The Class of 2013-2014

2013 Annual Report (PDF)

The Marilyn Buck Award – Myra Solliday

Marilyn Buck
Marilyn Buck

As a teenager in Texas, Marilyn Buck fought for civil rights and went on to organize against the war and for international solidarity. In 1973 she was accused and convicted of buying two boxes of handgun ammunition for the BLA and received a ten-year sentence. While on furlough she failed to return, living underground for eight years before being recaptured and convicted, receiving sentences totaling eighty years. Held in the federal prison in Dublin, California, Marilyn was incarcerated with other women from independence, anti-imperialist and peace movements. With the help of the Fund with grants in 2003 and 2004, she finished a degree from New College of San Francisco. She continued her work for justice, issuing one of the first calls to save the life of another Davis-Putter grantee, Mumia Abu-Jamal, and was deeply involved in cultural and educational programs through tutoring and teaching. A prolific writer, her book review, “The US Prison State,” appeared in Monthly Review in February, 2004; she was awarded the 2001 PEN Prison Writing poetry prize; a CD celebrating her art and life, Wild Poppies, was released in 2004 and Inside/Out: Selected Poems by Marilyn Buck was released in 2012. She received early release on July, 15, 2010 because of a rare cancer that was discovered and died on August 3, 2010.[/caption]Marilyn not only supported the Fund with regular donations and supportive notes from her jail cell, but with a generous bequest following her death. To honor her memory and legacy, The Marilyn Buck Award will be given to an incarcerated or formerly incarcerated activist working for justice.

Photo of Myra Solliday.Myra Solliday is the first recipient of the Marilyn Buck Award. Learning of the award, she said, “This is such an honor – I actually knew Marilyn. We were at Shawnee (Unit of Marianna Prison) at the same time and she was an inspiration to all of us.” Myra entered the prison system in 1990 at the age of 32, hoping for rehabilitation and finding abuse, rape and harassment by prison guards. Her experiences have motivated her to advocate for prison reform and protections from these abuses. She works with New Leaf, Prison Legal News Legal Accountability Work Group and other organizations to bring awareness and change conditions especially for women prisoners. Her goal is to become a paralegal, advocating for prisoners, working with attorneys on post-conviction issues and challenging internal prison abuse and neglect. She works to educate prisoners on their rights, provide them with resources and advocate in the community for legislative prison reform. Myra hopes to establish a national resource center connecting resources to needs of incarcerated women and men and continue advocating against sexual abuse in prison. She is working to complete a Legal/Paralegal certification.

2013/14 Jessie Lloyd O’Connor Scholar – Elisa Oceguera

Photo of Elisa Oceguera.Each year the Fund selects a grantee who honors the legacy of commitment to peace and justice modeled by Jessie Lloyd O’Connor, a labor journalist, organizer and an early member of our Board, who with her husband Harvey, opened heart and home to activists seeking respite. Our Jessie Lloyd O’Connor Scholar this year is Elisa Oceguera. Inspired by Zapatista teachings, Elisa participates and has organized with Acción Zapatista, ensuring the dignity of community members while actively listening and engaging with them. She has learned through this work the significant relationship between research, action and dignity and believes in the power of popular education and the generation of community based knowledge and has been a part of planning Cesar Chavez Day, May 1 and Day of the Dead events establishing links with marginalized Latino community. She created the Advanced Seminar on Women, Power, and Autonomy in recognition of women’s contributions in global struggles, helped establish the Ella Baker Women’s Center for Leadership in Community Activism in Chapel Hill, NC, has participated in guerilla theatre actions with People of Color Action Theater and co-founded a Queer Qumbia; a collective of bilingual community based organizers. She has been involved with the Student Farmworker Action network and created Ateneo, a Women’s Collective recognizing the central role of women in struggles for justice. Her academic research is focused on the experiences of LGBTQ farm workers at the US-Mexico border, producing digital stories bringing, awareness and generating advocacy for a highly invisible community. Elisa has a BA in Ethnic Studies from Humboldt State University, an MA in Ethnic Studies from San Francisco State and is in the field research phase of her Cultural Studies PhD program at UC Davis.

