“Many Shades of Brown” Leadership Circle: Organizing from Texas to Florida
The “Many Shades of Brown” leadership circle for Another Gulf Is Possible explicitly centers women of color leadership, in particular bringing indigenous, latinx and desi (a.k.a. “brown”) perspectives into a region that is often split physically, politically and socially on black and white racial lines. We believe the lived experience of marginalization to be a strength as we launch this collaborative in authentically living into principles we hold around sustainability, equity and justice.
Jayeesha Dutta is a Bengali-American artivist, scholar and healer-in-training, who was born in Mobile, raised in New York, aged in Oakland, and proud to call New Orleans home. She co-founded the Radical Arts and Healing Collective, an intersectional arts-based direct action and healing support movement space in the Upper 9th Ward of New Orleans, as well as the Mind Power Collective based in Oakland. For several years she has helped to coordinate the Gulf Future Coalition, a coalition of over 90 unlikely allied organizations galvanized by the BP oil disaster across the Gulf Coast. Jayeesha is a board member of Big Class and visual arts coordinator for Alternate ROOTS. She has also been slowly pursuing a doctorate at the University of New Orleans researching the intersection of the creative third space and relationship building in social justice movements. Her job titles have ranged from co-executive director to teaching artist to organizer to facilitator to project manager to research and policy analyst in the fields of education justice, youth organizing, labor organizing, arts advocacy, climate justice, and racial equity, working with a multitude of groups, networks, and alliances across the country. Jayeesha is an avid traveler, home chef, live music aficionado, and loves being in (or near) any body of life-giving water.
Cherri Foytlin is an indigenous organizer, writer, speaker and mother of six who lives in southwest Louisiana. She is the author of “Spill It! The Truth About the Deep Water Horizon Oil Rig Explosion,” as well as a regular contributor to Bridgethegulfproject.org and other written platforms. In the Spring of 2011 she walked to Washington D.C. from New Orleans (1, 243 miles), to educate and call for action regarding the BP Deepwater Drilling Disaster. More recently, as State Director for Bold Louisiana, the focus of her work lies around stopping the Bayou Bridge Pipeline and serving environmental justice communities. She is also the founder and executive director of Louisiana Rise, an organization dedicated to a just transition for local Louisiana communities, and in particular low-income, elderly or minority community members. Additionally, Foytlin is an active advisory committee member for both Beyond Extreme Energy Extraction and The National Poor People’s Campaign.
Mary Gutierrez is a published poet and a fierce animal advocate. As Executive Director and creator of Earth Ethics, Inc, she has worked on numerous environmental and social justice issues within Northwest Florida. She has an extensive environmental background professionally and as a community organizer. She has taken this experience to work within the State of Florida to help push for no offshore drilling within the Eastern Planning Area of the Gulf of Mexico. She is also working with others to push for a ban on fracking. She believes that we can effectively and efficiently make the transition from fossil fuels to sustainable, clean energy by making the Sunshine State the Solar State. This is an endeavor that can be achieved along all our Gulf Coast Communities as well. As part of her social justice work she is a committee member for the Environmental Career Worker Training Program Advisory Board that helps at risk individuals learn a trade that will help improve their lives. As one off 33 Gulf Coast individuals who went to COP21 in Paris she is firm supporter of honoring the Paris agreement and ensuring that we reduce our carbon footprint.
Rebekah Hinojosa is an artist and community organizer from the Rio Grande Valley borderlands of Texas. Her latinx family has lived in this region located along the banks of the Rio Grande River and the Gulf coastline since before Texas statehood. For the last seven years, Bekah has facilitated art builds for community campaigns and civil disobedience actions on issues such as fracking, keystone XL, BP Oil Spill, mountaintop removal, migrant justice, and climate justice. She is currently organizing with her community to prevent the construction of three liquefied natural gas export terminals (LNG) on indigenous sacred sites and nearby latinx families, and to stop the continued construction of the U.S./Mexico border wall. She is particularly interested in bringing resources to her border and gulf coast community and is inspired by building art with people of all ages.
Yudith Nieto is a queer organizer and artist born in Mexico who grew up in the fence-line refining community of Manchester in Houston, TX. Out of necessity to mobilize her community she joined the environmental justice movement and dedicated her media making skills, advocacy, and art to confronting the petrochemical industries that perpetuate environmental racism in marginalized communities of color. She attended the Four Directions Inter-generational Youth Exchange of Los Jardines Institute in Albuquerque, NM, in 2013 where she learned how the Chican@, Mexican American, and Indigenous cultures are intrinsically linked. Yudith now serves on the planning committee for Four Directions and is currently working with other youth, nationally to create youth leadership and art in activism trainings where she is able to contribute to the discussion on the many issues they face because of the fossil fuel industry, as well as other human rights issues that impact their way of life.
Monique Verdin is a daughter of southeast Louisiana’s Houma Nation. The complex interconnectedness of environment, economics, culture, climate and change have inspired her to intimately document Houma relatives and their lifeways at the ends of the bayous, as they endure the realities of restoration and adaptation in the heart of America’s Mississippi River Delta. Monique is the subject/co-writer/co-producer of the award-winning documentary My Louisiana Love (2012). Her interdisciplinary work has been included in an assortment of environmentally inspired projects, including the multiplatform/performance/ecoexperience Cry You One (2012-2017) as well as the publication Unfathomable City : A New Orleans Atlas (2013). Monique is a member of the United Houma Nation Tribal Council and is director of The Land Memory Bank & Seed Exchange; an experiential project engaged in building a community record through cultural happenings, strategic installations and as a digital archive, sharing stories, native seeds and local knowledge.