2005 California Peace Prize Award Honorees
Otilio “O.T.” Quintero is the assistant director of Santa Cruz Barrios Unidos (SCBU). Established in 1993, SCBU works to prevent violence against youth by providing educational and leadership programs and economic-development training. Quintero has helped build the organizational and financial capacity of SCBU, assisted in developing effective training programs (including BU Productions, a highly successful silkscreened T-shirt business) and ensured SCBU’s legacy by facilitating the purchase of a building and two-acre site.
Quintero has also advocated for youth violence prevention beyond Santa Cruz. In 1993, he was involved in efforts to stop gang violence by uniting Latino youth in Northern and Southern California. In 1996, he helped secure the passage of AB 963, which established the California Gang, Crime and Violence Prevention Partnership Program. It has directed more than $10 million to community-based organizations committed to preventing violence and gang activity. Quintero aided in the development of the National Coalition of Barrios Unidos (NCBU) and Homies Unidos chapters in El Salvador and Nicaragua.
Quintero became a migrant farmworker at the age of five. As a young man, he met one of his spiritual leaders, Cesar Chavez. Quintero received a B.A. from UC Santa Cruz and an M.A. from San Jose State University. He has worked as a migrant counselor, a community college instructor and a theater director. Committed to innovation and education, Quintero has developed and directed programs for Cabrillo College and the Offices of Education for Santa Cruz and Monterey counties.
For 17 years, Maria Velasquez has worked to reduce domestic violence in rural communities. Based in Shingletown, Calif., she is the violence prevention trainer and outreach worker for Second Step: A Violence Prevention Curriculum, a classroom-based social skills program that addresses the connection between bullying behavior in childhood and battering behavior in adulthood. True North Inc. runs the program in Shasta County.
Velasquez is an outspoken advocate for breaking the generational cycle of violence by teaching children alternative ways of coping and negotiating. She was instrumental in bringing the Second Step program to Trinity and Shasta counties, despite initial skepticism from school administrators and parents, and continues to advocate for increased program funding and expanded participation. Two Shasta County school districts use Second Step, including the Black Butte Union School District, where all elementary school students are program participants.
A childhood witness to domestic violence, Velasquez is attuned to the problems of children raised in unhealthy environments. She favors the Second Step model—developed by the Committee for Children, a nonprofit organization—because the materials and content are both user-friendly and multicultural.
Velasquez is on the steering committee of Grassroots for Kids, a ten year old non profit organization which promotes healthy recreational alternatives for kids and families. Prior to her work in Shasta County, she served as the Trinity County childcare coordinator at Human Response Network, which provides violence prevention and domestic violence programs, and oversaw a local summer day camp that expanded to four other rural communities in the county. Velasquez earned an A.S. degree from Shasta College in Redding.
Sayre Weaver has worked tirelessly over the past decade to reduce gun violence through legislation and litigation. She is now one of California’s foremost legal authorities on firearm regulation by local agencies. In 1996, Weaver helped the City of West Hollywood draft and defend its ordinance prohibiting “junk gun” sales. Weaver successfully defended the power of California’s cities and counties to regulate firearms in two lawsuits, California Rifle & Pistol Ass’n v. City of West Hollywood (1998) and Nordyke v. King (2002), in which Weaver protected Alameda County’s ordinance banning gun possession on county property against a gun show operator’s challenge.
As a deputy district attorney in Compton, Calif., Weaver first observed the effect of gun violence on a community. Her work for West Hollywood brought her into contact with Legal Community Against Violence (LCAV) and Dr. Garen Wintemute’s junk-gun industry study, “Ring of Fire: The Handgun Makers of Southern California.” Weaver saw the need for gun industry reform and dedicated herself to achieving this goal.
In Ileto v. Glock, Weaver is currently representing gun victims against the manufacturers and distributors of firearms used by a white supremacist. The gunman was convicted of fatally shooting Joseph Ileto, a Filipino-American postal worker, at a Jewish community center and injuring four children and a staff member. Early in this case, Weaver established the right of gun violence victims to sue gun industry members who engage in negligent marketing and distribution practices.
Weaver is the legal director of The Educational Fund To Stop Gun Violence and serves “of counsel” to the public law firm of Richards, Watson & Gershon, where she is also a member of the Litigation Department. Formerly the legal director of LCAV, Weaver continues to serve in its volunteer attorney network. She is also a member of the American Bar Association’s Gun Violence Committee, the American Trial Lawyers’ Firearms Litigation Section, and the Advisory Board of Women Against Gun Violence. She received her J.D. degree from Yale Law School.