Denise Cruz was born in Quezon City, Philippines. They immigrated to the United States when they were 11 years old. Growing up in Southern California in a largely white, upper middle class community during an intensely political time made them highly cognizant of the place she and her communities are imposed to take in society and the challenges they had to face with it.
After her time working for various social justice efforts there, Denise is a first-generation, low-income, student at the University of California, Berkeley, pursuing a dual degree in Ethnic Studies and Media Studies. Through studying the historic and contemporary experiences of racialized and marginalized groups along with her own personal experiences and observations as a queer Filipino immigrant, she has learned that the neoliberal agenda fails to address the root causes of the collective issues she faces and studies. Thus, they spend a majority of their time community organizing. Currently, they are serving as chairperson for the anti-imperialist League of Filipino Students at UC Berkeley, which she helped launch from 2020-2021, to keep advancing the Philippine National Democratic movement internationally. They are also currently and proudly employed at the Cal’s Multicultural Community Center where she largely assists in cross-cultural workshops, training, and curriculum development.
Denise considers herself an eternal student and aims to continue finding the intersections of community organizing and media work as a lifelong pursuit. As a DreamSF Fellow, they are placed at Dolores Street Community Services under the Community Engagement and Organizing team. Passionate in workers’ rights, tenants’ rights, and community health and wellness, she is excited to gain experience leading programs, while further developing their community organizing model, supporting in their research, and assisting their social media strategy.
Being raised primarily by her grandparents and secondarily by the internet, Denise is also interested in the way media, entertainment, and aesthetics shapes our collective and personal identities. She is an intern at UC Berkeley’s SUPERB Productions, working under the Games Department to provide campus-wide entertainment and arts. They also started writing creatively and pursuing their own personal art projects. In their free time, she indulges in her love of books, films, music, fashion, and the social media app, TikTok.