Cesar Chavez day edition 2017

Marguerite Casey Foundation Honors Chavez Day Heroes for 2017



Ninfa Aleman – An Empowered, Confident Heroine in South Texas

Hero’s name: Ninfa Aleman

Home city: Brownsville, Texas

Organization affiliation: La Union del Pueblo Entero (LUPE)

How does the person’s work advance social justice? What is the person’s vision for an equitable world?

“Ninfa Aleman has been a longtime member of LUPE and a leader of the community. She began her volunteer work with Fuerza del Valle Workers’ Center many years ago. Since then, she has volunteered her service and time to many projects and organizations such as LUPE, the ACLU and Our Revolution.

As a member and leader of LUPE, she has provided her home for meetings and has welcomed members of the community into their home to talk about services for the community, immigration issues and civil rights.

She has advocated for and responded to the needs of her neighbors and has linked them to immediate health care services through the Valley Care Mobile Clinic.

She has also done presentations at school districts and other public places about immigration services and civil rights.

Ninfa has overcome adversity because of her immigration status and has been a victim of discrimination and inequality since she was forcefully brought over to the U.S. when she was very young.

When she became a mother, she realized how someone’s immigration status could be such an obstacle in obtaining basic needs for her children. However, through trial and tribulation, and determination, Ninfa has been able to overcome her issues.

Ninfa’s involvement in community organizations has empowered her and provided confidence in her position in the world.

She has used that newfound power to continue to progress and do good for her community in an effort to help those that find themselves in the situation she was once in.

Ninfa is a true heroine because she uses her story of adversity and triumph to educate people through interviews, media and presentations about discrimination on immigration status and its detrimental effect on members of the community.”

Honored by: Gabriela Zavala of LUPE

Gabriela Castaneda – Supports Bridges and Hugs on U.S.-Mexico Border

Hero’s name: Gabriela Castaneda

Home city: El Paso, Texas

Organization affiliation: Border Network for Human Rights

How does the person’s work advance social justice? What is the person’s vision for an equitable world?

“Unfortunately this harsh border policy is taking us apart….What we need is family reunification, what we need is bridges, not walls.”

— Gabriela Castaneda

“Gabriela Castaneda serves the El Paso border community as the communications director, an organizer and a ‘Know Your Rights’ instructor with the Border Network for Human Rights.

Gabriela helps the community understand how they are protected under the Fourth and Fifth amendments of the U.S. Constitution.

(The Fourth Amendment governs when a law enforcement official can enter a person’s home. The Fifth Amendment grants a person the right to silence, especially in the presence of authorities.)

Castaneda has been featured in Fusion and Al-Jazerra for her work.

She also recently helped organize the ‘Hugs Not Walls’ event on the U.S.-Mexico border, where families, who are separated because of a harsh immigration policy, are able to embrace for 3 minutes on the border.

Honored by: Cemelli de Aztlan

Derrick Ayson – A California Educator Who Stands Up for What Is Right

Hero’s name: Derrick Ayson

Home city: Los Angeles

How does the person’s work advance social justice? What is the person’s vision for an equitable world?

“Derrick Ayson was born in Stockton, California and was raised by his single adoptive mother in a low-income community. He understood at a young age the challenges that life had to offer.

Still, he remained optimistic and fascinated by the world around him, as he continued to have dreams of making a difference.

Although in his early years, he was challenged with finding his voice and discovering his identity. In high school, this affected him the most when he eventually dropped out.

Derrick began his professional journey within the YouthBuild program and took a second chance at success.

YouthBuild is a nonprofit youth-focused organization that allows young people the chance to complete their high school education and receive job-training skills.

He graduated at the top of his class, receiving multiple certificates and the award for perfect attendance.

After graduation, Derrick spent eight months working for the San Joaquin Regional Conservation Corps recycling division. He realized the importance of understanding clean energy and the carbon footprint.

Later, he became the first YouthBuild alumni to work as an AmeriCorps VISTA worker at YouthBuild’s national headquarters in Boston.

Over the course of a year, his primary responsibility was to build capacity for the organization within the Graduate Leadership Department.

After his service, he returned to California and became an instructional tutor supporting opportunities for youth who were receiving their GED.

He eventually relocated to Southern California and was offered a position as a counselor and registrar with the YouthBuild Charter School of California.

At 26, Derrick spends his time mentoring young people and serving the community.

He consistently volunteers in both communities of color and the LGBT community by providing guidance and leadership skills.

He has a strong passion to infuse the arts to community awareness. His long-term goal is to help people find their own happiness, and he is committed to standing up for what is right.”

Honored by: Alicia McKinney of YouthBuild

 

Maria Elena Ramos – An Immigrant Organizes for Kids and Technology

Hero’s name: Maria Elena Ramos

Home city: San Francisco

Organization affiliation: Coleman Advocates for Children & Youth

How does the person’s work advance social justice? What is the person’s vision for an equitable world?

“Maria Elena has been a member of Parents Making a Change (PMAC), which is Coleman’s parent organizing project for seven years. She immigrated to the U.S. from El Salvador in 2009 and has faced countless challenges in her quest for a better life for her family.

When Maria Elena enrolled her son in elementary school in San Francisco, she quickly learned that while many students were receiving a quality education, many others – primarily Black and Latino students – were being failed by a two-tiered educational system.

One of Maria Elena’s first leadership experiences was helping to lead a PMAC campaign to win a computer lab at her son’s elementary school.

When she learned that there were no computers at the school, she was disappointed and suspicious.

In the 21st century, how could a school not have any computers, especially in a city with so much wealth and technology?

She investigated and found that other schools had computer labs but they were not in low-income immigrant Latino neighborhoods, like her son’s school. She worked with PMAC to survey parents and educate them about their rights.

She met with the principal who told her the school didn’t have money for computers and tried to intimidate her into silence. Maria Elena didn’t back down.

She recruited, mentored and inspired many parents to get involved. When Maria Elena became very ill and had to step away from the work temporarily, the parents she recruited continued the fight.

After two years, the parents won the resources for a computer lab and staff. One day, her son came home from school and said ‘Mama, I thought about you all day today! We had our first class in the computer lab!’

