desi mideast asia latin africana
Page Title Graphic

« Previous 1 2 1 2 Next »

Aimee Suzara, Teacher and
Cultural Worker | Photo credit:
D. Samuel Marsh

Aimee Suzara:
Speaker-Box for Social Change

Passionate for social change and determined to continue to give a damn about the injustices we face, Aimee Suzara, 30, Writer, Performer, Cultural Worker, Arts Educator and Co-Founder of FACES (Filipino/American Coalition for Environmental Solidarity), spends much of her waking moments using her voice as a speaker box for awareness and change. Her work takes her from working alongside a non-profit dedicated towards environmental sustainability to performing her writings at events for the United Nations and the Radical Performance Festival to teaching workshops promoting social change. We can all learn a thing or two or ten from the passion, enthusiasm and intellectual driven Aimee possesses. Learn more about Aimee and FACES as we feature her in this week’s Non-Profit Spotlight.


(Filipino/American Coalition for Environmental Solidarity)


FACES – 2000



Name & Title

Aimee Suzara
Founder of FACES
Cultural worker
Arts Educator




Berkeley, California

Current residence

Berkeley, California


Mills College, Master of Fine Arts (MFA), Creative Writing, 2006
UC Berkeley, BA in Religious Studies, 1999

Work Experience

Instructor in English, Las Positas Community College (current)
Instructor in Creative Writing and Performance, Epic Arts Center (current)
Facilitator, Spirit in Motion (current)



What’s your story?

Filpino-American writer/performer, cultural worker, arts educator – I am emerging as an important voice in the San Francisco Bay Area. A member of Kreatibo, a queer Pin@y arts collective who produced an award-winning play, Dalagas and Tomboys: A Family Affair, a former member of multi-ethnic group Dancers Without Borders, and a Mills College M.F.A. candidate, I am taking bold steps as an individual artist through my current work-in-progress entitled Pagbabalik (Return), which recently received a Zellerbach Community Arts Grant and was selected for CounterPULSE’s 2006 Emerging Performance Festival.

My work also includes a publication in the anthology “Check the Rhyme: An Anthology of Female Poets and Emcees” (Lit Noire Publishing 2006), a track on the “Eye of the Storm” CD benefiting the survivors of Hurricane Katrina, highly lauded performances at festivals such as Apature, the Radical Performance Festival, and the UN World Environment Day Voices Rise Up! and various universities, conferences, and panels, where I often speak about the intersection of art and social justice activism.

As an educator, I have facilitated workshops with Aim High Academy, Art in Action, Center for Contemplative Mind in Society, Youth Speaks and in high schools throughout the Bay Area. I currently teach at Las Positas Community College. I’m a longtime social and environmental justice activist who co-founded the Filipino/American Coalition for Environmental Solidarity (FACES) in 2000.

My passion for social change has led me to positions with San Francisco Women Against Rape (SFWAR) and the Youth Media Council.


FACES envisions an interconnected world where people are healthy and free to realize their potential through cooperation and solidarity. We aspire for communities that are accountable for the safety and well-being of each other and Mother Earth. We hope for a world where people respect the interdependence of species, protect and preserve the resources of the environment, and sustain all living creatures for present and future generations.

FACES is an intergenerational organization that works for environmental justice within communities in the United States and in the Philippines, and builds partnerships through advocacy, education, service, and organizing.

History Launched in February 2000, the Filipino/American Coalition for Environmental Solidarity, formerly the Filipino/American Coalition for Environmental Solutions, originated as a growing movement of church, environmental, peace and justice groups, students, scientists, professionals, and other concerned citizens who are committed to seeking environmental justice for the communities affected by toxic contamination at former U.S. military bases in the Philippines.

Efforts in the United States to address the issue began in 1994 when the United States Working Group for Philippine Bases Clean Up (USWG) was formed to support the Philippine non-governmental grassroots organization, the People’s Task Force for Bases Clean Up. Mostly technical in makeup, the USWG provided scientific advice, reviewed documents and studies concerning the contamination problem in the former bases, and communicated their recommendations to both the United States and Philippine governments.

While the counterpart of FACES in the Philippines–the People’s Task Force for Bases Clean Up–continued to gain ground and support across the Philippines, there was a clear call for American citizens to organize and send a clear message to their own government to take responsibility for their toxic legacy.

Because of the change in political climate in the Philippines and US, conflicts between People’s Task Force for Bases Clean Up (PTFBC) organizations and the affected communities, and the lack of movement in the campaign since FACES’ formation, the organization carefully examined its vision, mission, goals and strategy. In 2004, FACES launched a comprehensive assessment process that employed participatory methods for building capacity and strategy around FACES potential future direction.

In January 2005, FACES members attending the biennial national conference decided to redefine and expand organizational and campaign strategy and goals. Through the recent FACES assessment process, the need emerged to extend the scope of FACES to capture the broader environmental justice framework. FACES wanted to deepen our notion of “solidarity” and recognize the reciprocity of our relationship with Philippine partners. This fueled the discussion around the change of “S” in FACES. Through a vote, Filipino/American Coalition for Environmental Solutions was eventually changed to Filipino/American Coalition for Environmental Solidarity.

