Activists and Inspirations - University of Houston
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Alesandra Lozano Amanda Williams Ashton Woods Chelsea Pederson Dawn McCarty Jean Kantambu Latting
Joeall Riggins Kandice Webber Landon Richie Melanie Pang Melissa Torres Secunda Joseph

Alesandra Lozano
inspired by Dolores Huerta


LEARN more about modern social justice activist Alesandra Lozano


Alesandra Lozano is the Voting Rights Outreach Coordinator at the Texas Civil Rights Project where she develops and implements legal advocacy initiatives in response to shifts in federal, local, and state policies affecting voting rights. Alesandra comes to TCRP with extensive campaign experience and roots in community organizing.

Read More » She became especially passionate about voting rights policy while working to execute the University of Houston Graduate College of Social Work’s first-ever Voter Engagement and Political Justice Initiative. She has previously worked for the LGBTQ Victory Fund and the Texas Freedom Network and has served on three boards (local, statewide, and national respectively) for organizations working to advance LGBTQ equality and reproductive justice. Alesandra holds a BA in International Affairs from The George Washington University, a Masters in Political Social Work from the University of Houston Graduate College of Social Work, and a diploma in Campaign Management from the Women’s Campaign School at Yale University.

Amanda Williams
inspired by Frida Kahlo 


LEARN more about modern social justice activist Amanda Williams


Amanda Beatriz Williams, a proud daughter of an immigrant, is a queer Chicana with more than ten years of experience working in the reproductive health, rights, and justice movement. Amanda is originally from Houston, Texas, where she planted her roots as a community organizer. Amanda holds a Master's in Political Social Work from the University of Houston and has an extensive background in nonprofit management, program development, policy, advocacy, and fundraising.
Read More » She served on the board of the Lilith Fund from 2012-2015 and has been Lilith Fund's executive director since 2016. Under her leadership, Lilith Fund has supported thousands of Texans seeking abortion care and expanded its programming to include emotional support and organizing. Amanda is a proud storyteller of the National Network of Abortion Fund’s (NNAF) We Testify program, which is dedicated to increasing the spectrum of abortion storytellers in the public sphere. Her writing has been published in Glamour Magazine, TribTalk, and the Feminist Wire. She is also a board member for Youth Rise Texas, an organization that works to develop the leadership of youth of color who are directly impacted by incarceration and deportation. Amanda lives in Austin with her fiancée, Holly, and cat, Mica.
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Ashton Woods
inspired by James Baldwin



A civil rights activist and defender of the public good, Ashton P. Woods has a dedicated track record of fighting for all of Houston. Getting his start in organizing at the tender age of 15, Ashton has been consistent in his commitment to creating better opportunities for all.

Read More »A New Orleans native, Ashton has made his home in Houston since 2005 shortly before Hurricane Katrina. Equity, fairness, and justice are at the center of Ashton’s advocacy and work. He continues to be a strong advocate for the community of people living with HIV/AIDS, as well as speaking out to end rape and sexual assault.

Known for his exemplary activist track record, Ashton has stood in solidarity with the immigrant community and championed against the formation of detention centers in Houston. He has always been a fearless advocate for the LGBTQIA community. In 2016, Ashton was appointed to the City of Houston’s first LGBT advisory board.

Committed to progress and community, Ashton has focused on a range of issues including fighting for the homeless community, advocating for affordable housing, holding law enforcement and public officials accountable to the citizens of Houston, and ending violence against people of color. He is the co-founder and lead organizer for Black Lives Matter Houston. From mobilizing support and working in collaboration with relief organizations after Hurricane Harvey to fighting school privatization, Ashton is present for people when it matters most.
Time and again, Ashton has shown his leadership and willingness to speak up against injustice. Ashton is a true representative of the people, centering the collective good in all that he does. He is running to be the community presence in the Texas Legislature, ensuring that all Houstonians have the freedom to thrive in all aspects of their lives.

Chelsea Pederson
inspired by Ruth Wilson Gilmore


LEARN more about modern social justice activist Chelsea Pederson


Chelsea Dalton Pederson, LMSW is a psychedelic therapist in Texas, currently using ketamine.


Since graduating she has, as a drug user, conducted research testing the drug supply, consulted with researchers, and led focus groups for universities as part of a Texas-based Drug Users Union.

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As an activist, she focuses on drug user rights and insurance coverage on a state level while advocating for harm reduction locally specifically, the mobile harm reduction van Street Value, servicing Houston’s Second and Third Ward. 


Chelsea holds a Master of Political Social Work from the University of Houston Graduate College of Social Work, a Bachelor of Social Work from the University of Houston Downtown’s College of Public Service. She has received training from the Nancy A. Humphreys Institute for Political Social Work in political campaigns and Ketamine training from Polaris Insight Center.


Chelsea, Pat, and their dogs live mobile… may be in a city near you. 