Since then, Maria Elena has played numerous leadership roles in PMAC and the local education equity and economic justice movements.

She is helping to lead a campaign to win a district-level ‘Family Academy’ to train parents to be able to more effectively support their children academically and act as advocates for their right to high-quality education and supportive environments in their schools.

Maria Elena is especially known for her dedicated commitment to building unity between Black and Latino communities, particularly when it comes to common challenges, hopes and dreams related to public education.

She is constantly pushing other parents to challenge their acceptance of the status quo.”

Honored by: Yaya Ruiz of Coleman Advocates for Children & Youth

 

Arnulfo Manriquez – Equity and Families Are at Center of His Work

Hero’s name: Arnulfo Manriquez

Home city: Chula Vista, California

Organization affiliation: MAAC

How does the person’s work advance social justice? What is the person’s vision for an equitable world?

“Arnulfo Manriquez has dedicated his career to the betterment of underserved individuals, households and communities in San Diego.

He serves as president and CEO of MAAC, a nonprofit organization which provides programs, leadership development and advocacy throughout San Diego County.

Arnulfo is personally and professionally invested in the mission of NCLR, a social justice organization. He first began working with us in 2003.

Over the years, Arnulfo has frequently engaged with NCLR supporting advocacy efforts in California, such as with the California Housing Bill of Rights.

He also has backed various justice reform measures in partnership with us.

Arnulfo has often been a peer leader within the NCLR network, participating in workshops and offering expertise.

Under his leadership, MAAC has implemented various programs in partnership with NCLR and been a key player in our education program work.

His willingness to engage with us across various issues and eagerness to share best practices are a testament to his vision of collaboration to build an equitable world.”

Honored by: Janet Murguia of NCLR

James Mackey – #StuckOnReplay Founder Takes on Prison Slavery

Hero’s name: James Mackey

Home city: Boston

Organization affiliation: #StuckOnReplay

How does the person’s work advance social justice? What is the person’s vision for an equitable world?

“James Mackey is an activist, motivational speaker, community organizer, member of the YouthBuild USA National Alumni Council and founder of a grassroots movement called #StuckOnReplay.

The mission of #StuckOnReplay is to elevate the voices and lift up the communities most affected by mass incarceration. #StuckOnReplay does this by holding community forums and civic leadership events to change public policy.

James started #StuckOnReplay after seeing firsthand that the criminal justice system has too many members of low-income communities on parole, in jail or in prisons. People were “Stuck On Replay!”

Through #StuckOnReplay, James hosts public events where he gives community members most affected by mass incarceration a forum to tell their stories and share ideas about how we can improve our criminal justice system.

He recently organized ‘#StuckOnReplay Presents: AmendXlll,’ where over 60 passionate participants created a 10-step action plan to [change] the U.S. Constitution’s 13th Amendment, which allows slavery for prisoners.

James is extremely passionate about community organizing and striving to make true social justice a reality. He is devoted to youth engagement, mentoring and advocating for allocating resource and opportunities to those who need it the most.

Ultimately, James dedicates his work to empowering others around him.”

Honored by: Alicia McKinney of YouthBuild

Anza Becnel – A NOLA Organizer Helps People Gain ‘Their Lives Back’

Hero’s name: Anza Becnel

Home city: New Orleans

Organization affiliation: Stand With Dignity at the New Orleans Workers’ Center for Racial Justice

How does the person’s work advance social justice? What is the person’s vision for an equitable world?

“Anza Becnel is the new lead organizer for Stand With Dignity, which supports economic inclusion and racial equity especially for Black workers and families.

In his short tenure, he has created an amazing opportunity to give poor and vulnerable citizens in New Orleans their lives back.

Anza organized and led a Warrant Clinic for the more than 30,000 people in New Orleans who had outstanding municipal and traffic warrants.

These types of warrants can be economic barriers for people.

There were more than 1,500 people who showed up at the Warrant Clinic, which as The Times-Picayune reported, was more than double the amount organizers expected.

Taxpayers were saved more than $2 million. Participants gained their licenses and are now able to seek job opportunities and live as full citizens.

This initiative was so successful, he is planning another one in July.

What I love is that this is about truly putting the ‘service’ back in public service!”

Honored by: Ashley K. Shelton

Serena Owen – A Kentucky Leader Calls for an ‘Inclusive Community’

Hero’s name: Serena Owen

Home city: Elsmere, Kentucky

Organization affiliation: Kentuckians For The Commonwealth

How does the person’s work advance social justice? What is the person’s vision for an equitable world?

“Serena Owen is the Community Liaison for the Greater Cincinnati Central Labor Council and the Greater Cincinnati United Way.

In addition, she has been a tireless advocate for her community through involvement with the First Baptist Church of Elsmere, the Northern Kentucky unit of the NAACP and the Northern Kentucky Chapter of Kentuckians For The Commonwealth.

Trained as an educator, she is passionate about making sure that her community understands the importance of local elections and details about issues.

She has been a spokesperson for KFTC around the need for more people of color and women to run for public office.

She also has spearheaded an individual effort to bring better public transportation to her community in Elsmere, been a spokesperson for the need for progressive tax reform in Kentucky and worked to promote expanded health care, especially for students with disabilities.

She has served in various leadership positions with KFTC around economic justice, voter empowerment and racial justice.

She envisions an inclusive community that celebrates our differences, promotes frank discussions about issues that are important to maligned communities, and elevates equal opportunities for all, regardless of their background.”

Honored by: Jessie Skaggs of Kentuckians For The Commonwealth

San Juanita Aguirre – Her Son Inspires Health Outreach Work in Texas

Hero’s name: San Juana Aguirre

Home city: Mission, Texas

Organization affiliation: La Union del Pueblo Entero (LUPE)

How does the person’s work advance social justice? What is the person’s vision for an equitable world?

“San Juanita is a hero in my eyes and in the eyes of other community members. San Juanita went through a devastating moment in her life where her 7-year-old son Angel was diagnosed with cancer.

Unfortunately, all the treatment he was given did not work, and San Juanita lost her son.

