Leaders

Black Lives Matter. Inlandia Institute stands against white supremacy and condemns police brutality and violence against all Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) communities everywhere. We memorialize here our core values of equity and representation and shall endeavor on all fronts to ensure that they are adhered to. Read our full statement here.

Inlandia is led by a talented and committed Board of Directors with input from an inclusive and diverse regional Advisory Council. The work of the organization is accomplished by a strong committee system of the board and advisory council and a small, dedicated group of staff and volunteers.

Accessibility. We firmly believe that the internet should be available and accessible to anyone, and are committed to providing a website that is accessible to the widest possible audience, regardless of circumstance and ability. To fulfill this, we aim to adhere as strictly as possible to the World Wide Web Consortium’s (W3C) Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.1 (WCAG 2.1) at the AA level. To access website accessibility settings and to view our full statement, click the blue circle icon in the lower left corner of your screen. All virtual public events are closed captioned. ASL interpretation is available upon request. For this and other accommodation needs, please contact Cati Porter at 951 790 2458 or cati.porter@inlandiainstitute.org.

The land of the Inlandia region belongs to the Cahuilla [ka-wee-ahh], Tongva [tong-va], Luiseño [loo-say-ngo], and Serrano [se-ran-oh] peoples and all of their ancestors and descendants, past, present, and future. Inlandia Institute respectfully acknowledges and recognizes our responsibility to the original and current caretakers of this land, water, and air. Today the Inlandia region is home to many Indigenous peoples from all over the world and we express our gratitude to them for allowing us the opportunity to live and work on their homelands. 

BOARD OF DIRECTORS

Nancy Melendez is the President/CEO of the Inlandia Institute board of directors as well as President of the Spanish Town Heritage Foundation. Nancy Baca Melendez is a native of Riverside California born in 1950. She is a sixth generation “Riversider” whose family was among the 10 original families who walked the Old Spanish Trail from Abiquiu, New Mexico to the area in 1842 led by Lorenzo Trujillo. Nancy and her husband Dave are small business owners and dedicated parents to two adult sons and grandparents of two grandsons. She has devoted her career and free time to the betterment and quality of life in Riverside. She has over 40 years of community volunteer service working for organizations and nonprofits that serve Riverside families.

Juanita E. Mantz (“JEM”) is the Vice President of the Inlandia Institute board of directors as well as a writer, performer and USC Law educated lawyer/deputy public defender. JEM’s life story is the stuff that memoirs are made of. JEM went from punk rock high school dropout to corporate lawyer to rock star deputy public defender and nonfiction writer. JEM’s stories, blog and video podcast document her journey so take a look! Her Memoir, “Tales of an Inland Empire Girl”, is forthcoming. Her chapbook, “Portrait of a Deputy Public Defender (or how I became a punk rock lawyer)” is available from Bamboo Dart Press. Learn more at https://juanitaemantz.com/.

Minerva Canto is the Treasurer of the Inlandia Institute board of directors and a longtime journalist whose work explores the places where politics, policies and people converge. As a freelance journalist based in Southern California, she frequently writes about social issues, ranging from sentencing in juvenile justice to challenges faced by foster youth in accessing higher education. A native of Mexico City, she speaks fluent Spanish and is a former staff writer for The Associated Press. Minerva recently earned a MFA at the University of Southern Maine’s Stonecoast Creative Writing program. She writes fiction and non-fiction inspired in part by her experiences as a cross-border reporter and an immigrant growing up in Santa Ana, California.

Hong-My Basrai is Secretary of the Inlandia Institute board of directors and the author of Behind the Red Curtain (Los Nietos Press, 2020), a memoir about her seven years living inside fallen Saigon under communism. She was born in Saigon, Vietnam. At 22 years old Hong-My immigrated to Southern California. She speaks and writes Vietnamese, English, and French, and shares a home with her Indian husband who is fluent in Gujarati and two other Indian languages, besides English. Her three young adult children, when they are home, added to the cacophony. Hong-My is also a member of the Writer’s Club of Whittier and PIVOT, The Progressive Vietnamese American Organization.

