TPF, David held roles in development, advocacy campaign coordination, and community organizing in various organizations. David first started organizing in 2012 because of his lived experiences as an immigrant.

A graduate of Hunter College yet he credits his political education and principles to movement organizers and working class communities. During his free time, David enjoys being outdoors and taking long walks with his dog.

Contact David at david.c@peoplesforum.org

Kimberly O. Fakih

Director of Food Services

Kimberly is the Director of Food Services, overseeing the coffee bar and the kitchen by day, and by night planning the many events that are part of the life of The People’s Forum.

She has founded and built several cafés in NYC, but her roots are in Podunk, the community center-cum-tea room that The New York Times called “ineffably charming” and which was a hot spot for indie music makers and film producers during its 14-year run. Trip Advisor said it was a “place that fosters a real sense of community,” while the Huffington Post considered it “laid back and quirky.” Before Podunk, Kimberly worked as an editor for the women’s community website, iVillage, and a parenting site, Family Wonder. She has published several children’s books, many of them featuring conversations over meals.

She hopes to invite people to share their minds and their hearts in a welcoming environment created to remind us of our better angels.

Contact Kimberly at kimberly.f@peoplesforum.org

Juan Peralta

Cultural Coordinator

Juan is a community organizer and activist born in NYC and raised by his mother and grandmother who were both immigrants from Dominican Republic. They instilled the importance of community which in turn made him vigilant to the world around him and the problems that affected poor and dispossessed peoples’.

Juan is a founding member of The Justice Center en El Barrio and has been active in many different movement such as the fight against police brutality, The Poor People’s Campaign, Occupy Wall Street. Most recently, Juan has been fighting rezoning and gentrification that threats to displace people from the places they call home.

In the role of Culture Coordinator Juan is committed and excited to be bringing, promoting, uplifting and producing cultural events that empower working class communities in The People’s Forum. He understands that countering the reactionary media that is pushed upon us is important, and he is determined to give a platform to media made for and by the people.

Belén Marco Crespo

Communications Manager

Belén is a communication for social change, designer and research specialist. As the Communications Manager, Belén is passionate about articulating the organization’s visual presence and using storytelling to engage and inspire diverse communities.

Prior to joining The People’s Forum, Belén worked for international organizations and community-based initiatives in fascinating places such Guatemala, rural Appalachia, and Perú in a range of issues including gender equality and youth. Throughout her projects, she has experienced firsthand the extraordinary potential of creative methodologies as tools for self-discovery and critical thinking.

In love with stories, her passion grew from experimenting in handing over control of the camera to rural youth from Southern Ecuador in 2014, and from facilitating storytelling workshops to a group of youth from Ohio in 2017. Born in a small town by the Mediterranean sea in Spain, Belén enjoys photographing quotidian patterns.

Belén holds graduate degrees on Visual Communication and Communication and Development, and a Certificate on Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies from Ohio University.

Contact Belén at belen.m@peoplesforum.org

Ciara Taylor

Membership Manager

Ciara is a popular educator, grassroots organizer and artist. In her position as Membership Manager with The People’s Forum, Ciara is committed to nurturing a community rooted in working class values of justice, love, and dignity for everyone through art and political education.

She first became politically active in high school in opposition to the Iraq War and has continued organizing around issues pertaining to militarism, mass incarceration, poverty, and the protection of the most vulnerable in our society. In 2012, Ciara co-founded the Dream Defenders, a Florida-based youth organization that emerged after the killing of 17-year old Trayvon Martin.

Cali born. Florida raised. Making New York City home. Living in so many different neighborhoods has taught Ciara the importance of community and power that an environment can have in shaping the way you relate with yourself and the World.

Kevin Kang

Outreach Coordinator

Kevin is a Korean New York City native, born and raised in Flushing, NY, and currently serves as the Outreach Coordinator for TPF.

In his role as Outreach Coordinator, Kevin is committed to build the working class membership and character of TPF, and curate events to foster dialogue and connection between poor and dispossessed communities in NYC and beyond. Please reach out to Kevin to propose ideas for events and forums that meets this goal.