As an undocumented mother, San Juanita, as well as her family, struggled to get her son the treatment he needed due to not having documents and not being able to travel freely to other parts of the state to get the treatment he needed.

San Juanita never gave up hope and did everything she could to heal her son. But unfortunately, her son lost the battle.

In honor of her son and the struggles she went through, San Juanita became a Community Health Educator (CHE) with La Union del Pueblo Entero to help her community in receiving the health care they need.

By working in the ‘Health on Wheels’ program at LUPE, San Juanita has learned about the resources that our community has to offer and is always helping individuals find the health resources they need.

Community members look up to San Juanita as an advocate when they have health-related issues because they know she works with ‘Health on Wheels’ and that she does her best to find help for people in need.

San Juanita also participated as a spokesperson for LUPE concerning Prop 1., letting people know the importance of having a public health care district in the Rio Grande Valley.

She hopes that no one has to go through the struggles she did when her son had cancer.

I can also say that San Juanita has developed great leadership skills and always makes herself available whenever she is needed to volunteer and to participate in protests and other events for the better of our community.”

Honored by: Kayla Montano of LUPE

Taishi Neuman – A Mom Fights for Good Housing, Inspiring Her Kids

Hero’s name: Taishi Neuman

Home city: Chicago

Organization affiliation: Chicago Coalition for the Homeless 

How does the person’s work advance social justice? What is the person’s vision for an equitable world?

“Taishi Neuman is inspired to help families coping with poverty. First homeless at age 15, she experienced homelessness again when multiple sclerosis left her unable to work as a nursing home assistant.

She thought she was too reserved to speak up, until Taishi met a community organizer from the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless (CCH). He was running an outreach session, telling parents at her transitional housing program how they could speak up about school issues.

‘I asked him, ‘How can I get on board with this?’ I explained that I’m a little shy, so I’m not sure I could do all that talking. But a lot of things that J.D. (the community organizer) said to get me to open up were true. He said, ‘Your story can take people a long way. You never know what someone else is going through unless you open up and tell your story.’’

Four years later, she no longer feels timid.

Active with the CCH Speakers Bureau, Taishi became a parent leader on the HomeWorks campaign. After 18 months of advocacy, parent leaders on its Education Committee persuaded Chicago Public Schools to enact a stronger homeless education policy, protecting the rights of the city’s 18,000 homeless students.

Taishi joined other homeless parents in speaking out at Board of Education meetings, testifying at eight meetings about problems in their schools.

The 1996 policy needed to be updated, but CPS first drafted a policy only two paragraphs long. Among later drafts, CPS proposed ending transportation assistance for students who live less than 1.5 miles from school.

That was scrapped after the Education Committee invited a top mayoral aide to walk with them through a West Side neighborhood.

The 6-page policy adopted last April guarantees homeless students are enrolled immediately. The policy also allows immediate and full participation in sports and activities and provides supplies, uniforms, school fee waivers, free meals and tutoring services.

Taishi says an equitable world would not allow children to be homeless more than a few weeks, especially when so many abandoned buildings could be converted to family housing. She is pleased her work inspires her daughters, who with their infant foster brother, are often at her side for meetings and advocacy trips.

‘My baby girl tells me, ‘Mom, me and Morgan want to be just like you. We want to help the world.’ And my older girl was asking: ‘When are we going to Springfield again? We need to tell the legislators: Where’s the money for our schools?’”

Honored by: Anne Bowhay of Chicago Coalition for the Homeless

Daniel Naranjo – A Farmworker Who Knows Organizing Brings Change

Hero’s name: Daniel Naranjo

Home city: Fellsmere, Florida

Organization affiliation: Farmworker Association of Florida

How does the person’s work advance social justice? What is the person’s vision for an equitable world?

“Daniel Naranjo was born in Mexicali, Baja California. At age 2, his family moved to Michoacán. He studied until the 6th grade, while working in the fields. His father had to come to the U.S. to support the family. In 1981, at the age of 15, due to family needs, he went to work in California with his four brothers.

Upon the arrival to the U.S., Naranjo worked as a dishwasher, busboy and a person who cleaned a ranch. He also worked for a company making nails for three years. In 1987, he worked-out his migratory statues becoming a legal resident.

In 1989, he returned to Michoacán. Then months later, he returned to Florida to work in the citrus industry. In 1990, he went to Michigan to harvest cherries and strawberries. After the season ended, he returned to Virginia to harvest grapes and peaches. He also found working making stone fences.

He returned to Michoacán for two months. In 1991, he returned to Fellsmere and worked harvesting citrus. Work took him to Virginia where he harvested grapes and peaches. In November 1992, he returned to Mexico, marrying Virginia Naranjo.

They returned to Fellsmere to harvest citrus. They then moved to the town of Labelle, where he worked in the fields, applying chemicals. Their first son, Daniel Jr, was born after that.

At the same time, they met a man who gave them information that Daniel fulfilled the requirement to become a citizen. In 1994 they returned to Fellsmere, where Daniel became the crew leader of 10 people.

In 1995, he received his license to transport fruit. The salary was bad. Again, he became a crew leader. In 1997, they had their first daughter, Vanessa. From 1998 to 2000, he returned to transporting fruit. From 2000 to 2010, he worked for three different plumbing companies. In 2005 the area coordinator invited him to be a member of the directive board of the Farmworker Association of Florida.

Throughout his continued membership as a member of FWAF, he took positions as a member of the executive committee and financial adviser.

From 2008 to 2012, he was a council member during two terms, listening to the needs of the community making changes and making the voice of immigrants heard as a City Council member. To this day, he continues work as a plumber.

His belief is that, as one person there is no noticeable change, but as a group, the changes are noticeable. As he observes: ‘That’s why I’m still fighting!'”

Honored by: Maria E. Martinez

Vanessa Moses – Leading the Fight for Good Housing, Immigrant Rights

Hero’s name: Vanessa Moses

Home cities: San Francisco and Oakland

Organization affiliation: Causa Justa :: Just Cause

How does the person’s work advance social justice? What is the person’s vision for an equitable world?

