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Social & Environmental Justice Series Part 3: Decolonizing Our Diets

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Soul Center at 420 Mahoney

420 W Mahoney Ave

Mesa, Arizona 85202

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Please join us for the third part in the Social & Environmental Justice summer series for a panel discussion and Q&A on decolonizing our diets, specifically in communities of color. From health, finances, and passive political resistance to oppressive systems, decolonizing our diets can help us thrive and heal from generations of trauma and subtle, but sinister, forms of colonization and oppression.

Our speakers include:

Dr. Sailesh Rao has over 32 years of professional experience and is the Founder and Executive Director of Climate Healers, a non-profit dedicated towards healing the Earth’s climate. A systems specialist with a Ph. D. in Electrical Engineering from Stanford University, Stanford, CA, USA, conferred in 1986, Dr. Rao worked on the Internet communications infrastructure for twenty years after graduation. In 2006, he switched careers and became deeply immersed, full time, in the environmental crises affecting humanity and has been studying how to reverse them and achieve global sustainability from a systems perspective.

Dr. Rao is the author of the 2011 book, Carbon Dharma: The Occupation of Butterflies and the 2016 book, Carbon Yoga: The Vegan Metamorphosis. He is an Executive Producer of the trilogy of documentaries "THEY Don't Want You To See", The Human Experiment (2013), Cowspiracy: The Sustainability Secret (2014) and What The Health (2017), which explore the systemic causes of human and environmental ill health. He is also an Executive Producer of the new groundbreaking documentary, "A Prayer for Compassion". Dr. Rao has over 50 standards contributions to the ATM Forum and the IEEE 802.3 CSMA/CD Working Group, 22 peer-reviewed technical publications, 10 U.S . Patents and 3 Canadian Patents and has received numerous awards throughout his career.



Felicia Cocotzin Ruiz
- Felicia is a natural foods chef and wellness advocate whose works center around a holistic approach to achieving overall wellness - including one’s nutritional journey. Felicia’s primary goal is to educate, empower, and inspire people of color as they work toward reclaiming their health through food and much needed self-care. Her holistic health and wellness background spans over 25 years and she has had the opportunity to work with grassroots activists, urban communities, and professional athletes.

Felicia’s work has been featured in Spirituality and Health, Forks Over Knives, and Food & Wine among many other publications. She presents frequently around the country on plant-based eating, complimentary healing practices, and food sustainability at community events, museums, and universities. Felicia currently lives in Phoenix, Arizona where she is readying her first book due out next year.



Chef Maria Parra Cano
is owner & mami-preneur of Sana Sana: Food Medicine for the People. Maria is a Xicana Indigena born in Phoenix and grew up in Barrio Garfield along with her 5 sisters and 2 brothers. Maria received her undergraduate degree from Arizona State University, her MBA from Grand Canyon University and a culinary arts degree from Scottsdale Culinary Institute - Le Cordon Bleu. Maria is a mother of 4 with her oldest being 5 and the youngest being 1. She is married to Brian Cano who is the artist & soul behind Ironwood Metal Works. Maria is a mother, wife, sister, aunt, community organizer, danzante y mujer de ceremonia. Maria is Executive Director of the Cihuapactli Collective and co-founder MEChA de ASU’s Xicana/o Graduation.

Sana Sana, is a plant-based movement aimed at healing our community from diseases like diabetes and hypertension through food. Maria was taught to cook at a very young age by her mother, Maria Cristina Parra Martinez and learned about indigenous cuisines from Central and Southern Mexico. Maria has been working with local community groups to expand their knowledge of ancestral/traditional foods by providing community cooking classes, demos, and workshops.



Julio Cesar Mendoza
- Artist, musician, and chef/entrepreneur, Julio Cesar Mendoza, is a first generation American of Dominican descent. Julio became a health enthusiast and vegan advocate through the holistic self-realization and the self-curing of his ulcerative colitis.

Marrying his health journey with his passions, Julio developed The Ital Trap, a mobile and pop-up food concept that specializes in Tropical Plant-centric cuisine. Centralized around the concept of sustainability, wellness and spiritual affinity with nature.



Tajia Diggs
and Aaron Junior are the founders of Doctors Are Drug Dealers, an organizations whose mission is to educate people about Radical Self-Care and inspire people to eat a plant-based diet. Tajia Is a social worker by day and a lightworker by night, peacefully waking people up with the truth that health lies within and not within the system. With bodies that are physically, mentally and emotionally tuned, then the real revolution can begin. Tajia will be speaking about soul food, the real food vs. slave food, and the cultural appropriation that is meant to continually enslave us with every meal day to day.



Vanessa Santiago
is originally from Puerto Rico and has completed two bachelors degrees in Nutrition & Dietetics and Physical Education. Later, she successfully completed her Master's Degree in Public Health with emphases on food policy, water systems, and environmental health. She is the founder of Wepa Fit (fitness and nutrition online). She is vegan, loves the outdoors, and has a mission to inspire healthy living around the world.


This is a FREE event with a suggested $10 love donation requested, but not required. Food will be available onsite for a nominal cost. Your friendly dogs and children are welcome.

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Soul Center at 420 Mahoney

420 W Mahoney Ave

Mesa, Arizona 85202

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