2010 California Peace Prize Award Honorees
Aquil Basheer is a nationally known crisis-intervention specialist, educational consultant, and youth development expert who has worked for more than 40 years to reduce community violence. Basheer is the chief executive officer of the BUILD Youth Empowerment Academy, which operates conflict-resolution training, mentoring, and gang-violence deterrence and intervention programs in middle schools and community centers throughout Los Angeles County. He and his organization work daily with high-risk youth to develop their sense of self-responsibility, discipline, commitment, and self-esteem.
A renowned intervention practitioner and certified instructor, Basheer uses his everyday street experience to train outreach teams, community-based organizations, emergency responders, and social service and law enforcement personnel nationwide in ways to understand, interact and deal with gangs, community violence, and crisis-related situations. Among his many affiliations, Basheer is the executive director of Maximum Force Enterprises, a personal development institute for frontline “peacekeepers” who deal regularly with gang violence. One of the institute’s programs, the Professional Community Intervention Training Institute (PCITI), in partnership with the Chicago School of Professional Psychology, was recently adopted as a model for gang intervention by the Los Angeles City Council.
Basheer grew up in some of the most underserved communities in the Greater Los Angeles area. His father was the first African-American firefighter in the city of Los Angeles and a social activist. Basheer is listed in the Who’s Who of Martial Arts, a retired eight-time, world champion and a 10th degree black belt. He has received federal, congressional, state, and private recognition for his work in the community. A syndicated columnist and writer, Basheer is the author of 27 Laws of Urban Street Survival, a roadmap for crisis-intervention experts, emergency responders, and violence abatement specialists on gang-related confrontations, conflict resolution, and peace building.
Perla Flores is a passionate advocate for victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, and human trafficking. Because of her efforts, a rural community that once lacked adequate services and resources can now assist people in need. As a program director at Community Solutions, a multi-service nonprofit serving southern Santa Clara and San Benito counties, Flores oversees development, implementation, and evaluation of the organization’s domestic violence, sexual assault, and human-trafficking prevention and intervention services. Flores is particularly adept at reaching out to underserved populations, such as migrant women. She has forged key partnerships with medical and faith communities to widen support in areas where the voices of victims need to be heard.
Flores champions prevention programs in schools and community centers that focus on sexual assault and family violence. She was instrumental in establishing a facility in Gilroy’s South Valley Medical Center that allows members of Santa Clara County’s Sexual Assault Response Team to gather and address victims needs. Prior to joining Community Solutions, Flores was a community liaison at East Valley Public Health and a marketing professional working in the private sector.
Flores was five years old when her parents emigrated from Mexico to Los Angeles. She is a commissioner on the Santa Clara County Domestic Violence Council, where she chairs the South County Domestic Violence Committee and the Housing Committee. She also serves as co-chair of the South Bay Coalition to End Human Trafficking. She is a member of the Police Victims Advocacy Committee and the Immigrant Survivor Committee. She is a state-certified domestic violence/sexual assault advocate and trainer, and has received professional achievement awards in communications and public relations.
Sammy Nuñez has a deep understanding of how to work with young men and fathers. A former gang member himself, Nuñez graduated from a fatherhood program in Northern California that led him towards a path to a career in violence prevention. He has become a nationally recognized expert in the field of responsible fatherhood and youth development. Nuñez is the founding executive director of Fathers and Families of San Joaquin, a community-based organization providing services and parenting classes for young fathers and incarcerated men.
Nuñez grew up in a violent household where he witnessed his mother’s abuse by his stepfather. He found solace with other disenchanted youth in the projects of Gilroy and entered a life of gangs and drugs. By age 18, Nuñez was locked up in the Folsom State Prison for attempted murder. When he was released, he enrolled in a range of classes at the Mexican American Community Service Agency (MACSA) in San Jose, where the staff recognized his leadership skills and hired him as a peer mentor. Nuñez eventually became the program director for all three male development programs. With the birth of a son and marriage, Nuñez relocated his family to Stockton where he is dedicated to turning the “hearts of the community back to the children.”
Born in McAllen, Texas, Nuñez’s parents were migrant workers. When his parents divorced, he moved with his mother to Gilroy, California. In 1999, programs directed by Nuñez received recognition from the Clinton administration and the National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy. He is a frequent speaker and presenter at conferences and trainings on youth development and responsible fatherhood.