“Vanessa is a powerful Black leader in the San Francisco Bay Area and the new executive director of Causa Justa :: Just Cause (CJJC), a regional housing and immigrant rights organization.

Vanessa has a long track record of ensuring civil rights and building the power and leadership of working-class communities.

Vanessa trained as an organizer at the National School for Strategic Organizing with the Labor/Community Strategy Center and Bus Riders Union in Los Angeles.

She has worked for Bay Area Police Watch, a project of the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights and served as a collective member with the Center for Political Education.

In addition, she worked for eight years with generationFIVE to help build and evolve transformative justice practices and collaboratives.

Before taking on the executive director role at Causa Justa :: Just Cause, Vanessa served as co-director of programs at CJJC for 12 years.

At Causa Justa, Vanessa has lead the creation and development of CJJC’s Tenant Rights Clinics in Oakland and San Francisco.

Those clinics help more than 1,000 low-income tenants a year stay in their homes and live in habitable conditions. The Tenant Rights Clinics are modeled after the Black Panther Party’s “Serve the People” model.

In addition, Vanessa led a program at Causa Justa that experimented with Black organizing on a regional scale and uniting Black-led organizations in the Bay Area. Vanessa has been instrumental in strengthening civic engagement for communities of color in the Bay Area.

She served as co-chair of San Francisco Rising, an electoral alliance building the voting power of low-income communities. Vanessa created a field program that helped reach tens of thousands of voters in San Francisco, increasing voter turnout.

Because of Vanessa’s leadership, there were major progressive local and statewide ballot measure victories, such as Proposition 30 in 2012 in California and Proposition J, the minimum wage increase in 2014, in San Francisco.

Vanessa connects Causa Justa’s work to larger social justice movements.

Vanessa has been a leader in the Movement for Black Lives through her participation and support of the Bay Area chapter of #BlackLivesMatter.

Vanessa was one of the organizers and participants of the ‘Black Friday 14.’ Vanessa helped form Bay Rising, a regional alliance strengthening low-income communities in the civic and public policy throughout the Bay Area and statewide. Vanessa was also one of the co-creators of Bay Resistance, a multi-sector rapid response network.”

Honored by: Ellen Wu of Urban Habitat

Cesar Mata – A Birmingham Hero Who Stands for Human Rights

Hero’s name: Cesar Mata

Home city: Birmingham

Organization affiliation: Greater Birmingham Ministries (GBM), Alabama Coalition for Immigrant Justice and Adelante Alabama Worker Center

How does the person’s work advance social justice? What is the person’s vision for an equitable world?

“I have never met someone who has such an amazing generous heart to participate in everything possible in the city.

He is a member of Adelante Alabama Worker Center, Alabama Coalition for Immigrant Justice and a board member of Greater Birmingham Ministries.

He is a brother, an uncle and a good friend to many.

As an immigrant from Mexico, who can easily live in fear of being detained by Immigration and Customs Enforcement, for Cesar, that is the least of his worries (at least, this is what he shows to everybody else).

He is always available to represent any organization he is involved with.

He has helped many immigrants in the process to stop their deportations. He has given so much to the community. He really needs to be recognized for his community contributions.

He is ready to march and go to the streets, but he always has a smile and a good attitude with people. Cesar Mata is truly a hero among us.”

Honored by: Miguel Carpizo-Ituarte of Greater Birmingham Ministries

Maria Villareal – A ‘Hero of Compton,’ Especially to Those Who Know Best

Hero’s name: Maria Villarel

Home city: Compton, California

Organization affiliation: Latino Chamber of Commerce

How does the person’s work advance social justice? What is the person’s vision for an equitable world?

“Maria Villareal is a mother of four. As years went by, she embraced two more girls to her family with one at the age of 6 and the other at 8 months.

She has provided them with shelter, food, education and a family. I am very lucky to say I am one of those two girls. She is a very hardworking person.

She does anything possible to help her community, Compton. She fights for our Latino rights.

She’s always participating in community events and helping our small businesses in Compton.

She’s involved with many things, such as advocating for and representing small businesses, promoting small businesses, providing support and protecting civil rights of Latino.

She is very involved with education. She is not selfish in any kind of way. Whatever you need in order to achieve with your business, she will be there to provide you with it.

Maria Villareal has a vision to have equal rights for us Latinos in our community of Compton. Maria isn’t just involved with Latinos. The Latino Chamber of Commerce works with the African-American community.

So, as you can see, she is here to help each and everyone in this community of Compton. This is why I consider Maria Villareal as my hero of Compton.”

Honored by: Alma Flores-Villareal

 

Olivia Zarate – A Grandma and Advocate for Streetlights and Health Care

Hero’s name: Olivia Zarate

Home city: Mission, Texas

Organization affiliation: La Union del Pueblo Entero

How does the person’s work advance social justice? What is the person’s vision for an equitable world?

“Olivia has been involved with La Union del Pueblo Entero (LUPE), a grassroots organization, since 2003, trying to better the quality of life of her family and community.

Even though Olivia has four grandchildren who are under her care every day, she still manages to participate and volunteer in many different events.

Olivia has done everything from attending marches, conferences and commissioners’ meetings. She has gone to Austin, where state lawmakers meet at the Capitol, because she knows the importance of participation and fighting to make a difference.

In 2014, Olivia participated in bettering the quality of life in her colonia by working together with LUPE and putting in a lot of work to get public lighting in her colonia.

Olivia hosted house meetings, passed out fliers, collected signatures and attended court, all in an effort to accomplish the goal of getting public lighting in an area where families live. She now successfully has public lighting in her colonia.

To continue gaining leadership skills, Olivia joined the ‘Health on Wheels’ program as a Community Health Educator. She also is assisting with promotora classes so more people can raise health awareness with community members.

Since becoming a Community Health Educator, Olivia has gained knowledge of many resources. She is now able to pass the information along to community members who are in need of those resources.

Olivia is a strong community leader. I truly believe she will continue to try to make a difference in her community for as long as she can.

Or, as Olivia says about the need for health care and equality: “Ay que seguir luchando con la comunidad mientras yo tenga vida para tener servicios que nos hacen falta. Tenemos que luchar por seguro medico para todos y igualdad para toda la gente.”

