Awards will be presented to Yasmin Dawson Selim, Lorraine and Wally Waldau, Larry Bishop, Zulema Aleman Garcia, Pam Gates and Cliff Solomon, Art Hibbits, and Juliana Neel.
Because of the extenuating circumstances of the past year and because we didn’t have an awards ceremony in 2020, we are also giving special recognitions to Jane Baxter, Dr. Melissa Smith, Dr. Van Do-Reynoso, Santa Barbara County Public Defender’s Office Racial Justice Committee, Santa Maria Joint Union High School District, and UFCW Local 770.
Yasmin Dawson Selim will receive SBCAN’s Looking Forward Award.
Yasmin Dawson Selim grew up in an Air Force family in Japan and Philadelphia. It was there where she lost her brother to street violence. In 2019, a co-worker’s son, Marlon Brumfield, was shot and killed in Lompoc. Marlon was a U.S. Army soldier home on leave. Yasmin had known Marlon for many years and described him as a great young man.
In response to the grief and frustration growing in her community, Dawson Selim organized a march and rally in Lompoc in September of 2019. There were about 800 people in attendance, the largest such event in Lompoc in 40 years.
Dawson Selim supports her community through activism and outreach in other ways as well. She created a group called Collective Cultures Creating Change (C4) in response to the rising shootings and killings of people of color in Lompoc, to make Lompoc a safer and more peaceful place for all residents. She is also working to build a memorial for all the victims of gun violence from 2018 to the present.
Also, she is the Chairperson of Crisis Assistance Helping Out on the Streets (CAHOOTS), an unarmed mobile crisis intervention system that serves as an alternative to law enforcement when force and arms are not necessary. She was active in campaigns leading up to the 2020 election, and is a proud member of the Islamic Center of Lompoc, a member of the NAACP, and has volunteered with the Lompoc Rape Crisis Center.
Dawson Selim is often invited to speak at civic engagements calling for change in her community, and it comes as no surprise that she was awarded the Valley of the Flowers Annual Peace Prize in January of 2020. Yasmin is a beloved community builder, peacemaker, and justice warrior for her community. “My passion is to continue to work towards positive change, collaboration, and continued activism,” Dawson Selim said.
Lorraine and Wally Waldau will receive SBCAN’s Giving Back Award.
After 22 years in the U.S. Air Force, Wally Waldau retired from active-duty and moved to Lompoc in 1989 to work at Vandenberg Air Force Base. Lorraine Waldau moved up from Orange County later that year. The couple met through a personal ad in a local tabloid that Lorraine’s daughter helped her write as a lark. Wally responded and they were married 5 months later.
Lorraine retired in 2014 after being a consultant for the Santa Barbara County Education Office for 25 years. Lorraine worked with the small school districts as Co-Op Director and worked with all of the school districts in the County as a Coordinator of Safe Schools and Drug, Alcohol, Tobacco-Use Prevention.
Lorraine and Wally have been active with the Lompoc Valley Democratic club since 2014. Lorraine serves as President and Wally as Scholarship Chair. Both are members of the Santa Barbara County Democratic Central Committee and are elected delegates of the California Democratic Party. Both worked on the 2020 campaign and spent most weekends calling or walking for the candidates. Lorraine said that 2020 was the “most important election of our lifetime,” and Wally agreed.
Wally and Lorraine are also members of the Valley of the Flowers (VOTF) United Church of Christ and worked with the Lompoc Pride Alliance to make Lompoc a safer place for the LGBTQ+ community. Wally serves on the Church Council, and Lorraine helps with the Crisis Assistance Helping Out On The Streets (CAHOOTS) program in Lompoc, which had its roots in the VOTF Church. CAHOOTS would divert emergency calls for nonviolent or mental health-related situations from police to an unarmed mobile crisis intervention service.
Lorraine and Wally have both been involved in the March For Our Lives rallies and committees that draw attention to gun violence in schools. Both were also active members of the Vandenberg Village Lions Club for 10 years, working to bring eye screening to students at Lompoc United School District.
When they aren’t coordinating volunteers or out campaigning, Lorraine loves to cook and watch cooking competitions. Wally enjoys working with model trains and is always eager to “learn something new.”
Larry Bishop will receive SBCAN’s Environmental Protection and Sustainability Award.
Before moving to Buellton in 1986, Larry Bishop got his start in environmental issues in the 70s working to limit smoking in indoor spaces.
After a career working for the Environmental Health Department and the Hazardous Material Group of the Fire Department, he retired and became very involved in campaigning for Measure P, which would have banned new extreme oil drilling in Santa Barbara County. When that measure did not pass, Bishop and other environmental advocates created Safe Energy Now North County who work to stop new oil projects in the North County.