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Dawn McCarty
inspired by Dorothy Day


LEARN more about modern social justice activist Dawn McCarty


Since 2006, Dawn McCarty has lived and conducted research on both sides of the US-Mexico border, studying the contributing factors and outcomes of unauthorized immigration to the United States. Currently, her work and research are focused on the conditions and experiences of migrant persons now living in Houston, and on the development of an innovative professional practice and teaching perspective focused on solidarity and modeling equality.
Read More » In addition to her work as Professor and Director of the Bachelor of Social Work Program at the University of Houston-Downtown, Dawn lives part-time in community as a Catholic Worker at Casa Juan Diego where she works directly with Houston's asylum seeking, refugee, and new arrival communities. Her book, Solidarity Social Work Practice: Serving New Immigrant Populations (2019) published by Kendall Hunt is based on ten years of direct social work practice, and four years of qualitative data collection to document the lives of migrant persons from around the world.

Jean Kantambu Latting
inspired by Soujourner Truth



Jean Kantambu Latting, Professor Emerita is an organizational consultant and management coach. She has over 20 years of consultation and teaching experience within private and public sector organizations. Her scholarship and consulting are dedicated to helping people fulfill their goals and give meaning to their lives. As a social scientist, she has endeavored to master the technologies of change, development, and diversity and put these into practice and demonstrate that they work in everyday life.
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Joeall Riggins
inspired by Maya Angelou


LEARN more about modern social justice activist Joeall Riggins


Joeall Riggins is a second-year clinical student at the Graduate College of Social Work (GCSW) specializing in Health & Behavioral Health and African American Studies. She obtained her bachelor's degree in public health at Sam Houston State University. While there, she served as the health chair for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). As health chair for the NAACP, Joeall geared her programs and initiatives toward eradicating the stigma of mental health within the African American community.

Read More » A highlight of her role there was organizing "My Race is Not My Disease," an event that focused on social and racial issues related to health and healthcare disparities. Joeall was first introduced to the profession of social work while working at a behavioral health hospital shortly after graduating with her bachelor's. During her time there, she gained exposure to a vast population of mental health disorders such as bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, borderline personality disorder, and post-traumatic stress disorder. With a new desire to expand her work in the field of mental health, Joeall applied to the GCSW and embarked on a journey that combined mental health and advocacy. While completing her first year at the GCSW, she worked for the American Civil Liberties Union of Texas on the political strategies team. She facilitated events geared to champion the social, racial, and political justice of people of all racial groups and sexual orientations. Joeall currently works at the Lovett Center as a clinical intern. She offers a psychodynamic approach to psychotherapy to clients of all age groups and backgrounds. While Joeall places emphasis on research and empirically proven therapeutic approaches, she believes that therapy cannot succeed without genuine compassion, support, and acceptance. Her current clients see her as non-judgmental, supportive, and caring, while also being purposeful and persistent. Joeall is the proud President of the University of Houston's chapter of the National Association of Black Social Workers, a SHINE scholarship recipient, and a GCSW student ambassador who is eager to see what her final year of graduate school has in store.

Kandice Webber
inspired by Angela Davis


LEARN more about modern social justice activist Kandice Webber


Kandice Webber is a registered nurse who has served he Houston community for over 15 years. She believes education is the neutralizer and cornerstone to success that will bring equity to all marginalized populations. Growing up in rural Texas, she witnessed, first hand, the disparities young Black and Brown people face due to poverty, systemic racism and implicit biases.
Read More » She is dedicated to fighting for sustainable change that will balance the scales and correct the injustices that have claimed so many Black and Brown lives. Kandice is a lead organizer for Black Lives Matter: Houston. She is also the co-founder of Houston Rising, the organization that created the March for Black Women Houston. 
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Landon Richie
inspired by Harvey Milk


LEARN more about modern social justice activist Landon Richie


Landon Richie is on the Next Leaders Advisory Board with the Victory Institute and serves as the current co-vice-president of his school’s SAGA (Sexuality And Gender Alliance) club, which he helped to start during his sophomore year of high school.
Read More » He started a GSA club at his middle school as well and a couple of years ago, co-founded FortGenderBenders, a student advocacy group aiming to strengthen protections for LGBTQ+ students, teachers, and administrators in FBISD. He is a regular speaker and advocates for transgender rights at local, state, and national legislative levels. Through his involvement with the GenderCool Project, Landon has been able to share his story with major corporations such as Citi Bank, Allstate, and Conagra Brands, as well as with Rolling Stone Magazine. He is also a trumpet player of six years and an award-winning artist. 

Melanie Pang
inspired by Grace Lee Boggs


LEARN more about modern social justice activist Melanie Pang


Melanie Pang currently serves as the Government Relations Officer of the Houston Food Bank. She advocates for policies that address root causes of poverty and food insecurity, leveraging relationships and resources for social change. Prior to her food policy work, she served as Manager of Emergency Disaster Services at the Salvation Army of Greater Houston and was a liaison in the City of Houston's Emergency Operations Center throughout Hurricane Harvey relief efforts.