Honored by: Kayla Montano of La Union del Pueblo Entero

 

 

 

Pamela Wray – A Birmingham Woman Who ‘Goes Where Angels Fear’

Hero’s name: Pamela D. Wray

Home city: Birmingham

Organization affiliation: The Lighthouse for Recovery Ministries and Safe Haven Dog Sanctuary

How does the person’s work advance social justice? What is the person’s vision for an equitable world?

“All you have to do is review her work to understand why this woman is a hero to myself, her network, her community and her clients.

She is always goes where the angels fear to tread and hates social injustice to the core of her being. She fights in every arena that comes her way and she does this without any salary – an example of true altruism.”

Honored by: Thomas Hosch

 

 

Myisa Whitlock – Passion Drives Her Goal of Positive Change

Hero’s name: Myisa Whitlock

Home city: St. Louis

Organization affiliation: STL Rise!

How does the person’s work advance social justice? What is the person’s vision for an equitable world?

“Myisa Whitlock has served in many organizational structures. Her record of accomplishment in the nonprofit community is rooted in her passion to serve others and commitment to support worthy causes.

She has over 15 years of experience in the nonprofit sector, across a broad range of community and national human service organizations. She always strives for the best results so communities and families can make progress.

She is a proven leader who consistently motivates others toward community, economic and social empowerment.

A native of St. Louis, she grew up in the Botanical Heights neighborhood, where she lived with her family for over 30 years. She has provided her gifts and talents to a number of social service agencies throughout the metropolitan area.

Her hard work to help people has earned her numerous community leadership and civic awards. Her efforts and dedication have helped people on a broad spectrum.

These agencies which she has helped include: Soulard Senior Citizens, Youth Education Health in Soulard, Midtown Senior Citizens, Adams Park Community Center, Grace Hill Neighborhood Health Center, Mission: St. Louis, Riverview West Florissant Development Corporation, the YMCA and St. Patrick Center.

In 2011, Myisa moved to Kansas City, Missouri with her family to lead the social services department for FPD Management Incorporated, a property management firm providing housing to over 1,000 residents. She moved back to the St. Louis area in 2013 to work for Park Central Development as a project manager.

Today, she is the deputy director for TRP Community Resource and Development Corporation. She also is working toward completing her master’s degree in urban planning at Saint Louis University.

She holds her bachelor’s degree, specialzing in organizational studies, community development and real estate, from the same university.

In December of 2013, she founded STL Rise!, an empowerment outreach and ‘in-reach’ organization that encourages lasting social change.”

Honored by: Alicia McKinney of YouthBuild

The Whites – A Ky. Couple Say Empathy Leads to True Progress

Hero’s name: Homer and Mary Lou White

Home city: Georgetown, Kentucky

Organization affiliation: Kentuckians For The Commonwealth

How does the person’s work advance social justice? What is the person’s vision for an equitable world?

“Mary Lou and Homer White have been members of Kentuckians For The Commonwealth since the mid-1990s.

While living in Eastern Kentucky, they were active in the then Pike County chapter around protecting the social safety net that safeguards the most vulnerable among us.

In fact, Homer’s rendition of Good King Wencelas, which is about welfare reform in the 1990s, is a favorite of their current chapter in Scott County, Kentucky.

The couple helped start the Scott County chapter in 2009, working closely with the local unit of the NAACP around the issue of voting rights for former felons.

As the chapter has grown over the years, they have spearheaded ongoing efforts around curbside recycling, engaging with elected officials.

They also support a new push to help get a non-discrimination ordinance (a family effort that includes great work from their daughters, Clare and Catherine) that would include protections for LGBTQ+ individuals in Georgetown.

A librarian and math professor by trade in their community of Georgetown, they both emphasize the need for discussion and learning around important issues.

They envision a community where people come together to try to understand what others experience.

They believe that approach will break down false differences and real barriers around race and class and create a compassionate society that offers basic protections and a hand up for those who need it.”

Honored by: Jessie Skaggs of Kentuckians For The Commonwealth

Rosemary Martinez – An El Paso Advocate Who Exemplifies Solidarity

Hero’s name: Rosemary P. Martinez (honored twice)

Home city: El Paso, Texas

Organization affiliation: Centro de los Trabajadores Agricolas Fronterizos and MEChA del Chuco (The University of Texas at El Paso)

How does the person’s work advance social justice? What is the person’s vision for an equitable world?

“Migration is a human right, and we will not allow a wall to separate our binational movements.”

— Rosemary P. Martinez

Rosemary is the president of the board of directors at Centro de los Trabajadores Agricolas Fronterizos, a community center in El Paso, Texas.

She also serves as the community adviser for the MEChA del Chuco, a Latino student organization at The University of Texas at El Paso.

She volunteers in the El Paso area, helping  veterans with their rights and claims. Specifically, she advocates on behalf of deported U.S. veterans.

A realist in this community and border region, she never gets tired, or at least has never shown it.

She will jump at a moments notice to march, protest and advocate for all disenfranchised and marginalized people in El Paso and Juarez, Mexico.

She sees a brighter future in this community because she has a firm belief in unity and solidarity, and she does not recognize any human-made border.”

Honored by (above): Joseph Martinez

How does the person’s work advance social justice? What is the person’s vision for an equitable world?

“At first glance, Rosemary is a typical Chicana from El Chuco, Texas. Follow her footsteps through her day, and you will quickly learn otherwise.

Rosemary is the president of the Mesa Directiva at the only farmworker center in the region and has been a true realist and contributor in the community for over four decades.

Her accomplishments: Raising five children while working up to three jobs, eight grandchildren and three great-grandchildren. She is the former president of MEChA, a Latino student organization at The University of Texas at El Paso, and the founder of El Chico Autonomous Brown Berets.

She is the recipient of the Las Americas Advocacy Center for Migrants Border Hero Award of 2014 and a vigorous and fierce advocate for veterans and their rights.

She was responsible for the return of deported veteran, Manuel de Jesus Castano to the United States after his death on foreign soil. More recently, she is the recipient of the Freedom Award for civilians who help veterans in need.