Inspired by Greta Thunberg’s Fridays for Future campaign, Bishop organized climate strikes in front of City Hall to push for local action in Buellton.
Currently, he is an active member of SBCAN, a “lifetime member” of the Sierra Club, and is environmental contact for the Live Oak Unitarian Universalist Congregation Social Justice Ministry.
When asked what he is most proud of, Bishop mentioned his work volunteering with sunwork.org, a nonprofit that installs solar panel systems at reduced costs. “I gained a great sense of accomplishment and living my values” for installing solar on several houses in Santa Barbara and SLO Counties, he said.
Looking forward, he hopes to see energy companies transition to renewables, and he especially hopes to see the PG&E Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant closed down and produce even more clean power with rooftop solar systems.
He loves hiking, backpacking, and being in nature, and he strongly believes that “small groups of people can move mountains.”
Zulema Aleman Garcia will receive SBCAN’s Working Families Award.
Having grown up in Los Angeles, Zulema Aleman Garcia first came to the Central Coast in 2013 to attend university at Cal Poly SLO.
She was immediately drawn to the sense of community she felt in Santa Maria – something she lacked growing up. “I grew up all over the place, we were displaced a lot living in LA,” she said, “I never learned what a community was.”
Although technically a resident of San Luis Obispo, Aleman Garcia has found her home in Santa Maria. She has been working in North County since 2018, working with Just Communities, Truth in Recruitment, and now with CAUSE where she organizes around farmworker issues.
Although she would be the first to say it was a collective effort, Aleman Garcia has been instrumental in supporting farmworkers throughout the pandemic. CAUSE, MICOP, and other North County organizers came together last year to protest and negotiate with Driscoll’s to successfully get farm workers a pay raise.
She also has been working with the community to address myths and mistrust surrounding the COVID-19 vaccine, ensure workers are aware of the state laws around paid time off, and hold companies accountable to those laws and policies.
Aleman Garcia stays motivated to continue the fight for farmworker justice by taking inspiration from her parents. She says that her parents raised her and her siblings to pursue their own goals, and taught them to always extend love, kindness, and empathy to those around them.
This summer, Aleman Garcia hopes to finally move to Santa Maria and “lay roots” in the community with her partner and cat.
Pam Gates and Cliff Solomon will receive SBCAN’s Social Justice Award.
In 2019, Pam Gates and Cliff Solomon saw Robin Diangelo speak about her book, White Fragility, and were inspired to create the Santa Maria chapter of Showing Up for Racial Justice (SURJ), a national network of groups taking action on racial justice and promoting education about racism and privilege.
Beyond SURJ, they collaborate on many other efforts in North County such as the Santa Maria Women’s March and supporting CAUSE.
Gates and Solomon make it a point to maintain their own individual interests, as well as working together. Solomon’s career began as a teacher, then a filmmaker, then pursuing media production where he helped produce educational issues about social issues, like the difficulties faced by the deaf community, severely burned patients, and children with sarcomas.
His position at Vandenberg brought them to Santa Barbara county nine years ago. In retirement he has been able to dedicate his time to the social justice issues he sees in his community. Solomon started the Racial Justice Committee at the First United Methodist Church, and has been advocating for LGBTQ rights within the church.
Gates has a long history of working towards social justice, and has tried to incorporate this work into her career, especially after reevaluating her life after surviving cancer in 2000. Growing up in L.A., she would volunteer working on homeless and food insecurity issues. When she met Solomon and they moved to Seattle, she continued that work as a director of a teen shelter and also worked for organizations fighting the HIV epidemic.
She is currently involved in the NAACP, Democratic Party, volunteers with food distributions, and pays attention to local government issues at the Santa Maria City Council and County Board of Supervisors.
They are both motivated by learning and working in community, and by hearing stories of continued injustice. “Coming into contact with people, hearing their stories – for me, I can’t help but not act,” Gates said. Solomon is inspired by being a part of a community of activists, “I watch people who are working very hard with social justice issues, and I feel that I need to be a part of that as well, I need to support them,” he said.
Going forward, Solomon is hoping to continue working on racial and LGBTQ justice issues in the Methodist church, and Gates hopes to see reform and redistribution of funds to advance criminal justice, especially in the Lompoc prison, which had the worst outbreak of COVID-19 at the beginning of the pandemic. They are both looking forward to next January, when they hope to be able to organize an in-person Women’s March in Santa Maria.
Art Hibbits will receive SBCAN’s Lifetime Achievement Award.
Except when he attended college, Art Hibbits has lived in North County his whole life, ranching and farming walnuts on the land his grandfather purchased in 1906.
Like his father and grandfather before him, Hibbits has always been concerned with land use issues. As a longtime participant with the Citizen’s Planning Association, Environmental Defense Center, and SBCAN, Hibbits works to protect prime agricultural land from being annexed and developed.