Photo of Kellee Coleman.Kellee Coleman began organizing in middle school, creating a community access TV show which helped bring justice in a police brutality case. She worked as support staff with the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1091 through contract negations and strikes, followed by teaching parenting classes to public housing residents who were challenging a racist housing system. Through these experiences she learned the power of organizing and began building a collective of poor and working mothers of color who challenge racism and economic injustice in their community. Mamas of Color Rising addresses police violence, public education and welfare rights and is working on a campaign to end what they call, “the womb to prison pipeline”. She says she’s not a college student who happens to organize, she is an organizer who is trying to complete her education to gain access and do more effective organizing. She joined the national leadership body of INCITE! Working collectively with a group of UT Austin faculty, she developed a massive survey on women in childbirth, who were connected through the survey and politicized through the conversations. She is beginning a BA in Global Studies at St Edward’s University.

Photo of Pascal Emmer.
Pascal Emmer Through fifteen years of community organizing, Pascal has worked in rural Colorado, Nebraska and Wyoming on LGBTQI activism, founded a Transgender Alliance at McGill University while in school in Montreal and worked with Solidarity Across Borders, a migrant justice organization fighting the criminalization and deportation of LGBTQI people. He was very involved with ACT Up! and created the Philadelphia Oral History Project in 2008, believing in the power of storytelling in movement building. He worked with a Trans health organization focusing on the ways gentrification displaced LGBTQI youth and co-founded Heart on a Wire Collective, which seeks to keep LGBTQI prisoners less isolated. He conducted a three year participatory action research study documenting the stories of imprisoned LGBTQI people and co-wrote, This is a Prison, Glitter is Not Allowed: Experiences of Trans and Gender Variant People in Pennsylvania’s Prison Systems, which has been an important resource for trans activists, prison abolitionists, as well as city officials. Now a teaching assistant at UC Santa Cruz, he continues to use the report with his students, lectures throughout the country and plans to use the PAR model to foster movements for prison abolition and Trans justice. Since receiving the grant last year, he has organized with the Academic Workers for a Democratic Union and has continued writing, teaching and presenting. For ACT-Up Philadelphia’s 25th anniversary, he recently launched an interactive storytelling-community history website featuring the interviews he is conducting for his doctoral work which is focused on meta-generational organizing, or the role of inter and multi-generational affinity in radical LGBTQI movement. He has a BA in Art history from McGill University, Montreal and continues in a PhD program at UC Santa Cruz in Sociology.

Photo of Kai Green.Kai Green A filmmaker, poet, teacher and public intellectual, Kai uses art and history in building coalition and community. He has worked to create safe spaces for LGBTQ Black people, organizing a march of visibility in the South LA MLK Day Parade and facilitating workshops. His ethnographic research work is one of a kind – telling the stories of Black LGBTQ people in Los Angeles. He has completed a documentary examining experiences of Black and Asian Trans men and masculine queer women which was shown at the Queer Women of Color Film Festival and Fusion Outfest Film Festival. Although he has some experience teaching in the academy, his primary teaching has been done, creating his own pedagogy in community spaces around Black Queer LA histories. He was involved with the making of the film by Critical Resistance, called Visions of Abolition and is dedicated to prison abolition work through art and scholarship. He is committed to challenging the status quo of the academy, through his work as an artist/activist/scholar and as a Black Queer person and to coalition politics, creating the conditions for people to imagine possibilities beyond the capitalist infrastructure. Kai has a BA in American Studies from Williams College and is in the dissertation phase of a PhD in American Studies and Ethnicity with certificates in Visual Arts and in Gender Studies at University of Southern California.

Photo of Karen Hanna.Karen Hanna began organizing as an undergraduate at Brown University and for over 12 years has remained focused on the everyday struggles of marginalized people. In 2006, she began organizing Filipino youth campaigning for exploited restaurant workers, marching for peace in Iraq and Afghanistan and sponsoring anti-racism, know your rights and history workshops. She has also worked with Damayan, a grassroots Filipina domestic worker organization. Now, studying Feminist Theory, she is able to strategize with these organizations using a gender, class, disability, citizenship analysis, determining that often movement work is not sustainable for those activists with social barriers. Her research will be focused on the history of Filipino Progressive Movement in the US, focusing on the US based Filipino anti-imperialist movement that continues today. She hopes to continue challenging the absence of women of color in academia and plans to remain an activist on the ground, particularly for labor rights, as she bridges community work and academia. Karen completed a Tagalog course this summer, has an AB in Education and an MS in Elementary Education and is now pursuing an MA/PhD in Feminist Studies at UC Santa Barbara.