Rosemary has pursued the task of advocating for and teaching people in the borderlands what their rights are and how not to get detained by Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents or Border Patrol agents.

Her activism led her to Standing Rock for two weeks of prayer and speaking up for water and Native issues. She also spoke with Vietnam War veterans at the camp.

On any given day, you can catch Rosemary strapping on her boots and getting out into the streets for any number of causes.

Rosemary believes that if we open one person’s eyes, it will trickle down to 10 more and with these figures we cannot lose this battle for Social Justice. “It will start at the bottom, and only then will we reach the top.”

Honored by (above): Cuauhtemoc Villegas

Lorena Andrade – Stands With Workers, Launches Social Enterprises

Hero’s name: Lorena Andrade

Home city: El Paso, Texas

Organization affiliation: La Mujer Obrera

How does the person’s work advance social justice? What is the person’s vision for an equitable world?

“Lorena Andrade, director of La Mujer Obrera, began her work in El Paso, Texas, during a period of economic crisis, caused by the North American Free Trade Agreement.

During this crisis, more than 35,000 jobs, mostly immigrant Mexican women maquila workers were lost.

At this stage, La Mujer Obrera, a grassroots organization started by women to help garment workers and Chicana advocates, organized hundreds of workers.

They held mass demonstrations, demanding training and new jobs.

They also elevated the struggle for seven basic needs, which still remain important: education, employment, health, housing, nutrition, peace and political freedom.

Andrade has been part of the implementation and development of social enterprises, such as Rayito del Sol Daycare/Learning Center, Café Mayapan, Mayapan Farmers Market and Lum Metik Trading Co., Uxmal Housing Unit and the Binational Red Niu Matthat Napawika.”

Honored by: Cemelli de Aztlan

Hector Herrera – Started Villapalooza to Boost Music in Little Village

Hero’s name: Hector Herrera

Home city: Chicago

Their organization: Villapalooza (Little Village Music Festival)

How does the person’s work advance social justice? What is the person’s vision for an equitable world?

“Hector Herrera is the co-founder and president of Villapalooza, an all day, free, all-ages music festival in the Little Village community.

Villapalooza was founded in 2011 and is dedicated to promoting nonviolent spaces for arts, culture and community engagement.

Villapalooza has grown over the years.

It involves dozens of volunteers who donate time, money and talent so the Little Village community can enjoy great music, create a platform for local talent while recognizing other artists in the Chicagoland area.

Villapalooza remains grassroots. It does not have commercial sponsors and allows for creativity and local ownership.

Currently, Villapalooza has two officers and nine board members, all with strong ties and commitment to the Little Village community.

Enlace Chicago also recognized Hector Herrera and his contributions to Little Village by awarding him the Jesus ‘Chuy’ Garcia Spirit Award.”

Honored by: Docia Buffington of Enlace Chicago

Xavier Jennings – His ‘Rise Up’ Class Empowers Denver Youth

Hero’s name: Xavier Jennings

Home city: Denver

Organization affiliation: YouthBuild

How does the person’s work advance social justice? What is the person’s vision for an equitable world?

“Xavier Jennings grew up in inner city Denver. He was surrounded by gang activity and negative influences, jumping from high school to high school.

He faced legal charges, the pull of the streets and the repercussions of his actions. At age 16, Xavier dropped out of school.

He tried to return to school, unsuccessfully, before finding the YouthBuild program when he was 18 years old. He was looking for a job to support himself.

Within the YouthBuild program, Xavier soon found skills in construction training, classroom work which helped him toward his GED and leadership opportunities.

He also found the chance to get involved in his community which he found very exciting.

He graduated YouthBuild in December 2008, graduating with honors for strong performance and attendance while earning his GED. He was immediately hired as the Alumni Mentor for the YouthBuild Program.

He has served as a youth leader at Mile High Youth Corps, where he was able to continue working toward helping his community.

At the same time, Xavier enrolled in classes at Community College of Denver. By early 2009, Xavier was awarded the Denver Metro Mayors and Commissioner Youth Award.

Today, Xavier continues to be a youth leader. As part of his leadership, he teaches a class, entitled ‘Rise Up,’ which he helped design. It explores the issues facing youth in our society today.

He also led a mentoring program for seven years in which YouthBuild students worked with local middle school students who have been placed in a pull-out program because of their academic and behavioral problems at school.

He helps organize projects with other community organizations, such as Volunteers of America for YouthBuild students, and leads the (Youth) Leadership Council at Mile High Youth Corps.

Xavier graduated from Community College of Denver, in spring 2015 with a General Studies degree. He volunteers as a coach for youth sports in the local basketball and football league, while serving on the board of directors for a youth organization called Aurora Shamrocks.

He is a proud father of two kids and is dedicated to being the engaged and positive father that he lacked in life.

Despite the challenges Xavier faced, he continues to be dedicated to his community, hoping to make positive change to overcome barriers young people face.

In the future, he hopes to start a nonprofit organization for youth.”

Honored by: Alicia McKinney of YouthBuild

 

 

 

Gloria Harris – A Chicago Grandma Works for Equity in Education

Hero’s name: Gloria Harris

Home city: Chicago

Their organization: Community Organizing and Family Issues

How does the person’s work advance social justice? What is the person’s vision for an equitable world?

“Gloria Harris is not only a grandmother of 24 kids and a parent to 12 children, but a mentor, friend, leader and inspiration to hundreds of other parent leaders fighting to make their communities better for families.

Ms. Harris, as she is known to all, is from Chicago’s Austin community on the West Side, is an active member of community groups and is also vice chair of Parents Organized to Win, Educate and Renew-Policy Action Council (POWER-PAC).

That’s an organization of parent leaders working to build the voice and power of low-income, immigrant and working families by uniting parents across race and community around issues of importance to children and families.

Whether fighting for justice in her community or with the city or state, Ms. Harris is constantly organizing and advocating for equitable access to quality education.

In particular, she is committed to ensuring quality early learning resources are available for all low-income children and children of color.

Ms. Harris is a founding member and co-chair of POWER-PAC’s Early Learning Committee, which begun in 2007.

