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.

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.

Johnny Bender is the Immediate Past President of the Inlandia Institute board of directors and a retired veteran Southern California newsman. He’s a graduate of Cal Poly Pomona and one of the founding members of the performance poetry troupe, Poets in Distress. He is a doghouse bass player and an avid motorcyclist.

Hong-My Basrai is 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.

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.

Toni Momberger is the previous editor of the Redlands Daily Facts. She has a degree in linguistics from the University of Colorado, and has won many national awards, including Journalist of the Year — and local awards, including Redlands Council of PTAs Continuing Service to Youth award for 2016 and the mayor’s City of Redlands Hero award for 2016. Toni is a member of Redlands Sunrise Rotary, RSRX Rotary, American Association of University Women Redlands Branch, The Society of Professional Journalists, and the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators. She currently serves on the Redlands City Council.

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.

Chuck Wilson is retired University Archivist at the University of California Riverside. He has a Masters in California History from San Jose State. He is a member of the Society of California Archivists and is principal of CWA Consulting.

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


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 nine collections of poetry, most recently Slow Unraveling of Living Ghosts with 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.

Mike Sleboda, founding programs assistant
Christian MonroyInlandia Literary Journeys newspaper column coordinator
Victoria WaddleInlandia: A Literary Journey online journal managing editor

2021-2022 Interns
Madeleine Simmons
Katherinne Reinoza-Zaldana

Workshop Leaders
Renee Gurley, Corona 
Allyson Jeffredo, San Bernardino 
Carlos Cortes, Chronologyland 
Romaine Washington, Redlands
Jo Scott-Coe, Riverside

Mae Wagner, Redlands at the Joslyn Senior Center
Rose Monge, Memoir Writing at Janet Goeske Center in Riverside

Stephanie Barbé Hammer, Poet-try
Frances J. Vasquez, Tesoros de Cuentos at Casa Blanca
Lydia Theon Ware i, Cartless workshops for our neighbors experiencing homelessness at Path of Life shelters

James Ducat [on sabbatical]
Andrea Fingerson [on sabbatical]

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

CelenaDiana Bumpus, in memorium

Advisory Council

Maureen Alsop
Kristine Anderson
Erika Aragon
Judith Auth
Sheila Bergman
Alaina Bixon
Jane Block
Lavina Blossom
Karen Bradford
Gayle Brandeis
CelenaDiana Bumpus
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]