Photo of Mayra Hildago Salazar.Mayra Hidalgo Salazar As an undocumented young person, now with deferred status, a work permit and a driver’s license, Mayra is as committed as ever to the DREAM and immigrant rights movements. She has been a leader and youth organizer with the Florida Immigrant Coalition and Students Working for Equal Rights. She served as a project manager coordinating actions and arranging logistics and legal representation for the Trail of Dreams (Miami to DC for immigrant justice) in 2010 and is a founder and coordinator of the Lakeland Immigration Legal Clinic. She led efforts on the No Somos Rubios Campaign and travelled to Alabama to fight anti-immigrant legislation, co-founding the Alabama Coalition for Justice there. She is considered by her colleagues to be a fearless organizer and a trail blazer in Florida, working as an ally for LGBTQ rights through Get Equal and serving on the board of United We Dream. While in high school, a counselor told her she was not college material, but after speaking on a panel at Sarah Lawrence, she applied, was accepted and is now studying Public Policy. She has trained and is active in the DREAM organization on campus and helped mobilize their work in support and passage of the New York DREAM Act.

Photo of Shaza Hussein.Shaza Hussein Inspired by the work of Dr Wangari Maathai of the Greenbelt Movement which challenged the colonialization, the deforestation and exploitation of Kenya, Shaza’s work and passion is rooted in effecting the impact of climate change through a social justice lens. At the University of South Florida she has led the Student Environmental Union as well as the Transgender Student Union. She led the Student Green Energy Fund, working to implement renewable energy projects on campus and is currently working to build support for institutional divestment from oppressive energy consumption. After learning about transgender rights in Women and Gender Studies courses she stepped up as an ally to lead the struggling campus organization. They work to create safe spaces on campus, including university housing and gender neutral bathrooms. She became a Power Vote Fellow with the Southern Energy Network, a regional group working for environmental and human rights. She plans to continue her work with underrepresented communities struggling against the current and impending impact of global warming and climate change. She is seeking a BS/BA in Environmental Policy and Chemistry at USF.

Photo of Adam Kuranishi.Adam Kuranishi was introduced to community organizing in the cultural centers and programs of Pilsen, a largely immigrant neighborhood in Chicago. He joined Metropolitan Tenants Organization and through education, advocacy, leadership development and resource gathering, helped strengthen the tenants’ rights and affordable housing efforts there. A student of Friere’s theories on pedagogy, he designed a program using photography and asking tenants to capture an issue in the community to discuss its impact on their lives. The photos then created opportunities for strategic discussions on racism, immigration raids, public health, food deserts and gentrification and how to organize to make change. Adam has been involved with the Immigrant Youth Justice League training and mobilizing youth around immigration issues. In 2010, he traveled to Arizona to help organize legal assistance for the protests against SB1070, and then moved to Georgia to help start the Georgia Undocumented Youth Alliance in 2011. With GUYA, he has helped coordinate campaigns to halt the deportation and detention of immigrants, train youth on organizing strategies and civil disobedience, and organize “solidarity initiatives among Latino, Asian, and African American communities to forge collective awareness and a unified resistance against white supremacist ideology and xenophobic laws.” All of these experiences have led him to a decision to teach in urban schools, learning from community organizing strategies and from his students in order to creatively address systemic change. He has a BA in Political Science from the University of Illinois, Chicago and is attending Columbia Teachers College seeking an MA in Curriculum and Teaching.

