Marianela Acuña Arreaza
Marianela is a budding community organizer, social researcher and educator. She was born and raised in Venezuela, and she a recent immigrant to the US. Marianela studied Sociology and Arts at the University of Houston. Her research experience is mostly on social inequalities, labor, gender, and social movements, mostly through qualitative and participatory research. While in college, Marianela was a student organizer. She mostly educated about and campaigned for more ethical food and apparel, mobilizing student power and also opening spaces for workers to network. In the community, she has volunteered with the local workers center accompanying them in cases of labor abuse and coordinating a participatory research project with domestic workers. Marianela has also organized professionally with Mi Familia Vota, managing both civic engagement and immigrants’ rights advocacy campaigns. Currently she works with the Texas Civic Engagement Table. On the side, she organizes with Yo-colectivo and gets ready for her post-graduate studies.
Orlando Lara currently lives in Houston working as an immigrant rights activist, trainer, and facilitator for a new group called La TUYA, The Texas Undocumented Youth Alliance. He is an artist, a writer, and an occasional scholar, working at the intersection of race, class, citizenship, and storytelling through both visual and verbal media. He has produced dangerous storytelling workshops for undocumented youth in New York City, art exhibits about border death and border thirst in Arizona, short videos about border-crossing from the perspective of women and artists, a harpist exiled to New York City in one case, a mother recounting her desert crossing in another. As an undergraduate he did research on the history and more recent work of the Border Arts Workshop in a Tijuana squatter’s town. His photographs have been published in Anthropology Now, Current Anthropology, and the 2nd edition of Mary Louise Pratt’s Imperial Eyes. He is currently doing the background research for a book-length narrative about growing up as a “falsified citizen” in Texas, and has begun work on a novel about the emotional breakdown of a Mexican immigrant family in the Gulf Coast of Texas. Orlando holds an MFA in fiction from Cornell, an M.A. in anthropology and a certificate in culture and media from NYU, as well as a B.A. in Chicano/a Studies from Stanford University.
Brendan began his activism with a few anti-war actions in High School after the US Invasion of Iraq. While attending the University of Houston (UH), he became involved in labor solidarity organizing with United Students Against Sweatshops (USAS) and United Students for Fair Trade (USFT) around issues affecting garment workers, farmworkers, janitors, construction workers and day laborers. During his time with the groups, they had several significant victories including UH becoming the first school in Texas to adopt the garment industry watch-dog organization the Workers Rights Consortium (WRC), securing Fair Trade coffee in all coffee vendors on campus, getting our foodservice company to sign the Fair Food agreement with the Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW), and getting sweatshop-free apparel on campus. Brendan was also involved with Students for a Democratic Society on Immigrant Rights, Palestinian Solidarity and Anti-War campaigns, which included successfully stopping T. Don Hutto Detention Center from incarcerating migrant children, as part of a statewide coalition. as well as Students Against Sexual Harassment and Assault on a campaign to combat sexual assault on campus through transformative justice focused on perpetrators and potential perpetrators. He served on the national steering committee for the Student Farmworker Alliance (SFA) in 2010, and co-hosted the SFA Texas Regional Conference that year. Brendan worked for two years as a community organizer with Texans Together doing community center development in low-income apartment complexes, voter participation, civic engagement and issue advocacy. He’s currently a canvass organizer with Working America an organizes in a volunteer capacity with the YO! Collective and the Southwest Defense Network doing community organizing training, tenant and worker organizing, and historical activism projects.
Valeria Medina recently moved to Houston after graduating with her Masters of Science in Social Work. She is passionate about intersecting identities, racial and economic justice especially in relation to young people. Through La TUYA (Texas Undocumented Youth Alliance), she is currently working with high school students in addressing issues relating to their immigration status and in recognizing their individual and collective power. She also works with Communities in Schools in providing counseling and social services.
I’m an 18 year old writer, originally from Mexico, living in the U.S. on a deferred action. I have been speaking of my immigration status as a child and have been using my own experiences as as reference material for my work. I’m part of LA TUYA, helping undocumented families help relatives get out of ICE holds and and deportations, by empowering the families and educating them. As a college student, I experience many ideas from people of all sides of the immigration reform, those who appose and those who support.
John Pluecker is a writer, artist, social justice interpreter, literary translator and co-founder with Jen Hofer of the language justice and literary experimentation collaborative Antena. His work is informed by experimental poetics, radical aesthetics and cross-border cultural production. His texts have appeared in journals in the U.S. and Mexico, including The Volta, Mandorla, Aufgabe, eleven eleven, Third Text, Animal Shelter, HTMLGiant and Literal. His work extends off the page to installation and performance work with Antena, text-based improvisational performances in collaboration with experimental musicians and performance artists, as well as projects at the intersections of visual art and poetry. He has translated numerous books from the Spanish, including Tijuana Dreaming: Life and Art at the Global Border (Duke University Press, 2012) and Feminism: Transmissiones and Retransmissions (Palgrave Macmillan, 2011). He has published three chapbooks, Routes into Texas (DIY, 2010), Undone (Dusie Kollektiv, 2011) and Killing Current (Mouthfeel Press, 2012).