Read More »Throughout her career, Melanie has served in a variety of communities and capacities, aiming to further equity and lived equality – from efforts to reduce and prevent childhood obesity in food deserts to serving as a case manager to refugee youth and children in foster care, as well as young adults experiencing homelessness. Melanie was named Social Worker of the Year in 2015 by the National Association of Social Workers Houston and received the President's Award for Distinguished Community Leadership from the Houston GLBT Political Caucus in 2016. In 2012, she earned her master's degree from the University of Houston Graduate College of Social Work and was invited back to the university as an adjunct professor to teach at both the undergraduate and graduate levels. In May of 2018, she was presented the Humanitarian Award by the college of social work's student association. Melanie lives in Houston with her wife, Kendall, and their two rescue dogs.

Melissa Torres
inspired by Comandanta Ramona


LEARN more about modern social justice activist Melissa Torres


Dra. Melissa Irene Maldonado Torres, Ph.D., is a research faculty Assistant Professor at the Baylor College of Medicine Global Mental Health Division, which is comprised of the Anti-Human Trafficking Program and the Clinic for International Trauma Survivors. She received her Master’s and Doctorate at the University of Houston Graduate College of Social Work where she is adjunct faculty and co-founder of the college’s Latin American Initiative, a learning abroad program in collaboration with universities and NGOs throughout Latin America. She previously served as the Director of the Human Trafficking Research Portfolio and Director of Equity, Inclusion, and Diversity in Research at the University of Texas at Austin’s Institute on Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault at the Steve Hicks School of Social Work. She was a doctoral fellow with the Council on Social Work Education’s Minority Fellowship Program, and a selected fellow in Minority Disparities Research with the Center for Urban African American Aging Research, both sponsored by the Department of Health and Human Services Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

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With over 10 years of direct service, policy work, and research experience in social services, her research has included the trafficking of Latinas for sexual exploitation, policy analysis on the protection of minor sex trafficking survivors, the overlap of sex and labor exploitation in immigrant Latinx communities, exploration of minors’ perceptions of sexual exploitation, cultural competency evaluations for programs with underserved victims of violence, and assessments on displacement and trafficking risks of indigenous communities in Latin America. Her service provision career includes HIV testing and counseling for Spanish-speaking communities and community education and prevention of violence. Dr. Torres was the Subject Matter Expert on the Department of Health and Human Services’ healthcare professional’s response to human trafficking which developed the SOAR medical training. Other training experience includes her authoring the first national training on disaster response with underserved and immigrant populations for the American Red Cross, diversity and inclusion in research for the Office for Victims of Crime, advising tools for the National Human Trafficking and Technical Assistance Center, and inclusion in human rights auditing and leadership for the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women. She has trained on forced migration, exploitation, and violence for legislators, investigators, service providers throughout the U.S., and in Mexico, El Salvador, Bolivia, Colombia, Brazil, the Netherlands, and Ghana. She developed and taught a class on Human Trafficking at the University of Houston Graduate College of Social Work, co-taught a class on Modern-Day Slavery at the University of Texas Steve Hicks School of Social Work, and serves as a human trafficking expert and lecturer for various academic studies and social work programs throughout the U.S. and Latin America.


Dr. Torres has been recognized by the U.S. Congress with a Certification of Congressional Recognition for her work with the U.S. Department of Labor and by the American Red Cross for leading efforts to serve Houston’s undocumented and Spanish-speaking communities during the Hurricane Harvey disaster response. She served as the Deputy Director of the American Red Cross Latino Engagement Initiative. She is a United Nations delegate for the Academic Council of the United Nations System and Vice President of the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF), the world’s first feminist peace organization and consultant to the United Nations. She is the WILPF delegate for the Universal Periodic Review on Human Rights of the United States at the UN, Geneva. Of Mexican descent, Dr. Torres is a native of the Rio Grande Valley of Texas and was raised on the U.S.-Mexico border. She resides in Houston.

Secunda Joseph
inspired by Assata Shakur


LEARN more about modern social justice activist Secunda Joseph


Secunda Joseph, aka “For The People Bae,” is a devoted and conscientious activist-organizer and justice worker and story teller based in Houston, TX. She firmly promotes organic, community-based approaches to solidarity work and activism, and shirks at those who ignore the capacities of those for whom they advocate.

Read More » Although her activist-organizer work broadly focuses on humanitarian rights and concerns, she utilizes Black abolitionist principles and concepts to create, build, and work beside vulnerable communities toward more liberating life options for future generations born to inequity. A 2023 recipient of the Rothko Chapels Oscar Romero Humanitarian award. Joseph is a Co-Founder and Director of Smart Media & Organizing with ImagiNoir/BLMHTX, a collective whose aim is to educate, empower and build coalitions that address issues adversely impacting Black lives in the city of Houston. In addition to mutual aid work, training, consulting and organizing. Joseph delivers multimedia interventions and mind/body strategies toward liberatory existence. Inspired by the anti-lynching passion of her ancestor-mentor, Ida B. Wells, she hosts radio and curates online platforms with her collective. The latest being Imagine A World, The Relay & Kinfolk & Convos Through this work, she highlights Black radical traditions for striving and imagining new worlds in which “we can all breathe,” believing that traditional and gradualist approaches sacrifice the most marginalized. Joseph is also a Kemetic Yoga practitioner and offers intergenerational classes to adults, children, and seniors alike, realizing that her community’s healing work must be essential to her activism.
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