Photo of Annie Le.Annie Le was a core leader with the Student Sustainability Collective during her undergraduate years at UC San Diego, organizing environmental justice campaigns related to the industrial food system, dirty energy, and health care access while developing and managing the Sustainability Resource Center. Throughout her efforts, she emphasizes how power and privilege imbalances produce disproportionate environmental insecurities and ultimately impacts the health of vulnerable communities.  She has worked for Fair Trade policies, a styrofoam ban and elimination of single use water bottles on campus, and lobbied for single payer health care with the California Health Professional Student Alliance. With the belief that all struggles are connected, Annie has facilitated multi-issue coalition-building to promote solidarity and strategic collaboration for lasting structural change. She has initiated workshops, dialogues, and events to unite campus and community organizers around intersections of oppression. Her principal academic concern is with health disparities resulting from racial marginalization and class reproduction – she intends to affect public policy and engage in community advocacy with the tools gained through the Master’s in Public Health at the UCLA Fielding School of Public Health.

Photo of Ayeesha Mahmooda.
Ayesha Mahmooda learned the power of community organizing with DRUM, Desis Rising Up and Moving, a grassroots group building power for economic, worker, immigrant and education rights in low income South Asian immigrant communities. In her role as a youth volunteer and then as a staff organizer, she has focused outreach efforts with restaurant workers, taxi drivers, babysitters and other undocumented service workers. She has led campaigns against racial profiling and for education access, labor rights and immigrant justice, while developing community participatory action research. She has built alliances nationally and internationally, with the national Network of Immigrant and Refugee Rights as well as with People’s Global Action. She hopes a degree in Public Administration will give her tools and knowledge to develop more accountable and transparent systems supporting grassroots social justice organizations. Ultimately would like to work in philanthropy or work to build leadership of low-income immigrant workers and youth. Ayesha has a BA in Finance and Political Science from Baruch College and will continue there for the MPA degree.

Photo of Rickke Mananzala.Rickke Mananzala became involved in FIERCE, an LGBTQ youth organization and became a youth organizer in 2003 and eventually became their executive director. He has spent the last decade building organizations and coalitions to advance public policy in the LGBTQ, racial and economic justice movements and has contributed to these movements on a national level. He has worked to support grassroots community groups through trainings, strategy, leadership and base building, working with Domestic Workers United among others with the support of the North Star Fund’s Movement Leadership Program. He has facilitated and convened summits and trainings designed to build leaders and strong organizations at the intersections of race, class, gender and sexuality. His goal continues to be to work as a resource person to grassroots organizations struggling with strategic decisions around multi-issue work and organizing. His current focus is on how grassroots groups can shape national policy and was part of organizing a national strategy convening, the first ever LGBT and HIV/imprisonment national policy meeting in which local groups met with national policy organizations. They made policy recommendations to the Obama administration about HIV policy and criminal justice policy, including police profiling and will publish a report, which will come out next year. Rickke will complete a BA, followed by an MPA in Political Science and Public Policy at Columbia University.

Photo of Lulú Martínez.Lulú Martínez emigrated from Mexico to Chicago with her parents and brother at the age of two and has struggled to live in the shadows of her undocumented and queer identities. She spoke publically about both aspects at a National Coming out of the Shadows day in Chicago and became politicized through Radio Arte, hosting the Without Borders radio show. The station led a grassroots campaign to stop the deportation of a peer and after the successful campaign, co-founded the Immigrant Youth Justice League, the first undocumented led organization in the country in 2009. (Grantee Reyna Wences and past grantee Tania Unzueta were also co-founders of this organization). She has been a strong DREAM/anti-deportation/immigration reform activist and was one of 21 undocumented youth arrested in DC when the DREAM Act failed in 2010. She worked with Southerners on New Ground, an LGBTQ organization seeking liberation across all lines of difference and has been a part of fighting Georgia’s anti-immigrant legislation and the growth of the for-profit prison system there with the Georgia Undocumented Youth Alliance and Freedom University. She worked with Dr. Barbara Ransby to bridge gaps between university resources, professors and student activists. On July 22, 2013 Lulú participated in a civil disobedience action with the DREAM 9 – the group attempted to come home to the US from Mexico – each had visited their place of birth and attempted to return testing federal immigration policy, claiming humanitarian parole. They were taken into detention and sent to the ELOY Detention Center in Arizona. Lulú was sent to solitary confinement following efforts to give information to other detainees about their rights and participated in a hunger strike with other detainees. She returns to the University of Chicago continuing work on a BA Women and Gender Studies.

