Board of Directors

We’re fortunate to have such an extraordinary, dedicated Board as the team. They bring expertise to bear from fields as diverse as community building, activism, history and entertainment. Please take a moment to meet them…

Jennifer Gutierrez_Image St.John's UMCRev. Jennifer Gutierrez, Executive Director, was an integral part in saving the La Plaza United Methodist Church from being acquired by the city of Los Angles and in establishing the Museum of Social Justice.

After earning her B.A. in Political Science from Williams College in Massachusetts, Rev. Gutierrez went on to the Claremont School of Theology in California where she earned her Master of Divinity degree. While she was completing this degree, Rev. Gutierrez served as the Pastor of Pico Union Shalom Ministry in Los Angeles.  Following her time as pastor in Pico Union, Rev. Gutierrez became the Director of Urban Ministry for the Cal-Pac Conference of the United Methodist Church. As director, Gutierrez consulted with urban churches throughout Southern California for strategic planning, problem solving, and tools to help them connect with their surrounding neighborhoods. She raised funds from private individuals and foundations to support the work of urban churches and provided training to urban church leaders on a variety of topics. She helped launch Cal-Pac Neighborhood Immigration Clinics to provide hospitality and legal service provision from churches, where she now serves as chair of their board.

Most recently, Rev. Gutierrez served as Pastor of St. John’s United Methodist Church in Watts.  She is now in the midst in completing her Doctorate in Ministry from Claremont School of Theology, and lives in East Los Angeles with her husband Marx, their three children, and one dog.

Sherwin “Keith” Rice, President of the Board  is a historian and archivist at the Tom & Ethel Bradley Center at California State University, Northridge. Prior to becoming a historian Keith had careers as a computer technician for General Electric and a as studio and live sound engineer for Earth Wind and Fire guitarist Al McKay. He earned a graduate degree from Cal State Northridge in U.S. History with secondary studies in Latin American history and Archival Management. He is presently enrolled in the PhD history program at Claremont Graduate University. His field of study is American History with a concentration on the African American civil rights and black power movements and museum studies.

Trey Baskett, Vice President, has been employed in public service for over 16 years.  He became involved with the museum when he and his wife were married at the La Plaza UMC Church on Olvera Street.  His wife’s great grand uncle was the pastor in 1899, her family has remained active in the church ever since.

BettyBetty Venegas-Huebner, Treasurer, was a founding member of the La Plaza Historical Society and is treasurer of the La Plaza church.  She began cataloging and preserving the La Plaza Church archives as early as 2002 and worked tirelessly throughout the Save La Plaza Campaign that resulted in the preservation of the Museum of Social Justice as a public venue for the greater Los Angeles community.


Amalia Castaneda Photo_MSJ Website_BoardofDirectorsAmalia Castañeda, Secretary, is passionate about cultural heritage preservation, archives and the histories of communities of color. With the guidance of Keith Rice, she has especially enjoyed drawing from her background in L.A. history to contribute to the museum’s exhibitions and educational programming. Amalia is currently pursuing an MLIS (Master in Library and Information Science) at UCLA and holds a Master’s degree in History from Cal State LA. Her research chronicles the history of the L.A. Plaza and the early slum clearance programs that drove out working-class, immigrant communities in the early and mid twentieth century. She feels privileged to serve on the museum board, and looks forward to continue building a career in public history within the Los Angeles region.

Greg Ramirez, archives & exhibit Committee member is an architectural designer and film maker whose professional accomplishments include working on Tom Wiscombe’s, “Light Wing” architectural/art installation at the PS1/MoMA Museum in Queens, NY.  Most recently his second short film that the production managed, “Botes al Amanecer”, was invited to the 2012 Cannes Film Festival.  Greg believes that there are many untold stories, filled with drama and humor, about this important location as the birthplace of Los Angeles.  And these stories help flesh out the progressive path that people of many backgrounds took in navigating a new urban world called Los Angeles.

Aida Feria, is the Director of the Choices Corp, a program for at risk Youth, located on the campus of California State University, Los Angeles,  Aida is a fourth generation family member on Olvera Street, whose  grandmother lived at the historic Pico house and whose family has continued to  run a “puesto” since the 1940s.


Joe Rodriguez Photo_MSJ Website_Baord of DirectorsJose “Joe” T. Rodriguez retired from his role as the Probation Director after more than 35 years of service for the County of Los Angeles in 2003.  Joe has been a lifelong resident of Pico-Rivera.  As a probation director, he was a member of the Committee on Organizational Diversity.  He was also a charter member and later served as president of the Mexican American Correctional Association (MACA), an advocacy group for Latino probation officers and parole agents. Currently, he serves as chair of the Church Council at La Plaza United Methodist Church. Joe considers the Museum of Social Justice, a 501(c)3, the complimentary side of La Plaza Methodist Church. The social justice aspect of the gospel of the United Methodist Church as interpreted by John Wesley informs Joe’s work with the Museum of Social Justice.

Michelle Dragoo has completed Master’s degree in Cultural Anthropology, focusing specifically on the anthropology of genocide, at California State University, Los Angeles. Concurrently, Michelle completed a second Master’s degree in International Relations and Conflict Resolution, with emphasis on peacekeeping, at American Public University, in West Virginia. Ms. Dragoo uses the anthropological lens to understand the phenomenon of genocide at the local level. Combined with research on the processes of policy making and implementing in international law, Michelle’s aim is to aid in the development of genocide prevention, intervention, and post-conflict strategies that will more effectively address the cultural and contextual needs of those communities dealing with mass atrocities. She has field work in Guatemala and Rwanda, focusing on post-genocide societies.

Michelle’s academic work in the MA Museum Studies Program at CSU, Chico has provided the opportunity to gain experience with museum collection management, curation, exhibit research and installation at institutions such as the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum and the Smithsonian Natural History Museum, both in Washington, D.C. She has worked and volunteered in both archives and museums, like the John F. Kennedy Memorial Library Special Collections and Archives at Cal State, Los Angeles, and the Los Angeles County Natural History Museum.

José Luis Benavides is a professor in the Department of Journalism at California State University, Northridge. He is director of the Tom & Ethel Bradley Center, an academic center at CSUN that collects and preserves the visual history of the region with an emphasis on ethnic minority communities and photographers. He created the first interdisciplinary minor in Spanish-language journalism in the U.S. and established the Spanish-language student multimedia site El Nuevo Sol, covering topics relevant to Latino communities.

Kate Unger is legal director at Advocates for the Environment, a nonprofit, public-interest law firm and advocacy organization in Los Angeles. She holds a law degree and an M.A. in anthropology. She has long-time interest in environmental law, Native American cultures and languages, and cooperative development, and has worked as a development associate at the New Orleans Museum of Art.



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