Board

Sheron Wray

Artistic Director

She is an Assistant Professor of Dance at the University of California, Irvine UC Irvine where she directs The Ghana Project: an interdisciplinary research project between UCI and the University of Ghana, Legon. Wray is a choreographer, performer, director, teacher and scholar and she received her Master‘s degree from Middlesex University in the UK, and currently she is undertaking her Doctoral studies at the University of Surrey, funded by the UK’s Arts and Humanities Research Council. In February 2013 she presented her theory of the multi-logics of African performance at the Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton. She self-titles as a ‘Performance Architect.’

Wynton Marsalis

Wynton was born in New Orleans, Louisiana, on October 18, 1961, to Ellis and Dolores Marsalis, the second of six sons. At an early age he exhibited a superior aptitude for music and a desire to participate in American culture. Wynton assembled his own band in 1981 and hit the road, performing over 120 concerts every year for 15 consecutive years. With the power of his superior musicianship, the infectious sound of his swinging bands and an exhaustive series of performances and music workshops, Marsalis rekindled widespread interest in jazz throughout the world.

Gavin Huntley-Fenner

Education and Business

Gavin Huntley-Fenner received his doctorate in Brain and Cognition Sciences from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1995 and moved to Irvine in 1996 as an Assistant Professor at the University of California, Irvine. Since then, he has been heavily invested in Irvine’s civic life. Dr. Huntley-Fenner has served as a Governing Board Member for the Irvine Unified School District since 2005, including as President in the current year and in 2008-09. Through the years, he has been actively involved in numerous local boards and education-related leaderships groups, including as a founding member of the Irvine Education Partnership Fund, a member of the Irvine Prevention Coalition, a board member of the Irvine Public Schools Foundation, and a member of the Irvine Chamber of Commerce Legislative Action Committee.

Amir Banifatemi

President

Amir Banifatemi is a twenty five-year experienced high tech executive having worked in Europe, Asia, and in the US. He is both an avid entrepreneur and promoter of everything innovation.

Amir has held various senior executive positions with P&L responsibilities within very large companies such as EADS, AP-HP (largest European hospital group), and the European commission division for information society and media. His career began in Europe working in R&D and system design for on-board spacecraft medical and scientific experiments. His vision of a broader industrialization led him to establish partnerships with university labs and incubators to productize and market their research projects.

His constant focus has always been on identifying and developing future and emerging technologies that can impact society. He has contributed to the formation of more than 20 startups with emphasis on healthcare, medical devices, media technologies and telecom. He was at the origin of the first implementation of a pediatric telemedicine network in Europe in 1989 and won France Telecom best technological innovation award in 1991 for his work in the tele-health field.

Amir Banifatemi is an active angel investor, and President of Tech Coast Angels Orange County Network. He is a founding member of K5Launch, one of the first startup accelerators in Southern California. He is the curator of TEDxOrangeCoast and has high hopes for Orange County and Socal as a new center for the arts and science, entrepreneurship and engaged lifestyle

Rev. Mark E. Whitlock, Jr.

Rev. Mark E. Whitlock, Jr. has committed his life to serving God and the Church. Rev. Whitlock has served as pastor of Christ Our Redeemer A.M.E. Church (COR Church) in Orange County, CA since August 1998, is the Director of Corporate Giving for the Connectional African Methodist Episcopal Church, serves as Chief Executive Officer of Nehemiah Ministries, a nonprofit 501(c) (3) economic development corporation for the Fifth Episcopal District of the A.M.E. Church. In addition, Rev. Whitlock is the Director of Community Initiatives at University of Southern California, Center for Religion and Civic Culture. Rev. Whitlock earned his Bachelor of Arts Degree in Religion from the University of Laverne and is completing Masters of Divinity at Payne Theological Seminary, Wilberforce, Ohio. He received an honorary doctorate from American International University in Humanities.

Before his full-time call to the ministry, Rev. Whitlock served as the founder and executive director of FAME Renaissance, the economic development arm of First A.M.E. Church, Los Angeles. As the executive director, he raised over four hundred million dollars in grants, loans, and contracted service initiatives that created no less than four thousand jobs within South Los Angeles. Under Rev. Whitlock’s leadership, the FAME Renaissance Venture Capital Fund and Commercial Loan Programs funded over one two hundred small businesses, and the FAME Renaissance Home Loan Program created over two hundred new home owners and trained over two thousand home loan candidates. Rev. Whitlock also co-founded the Richard Allen Men’s Society (RAMS), an organization of over 3,500 men who exemplify positive African American images. The RAMS are best known for helping to reclaim the community from gangs and drug dealers and closing 13 rock cocaine houses while leading young men away from drugs and gangs. Rev. Whitlock’s corporate experience amply equipped him to lead the 21st century church in economic development. He was a former Assistant Vice President for Wells Fargo Bank and Vice President, Commercial/Industrial National Division for Chicago Title Insurance Company. His responsibilities included providing financing and title insurance for commercial buildings, resorts, hotels, and shopping centers. His clients included attorneys, developers, and financial institutions.

Rev. Mark is a member of several Boards of Directors, including the Harvard Divinity School‘s Summer Leadership Institute, Southern California Edison Corporation, First American Corporation, Genesis Los Angeles, Orange County Human Relations Committee, American Civil Liberties Union, KOCE Television, Oden Commission, and the Red Cross of Orange County. And, Rev. Whitlock has been featured in the Los Angeles Times, Orange County Register, Black Enterprise Magazine, as well as several local magazines and news papers. He continues to lecture at the Harvard University School of Divinity and University of Southern California School of Religion. He has lectured at the University of California, Los Angeles; Anderson School of Business; Interdenominational Theological Center; California State University, Los Angeles; many high schools and churches. Rev. Whitlock has been a featured speaker at the White House’s Faith-Based Conferences. He is a recipient of numerous national, state, city, and local community service awards.

Rosa Garcia

Rosa Garcia is the recipient of the Donald McKayle Medal Scholar from UC, Irvine with a MFA in Dance Choreography in Mexican-American Dance & Cultural Identity.  Originally from Santa Ana, she has degrees in dance
from CSULB and New York’s Alvin Ailey American Dance School paid by scholarships. Her passion in education brought her back to southern California to give back to her Santa Ana community receiving certifications in classical ballet Cecchetti USA. Her passion in teaching dance of various styles has become a journey for her in becoming an eclectic teacher for over 30 years in higher education. Seventeen of those years, she developed dance programs for ages 1 and up for various organizations and community venues. She coaches, mentors her Santa Ana College students where she teaches to develop entrepreneurial skills and choreographing for Quinceañeras. She brings guest speakers
to the Santa Ana community such as, the Executive Producer for the upcoming docu-drama film, “Think: The Legacy” where he addressed helping families in financial literacy. That same month, Mrs. Garcia was appointed by Santa Ana City Councilman Jose Solorio to serve as Commissioner of the Arts & Culture. She’s been an Ambassador for JazzXchange – Shinning Stars.

Ms. Garcia has performed for various venues and for many award-winning choreographers such as Marie de la Palme and featured in a documentary, “Rhythms of Peace” https://youtu.be/pDPJLDviAeM