She tirelessly partners with advocates, policymakers and hundreds of grassroots parent and community leaders on city and state policy change efforts.

She has helped to successfully push an effort to streamline the maze for families enrolling in early learning programs in Chicago’s under-resourced communities. Ms. Harris was appointed in 2008 to the Illinois Early Learning Council and is the only parent or grandparent who serves in that capacity.

She is working to push for the creation of Parent Advisory Council to advise on state early learning policy.

Ms. Harris also goes door-to-door to talk with families about the importance of early learning, an effort, funded by Chicago’s Head Start agency.

That is, itself, a victory of POWER-PAC’s Early Learning Committee organizing and a response to their innovative proposal to use peer-to-peer outreach to connect isolated parents and children with early learning resources.

She and her team have enrolled thousands of Chicago children in Head Start and preschool.

In her vision for an equitable world, all families would have access to high-quality early care and learning opportunities and the voice of parents, in particular, low-income mothers of color, would be seen as vital both to community and policy level early childhood system decision making.

Ms. Harris is dedicated to making this vision a reality for her community and others across the nation.”

Honored by: Community Organizing and Family Issues

 

 

Yadira Gonzalez – A Texas Mom Stands Up for Her Colonia and Kids

Hero’s name: Yadira Gonzalez

Home city: Alamo, Texas

Their organization: La Union del Pueblo Entero

How does the person’s work advance social justice? What is the person’s vision for an equitable world?

“Yadira Gonzalez is a 36-year-old member of La Union del Pueblo Entero and an advocate for immigration rights.

She is a very strong woman who has surpassed many obstacles that have come in her path.

She is a believer in ‘la union hace la fuerza!’ and believes that working together definitely gets the goods.

Her development as a leader started when she started participating in her colonia and coming to house meetings with her neighbors.

At the time, community members were working to support the street light program for our colonia, getting signatures and speaking to the commissioners.

Her first experience at the commissioners’ meeting let everyone know that we meant business.

It would be a while before she spoke, putting her husband to speak before her because she was too shy for the first time. But she eventually gained the courage to step up for her community.

She started noticing that the ‘union’ was putting them together with people who had the power. She felt that she wanted to have her ‘granito de arena,’ or her bit or ‘grain of sand,’ in the decision making.

Now, she organizes in her colonia, along with fellow members to better their conditions. She has conducted training sessions to inform members about lobbying.

She has a hunger to learn much more to educate herself and her community.

Strong willed, she has confronted elected commissioners about the conditions in her neighborhood with the thought of her community in mind to the point that they organized two colonia cleanup efforts within three months in a place where they hadn’t seen one in years.

Furthermore, she has done this, while raising five children. She has a heart of gold.”

Honored by: Marco Lopez

Josie Bacallao – A Florida Latina Works to Empower New Americans

Hero’s name: Josie Bacallao

Home city: Hollywood, Florida

Organization affiliation: Hispanic Unity of Florida

How does the person’s work advance social justice? What is the person’s vision for an equitable world?

“Josie Bacallao is president and CEO of Hispanic Unity of Florida (HUF), which works with immigrants and residents to become self sufficient and engaged in community affairs.

Prior to HUF, Josie was vice president and marketing director for the Sun-Sentinel Company and worked for The Miami Herald and el Nuevo Herald as their vice president for marketing for more than 25 years.

Josie is a board member of CareerSource Broward, Greater Ft. Lauderdale Alliance and BB&T’s Advisory Board. She is a member of the Nonprofit Executive Alliance of Broward.

She also is past chair of the Board of the Broward Public Library Foundation and vice chair of Holy Cross Hospital and has been active in dozens of nonprofits since high school.

Josie has been honored with the Silver Medallion from NCCJ; she was named to the Broward County Women’s Hall of Fame and received the United Way of Broward County’s Human Services Professional Award.

Most recently, Legal Aid and Service of Broward County bestowed the Russell E. Carlisle Advocacy Award on Josie and three other community leaders for their work in creating pro bono immigration clinics.

Josie also received one of the most meaningful awards of her career, The Jim Moran Foundation Award, for her work leading a nonprofit.

In 2015, the Honorable Mario Diaz-Balart recognized Josie and her contributions during Women’s History Month. His comments were added to the March 26, 2015 Congressional Record.

Hispanic Unity was recognized in 2016 with the Affiliate of the Year Award from the National Council of La Raza (NCLR). In 20015, the agency was recognized with the Southeast Affiliate of the Year Award. NCLR is the largest Latino advocacy and civil rights organization in the country

Josie is married and she and her husband share their cottage with two cats Alicia Alonzo and Rafaela (Bella Ella).”

Honored by: Janet Murguia of NCLR 

 

Elideth Hernandez – She Works ‘Hard to Make Sure Things Go Right’

Hero’s name: Elideth Hernandez

Home city: Chicago

Their organization: Southwest Organizing Project (SWOP)

How does the person’s work advance social justice? What is the person’s vision for an equitable world?

“Marquette School of Excellence on the southwest side of Chicago is a school where a lot of things can go wrong. The student body is low income, academically challenged, and split almost evenly between African-Americans and Latinos.

But Elideth Hernandez has worked hard to make sure things go right, both at the school and in the community.

Elideth, an immigrant herself, has fought to make Marquette a safe space for other immigrant families.

Long before the Chicago Public Schools announced they would turn back Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents without a warrant, Elideth was pushing, and winning, a plan with the school administration to ensure immigrants would be safe in the school.

In addition to her work on immigration, Elideth has been active on the school planning committee and fighting for more police accountability in the community. She does this as a leader at the Southwest Organizing Project (SWOP) in the Chicago Lawn community.

At SWOP, Elideth is a Parent Mentor Coordinator at Marquette. In this capacity, she recruits, trains, and supports parents (mostly moms), as they work as paraprofessionals in classrooms at the school.

She spends a lot of time in this role helping parents build their skills not only to assist children, but to be leaders in the community, just like she is.

Because the school is split along racial and ethnic lines, Elideth has worked hard to bridge language and culture divides between the two communities.

She has been instrumental in recruiting and retaining an equal number of parent mentors from both communities.