liz gonzález, creative nonfiction writer and poet, was born and raised in the San Bernardino Valley, California. She is the author of the The Original OLG: The First Our Lady of Guadalupe Church in San Bernardino, a creative nonfiction essay chapbook forthcoming from Los Nietos Press; Dancing in the Santa Ana Winds: Poems y Cuentos New and Selected (Los Nietos Press 2018); and the poetry collection Beneath Bone (Manifest Press 2000). She holds an MFA in English and Creative Writing from Mills College, a BA in Theatre Arts: Acting and Directing from CSU Los Angeles, an AA in Liberal Arts from San Bernardino Valley College, and a certificate in Medical Office Management from United Health Careers in San Bernardino. liz teaches creative writing at the UCLA Extension Writers’ Program and lives in Long Beach, California, with a talkative tortie cat and Jorge Martin, a scientist and musician.

Lisa Henry is an independent curator based in Southern California and Chair of the Blacklandia Steering Committee. Henry was formerly Assistant Curator for American Art at the Newark Museum. She has been a guest curator and art consultant for institutions on both the east and west coasts including The Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art, Hartford, The High Museum of Art, The California African American Museum, Leica Gallery New York, The UCLA Hammer Museum, The Japanese American National Museum, The MAK Center for Architecture, University Art Gallery at University California at San Diego, The California Museum of Photography, and Riverside Art Museum.

Patricia Smith-Hunt recently retired as Head of Preservation Services at the University of California Riverside library. She holds a Masters degree in library & Information Science from Clark Atlanta University, and a PhD in Counseling & Higher Education from Ohio University. She is a member of the American Library Association, and serves as an officer for the UCR Retirees Association. Prior to coming to UCR she led the preservation services initiatives at Ohio University in Athens, Ohio.

John Welsh us Animal Services Chief for Riverside County Animal Services, specifically assigned to handle community outreach, public information and media relations. He’s worked for Riverside County since October 2006. Previously, John worked for print newspapers in Southeast L.A., Madera, Fresno, and the San Gabriel Valley. He has been a sports writer, city government reporter, features writer and an editor. He started work at The Press-Enterprise in Riverside in 2000 as a general assignment reporter and rewrite editor. During his six-year stint at The Press-Enterprise, John covered death-penalty criminal cases, was part of the award-winning team that covered the massive Old Fire of 2003, and earned a reputation for finding offbeat stories.

Frances J. Vasquez, board member emerita
Ellen Estilai, board member emerita
Larry Burns, board member emeritus
Jeff Kraus, board member emeritus

Marion Mitchell Wilson, in memoriam, founder/board member emerita

Marion Mitchell-Wilson graduated from Northeastern University and served as the first professional director of the Orchard House in Concord, MA, historic home of Louisa May Alcott. Her interest in historic preservation continued when she moved to California in 1976 and joined the staff of the Office of Historic Preservation, ultimately serving as Acting State Historic Preservation Officer. In 1997, she joined the staff of the Riverside Public Library to found the Riverside Public Library Foundation and serve as its loaned Executive Director. Two years later, with Malcolm Margolin, she founded Inlandia Institute, serving as executive director until 2012 when she stepped down to focus on her health.

Before her passing in 2015, she returned as a board member and executive director emeritus. During her lifetime she also served as secretary of the Rivers and Lands Conservancy, and was a tireless supporter of The Pink Ribbon Place, and was former president of both Riverside East and Sunrise Rotary. The recipient of numerous service awards, a Joint Resolution of the California Legislature cited her contributions to the California Heritage Task Force in 1984. In 2012, she was named Riverside East Rotary Club’s Rotarian of the Year and the University of Redlands Town & Gown Woman of Distinction for Volunteerism in the Arts, and honored by Mayor Ronald O. Loveridge as a Riverside City Hero. 

STAFF

Cati Porter is executive director of Inlandia Institute and has been a leader in the nonprofit arts sector for more than ten years. She has a MFA in Creative Writing from Antioch University Los Angeles and has been writing and publishing for three decades. She is the author of ten collections of poetry, most recently Novel (Bamboo Dart Press, 2022), The Body at a Loss (CavanKerry Press, 2019) and a limited edition collaborative chapbook written during the pandemic, Slow Unraveling of Living Ghosts, with fellow Inlandian Johnny Bender and illustrated by Steve Lossing.

