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Portrait by Devi Pride Photography.
Esabella Bonner is a long-time Santa Cruz resident, entrepreneur, visionary, and award-winning changemaker working to bridge the community. Bella is a Cabrillo College and San Jose State University alumnus, with an associate degree in sociology and a bachelor’s in business administration. Specializing in human resource management, she gained the tools to communicate and act upon her experiences growing up Black/Bi-racial in Santa Cruz.
In 2020, Bella followed her gut and organized the largest ever social protest gathering that Santa Cruz County has ever seen, with more than 5,000 people in attendance. This event sparked the core of her mission, which is to prioritize BIPOC voices and allow a space for the broader community to listen and learn. While this was the first protest she organized, its great success opened up a world of equity work for her. Inspired and called to continue the work, Bella organized further within the community, this time to make space for Black and Brown people via a series of paddle-outs/protests to support BLM.
This led Bella to create Black Surf Santa Cruz, where she is the founder and executive director. This award-winning organization aims to promote physical, spiritual, and communal healing through surfing, recreation, education, and advocacy for our local community. In 2021, Black Surf Santa Cruz was voted Best Surf School in the Good Times, and in 2022, it won Best Club at the annual Santa Cruz Waves Swellies Awards.
Bella serves as an equity and strategic advisor for a number of local organizations, agencies, and initiatives in Santa Cruz. She leads with love and promotes a joyful, anti-racist vibrancy. Her main goal continues to be bringing people together while intentionally centering communities that have been historically excluded and overlooked. She has been honored for her contributions to the community through various awards, including the 2021 Bell of Freedom Award by the ACLU Norcal Chapter in recognition for organizing protests and her anti-racism work, and was voted Favorite Activist/Changemaker in the 2022 Santa Cruz Waves Swellies Awards.
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