Ramón Ramos Alayo, Artistic Director / Co-Founder
Jamaica Itule Simmons, Executive Director / Co-Founder
Hilary Davidson, Development Assistant
Members of the Board:
Amy Draizen, President
Sarah Crowell, Co-President
Natalia Fanta Lawrence, Interim Treasurer
Patricia West, Secretary
Executive Director / Co-Founder
Jamaica Itule Simmons is a fine artist, graphic designer, early childhood educator, dancer and executive director of CubaCaribe, a non-profit arts organization. She received her B.A. in 1999 with a double major in Art and Hispanic Studies from Lewis and Clark College and an M.F.A. in Graphic Design at The Academy of Art University in San Francisco. The topic of her thesis was Dance as the Survival of Identity Within the Context of Cuban Culture, culminating in the production of a video, hand produced book and exhibition. Itule’s exhibitions include: Mis Altares, Portland 1999; Emerging Artists, Portland 2000; Sobrevivir, San Francisco 2005. In addition to her work in visual arts she has studied Cuban dance intensively in Cuba with Ban Rarrá and members of Cojunto Folklorico Nacional de Cuba, Raices Profundas, Racatá, and Lady Salsa. Local teachers include; Danis “la mora” Perez, Susana Arenas Pedroso, Royland Lobato, José Barroso, Ramon Ramos Alayo, Yismari Tellez Ramos and José Rojas. She has performed with Alayo Dance Company, Ire Ile, Oyu Oro, Raices Cubanas. She was also a founding member and dancer with Las Que Son Son. She currently teaches at Monteverde School and has been the ED of CubaCaribe since 2014.
Ramón Ramos Alayo
Artistic Director / Co-Founder
Ramón Ramos Alayo was selected by the Cuban government to study dance in Santiago de Cuba at age eleven. In 1990 he earned a masters degree in contemporary and folkloric dance and dance education from the Havana's National School of Art. a graduate of Havana’s National School of Art, specializing in folkloric and contemporary dance. He was a principal dancer with several prominent Cuban dance companies, including Danza del Caribe, Narcisco Medina Contemporary Dance Company, touring throughout Europe, Belize, and Canada. His success continued after relocating to the U.S. in 1997; he has performed as a dancer with numerous outstanding companies, including Robert Henry Johnson, Kim Epifano, Sara Shelton Mann, Zaccho Dance Theatre and Robert Moses’ Kin. Ramon currently teaches Cuban popular dance, Afro-Cuban modern dance and children's movement at several local dance studios and schools.
He is respected throughout the Bay Area as a dancer, teacher, choreographer and the founder and artistic director and choreographer of Alayo Dance Company (2002) and CubaCaribe (2003). As director and choreographer, his work is an innovative fusion of Afro-Cuban modern, folkloric and popular Cuban Dance. He eloquently articulates his aesthetic vision through a synthesis of these dance styles, citing from each traditions, movements, narratives and concepts indicative of Cuban culture.
Ramos has choreographed and produced twelve full-length dance performances. He was featured in the article “Dance Across America” in National Geographic Magazine in 2006, and received the prestigious Wallace Alexander Gerbode Foundation’s “Emerging Choreographer’s Award” (2005) to develop his piece, Blood + Sugar. Ramos was nominated for an Isadora Duncan Dance Award nominee for the ensemble performance of Los Guedes(2006). He was recognized as “Best Dance Dynamo” in the SF Bay Guardian’s “Best of the Bay” (2009), and was the recipient of a SF Bay Guardian 2010 Goldie Award, hailed by dance critic Rita Felciano as “the best Afro-Cuban dancer whose choreography stands well beyond traditional modes.” Most recently, his piece Goodbye was named one of the best premier’s in 2016 in Dance Europe Magazine.
Hilary Davidson joins CubaCaribe as the Development Assistant. She has studied dance, music and visual arts throughout the Bay Area and holds a bachelor’s degree in Creative Arts from San Jose State University. Most recently she was the Marketing Manager at an art reproduction company where she branded and developed the launch of an e-commerce website. Additionally, Hilary has worked in the non-profit sector, producing events and managing the marketing efforts at a San Jose-based organization. In 2017, Hilary traveled with Ramon and Amy for the Dance in Cuba trip where she learned about CubaCaribe and its commitment to sharing Cuban culture and dance.