In her role as a Parent Mentor Coordinator, she’s always going the extra mile. She volunteers for field trips, leads workshops and pushes important issues with the school administration.

She does this because she’s a parent. She’s also a leader. Elideth knows that to win on any issue, the community has to come together and exercise its power.

Time and again, she’s demonstrated her leadership by bringing people together to identify issues and leading collective action to address them.

As if she wasn’t busy enough, Elideth is also the mother of four. Two of her children attend Marquette. One is in high school, and the oldest is now attending college. Elideth is a role model for her own kids and for all the kids in the community.

As SWOP organizer Jamillah Rashad says, ‘When I think Elideth, I think angel.’”

Honored by: Chris Brown of SWOP

Ninfa Aleman – An Empowered, Confident Heroine in South Texas

Cesar Chavez Day Heroes 2017

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Hero’s name: Ninfa Aleman Home city: Brownsville, Texas Organization affiliation: La Union del Pueblo Entero (LUPE) How does the person’s work advance social justice? What is the person’s vision for an equitable world? “Ninfa Aleman has been a longtime member of LUPE and a leader of the community. She began her volunteer work with Fuerza del Valle Workers’ Center […]

Maria Elena Ramos – An Immigrant Organizes for Kids and Technology

Cesar Chavez Day Heroes 2017

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Hero’s name: Maria Elena Ramos Home city: San Francisco Organization affiliation: Coleman Advocates for Children & Youth How does the person’s work advance social justice? What is the person’s vision for an equitable world? “Maria Elena has been a member of Parents Making a Change (PMAC), which is Coleman’s parent organizing project for seven years. She immigrated […]

Arnulfo Manriquez – Equity and Families Are at Center of His Work

Cesar Chavez Day Heroes 2017

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Hero’s name: Arnulfo Manriquez Home city: Chula Vista, California Organization affiliation: MAAC How does the person’s work advance social justice? What is the person’s vision for an equitable world? “Arnulfo Manriquez has dedicated his career to the betterment of underserved individuals, households and communities in San Diego. He serves as president and CEO of MAAC, a […]

James Mackey – #StuckOnReplay Founder Takes on Prison Slavery

Cesar Chavez Day Heroes 2017

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Hero’s name: James Mackey Home city: Boston Organization affiliation: #StuckOnReplay How does the person’s work advance social justice? What is the person’s vision for an equitable world? “James Mackey is an activist, motivational speaker, community organizer, member of the YouthBuild USA National Alumni Council and founder of a grassroots movement called #StuckOnReplay. The mission of […]

Taishi Neuman – A Mom Fights for Good Housing, Inspiring Her Kids

Cesar Chavez Day Heroes 2017

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Hero’s name: Taishi Neuman Home city: Chicago Organization affiliation: Chicago Coalition for the Homeless  How does the person’s work advance social justice? What is the person’s vision for an equitable world? “Taishi Neuman is inspired to help families coping with poverty. First homeless at age 15, she experienced homelessness again when multiple sclerosis left her […]

Daniel Naranjo – A Farmworker Who Knows Organizing Brings Change

Cesar Chavez Day Heroes 2017

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Hero’s name: Daniel Naranjo Home city: Fellsmere, Florida Organization affiliation: Farmworker Association of Florida How does the person’s work advance social justice? What is the person’s vision for an equitable world? “Daniel Naranjo was born in Mexicali, Baja California. At age 2, his family moved to Michoacán. He studied until the 6th grade, while working in the […]

Cesar Mata – A Birmingham Hero Who Stands for Human Rights

Cesar Chavez Day Heroes 2017

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Hero’s name: Cesar Mata Home city: Birmingham Organization affiliation: Greater Birmingham Ministries (GBM), Alabama Coalition for Immigrant Justice and Adelante Alabama Worker Center How does the person’s work advance social justice? What is the person’s vision for an equitable world? “I have never met someone who has such an amazing generous heart to participate in everything possible in […]

Myisa Whitlock – Passion Drives Her Goal of Positive Change

Cesar Chavez Day Heroes 2017

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Hero’s name: Myisa Whitlock Home city: St. Louis Organization affiliation: STL Rise! How does the person’s work advance social justice? What is the person’s vision for an equitable world? “Myisa Whitlock has served in many organizational structures. Her record of accomplishment in the nonprofit community is rooted in her passion to serve others and commitment […]

The Whites – A Ky. Couple Say Empathy Leads to True Progress

Cesar Chavez Day Heroes 2017

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Hero’s name: Homer and Mary Lou White Home city: Georgetown, Kentucky Organization affiliation: Kentuckians For The Commonwealth How does the person’s work advance social justice? What is the person’s vision for an equitable world? “Mary Lou and Homer White have been members of Kentuckians For The Commonwealth since the mid-1990s. While living in Eastern Kentucky, they […]

Hector Herrera – Started Villapalooza to Boost Music in Little Village

Cesar Chavez Day Heroes 2017

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Hero’s name: Hector Herrera Home city: Chicago Their organization: Villapalooza (Little Village Music Festival) How does the person’s work advance social justice? What is the person’s vision for an equitable world? “Hector Herrera is the co-founder and president of Villapalooza, an all day, free, all-ages music festival in the Little Village community. Villapalooza was founded in 2011 and […]

Xavier Jennings – His ‘Rise Up’ Class Empowers Denver Youth

Cesar Chavez Day Heroes 2017

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Hero’s name: Xavier Jennings Home city: Denver Organization affiliation: YouthBuild How does the person’s work advance social justice? What is the person’s vision for an equitable world? “Xavier Jennings grew up in inner city Denver. He was surrounded by gang activity and negative influences, jumping from high school to high school. He faced legal charges, the […]

Josie Bacallao – A Florida Latina Works to Empower New Americans

Cesar Chavez Day Heroes 2017

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Hero’s name: Josie Bacallao Home city: Hollywood, Florida Organization affiliation: Hispanic Unity of Florida How does the person’s work advance social justice? What is the person’s vision for an equitable world? “Josie Bacallao is president and CEO of Hispanic Unity of Florida (HUF), which works with immigrants and residents to become self sufficient and engaged in […]