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PostHeaderIcon Berkeley Activist Shares Positive Spirit

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Humanist Hall is a Humanist Church in downtown Oakland, founded in 1935 and conceived in that decade's enthusiasm for socialism as the answer to poverty and economic depression. An unassuming brown shingled building on a relatively quiet strip of 27th Street, overlooking its warm and simple sanctuary is a depiction of the earth and a paraphrased quote by Thomas Paine, “The World is my country, to do good is my religion.”

It is a fitting setting for last month's launch of a new do-good enterprise by long-time social justice activist and former executive director of Building Opportunities for Self-Sufficiency (BOSS), Boona Cheema, along with co-founder and fellow BOSS alum, Janny Castillo.

Cheema retired from the helm of BOSS, a large East Bay homeless services organization, in February 2013. but continues her social justice activism on Bay Area Boards, including Just Cause and Western Regional Advocacy Project)—though retirement is definitely a relative term.

Along with Castillo and local artist Damon Guthrie, Cheema envisioned the new venture as a catch-all service to help individuals, organizations, and communities design multi-media products and services to share their messages or solve community problems.

“My vision for boonachepresents is that (Castillo) and I can model a presence in the community which is conflict free and thrives on compassion,” she said.

It is a model the long-time activist is passionate about, having championed work in peaceful communication and compassionate social activism throughout her four decades in BOSS, and her whole life. Her family were refugees across the new India-Pakistan border when she was just 2 years old: social activism is in her DNA, as the daughter of a Sikh family in which all members—political father and brother, sister working in U.S. AID, community involved mother—were actively engaged in the social justice.

“Relationships are important to me,” she said. Boonachepresents is designed to support and nurture many of the relationships she spent forty years cultivating in the East Bay, as well as develop new ones. “The community needs to smile more and work with good-natured, informed, and very creative people.”

Special events, trainings, consulting work, audio-visual production—the boonachepresents team are a Jack-and-Jill-of-all-trades, eager to share their positive activist spirit in a new way in the community.

“It is my dream to help make the dreams of others come true using our experience and creativity,” says Castillo. “We bring the community’s ideas to divine fruition.”

Formerly homeless herself, Castillo sought assistance in BOSS and was taken under the wing of Cheema, who helped  her buy a computer and start her own graphic design company. Castillo eventually went to work for BOSS, and honed her skills in graphic design, video production, photography, and multi-media work. Today, she works at St. Mary’s Center as well as boonachepresents. She also conducts spiritual readings and Reiki healings, and coaches her granddaughter, an aspiring photographer.

As a sampling of what the dynamic duo have to offer, the March 10th event proffered international foods and décor, warm-hearted multi-cultural networking, Indian dance (by Priya K. Nykan, www.indiandanceartist.com), and an inclusive non-denominational spiritual invocation as the venture-launching red ribbon was cut by boona’s 90-year old mom visiting from India.

Artwork from a soon-to-be released children’s book written by cheema and illustrated by Damon—boombin and lama—was on display at the launch. The book is the first in a planned series of eco-educational children’s books, casting Cheema's long-time travel companion Teddy Bear boombin as the protagonist.

boonachepresents is targeted to individuals and organizations alike—anyone who wants a highly creative and uniquely personalized rendering of their project, with the soulful spirit that is the defining M.O. of the trio: the company’s slogan is “at the heart of our presentations is your essence”. To showcase your essence, visit www.boonachepresents.com. --- SF


Sonja Fitz writes regularly for allnewsnoblues.com.

Last Updated (Monday, 14 April 2014 04:04)


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