Board Member, President
Amy Draizen is an Educator, Event Producer, and Arts Promoter who lead the ‘Dance in Cuba’ trips with CubaCaribe for many years. Her passion for Cuban dance, music and culture began in 2002 when she first traveled there to study dance. Professionally, she is an Educational Therapist and Consultant in private practice. She has done fundraising and event production with Girls, Inc., AJWS, Living Jazz, Piedmont Piano Co, and KQED.
Board Member, Co-President
Sarah Crowell has taught dance, theater and violence prevention for over 30 years. She just recently left her position as the Artistic Director at Destiny Arts Center in Oakland, CA where she served in different capacities from 1990-2020, including Executive Director from 2002-2007. She founded and directed the Destiny Arts Youth Performance Company from 1993-2020, which has been the subject of two documentary films, and won the National Arts & Humanities Youth Program Award. Sarah has facilitated arts integration, violence prevention, cultural humility and team building professional development sessions with artists and educators since 2000, both locally and nationally. She is the recipient of the KPFA Peace award, the KQED Women’s History Local Hero award, the Bay Area Dance Week award, the Alameda County Arts Leadership award, and the National Guild for Community Arts Education Milestone award. She is also a four-time finalist for a Tony Award for Excellence in Theater Education.
Sarah is a retired professional dancer, having performed and toured with numerous dance and dance/theater companies including Impulse Jazz Dance Company in Boston and the Dance Brigade in San Francisco. She also co-created the dance/theater company i am Productions! She believes that the arts are an essential component of the journey to social justice, especially art forms that involve moving the body. She believes that movement must be part of all movements for social change.
Board Member, Interim Treasurer
Natalia Lawrence was born in Panama and immigrated to the US with her parents as a young child. She relocated to the Bay Area in 1981 from Brooklyn, NY. She has a Master’s Degree in Urban Studies from Long Island University/Brooklyn and a Masters in Architecture from UC Berkeley. She retired in 2015 after a 30 year career as a City Planner, Community Development Specialist and Community Builder for the cities of New York, Daly City, Richmond and the US Dept. of Housing and Urban Development. Her writing has been published in the journal “The Caribbean Writer”. She has studied dance with New York and Bay Area and founded Las Puras Dance Company with Artistic Director, Yismari Ramos in 2010. Natalia brings years of board leadership, governance and fundraising experience to CubaCaribe. Natalia’s active interest in Cuba began in 1998 after participating in a US/Cuba Relations conference at UC Berkeley. Later that same year she attended an International Women’s Peace conference in Havana at the invitation of the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement. Over the last 22 years Natalia has visited Cuba many times for pleasure and in support of US-Cuba Solidarity work.
Board Member, Secretary
Patricia West (she, her) was born in the San Francisco Bay Area. Patricia aims to create and support spaces that foster self-expression, collaboration and connection to oneself. She is an Educator, Arts Administrator, and Performing Artist/Performer. Patricia earned a Bachelor in Arts in English, Education and Dance from U.C. Berkeley and a Master in Arts in Education from San Jose State University. Since 2001, Patricia has worked as a Pre-K-8 academic teacher and advisor in both public and private schools. Patricia has also founded and directed dance programs at various schools. She holds a certificate for somatic education from Moving on Center, School of Participatory Arts and Somatic Research.
Today, she continues to teach and give workshops on dance and composition to all ages and skill levels. As a Performing Artist, Patricia has had the honor of working nationally and internationally with Alayo Dance Company, Zaccho Dance Theater, Fog Beast, Joe Goode Performance Group (JGPG) as well as many others. In 2017, Patricia co-founded DAP, a performing arts collective. Since 2006, Patricia, in addition to serving as a Performer and Collaborating Artist of JGPG, has served as an Education Coordinator (she shares this role with long-time collaborator Damara Vita Ganley) and co-founded JGPG’s Inspired Bodies Youth Program. Patricia is also the Artistic Director of Cal Performances Berkeley/Oakland AileyCamp. Patricia is grateful to have continued to work with, play with and serve people across varied diverse communities.
Isaac Kos-Read is the founder a president of Kos Read Group, Inc. an Oakland-based communications and public affairs firm. When not advocating for results for civic-minded organizations, you can probably find him dancing Cuban salsa. Upon graduation, Isaac studied with various teachers of Cuban style salsa in Mexico and Los Angeles, as well as in Cuba in 2003 with PlazaCUBA with dancers from La Escuela Nacional de Arte and Ban Ra Ra. Isaac and his wife/life/dance partner Mary Massella, who met in 2002 on the dance floor of old school LA Cuban salsa dancing community haunt Zabumba, won the 2005 Miami Salsa Rueda Competition. Together they founded Salsa by the Lake in 2007, which is now one of the longest-running and largest Cuban social dance gatherings.