Photo of Ileana Méndez-Peñate.Ileana Méndez-Peñate learned from family at an early age that transforming how we relate to one another is central to liberation. In college she became active with Students Promoting Empowerment and Knowledge, educating on racism, colonialism, and homophobia. They organized to fund the ethnic studies program and pushed for inclusion of more scholars of color as required reading in core classes. She joined Sisterfire, the NYC chapter of INCITE! Women of Color Against Violence, which has become her political home. Through Sisterfire she began volunteering with Pachamama, an organizing collective of Black and Latina mothers, which led her to create Regeneración, a radical childcare collective providing care and movement building programs for children of working parents, specifically those organizing with Domestic Workers United, Center for Immigrant Families and Families for Freedom. Two years ago, they expanded the network and created the Intergalatic Conspiracy of Childcare Collectives. She is a co-coordinator of Streetwise and Safe, training LGBTQ youth to organize and build community. Building upon transformative accompaniment done in grassroots movements in Colombia, she hopes to complete an MSW and help transform trauma into recovery and resilience making social justice movements more sustainable. She has a BA in Cultural Anthropology from Columbia University and is pursuing an LMSW degree at Hunter College.

Photo of Bruce Micheals .Bruce Micheals co-founded a College Education Committee at Lakeland prison in 2007, advocating for educational opportunities within the prison system and encouraging fellow inmates to participate in study groups. He published, “College in Prison: Information and Resources for Incarcerated Students” in 2011, co-authored “Memoirs of Four Convicted Murderers” and plans to continue producing literature and programs that will help prisoners become educated, responsible, socially active members of society. His movement work over the last couple of years includes letter-writing to a wide array of influential political, public and media figures; he designs and proposes programming options inside; he runs programs; he designs and teaches college prep and “Change for Life” courses, incorporating much of what he’s learning in his own college work so that he can share the benefits. He sees his academic focus feed directly in to the teaching and organizing he is doing inside. He completed and associate’s degree with the help of a 2010 DPSF grant and is pursuing a BA in Sociology and Psychology through Adams State College. Bruce is a juvenile lifer, as a consequence of last year’s Supreme Court decision against mandatory life sentences for juveniles, he may be resentenced and become eligible for parole in the next year or two. He plans to pursue an MBA and to seek work on justice initiatives in the nonprofit world.

Photo of Angel Mills.Angel Mills As a member of the Oglala Lakota Nation, born and raised on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota, Angel sees the devastating poverty of her people and works to support efforts of self-determination. She is seeking higher education in order to return to Pine Ridge to make changes in mental health through media arts and youth activism. As a fellow with the Native Youth Leadership Alliance, she works with Native leaders from 20 Tribal nations to work in coalition for justice inside and outside tribal communities. She has also taught workshops to Native American youth on LGBTQ identity and has organized queer events at her high school and college. Angel plans to return to her community using her background in Psychology to integrate traditional healing with mental health approaches. In addition, she wants to gain technical skills in filmmaking, blend mental health and media making, creating systemic change in her community, shifting power and breaking down myths that weaken indigenous communities. She has a BA in Psychology from Portland State University and is now seeking an AFA in New Media Arts from the Institute of American Indian Arts.

Photo of Miguel Angel Montalva Barba.Miguel Angel Montalva Barba grew up in Mexico City and left as a young boy, arriving in Los Angeles the same week of the L.A. Rebellion of 1992. This life experience along with coming out as gay formed the basis for his scholarship and community organizing. He has worked with the Long Beach Immigrant Rights Coalition and taken a leadership role in developing a relationship between immigrant and LGBTQ communities, focusing on creating safe spaces for “UndocuQueers”, planning events and dialogues encouraging story-telling, relationship building and organizing. He is currently working with Circle Projects, healing circles rooted in critical pedagogy and critical race theory, which have proven to develop young leaders in the community. He also works with the Queer Undocumented Immigrant Project, which has a coalitional organizational emphasis. Miguel has a BA in Sociology and Music and an MA in Sociology from Cal State in Los Angeles. His Master’s thesis is a study of Black and Latino Relations in East L.A. as represented in ethnic media entitled, “Black and Latino Relations in Los Angeles: As Represented in La Opinión and Los Angeles Sentinel.” He is pursuing a PhD at Northeastern University, where he wants to explore how identity formation among LGBTQ undocumented youth is influenced by ethnic media. He says, “I refuse to defer my dreams and let structural difference obscure my spirit, voice and potential as a sociologist.”