Janine Pourroy Gamblin is programs and marketing coordinator. Janine grew up in Riverside and graduated from UC Riverside to become a teacher of elementary and middle school students and the writer of several books about film- and television-related topics. She is the author of The Making of Waterworld, Behind the Scenes at ER, and Shooting Star: The Ewan McGregor Story and co-author of The Making of Congo and The Art and Making of the Dark Knight Trilogy. Janine now serves as publications and marketing coordinator for Inlandia Institute.

Kimi Palacios is currently the Administrative and Marketing Assistant at Inlandia Institute. She is also involved in theater and film and works as an editor, camera operator and director. She has written screenplays and is involved in music composing and writing lyrics and managing an independent radio station.

Maria Fernanda Vidaurrazaga is Inlandia Institute’s Publications Coordinator. She has a MFA in Creative Writing and Writing for the Performing Arts from UC Riverside, and has been writing and editing under different capacities for several years. She is a first-generation Mexican-American woman from Upland, California.

Andrea Decker, Ph.D.is program staff for Inlandia’s Riverside Women Creating Change project. She joined RWCC during the summer of 2020. She edits the RWCC website and transcribes interviews.

  • 2023 Publishing Interns
  • Klarissa Connor
  • Caitlyn Johnson

  • Workshop Leader Roster (Subject to Change)
  • José Chávez
  • James Coats
  • Wil Clarke
  • Carlos Cortés
  • Renee Gurley
  • Stephanie Barbé Hammer, Poet-try
  • Lisa Henry
  • Allyson Jeffredo,
  • Cait Johnson
  • Richard Allen May III
  • Rose Y. Monge
  • Jo Scott-Coe
  • Lydia Theon Ware i
  • Frances J. Vasquez
  • Victoria Waddle
  • Romaine Washington
  • Black Voices Steering Committee
  • Alex Avila
  • Nia Sharron Campbell
  • Nikia Chaney
  • Ginger Galloway
  • Dr. Natalie Graham
  • Lisa Henry
  • Keenan Norris
  • Lydia Theon Ware i
  • Romaine Washington
  • Advisory Council
  • Maureen Alsop
  • Kristine Anderson
  • Erika Aragon
  • Judith Auth
  • Sheila Bergman
  • Alaina Bixon
  • Jane Block
  • Lavina Blossom
  • Karen Bradford
  • Gayle Brandeis
  • CelenaDiana Bumpus, in memorium
  • Alben Chamberlain
  • Nikia Chaney
  • Jose Chavez
  • Alejandro Cisneros
  • Deenaz Coachbuilder
  • Carlos E. Cortés
  • Julianna Cruz
  • Charlotte Davidson
  • Juan Delgado
  • Lisa Diggs
  • Myra Dutton
  • Andrea Fingerson
  • Mark Givens
  • liz gonzalez
  • Natalie Graham
  • Tim Green
  • Catherine Gudis
  • Renee Gurley
  • Lindsey Hammel
  • Theresa Hanley
  • Dawn Hassett
  • Maggie Hawkins
  • Jorge Heredia
  • Juan Felipe Herrera
  • Tanya Humphrey
  • Ai Kelley
  • Sant Khalsa
  • Karen Rae Kraut
  • Judy Kronenfeld
  • Sharron Lewis
  • Robin Longfield
  • Monrow Mabon
  • Gloria Macias-Harrison
  • Robert Merrill
  • Douglas McCulloh
  • Rose Monge
  • Luz Negron
  • Ruth Nolan
  • Cindi Neisinger
  • Keenan Norris
  • Rebecca K. O’Connor
  • Julie Paegle
  • Connie Ransom
  • Teresa Rhyne
  • Nicolette Rohr
  • Diana Ruiz
  • Jo Scott-Coe
  • Terria Smith
  • Susan Straight
  • Chad Sweeney
  • Stevie Taken
  • Frances J. Vasquez
  • Victoria Waddle
  • Mae Marinello Wagner
  • Jean Waggoner
  • Lydia Theon Ware i
  • Romaine Washington
  • Dr. Deborah Wong
  • Linda Adams Yeh
  • Janice Young

[Updated February 2021]