Mena Ramos is a Filipina Oakland-based percussionist, medical doctor, and founder of the Global Ultrasound Institute, an Oakland based medical education and software company. She received her B.A. from Brown University in 2005 and her M.D. from Escuela Latinoamerica de Medicina in Havana, Cuba in 2011. When she is not working in the ER and teaching ultrasound to medical professionals, she is teaching salsa dancing and performing in the Bay Area music scene as an Afrocuban and fusion drummer. She performs with Free Press, Christelle Durandy, the Arenas Dance Company, and the all women’s salsa band AguaPura. Her passion is at the intersection of arts and medicine as a means to foster community and social change.
Micaya is a dance instructor, choreographer and producer extraordinaire. Formally trained in many diverse dance forms, she incorporates a wide range of diversity in her choreography and teaching styles. Micaya’s classes are LOVED by many students of all ages and backgrounds due to her exceptional teaching skills and the non-intimidating atmosphere she creates in her classes. In 2012, she was awarded “Best Dance Teacher” by the the SF Bay Guardian Readers Poll.
In 1993, Micaya began producing high energy, grassroots, sold-out hip-hop dance shows in the heart of San Francisco’s Mission District. Those shows led up to the creation of the First Annual San Francisco Hip Hop DanceFest in 1999 at Theatre Artaud. Now in its 25th year and presented at the historic Palace of Fine Arts Theatre, the critically acclaimed San Francisco International Hip Hop DanceFest has grown to be THE event that has put San Francisco on the map for presenting and honoring hip hop dance on a world class stage.Acknowledged as the FIRST festival dedicated specifically to hip hop dance, the Internationally recognized, award winning SF International Hip Hop DanceFest is a groundbreaking event, hosting companies from all over the globe.
Micaya is also the founder, director and choreographer of SoulForce Dance Company. Micaya’s choreography and SoulForce dancers have been in music videos, commercials, touring productions, festivals, corporate events and more.Micaya also produces “Mission in the Mix” every June. Mission in the Mix is a multidisciplinary show that features SoulForce and up and coming local talent and students.
Paul S. Flores is one of the most influential Latino performance artists in the country and a nationally respected arts educator. He creates plays, oral narratives, and spoken word about transnationality and citizenship that spur and support societal movements that lead to change. Flores’ ability to paint a vivid picture of the bi-cultural Latino experience is shaped by his personal background and experience growing up in Chula Vista, California, near the Mexican border. His body of work touches on the immigrant story in all its complexities: from the violent—forced migration, gang life, war, incarceration, and separated families—to zooming in on intergenerational relationships and the struggle of preserving important cultural values. As a San Francisco artist of Mexican and Cuban-American heritage, Paul S. Flores has built a national reputation for interview-based theater and bilingual spoken word. He integrates Latino and indigenous healing practices to tell the stories of real people impacted by immigration and systemic inequalities. Flores' work has played across the United States and internationally in Cuba, Mexico, and El Salvador. Paul is a Doris Duke Artist Award winner and an inaugural NALAC Catalyst for Change awardee. His commissions have come from Creative Capital, La Peña Cultural Center, MACLA, MAP Fund, Pregones Theater, National Performance Network, SF Arts Commission, Yerba Buena Center for the Arts and many more. Flores teaches Theater and Spoken Word at the University of San Francisco. He is a teaching artist in creative writing with the Prison Arts Project at CMF in Vacaville, and in San Quentin State Prison. He is the lead curator of Paseo Artistico Free Bilingual Community Art Stroll on 24th Street in the Mission District. He lives in San Francisco with his children.
ADVISORY BOARD -
Bill Martinez (2020-present) Immigration Attorney, Arts Producer
Aida Salazar (2013-present) Writer, Community activist
José María Francos (2010-present) Technical Director
Krissy Keefer (2003-present) Artistic Director, Dance Brigade
Tania Santiago (2009-present) Dancer, teacher, choreographer
Kristina Ramsey (2003-present) Spanish Interpreter and Translator
Yismari Tellez Ramos (2010-present) Dancer, teacher, choreographer