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Vanessa Ramalho

Core Member

Vanessa Ramalho (she/her) is a Portuguese/ Filipina multi-racial womxn whose most recently traced ancestors originate from Samar in the Visayas region of the Philippines and The Portuguese/ African Creole island of São Nicolau, Cabo Verde. A visual artist all her life, Vanessa studied Fine Art, graduating with a Bachelor’s of FIne Art in Painting from Rutgers University Newark, and later achieved her Master’s Degree in Arts Politics from the Department of Art and Public Policy at the Tisch School of the Arts at New York University. At Rutgers, Vanessa became a social justice educator through UNITY Theatre, a group that used dialogue-based theatre inspired by Agusto Boal’s Theatre of the Oppressed to educate college students about health and social justice issues. Over the years, Vanessa worked with a number of NYC non-profit organizations as a health and social justice educator, including the Sadie Nash Leadership Project and the Asian Pacific Islander Coalition on HIV/AIDS (APICHA), later becoming the Program Coordinator for Project K.I.S.S. at New York Presbytarian Hospital. At Project K.I.S.S., Vanessa worked with HIV positive and at-risk youth throughout New York City, providing safer sex and health education, as well as HIV counseling and testing. At K.I.S.S., Vanessa also became a political community organizer, mobilizing youth around anti-HIV stigma campaigns through community events such as the Love Revolution Fashion Show and the Young Men’s Initiative (YM|). She has spoken at various national and international conferences about youth activism and social justice as it relates to sexual and reproductive health.

Vanessa became more intentional about exploring her Filipino roots in 2010 by returning to theatre as one of the original participants and actors of The Journey of a Brown Girl, created, led, and directed by Jana lynne Umipig. It was with JOBG that Vanessa first learned about the Babaylan, as well as many other aspects of indigenous Filipino history, spurring a continued interest in learning and activism related to decolonization and ancestral reclamation. Vanessa became more acquainted with the Center for Babaylan Studies in 2016 through attending the 3rd International Babaylan Conference held on the Coast Salish Nation in what is known as Vancouver, Canada. She is honored to have been invited to join the Core in July 2018, and is contributing her experience as a non-profit and fundraising professional to help grow CfBS in its new phase as a non-profit organization, while working with the Core to innovate ways of incorporating decolonial practices.

Vanessa currently resides in her home state of New Jersey on the land of the Nanticoke Lenni-Lenape Tribal Nation, and is focused on her most sacred role as mother to her 3 children (Talia, Enzo, and one unnamed on the way) and bonus son DJ. In 2017, Vanessa became a birth doula through the Childbirth and Postpartum Professional Association, and has since been building an independent birth business as a labor and postpartum doula, childbirth educator, and Certified Lactation Counselor. She is currently part of the doula collective Two Hands Birth Services in South Jersey, and is exploring the possibility of pursuing midwifery in the near future, as well as exploring ways of incorporating ancestral practices and ritual into her work as a birthworker. In what spare time she has, Vanessa enjoys also running a side business Rise Boutique where her creativity is manifested through a line of handmade jewelry designed to inspire and empower and that celebrates the warrior spirits within all womxn-identified people and their allies.

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