Photo of Steven Parkhurst.Steven Parkhurst has been incarcerated for 21 years, since the age of 17. As a juvenile lifer he has worked as a spokesperson with the Campaign for Youth Justice on retroactive waivers following last year’s Supreme Court decision. Becoming committed to his own education, he began encouraging others to do the same, serving as Inmate College Advisor (a position he created); advocating for online access for the GED (now granted) and serving as the inside advisor to the Transcending through Education Foundation, which he co-founded with a fellow inmate. He is one of six prisoners in a group called SCORE that speaks to youth in danger of criminalization. Steve’s most engaged work as an activist is his creation and distribution of Con*Mic, a set of graphic pamphlets that present a whole set of prisoner justice, health, stigma and anti-violence issues. These have been distributed to and used by 75 different organizations, including Progreso Latino, Critical Resistance, AIDS Care and the Institute for Study of the Practice of Nonviolence. Con*Mic is based on stories and ideas from people inside addressing racism and homophobia among other social issues. Recidivism rate for those with a master’s degree is almost zero and he plans to be among that statistic, serving as an example to other prisoners. He emphasizes interracial solidarity through bridge building, helping to overcome past presumptions that education is only for white people inside the prison. He has earned an AA from Community College of Rhode Island, a BA from Adams State University and will begin taking courses toward a Master’s degree in Business Administration. He plans to strengthen opportunities for people getting out in Rhode Island, creating a business that employs and provides leadership opportunities for formerly incarcerated people.

Photo of Marissa Piña.Marissa Piña became involved with the Orange County DREAM Team as discussion of the Deferred Action program was happening. She worked to plan and implement informational forums, free legal clinics, as well as working as a liaison between local young people and the Mexican Consulate, assisting with required paperwork. She joined in with Copwatch Santa Ana, protesting police brutality, holding signs near ICE checkpoints, doing banner drops and delivering letters to the sheriff calling for an end to profiling and Secure Communities programs. She co-founded Communities Against the Prison Industrial Complex (CAPIC) at Cal State and works in collaboration with Critical Resistance to hold educational workshops and direct action targeted at prison abolition. She has planned actions in solidarity with Pelican Bay Prisoners, attended the Chowchilla Freedom rally and is planning Know Your Rights sessions, while becoming involved in Californians for a Responsible Budget, a group focused on reducing prison funding. Marissa is a social justice advocate with the California teacher’s union, focusing on how to break the school to prison pipeline and is working on the de-militarization of schools. Her long-term goal is to “bridge struggles of mass incarceration with an ever growing immigrant detention complex to show how strategies of survival have been criminalized for struggling communities everywhere”. She will complete a BA in Philosophy this year at California State Fullerton and hopes to study law in the future.

Photo of Tamanna Rahman.
Tamanna Rahman was politicized while attending an east coast private college where she experienced and observed a very white, very privileged environment. The disparity caused her to develop an analysis of power and wealth, labor and poverty. During summer internships, she worked with the national Gay and Lesbian Task Force on an LGBTQ Immigrant project and then did a Union Semester in New York, working full time for a union, taking night classes and living in a radical community of student protests. She traveled to Bangladesh, retracing her parents’ journey and became involved with Nijera Kori, a socialist, peasant organizing collective. After graduating, she went to work for UNITE HERE! where she worked for 3 years, deepening her belief in the strength of solidarity. She returned to California and began working as a mental health worker in the place she grew up. She believes a collective healthcare model is lacking in our communities and following completion of her degree as a psychiatric nurse practitioner, wants to continue working in immigrant communities, creating community and cultural space with organizing, family resources, and healthcare that is more accessible and relevant. This center would bring together political organizing, social services, and healthcare. She has a BA in American Studies from Williams College, completed a Union Semester through Queens College, NY and a Sustainable Development semester at Independent University in Dhaka, Bangladesh. She aims to complete an MSN at Yale University.