To practice what he preaches, he recently completed a conservation easement on all of his properties, which encompass over 400 acres. This process protects the land from annexation in the future and conserves it for agricultural activities.
Hibbits is working with the Land Trust for Santa Barbara County to expand their efforts in North County and get other farmers and ranchers to create easements on their properties as well. Although Hibbits admits that there is no end to the struggles of agriculture, he feels lucky to be a rancher in this area and finds growing crops to be a very rewarding experience.
The natural beauty that surrounds his home inspires him to protect and sustain it for years to come. “This is one of the nicest places in the world to live,” he said. His friends and family love to come visit him, and he draws on them for support and motivation as well.
Hibbits believes his accomplishments have been a group effort and said “this award really belongs to a lot of other people.”
Juliana Neel will receive SBCAN’s Youth Activist Award.
Born, raised, and educated in Santa Maria, Juliana Neel got her start in activism in 2020 with the Santa Maria Women’s March as their social media manager. Through that work, she became involved in other organizations working on progressive issues in North County.
With the Santa Maria Young Democrats, she helped pass an eviction moratorium at the Santa Maria City Council. Neel also worked as an intern for Councilmember Gloria Soto’s office and was appointed by Salud Carbajal as a California delegate for the state party.
She was also involved in planning the online Santa Maria Pride-Fest with House of Pride and Equality (HOPE), which works to make Santa Maria a safer place for Latinx LGBTQ+ community members.
Neel recently started working with Truth in Recruitment, a nonprofit that regulates military recruiters activities on high school campuses.
When asked what motivates her, Juliana said “knowing that the work isn’t done, that the road to change is a long one.”
As a transgender woman, Neel is also motivated by knowing that her community is still being attacked and marginalized.
When she is not advocating for social justice issues, Neel loves spending time with her young nieces, her friends, and finding records to add to her vinyl collection. In the fall, Neel will start her third year as a political science major at UC Berkeley. After that, she hopes to return to Santa Maria to be with the community of activists she considers a “second family” and continue doing the work she started.
The following individuals and organizations are being given special recognitions for their actions during the tumultuous past year and because we didn’t hold an awards ceremony in 2020.
Jane Baxter is being recognized for her volunteer efforts in numerous areas.
Jane has been involved in environmental activism since 1985 as a nonprofit manager, staff member, board member and volunteer. Her current local interest is in Santa Maria water quality issues and the lack of long-range groundwater basin sustainability planning.
Dr. Van Do-Reynoso and Dr. Melissa Smith are being recognized for their outstanding efforts related to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Dr. Van Do-Reynoso is the Director of Santa Barbara County’s Health Department. Since the beginning of the pandemic, Dr. Do-Reynoso has worked around the clock to coordinate the County’s public health response while maintaining relationships with the state and other counties’ public health departments. She has been instrumental in keeping the public informed through weekly briefings and frequent presentations to the Board of Supervisors.
Dr. Melissa Smith is a family medicine physician and Director of Health Equity Initiatives at UC Santa Barbara. Dr. Smith was a co-founder of the Latinx & Indigenous Migrant COVID-19 Response Task Force, a cross-sectoral Santa Barbara countywide effort to understand and address priority community concerns during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Racial Justice Committee of the Santa Barbara County Public Defender’s Office and the Santa Maria Joint Union High School District are being recognized for the efforts in supporting racial justice.
The Racial Justice Committee of the Santa Barbara County Public Defender’s Office, through zealous legal advocacy, community education, and strategic collaborations, is committed to fighting against systemic inequality and the disproportionate harm imposed on communities of color by the criminal justice system. Since its inception, the Racial Justice Committee has collaborated with local community organizations on education around racial justice issues in the criminal justice system and has fostered relationships with these organizations to avail itself as a resource and partner in the community.
The Santa Maria Joint Union High School District is committed to the learning and well-being of all 9,000 students it serves. In July 2020, in the midst of the pandemic, the Board of Education unanimously adopted a resolution denouncing racism and affirming its commitment to expanding Ethnic and Gender Studies for all students by making it a graduation requirement.
United Food and Commercial Workers Local 770 is being recognized for protecting workers who provided essential services during the pandemic.
United Food and Commercial Workers Local 770 represents over 30,000 heroic essential workers in grocery, drug retail, cannabis, and meatpacking. Throughout the pandemic, UFCW Local 770 has worked at the city, county and state levels to protect essential workers through health and safety protocols, paid sick leave and workers compensation expansion, Public Health Councils, onsite testing, hazard pay, and vaccine distribution.
Tickets for the online event are $40. They can be purchased at https://www.sbcan.org/nc_awards_dinner_2021