Gilbert Saucedo is a housing rights lawyer and a human rights advocate. A native of Durango,
Mexico, he grew up in East Los Angeles with a strong sense of social justice and outrage about
the economic oppression he frequently witnessed. After attending the University of Southern
California and succeeding in a real estate business, Gilbert attained the capital he had long been
planning to support a career focused on effecting positive change. He, then, went to law school
to hone his advocacy skills and become an advocate for the poor and the exploited.
In 2008, Gilbert graduated from Southwestern Law School with a Juris Doctor, cum laude.
Shortly thereafter, he joined the National Lawyers Guild of Los Angeles to work alongside like-
minded lawyers supporting social justice movements. Then, in 2013, he founded, along with his
friend Phillip Castruita, the Foundation for Economic and Social Justice (“The Foundation”), as a
vehicle to further his life-long mission of helping address the causes of extreme poverty and
ameliorated its effects.
Currently, Gilbert Saucedo is the president of the Foundation and a co-president of the National
Lawyers Guild of Los Angeles. He is also counsel for the El Sereno Community Land Trust, an
organization that is committed to empowering the El Sereno community (located in Northeast
Los Angeles) through effective land stewardship in its struggle against re-gentrification. In
addition to that, Gilbert is actively engaged in providing legal and financial support to many
grassroots organization working on social justice issues.
Elizabeth Arroyo is a child of immigrants, born and raised in East Los Angeles and the San Gabriel Valley.
She is an educator in the Los Angeles Community College District, where she teaches Reading and Language Arts in the Departments of English and Noncredit, and provides support in Learning Assistance. Working in the community college system has offered Elizabeth a glimpse at the disparities that students of color face, and the opportunities that education and mentorship unlocks.
In 2017, she became a founding board member of the ELAC Alumni Association, which aims to serve current and past students of ELAC. Also in 2017, Elizabeth became part of the Foundation for Economic and Social Justice team as part of the FESJ scholarship selection committee. The FESJ scholarship is a unique opportunity for students of the local community. The scholarship is renewable for the recipient’s four-year undergraduate career; something not all scholarships can offer. Participating in this committee has allowed Elizabeth to meet many of the bright young applicants, and it has been a joy hearing the aspirations they have not only for their own futures, but for their community and how they hope to effect positive change for our country. Most importantly, the process allows her to see FESJ’s mission in action.
Maria Elena Yepes
Maria Elena Yepes is a Professor Emeritus of English and ESL at East Los Angeles College and former
Director of the Learning Assistance Center, where she provided tutoring and computer-assisted
instruction services for ELAC students. For thirty years, Ms. Yepes developed programs and services that
accelerate the education of ELAC students, making it possible for them to move from college
preparatory to college level courses and eventually transfer. In addition, Ms. Yepes was the community
liaison for the President's Office at East Los Angeles College for twenty years, participating in two
education collaboratives on behalf of ELAC: the Boyle Heights and East Side Education Collaboratives. In
2008, Ms. Yepes was elected to the Southern California Central Democratic Committee, and in 2009, she
was appointed by Supervisor Gloria Molina to the Los Angeles County Board of Education where she
served a two-year term. Since 2012, Ms. Yepes has served on the Board of Directors for Plaza
Community Services, the oldest non-profit organization in Los Angeles, and in 2017, she became the
President of the inaugural Board of Directors for the new East Los Angeles College Alumni Association.
As a college professor, writer, and community activist for the past thirty-six years, Maria Elena Yepes has
dedicated her professional career to providing higher educational opportunities for the most
underserved populations in Los Angeles, and she has created several special academic programs and a
strong Learning Assistance Center to foster the educational aspirations of thousands of students, many
of whom have returned to their respective communities to contribute as teachers, professors,
engineers, doctors, and attorneys.
Aside from being an educator and community activist, Ms. Yepes is also a writer. Her published writings
have included book reviews of Chicano Literature in La Opinion, articles on higher education issues and
Latinos in the Belvedere Citizen, textbook and manuscript reviews, and her personal testimonial on her
experiences as a student activist at UCLA. In addition, she has used her writing skills to develop
proposals that have sought and secured funding for various educational programs and artistic projects
such as Eastside Heartbeats.
In October 2015 Brown Fist Productions was created to provide quality entertainment that promotes the
rich culture and heritage of the Latino communities of the United States. As Brown Fist Productions, the
composer and librettist of "El Circo Anahuac' produced several creative projects in 2015, 2016 and 2017
that included the following: A special presentation by Los Angeles Council member Gilbert Cedillo
honoring the contributions of the last surviving member of Cannibal and the Headhunters, a Mexican
American Rock and Roll group from the Sixties, and a unique exhibit of Eastside Rock and Roll
memorabilia, Roots of the Eastside Sound, curated by David Reyes and covered prominently in the Los
In 2016, Maria Elena Yepes and David Reyes collaborated on the production of the Rock and Roll
Musical, “Eastside Heartbeats,” a fictional story about four young Mexican American singers from East
Los Angeles who dreamed of becoming Rock and Roll stars, and who eventually opened for the Beatles
at the Hollywood Bowl in the summer of 1965. The musical ran for 39 sold-out shows at CASA 0101.
In 2018, Brown Fist Productions staged El Circo Anahuac, an Aztec Opera, at the vibrant cultural center,
LA Plaza de Cultura y Artes. El Circo Anahuac is an original, independent artistic endeavor by the
librettist, Maria Elena Yepes, and the composer, David Reyes, whose high appeal stems from a classic
Nahuatl tale that is well-known in Mexican and Mexican American cultures, but whose story line has not
changed in approximately six hundred years. Written primarily in English and Spanish with several
Nahuatl names, phrases and references, this Aztec opera tells the tale of the twin volcanoes outside
Mexico City: Popocatepetl, the “Smoky Mountain,” and Ixtlacihuatl, the “Sleeping Woman.” In addition, El
Circo Anahuac is presented with a twist: a modern circus troupe acts out the classic tale!
The creators of "El Circo Anahuac" are cognizant of the fact that they are providing the Mexican American
and Latino communities of Los Angeles with a theatrical project that these communities seldom get to
enjoy and experience. Therefore, the creators are eager to continue staging this mini-opera that will
handle the Mexican American culture with honor and respect, and that will bring joy to the lives of a
community increasingly under siege by national racism and xenophobia.
Brown Fist Productions will continue approaching community venues in Los Angeles, particularly in areas
considered “art-poor” (such as the city of Pomona and the heavily Latino neighborhoods in the San
Fernando Valley), with the purpose of staging the opera in these communities.