Jose Eduardo Sanchez
José Eduardo Sánchez is a Houston-based community organizer, researcher, and activist. José Eduardo comes from a small town in Guanajuato, Mexico, where he grew up with stories of his mother’s experiences as a domestic worker. At age 9, along with his mother and younger siblings, José Eduardo migrated to Houston to join his father, who has been a construction worker for most of his life. Through his parents, he learned about the struggles and hardships of making a living, but most importantly, discovered the unequivocal value and dignity of work. These experiences have fueled his work fighting for social change for the past 4 years through innovative, community-based policy and research initiatives. José Eduardo holds a B.S. in Political Science and has been organizing in Houston around queer, immigrant, and worker rights for the past 4 years. He is also the co-founder of the YO Colectivo, a capacity building organization for social movements in the Houston area and a fellow with the Highlander Research & Education Center.
I’ve worked with Houston United/Unido, an all volunteer coalition of immigrant’s rights groups on numerous campaigns, direct actions and projects, most recently putting on a Community Townhall event to exchange information and ideas about SB744, the Senate Reform bill. After talking with various friends and meeting with Alianza Mexicana members, we realized that most people had no idea what was in the bill or in the House proposals because it was not being reported via mainstream media. We also saw that congress was largely unaware of what those most affected by the proposals were actually concerned about. We videotaped the entire event including all testimony from community members. That is now being transcribed and translated where needed by an HU member and will be submitted to congress. This is just one of HU’s many projects in the past few years. . Working for 17 years as a Planned Parenthood nurse, I was naturally involved in reproductive rights actions, lobbying and advocacy. Over the years, more and more young women from MX & CA came through the clinics and told stories of being raped on the journey here and feeling devalued and alone and desperately missing her children. Each one had left very young children behind w/ family to risk getting here alive in order to to make $$ to send back to support their kids. Walking and chanting in 2006 with 5-10 thousand people, mostly immigrants in Houston’s largest ever march and attending the planning sessions for it changed my life.
Stalina Emmanuelle Villarreal (1978, Yucatan, Mexico) is a Mexican and Chicana artist, poet, and translator. Her cultural activism began in 2003 during the Immigrant Workers Freedom Ride, during which she photographed for the newspaper El Día. Then, when she studied Writing at California College of the Arts; her M.F.A. poets’ theater performance questioned a myriad of social issues, including queer bashing in San Francisco. Further, she has sculpted for the Recycled Comadres of Talento Bilingüe de Houston for environmentalism. Her Neo-Benshi performance in Monterrey criticized the machismo of the drug trafficking along the U.S.-Mexico border. Two poets she translated have criticized violence in Mexico. Additionlly, she has published and presented visual poetry in Mexico. She has three video poems, one of which won an honorable mention in Señorita Cinema. She also facilitated a video-poetry workshop in this years’ Señorita Cinema. Currently, she volunteers to co-lead a writing workshop in Spanish for domestic workers La Colmena at Fe y Justicia, and in English with a sporadic multilingualism, she co-leads a creative-writing workshop for urban youth at Multicultural Education Counseling through the Arts (MECA). She also promotes literacy advocacy as well as cultural awareness as part of her pedagogical role at Houston Community College. Ultimately, Villarreal’s goal is to promote cultural and social awareness using altered beautiful aesthetics in light of ugly complexities.
Dayana Gómez was born in Michoacan Mexico and was brought to the United States at the age of 7. As a first generation immigrant, Dayana, has experienced firsthand discrimination and has strived to achieve a better way of life not just for her but the immigrant community in general. She has been involved in the immigrant rights movement since 2006 and her involvement began with the largest mobilization in Houston, the May 1st march. She became an active advocate for the DREAM ACT with JIFM (Jovenes Inmigrantes por un Futuro Mejor) and along with other youth founded and became Treasurer of FIEL (Familias Inmigrantes y Estudiantes en la Lucha). In her quest to be more inclusive of the greater immigrant community and uphold human rights and dignity for all immigrants, she began working as a Special Event Organizer for CRECEN and is currently the Associate Director of Houston’s America For All. Dayana has received her BA in Psychology and Minor in Mexican American studies from the University of Houston and later went on to receive her Masters of Social Work with a certification in Gerontology. She has received recognition by the Scurlock Foundation for her continuous effort to create a change in the immigrant community. While at the University of Houston her focus was on Leadership, Administration and Policy. She interned with ASPIRE to WIN, Inc. whose focus was on providing services to those who have been incarcerated for more than 10 consecutive years and with Communities in Schools Houston Development Department whose focus is on dropout prevention. Dayana’s passion is still in giving a voice to the undocumented youth, which is the reason she is one of the founders of Today’s n’ Tomorrow’s Youth.
Deborah Fisher is the founding Executive Director of A Blade of Grass. An artist, administrator and entrepreneur, Fisher has worked as an advisor and collections manager for the Shelley and Donald Rubin Private Collection, as studio manager for Socrates Sculpture Park in Long Island City, and has taught art history, appreciation and studio classes at New York University, St. John’s University and Nassau Community College. She is a co-founder of Urban Farm Syndicate, a social enterprise in its startup phase that partners with developers to modularly farm vacant lots in New York City using mobile containers and distributed design principles. Fisher’s art practice questions the relationship between what we call “nature” and the built environment, and is focused primarily on public projects. For her most recent action, Bed Stuy Meadow, more than 100 volunteers sowed wildflower seeds on every square inch of vacant land in Bed Stuy, Brooklyn. Fisher’s large-scale sculpture has been commissioned by the city of Peekskill through the Peekskill Project and Middlebury College’s Art In Public Places program.