Since the age of 15, his movement roots are in the immigrant rights struggle, being a part of and playing leadership roles in several organizations including the MinKwon Center, New York State Youth Leadership Council (NYSYLC), and United We Dream Network.

Ruby Fernandez-Brown

Facilities Manager

With over 20 years working in the LGBT and HIV/AIDS movement and 10+ years dedicated to the Latino LGBT community, Ruby joins The People’s Forum team as the Facilities Manager. She will be responsible for making sure the center meets the needs of the visionaries and organizers. Ruby brings many years of experience running the day-to-day operations for community centers, coordinating facilities and logistics for special and cultural events, and welcoming everyone with open arms.

Prior to joining TPF, she held managerial and other positions at popular organizations, such as Latino Commission on AIDS, SAGE (Services and Advocacy for GLBT Elders), Queens PRIDE House, Project Achieve, Hispanic AIDS Forum and Alianza Dominicana, Inc. focusing on the advancement of the LGBT Latino community. Ruby served as a Board Member and Advisor for Las Buenas Amigas, a Latina lesbian organization in NYC, and she was a co-founder for Primer Movimiento Peruano (Peruvian Gay Movement). In 2009, she graduated with a Master’s Degree in Public Administration from the School of Public Affairs from Baruch College.

When not overseeing TPF space, she is either somewhere around the big city or in the world with her camera on hand, exploring new sites and capturing momentos shared with her beloved family.

Andy Damas

Janitor

Andy was born and raised in Haiti, then migrated to New York to better himself. He found an opportunity at Goddard Riverside as a custodian where he worked for several years. As a Janitor at The People’s Forum, he brings his experience and knowledge to get the job done effectively and efficiently. Prior to working at TPF, he received a Bachelor of Science degree in health service administration and learned many ways to help people. Andy is a passionate and dedicated individual who on his spare time enjoys working at his church helping people with language translation and computers. Andy is a people person who enjoys working with and helping others.

Belkys Rivera

Receptionist

Belkys is a native New Yorker who grew up in Washington Heights, NY. She is the receptionist at The Peoples Forum and performs clerical duties, welcomes members and maintains office security. Belkys graduated with an Associate’s Degree in Business Management and is a candidate for a Bachelor of Science in Information Technology at the New York Institute of Technology.

Besides craving for knowledge, she once volunteered at a homeless shelter which planted the seeds for her long term goal of becoming a humanitarian. During her free time, Belkys loves to meditate, practice yoga, and read books. She feels most fulfilled when she helps people grow professionally and when she gives back to the community. Belkys is excited to connect with others in order to bring unity in our community.

Vincent Garcia

Receptionist

Vincent is a Washington Heights native, born to hard working Dominican immigrants. His family instilled a sense of community and work ethic that propelled his life’s work to build himself, and those around him, up. Always willing to lend a hand, Vincent has learned to become a jack-of-all-trades.

As TPF’s Receptionist and all around handyman, he is the first person many meet when calling in to TPF or walking through its doors. Always with a smile on his face, his duties are to make sure everyone feels welcome and to support the day-to-day operations of the facilities.

Prior to joining TPF, Vincent gained experience in many fields, including the worlds of I.T., customer service, volunteer work, client communication, and emergency medical service (certified EMT). When not at TPF, he is training and studying to become one of New York’s Bravest, a FDNY firefighter. When he wants to unwind, he enjoys playing with his sidekick and companion, Lola (his dog).

Nelio Medina

A/V Technician

Nelio was born in New York City and raised in the Bronx. Nelio is the Audio-Visual Technician for The Peoples Forum. He operates the sound, lighting and visual equipment for all events.

Before joining TPF, he worked as a stage hand for eight years at Lehman Stages. Nelio worked with companies like the Bronx Opera, Riverdale Children’s Theatre which is affiliated with Disney, The Bronx Community Band, The MET Opera and Local bands/artists. He enjoys playing basketball and writing music during his spare time.