Because of his impact on the local community and his commitment toward conflict resolution, Jose Salvador Gutierrez Jr. was posthumously selected as a recipient for the 2022 Evan Ferber Peacemaker Leadership Award, from the Dispute Resolution Center (DRC) of Thurston County. Although Gutierrez passed away from COVID-19 complications in November 2021, his life and his work will continue to have a lasting impact across the South Puget Sound region.
Gutierrez had a slogan to live by: “Winners train, losers complain, do your thang. Bang, bang.” A call to action, Gutierrez was never one to commit halfway. He made it his life’s mission to work toward peace in any community he was a part of. As a local educator, journalist, hip-hop artist, DJ and advocate, Gutierrez used his skillset to build bridges between different facets of the Thurston County community and beyond. And as a certified mediator, he saw conflict as a pathway to help strengthen relationships and work toward a more peaceful world.
“That’s really what he what he was about,” says Stella Haioulani, sister of Jose Gutierrez Jr., “and he was able to do it in a graceful, peaceful way. That’s the beautiful thing about it, is that being in his presence, you felt the aura. You knew it was something special. Just because you could feel it.”
For over a decade, the DRC has aimed to recognize those in the region who promote and work toward peace in the community. The DRC presents the annual Peacemaker Award to highlight community members who live by example and who find peaceful solutions to conflicts big and small. “Our hope with this award was to hold up people who really exemplify doing that in their in their day-to-day work, whether it’s related to their job or it’s something that they feel passionate about,” says Joe Sanders, community engagement manager, for the DRC. “And are really a model in the community for promoting peaceful conflict resolution and civility.”
2022 Peacemaker Jose Salvador Gutierrez Jr.
As a lifelong activist and advocate, Gutierrez sought opportunities to resolve conflict and create safer communities. According to loved ones, Gutierrez saw conflict not as a threat, but instead as an opportunity. Instead of a dividing force, conflict could be a way to facilitate conversations, foster understanding and ultimately, help build stronger communities.
“A peacemaker doesn’t run from the problem,” explains Haioulani. “They run to the problem with solutions. Knowing that they are a part of the solution, knowing that together, we can come up with more profound solutions.”
While growing up in the San Fernando Valley in California, Gutierrez was passionate about helping to reduce gang violence in the community, including through support of peaceful resolutions and treaties in the region. After Gutierrez moved to Lacey, he continued in his commitment to soothe tensions between youth and the local government. Gutierrez then founded a Youth Council in Lacey to foster a dialogue between young community members, local law enforcement and the Lacey City Council. This helped to ensure that young members of community had a platform to voice important issues.
When Gutierrez was a student at Washington State University, he aided in sexual assault prevention efforts on campus and through these efforts, started Black Men Making a Difference. As an adult, Gutierrez continued to volunteer for local nonprofits that helped survivors of sexual assault and further prevention efforts in the community.
Gutierrez continued to use music, particularly hip-hop, as a means of expression and to communicate a broader message of unity and peace. Not only a creative outlet, Gutierrez also used hip-hop to advocate for various causes including through events like Hip-Hop 4 The Homeless.
For many years, Gutierrez was a DJ for KAOS 89.3 FM in Olympia and was affectionally known as “DJ Luvva J,” both on air and off. He was also a minister for the Temple of Hip-Hop. In addition to his volunteer and community advocacy roles, Gutierrez also worked as an educator, professor, journalist and mentor. As a man of faith and as a hip-hop artist, Haioulani says her brother exhibited shared tenants for both the Fruits of the Spirit and for the principles of hip-hop, including love and peace.
“I think honestly that he was a model of the Fruits of the Spirit and the essence of hip-hop,” says Haioulani. “That he used that as his foundation and guidance, to love and to be whatever he felt that he was called to be. And many times, that was a peacemaker. I think that he did what he did, because he knew that life is precious, very short. And he wanted to serve as a model.”
The 2022 Peacemaker Award will be officially presented at the DRC’s annual volunteer picnic in August. Gutierrez’s family will accept the award on his behalf. The Peacemaker Award will serve as a tangible acknowledgement of Gutierrez’s impact on the community, which will continue to touch the South Sound community for years to come.
In addition to the Peacemaker Award, there are other ways that Gutierrez is being remembered across the community. In December 2021, the Lacey City Council voted to make December 19 “Jose Salvador Gutierrez Jr. ‘DJ Luvva J’ Day,” across the city. Haioulani is also working with Lacey Timberland Library to display a potential art installation in honor of her brother. Haioulani will also continue to organize events like Hip-Hop for the Homeless, hoping that her brother’s life and spirit can continue to live on and inspire others to work toward a more peaceful community.
“I do believe that he knew he was a model,” says Haioulani. “So much is given, much is required. So, when you know you got it, you got to give it. And he gave it to the fullest. And that is what we could all wish for in life.”
To learn more about the Evan Ferber Peacemaker Leadership Award, visit the Dispute Resolution Center of Thurston County website.