By Jess George, Executive Director
It is rare to have an Immigrant Rights organization that works with rock stars, but we do.
Every year our The Latin American Coalition brings world renown musical artists to our Latin American Festival. Last year, legendary Columbian rockers, Aterciopleados, brought their alternative, social justice rock to Charlotte. This year the iconic, multi-platinum, Spanish rock band Jarabedepalo will headline the festival. If that wasn’t enough, Latin Grammy award winning funk band Los Amigos Invisibles from Venezuela will also perform this year.
But the staff of the Latin American Coalition boasts quite few “rock stars” as well — folks who have great talent and diverse passions that extend outside of the work we do every day. Here are a few:
Tony Arreaza, our Cultural Events Manager, is a rock star, quite literally, in his own right. Tony has been musician and a promoter of Latin music in the Southeast for over two decades. His passion for and knowledge of Latin music earned him the title of one of Charlotte’s most influential promoters by Creative Loafing in 2011. His efforts to cultivate a more vibrant Latin music scene in the Southeast have also been featured on NPR, MTV Latino, Paste Magazine, and MUN2.
Lacey Williams, the Coalition’s Director of Youth Programs, also moonlights as “Lace of Spades,” the coach of the Charlotte Roller Girls, Charlotte’s women’s flat track roller derby team. Lacey is also the co-founder of CRANE (Charlotte Rainbow Action Network for Equality), a grassroots coalition of activists and community members that work for civil and social equality for Charlotte’s lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and intersex (LGBTQI) community.
Armando Bellmas, the Coalition’s Director of Communications, is a photographer and music lover. He shares his passion for both on his blog: Be Still Please. Armando also hosts Ecléctico, a show on Charlotte’s Plaza Midwood Community Radio that “lovingly blends English and Spanish music and culture.” His unique mixture of old and new and Spanish and English has earned him Creative Loafing’s 2012 Critic’s Pick for Best Radio Show.
Briana Duggan, our Cultural Events Coordinator, is a contributor to Charlotte’s NPR affiliate, WFAE. Bri has covered the colorful and quirky through her pieces on the Swiss Bluegrass duo The Krüger Brothers, an eclectic general store called Renfrow’s Hardware, and a video blog of the Democratic National Convention.
Sharon Cheng, a Paralegal with our Immigration Law Clinic, is an accomplished pianist. Playing piano since she was was four-years-old, Sharon has cultivated a lifetime love a music which spilled over into choir and musical theater. Sharon received a scholarship to study music at Furman University where she got her Bachelors in Fine Arts.
David Arroyo-Garay, the Workforce Development Coordinator, is an athlete on a mission. Since 2010, David has completed four triathlon sprints, one marathon and is preparing for his first half Iron-man. His most proud accomplishment to date has been completing a 200-mile bike ride to raise money for TPAN (Test Positive Aware Network) to support people living with or at risk for HIV/AIDS.
It is always a joy to work with capable and passionate people who love their work, but I consider myself particularly lucky to work alongside these dynamic and multi-talented individuals. Of course these are just a few of the incredible staff members who work at the Latin American Coalition. Come visit us, volunteer with us, celebrate with us, and get to know our team of rock stars.