On behalf of the UCLA Luskin Institute on Inequality and Democracy, UCLA Asian American Studies Center, and cityLAB-UCLA, we are thrilled to welcome Steve Diaz, Melissa Acedera, Josiah Edwards, and Marlené Nancy Lopez as the 2023 UCLA Activists-in-Residence. The activists will be in residence at UCLA from January through May.
The UCLA Activist-in-Residence program’s objective is to “turn the university inside out” and invite artists, community organizers, and movement leaders to undertake power-shifting scholarship and pedagogy focused on social change. Learn more about each activist with their short bios below and please join us on January 31st to welcome the 2023 UCLA Activists-in-Residence to the UCLA community.
UCLA Luskin Institute on Inequality and Democracy activists:
Steve Diaz is currently the Deputy Director of the Los Angeles Community Action Network (LA CAN). As a native Angeleno and devoted Dodger fan, Steve has over 19 years of experience working on tenant rights and homeless issues in the City of Los Angeles. Under his leadership, Diaz helped successfully lead a coalition against a potentially unsustainable city zoning update plan, which would have otherwise allowed for higher-density housing without directly benefitting the community most impacted. Before his Deputy Director post, Steve was a Community/Tenant Organizer at LA CAN, where he co-developed member training and political education on political process issues, community organizing, advocacy, campaign planning, and implementation.
Josiah Edwards is a 22-year-old youth climate justice organizer based in Los Angeles, California. Having grown up in the South Bay of LA County near the largest refinery on the West Coast, he experienced environmental racism in his daily life. Now, as a member of the Los Angeles chapter of the Sunrise Movement, he works to uplift the voices of youth in frontline communities by training young people on the organizing methods and discipline needed to build multi-racial, cross-class solidarity, a prerequisite to the power necessary to win a Green New Deal. His work has been featured in The New York Times, Common Dreams, and Democracy Now!. He enjoys spending his free time with his nieces, nephews, and little cousins reading about organizing and thinking about how to win.
UCLA Asian American Studies Center activist:
Melissa Acedera is the daughter of Filipino immigrants who set their roots in Los Angeles, California. She is a community organizer working in the intersection of food justice and houselessness issues. Melissa has over 13 years experience working in food research, compliance, and logistics in food and beverage. Bridging her knowledge of food systems from a corporate lens and her work in community organizing, Melissa has a unique and valuable understanding of food, environmental, and housing justice issues. As a response to food scarcity and injustices she saw while organizing in Skid Row and other areas in Los Angeles, Melissa founded Polo’s Pantry in 2018, a grassroots organization dedicated to fighting for just futures in food systems through mutual aid, advocacy, and community building. She also co-founded Home-y Made Meals in March 2020, a mutual aid network of cooks, drivers, and suppliers – a community-powered food system helping feed unhoused and food insecure communities across Los Angeles and Orange County. Bridging her own lived experience of hunger and poverty, this rooted her passion in building health food access and knowledge building in immigrant and poor communities.
Marlené Nancy Lopez was born and raised in MacArthur Park, Los Angeles and realized her calling to serve her community at an early age. After studying Political Science at Cal State LA, she served in the U.S. Peace Corps in the Republic of Moldova. During this time, she observed how art could be used to serve communities specifically through muralism, storytelling, and multimedia. She continued studying the intersection between humanitarian aid and art during her Master’s degree program at the Paris School of International Affairs, Sciences PO. When she returned home, she pursued her passions of community building and art. Since 2016, Marlené has coordinated/participated in over eighty city-wide art activations and murals as a lead teaching artist with organizations such as: HOLA, LA Commons, CHIRLA, GRYD, POV, City of Los Angeles, DCA, Barnsdall Arts, Art Share LA, and her collective, CrewNative. Marlené aspires to be an accomplished public art artist and community engagement specialist to serve the city she loves and celebrate the cultures that create it. —
Please join us in welcoming the 2023 UCLA Activists-in-Residence.
January 31, 2023 • 4 to 6 PM
UCLA Perloff Hall, DeCafe – 365 Portola Plaza, Room 1302