Photo of Berenice Rodriguez.Berenice Rodriguez became involved with the Georgia Undocumented Youth Alliance following passage of HB 87, an anti-immigrant, e-verify bill. She participated in rallies and protests following a ban on undocumented students attending Public Universities, including one where she participated in civil disobedience. There she found the depth of her courage to take a stand against injustice. She began to speak out, telling her story publically and was invited to be a part of the South Georgia Farm Worker health project at Emory University. She worked as a translator and educated the workers on their rights under the new law. She started a club called Student Dreamers and Allies, educating the largely white and privileged student and teacher population at her high school. Fighting immigration hate laws is her top priority but so is working with Farmworker communities. In time she hopes to start an organization that can work toward political justice as a coalitional force that includes working toward free healthcare and immigration justice and reform. She is studying Public Policy at Syracuse University.

Photo of Irene Rojas-Carroll.Irene Rojas-Carroll was politicized by the Prop 8 campaign in California as a junior in high school. The impact of feeling unprotected as a young queer person along with the racial segregation of tracking in her school mobilized her into action. She founded a Gay-Straight Alliance Club, offering workshops and leading a campaign to include sexual orientation and gender identity in school harassment and discrimination policies. As an intern with the GSA Network she led trainings, leadership development and had the opportunity to develop her own activist philosophies around patriarchy, capitalism and white supremacy. Now at Brown University, she is co-chair of the Queer Alliance and is moving the conversation about marriage equality to include Trans and people of color, planning programs on race, privilege and intersections of oppression. The QA encompasses 18 subgroups around campus and her role is to advise and represent all of them in one way or another. Irene also builds coalitions with United Students Against Sweatshops, mobilizing queer students to support their anti-Adidas campaign and has worked with Students for Justice in Palestine. She aims to develop a critical analysis of race, gender and sexuality, focusing on knowledge that has been kept from oppressed communities by power structures in place. She is pursuing a BA in Africana Studies at Brown University.

Photo of Diana Salazar.Diana Salazar grew up in a farm worker family from Oaxaca Mexico and spent summers working in the fields. While doing an internship with the Capaces Leadership Institute, a sister organization to PCUN (farmworker organization), she researched the state of agriculture in Oregon and presented “AgWealth in the Mid Willamete Valley: Understanding Who Created it and How it is Distributed“, which has become a popular education course. She has also interned with Center for Third world Organizing MAPP project, doing base building in Bay Area Latin@ communities, which resulted in the Todos Somos DREAMers grassroots fund to help DREAMers pay for DACA applications. She has organized the Social Justice, Real Justice Conference which was attended by over 800 students and has been involved in Palestinian solidarity efforts, connecting their struggle with US/Mexico border wall through a checkpoint action which resulted in an ongoing campus group called Students Against Imperialism. Diana’s thesis is focused on U.S. imperialism and how its impact on indigenous women. She is including an overview of the history of resistance in Oaxaca as well as the history of colonialism and current U.S. mapping of land in Oaxaca. She plans to work as a community organizer after graduating next year with a BA/BS in Ethnic Studies/Planning, Public Policy and Management from the University of Oregon.

Photo of Sarahi Uribe.Sarahi Uribe – Following the death of her father who had been deported to Mexico even though he was a permanent resident, building a life and raising a family in the US, Sarahi began working with Connecticut families who were victims of a mass immigration raid. She provided legal support to those held at the detention center and realized then that in order to make real change, the immigrant movement would have to build enough power to change unjust and oppressive laws. She organized for the first city issued ID card granted to any resident regardless of immigration status. Later she began organizing day laborers and for the past 5 years she has worked with a leading immigrant rights organization, the National Day Laborers Organizing Network (NDLON), as an organizer and then as the national campaign coordinator. She worked to challenge the Secure Communities program, the largest deportation program in US history, demanding government transparency, training community groups and building support of community groups, elected officials and law enforcement agents opposing the program. She has a BA in History from Yale and is attending NYU School of Law with a goal to be a public interest lawyer and work to decriminalize immigrant communities.