At the national conference, FACES members agreed on a new FACES’ future strategic direction, a new vision and mission, and a new organizational structure under which FACES currently operates. (Also please see: 2005 National Conference Summary under Resources include link) After our 3rd National Conference, the Filipino American Coalition for Environmental Solidarity (FACES) emerged a reinvigorated organization. We decided to broaden FACES’ scope of concerns to address transnational issues of environmental justice that impact Filipino communities in both the United States and the Philippines.

FACES’ is excited to advance our environmental justice work in the coming years as we refine our strategy and deepen our commitment through our current programs. As we embark on this new phase in the struggle for environmental justice, FACES invites new and old members to join us. We promise to remain grounded in the personal stories, lives, and struggles of those affected by environmental injustice worldwide. Join us.

Most notable milestones

I could say that a big milestone was the launching of my theatre production, “Pagbabalik” (return) on October 1st as a work-in-progress, then in April as a full work. I wrote, directed, and performed in the show along with a cast of 2 dancers, 2 actors and 3 musicians who provide a live score. Info is on my website www.aimeesuzara.net under “Pagbabalik”.

What makes you unique?

As a cultural worker: My mission is to create, and help others create work that builds community, fosters healing, and provokes important questions through poetry, song, movement and theatre. Recognizing my role on the continuum of Filipino, women of color, queer, activist and literary histories, I confronts racism, sexism, homophobia, and other forms of oppression through writing, performance, and workshops for youth and adults.

As a teacher: my curriculum and teaching approach speaks to diverse student populations including non-native and bilingual speakers, people with disabilities, LGBTQ people, and people from ‘underrepresented’ backgrounds and immigrant descent.

What’s the biggest challenge?

Balancing out individual attention with larger group work – there’s just not enough time!

What’s in store for the future?

Continuing to teach as an instructor in English for Basic Skills English students at Las Positas College.

« Previous 1 2 1 2 Next »

Best way to keep a competitive edge

I tend not to focus on competition, but rather, on discovering one’s particular, unique skills and interests. Focus on developing those – get training, connect with mentors and others in the same field, and practice, practice, practice!

Guiding principle in life

Tell your story! Women, people of color, queer individuals don’t see our own stories reflected in history books or in the media. We need to tell our own stories so that the next generations will see themselves in them.

Yardstick of success

An audience that asks questions and sticks around after the show.
A student who stays after class to discuss something he or she is interested in, something that was sparked from class.
The sound of pens scribbling on paper.

Goal yet to be achieved

Teaching Poetry at a college; touring my theatre production, “Pagbabalik”

Best practical advice

There are so many ways to be an artist in the world – as a teacher, as a community worker, even as an administrator – every type of work can benefit from creativity.

Supportive words from a family member or friend

“There are artists who people remember as speaking to a generation. And I think that’s what Aimee’s becoming. She represents a generation of young people searching for their roots.” – Jennifer Soriano, friend, artist and Program Director at Youth Media Council


The late Helen Toribio: she made a mark as a prominent female Filipino-American professor and writer. She helped make our Filipino histories more available to all. She is 1/4 of the group who put out “Colored Black n’ White” and “The Forbidden Book”.

My students – youth and adults: I learn so much from them. I learn about myself and about how important teaching is.

What motivated you to get started?

When I was just in 1st grade, I wrote my first “book” that sent me to a writer’s conference. I knew then that I wanted to be a writer. I was also artistic in all ways – was into drawing and painting – and my parents supported that.

As a teacher – I remember the teachers who helped me feel that my voice is important. And I want to be that kind of a role model for others. Also, I am an elder sister, and when we were growing up, everything I said or did was being watched – I had to learn to be accountable for my words and actions. This is how I learned what teaching and mentoring is about.

Like best about what you do?

Both teachers and artists help light the path for others to follow – in learning about themselves, in asking important and difficult questions, in challenging the status quo, in making their voices and their stories heard. We are creating a legacy for future generations.

Like least about what you do?

It’s difficult to sustain oneself as a teacher and an artist. They’re not high-paying fields like corporate jobs. Also, there are few guarantees – I have to keep planning and strategizing to keep myself afloat.

At age 10, what did you want to be when you grew up?

A writer and artist.

What was your first job?

Tutoring a 7th grader.

Biggest pastime outside of work

Dance (Afro-Cuban, Filipino).

Three interesting facts about yourself

1. I’m a Capricorn
2. I have visions in my dreams
3. I’m vegan

Three characteristics that describe you

1. Creative
2. Intense
3. Hard-working

Three greatest passions

1. Language
2. Community
3. Health

Favorite book

Too many to choose from! Top 5…
Temple of My Familiar, Alice Walker
Black Boy, Richard Wright
Parable of the Sower, Octavia Butler
Sister Outsider, Audre Lorde
In Mad Love and War, Joy Harjo

Favorite cause

Again, top 3:
Cultural work (artistic + cultural heritage)
Writing & literacy skills for people with fewer resources
Environmental justice

« Previous 1 2 1 2 Next »


Interview by Vanessa Chan
Introduction by Sumaya Kazi

Also this week

Mary’s CenterSaadia AhmedJana El-Horr

Don’t forget!

Young & Professional Profile | Note2Self | News2Know

Toolbar Help
Press | Advertisers | Partners | Opportunities | Privacy Policy | Editorial Policy | Unsubscribe | Sitemap
The DesiConnect
The MidEastConnect
The AsiaConnect
The LatinConnect
The AfricanaConnect