From her involvement in policy making to the Metro Service Council, Diane's work in the SGV has made her one of our region's strongest advocates for resilient communities. With a background in Public Health, she returned to the SGV in 2016 and began volunteering with BikeSGV. Since then, she's discovered environmental justice is directly linked to the community's public health and is living out her dream by helping improve her community.
1. How did you get started working at ActiveSGV (/ in this field)?
I started following BikeSGV online in 2015 when I lived in San Diego, I was happy that there was a group working to improve active transportation in the SGV, and wondered if I could get involved from afar. Life happened and I returned to the SGV in 2016 looking to work in the public health and urban planning fields, while I searched for jobs I started volunteering at BikeSGV and even continued after I was working at LAC USC Medical Hospital. Eventually there was an opportunity for me to join the team and I was happy to transition over as a full time employee. I knew that regardless of what I did professionally, I wanted to support the efforts of making the SGV more bike and pedestrian friendly, yet the more involved I became, the more I learned about environmental justice and the need to improve the layered needs of this community. I am happy I get to live out my dream of improving public health in the SGV.
2. What do you like most about ActiveSGV?
I feel privileged and honored to work in the SGV, having passionate and dedicated colleagues inspires me to continue working towards making the San Gabriel Valley a more sustainable and equitable place for everyone. There are so many perks that come with the job, like the encouragement to take the bus or ride my bike to work, being able to create the #ReadSGV book club and flexible work schedule that allows me to still pursue my personal passions. During this crazy 2020, I also value that we have challenging conversations to become a better organization, if we werent growing then we would be doing a disservice to our community.
3. Favorite and/or memorable ActiveSGV experience?
The original 18-mile 626 Golden Streets that ran from South Pasadena to Azusa will always hold a special place in my heart, the process was so new and watching staff and volunteers work together to put on such an ambitious event was inspiring. We learned so much from that experience and it solified that BikeSGV was the right place for me. As many supporters know, Brian, my brother, trained volunteers, was the Monrovia hub captain and managed to get the 501st Legion (for the Start Wars nerds) to participate in the event. Ernest Lee took a photo of Brian and I at the end of the event, looking tired but happy - it reminds me of how lucky we were to spend so much time together before his passing. I also love that he wore timbs to an open streets event! I want to express how much I appreciate the day-to-day memories we have created, "instant recess", Climate Ride, and even learning how to properly compost. I continue to grow on a personal and professional level being surrounded by people who challenge and support me through it all.
4. If a friend from out of town were to visit, which place in the SGV would you take them to and why?
This question makes me smile because many years ago during winter break my college friends and I visited each others hometowns. When they visited Baldwin park, we rode our bikes to Santa Fe Dam, bought some Baldwin Park Pizza Co., visited the first In-N-Out, and watched a movie at the Vineland Drive-In Theatre. If friends visited me again after the COVID pandemic I would have us visit the San Gabriel Mountains National Monument to get some time in nature and eat more veggies :) maybe some Thien Tam in El Monte or grab a Green Juice at Jugos y Tortas La Michoacana in Baldwin Park!
5. What you're listening to/ reading/ watching/ digging right now:
I have been learning and re-learnin a lot about how to become anti-racist, how to be a better advocate, and also find ways to hold on to happiness.
Here are a few things I am digging right now:
1. Pleasure Activism, The Politics of Feeling Good by Adrienne Maree Brown (Book)
2. Stamped from the Beginning, The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America by Ibram X. Kendi (Audio book because its dense!)
3. Miss Colombia by Lido Pimienta (Spanish album)
4. Dub Side of the Moon by Easy Star All-Stars (a literal dub raggae tribute album to Dark Side of the Moon)
Keep up with Diane on social media on Twitter and Instagram. For Metro SGV Service Council updates on twitter: @DianeVelez_SGV For pictures of my life on Instagram: @dayan.velez
Want to learn more? Check out ActiveSGV's new podcast, ActiveLab