Photo of Carolina Valdez.
Carolina Valdez became involved with a Chicana student group, organizing around Latina women’s issues and serving as the group’s herstorian and became more radicalized as her involvement moved to the community at large. She became involved with Association of Raza Educators (ARE) while teaching at an elementary school and joined the struggle against university budget cuts in 2008. As co-chair of ARE she led coalition building and fundraising efforts as well as leading a teacher inquiry group, providing members with social justice curriculum support. She took over as a lead organizer with the LA Coalition for Justice for Oscar Grant and is involved with a transnational feminist organization, AF3IRM, previously Gabriela Network. In 2012 she co-founded the People’s Education Movement (PEM), a multi-ethnic, decolonial organization of educators addressing forms of oppression connecting pedagogy, personal healing and community action in Black/Brown communities. Her long term goal is to create a decolonial K-12 community school similar to the Black Panther School of the 70’s. As a second year doctoral student in Education and Urban Schooling at UCLA, her research topic is Decolonizing Pedagogy and Community Organizing, examining strategies for transforming mandated curriculum into one that fosters critical consciousness and community agency. Carolina has a BS in Child Development from San Diego State and an MA in Teaching from University of Southern California.

Photo of Angelica Velasquillo.Angelica Velasquillo became an immigrant rights activist working to stop her brother’s deportation in 2011 with Education Not Deportation (END) and was arrested at a later protest with the North Carolina DREAM Team. She became empowered to stand up & fight on her own terms even if that meant being deported finding a community that has been growing together since then. She has interned with Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights working to halt the building of a detention center in Joliet, IL. She also has worked as a person of faith, providing pastoral care and mental health care to detainees with the Sisters of Mercy and an interfaith group. Her next placement will be working with “unaccompanied minors”, those who have no documentation and have no legal parent or guardian in the US. She hopes to work for inclusion of this ever growing population of young people in the immigration reform debates. She leads efforts with Undocuhealth, a mental health project of the National Immigrant Youth Alliance and plans to continue challenging immigration policies while providing mental health services for immigrant youth and families. She wants to go back to the South and help build and strengthen the undocumented movement and provide spaces for community voices within academia in order to influence policy & dismantle systems of power. She has a BA in Psychology from Belmont Abbey College and is currently in a master’s program in Social Service Administration at the University of Chicago.

Photo of Reyna Wences.Reyna Wences began her activist journey in 2007 as a 16-year-old undocumented and queer young person who became involved with Radio Arte in the Pilsen neighborhood in Chicago. She co-produced “Homofrecuencia” featuring stories on resources for youth and told her own stories as well. She co-founded the Immigrant Youth Justice League (with grantee Lulu Martinez and past grantee Tania Unzueta) and began organizing the first Coming Out of the Shadows Rally in Chicago. She played lead organizing roles in working to defeat SB 1070 in Arizona, planning civil disobedience actions there as well as in DC in 2010 when the Senate voted against the DREAM Act. She was involved in the first “Undocu-queer” organizing efforts in 2011 while speaking around the country and mobilizing communities in Alabama and Georgia. She helped create a coalition of immigrant justice organizations called Undocumented Illinois – and led a blockade action during a recent Obama visit, calling for an executive order to stop deportations. Reyna is interested in continued organizing around LGBTQ and immigration issues, such as rights for bi-national couples and is writing a chapter for an undocuqueer book project. Most recently she has led efforts to End Streamline a deportation program in Arizona. She hopes to complete a degree at the University of Illinois, Chicago in Women and Gender Studies and then ideally go to graduate school and continue to organizing work around deportation and immigration policy.

Photo of Matt Williamson.Matt Williamson works with the No More Deaths and Kino Border Initiative with people who have been deported, documenting the stories especially of sexual and gender minorities seeking asylum and particularly concerned about health disparities and finding solutions. His experience of growing up in a large Catholic family and being subjected to reparative therapy because of sexual and gender identity, has made Mateo passionate about the intersections of spirituality, gender and sexuality. With inspiration from liberation theology, he dialogues with religious leaders, writes educational articles, and organizes to end to the practice of reparative therapy. After speaking about queer homeless youth at the Catholic social justice group on campus, he was asked to leave and now works to create safe zones and social justice organizing opportunities for Catholic, queer students on campus. A pre-med and Spanish student at the University of Arizona, he hopes to continue to bridge Trans rights, immigrant rights and social justice along the Arizona border.