Houston Community Climate Summit Program and Speakers

Thank you to our sponsors, without whom this event would not have been possible:

Intersectional Advocacy and the Climate Crisis – Juan Mancias

Juan Mancias : Esto’k Gna, or Carrizo Comecrudo Tribe of Texas

Juan B. Mancias knows a lot of Carrizo/Comecrudo Tribe of Texas history being raised by grandparents that were born in 1884 and 1886.  They saw many of the inhumanities that occurred in South Texas growing up Carrizo/Comecrudo.  The Carrizo/ Comecrudo, prefer their linguistic moniker Esto’k Gna.

Mancias has written several articles and self-published two books.  The books deal with growing up in a Native Original People of Texas Culture in Texas.  

Mancias serves as the Tribal Chairman of The Carrizo/Comecrudo Tribe of Texas and as a member of National Guidance Board of the Native Voices Network.  Mancias continues to bring attention to the banning of LNG Export Terminals and LNG Pipelines in Texas.  Enbridge, Kinder Morgan,  and Energy Transfer Partners have created a very volatile environment toward Climate Change that needs to be continually addressed.  Mancias expounds on the constant abuse of power by the present Administration at waiving 20 laws that have affected directly the Esto’k Gna in Texas, to build a Border Wall.

Intersectional Advocacy and the Climate Crisis – Jaime Lawson

Jaime Lawson – Community Outreach & Events Chair for Houston Climate Movement

Jaime is a local climate, environment, and social justice activist, with 12 years combined working in the Houston environmental community, green building industry, and local social justice communities. 

Introduction to Restorative Justice – Huey German Wilson and Keith Downey

Huey German Wilson – Trinity Gardens Super Neighborhood 48

Huey is the mother of four fantastic children and member of Trinity Gardens Church of Christ, where she works faithfully with the Joseph’s Storehouse Pantry, Community Liaison, and the Nursery Ministry. 

She is also very active in her community.  She spent the spring of 2013 rallying the community to build an awesome KABOOM community playground and garden in the Trinity Gardens community.  Huey works with several community organizations including being the current president of Super Neighborhood 48-Trinty/Houston Gardens, Kashmere Feeder Pattern Community Council, Co-founder/Director of  Northeast Houston Redevelopment Council and Precinct Chair in Harris County. 

Keith Downey – Kashmere Gardens Super Neighborhood 52

Keith Downey is a native Houstonian who grew up in 5th Ward, Kashmere and Trinity Gardens. Mr. Downey has worked as an architectural designer to design affordable housing for low income families in Harlem, Spanish Harlem, the Bronx and Brooklyn New York. Mr. Downey received the New York City Parks and Recreation Capital Team of the Year Award in New York City in 2011-12 for helping to rebuild over 20 parks around the city in Brooklyn and Queens New York.

Mr. Downey is the Kashmere Gardens Super Neighborhood Council #52 President. He believes community stakeholders should take part in the decision making that helps all residents. He advocates for the needs of residents be it drainage, crime, food insecurity, economic development and environmental justice issues. He is on the board of Bayou City Initiative.

During Harvey he aided in the rescue of hundreds of residents around Harris County that was stuck in their communities by bringing attention to their need for rescue. He is a Director of Partnerships with Northeast Houston Redevelopment Council

He was selected as a 2017 Houston Hero by the Houston Chronicle. 2018 Ford Motor Company Harvey Hero recipient and a 2018 Shell Hero of Houston. The City of Houston named July 23rd 2020 Keith Downey Day. He has been selected to receive the Presidential Lifetime Achievement Award fall of 2022. 

He contributes his achievements to his lovely wife Roshida Downey to whom he has been married for 26 years.

Gentrification – Dolores Rodgers and Assata Richards

Dolores Rodgers – Houston Coalition for Equitable Development Without Displacement, Community Supporter, Historian

Wife, mother, grandmother, great-grandmother, family/community historian, fifth generation Houstonian. Community connections: EEDC, HCED, Operation Love, Faith in Action, ETAG, JYNAA, Super Neighborhood 67, Third Ward Civic Club, various historical groups. I attribute any minor success in my life to a spiritual life that focuses on loving God and loving people.

Assata – Nicole Richards – Houston Community Land Trust; The Emancipation Economic Development Council; Project Row Houses

Assata is the founding director of the Sankofa Research Institute (SRI), a nonprofit with a mission  to “create knowledge to build community” that employs Community-Based Participatory Research  to work collaboratively with academic researchers, community organizations, and funders to  generate empirical evidence to inform social change. Some of SRI’s current and past project  partners include Rice University’s Baker Institute for Public Policy, Southeast Houston  Transformation Alliance of the Local Initiatives Support Corporation, Dance Source Houston, Project  Row Houses, St. Anne Catholic Church, and CHRISTUS Health Foundation.

She received a  bachelor’s degree from the University of Houston and earned a master’s and a doctoral degree from  Pennsylvania State University. After serving on the faculty of the University of Pittsburgh, she returned to  Houston, Texas, to work with Project Row Houses (PRH), a nationally and internationally  recognized public arts organization that utilizes art as a transformative mechanism for revitalizing  economically-depressed urban communities. She is an adjunct professor at the University of  Houston, teaching courses in the sociology department and the arts leadership program.

As a public  sociologist, Assata serves as the Board President of the newly formed Houston  Community Land Trust, the Third Ward Cooperative Community Builders, and the Emancipation  Economic Development Council, a people-focus and place-based effort to revitalize, preserve, and  protect a historic African-American community in Houston, Texas. Most recently, she was elected  as the founding board president of the Community Care Cooperative, the second worker-owned  home care agency in Texas and the first entity incorporated in the United States owned and  operated by community health workers. 

Racial Healing – P. K. McCary and John Crear

Perri “PK” McCary – United Colors Learning Institute

P. K. McCary, Houston artist, educator, and social activist who works tirelessly to address issues of societal ills. Mama PK, as she is affectionately called, is a certified mediator, an anti-racism facilitator, and a mentor to artists and activists whose desire it is to make the world a better place in which to live.

John “Bunchy” Crear -Black Panther Party

Born 1952 in Houston, Texas, Crear joined BLACK PANTHER PARTY, in Houston in 1971. Later Crear transferred to Central Headquarters in Oakland 1972, especially a chapter in Las Vegas in 1977. Was member till 1981. Currently lives in Houston. 

Climate Grief and Transformation – Carol Burrus and Helen Shih

Carol Burrus – First Unitarian Universalist Church of Houston Climate Action Team

Carol Hendrix Burrus is the Director of Religious Community at First Unitarian Universalist Church, where she’s been serving families in progressive, holistic spiritual education most of the past 28 years.  She is a singer-songwriter who loves playing and teaching ukulele.  She dabbles at gardening and cooking tasty, colorful vegan food.  Environmental health and the well-being of future generations are her dearest passions.

Dr. Helen Shih – Flow of Light Natural Health & Houston Climate Movement

Dr. Helen Shih is a leadership coach specializing in healing, life purpose and vision-mission development. She is here to assist personal and organization transformation needed to cope with climate stress and transition to new ways of holistic living.  

Climate Action in Houston: Where are We Now? – Doris Brown and Aaron Ambroso

Doris Brown – West Street Recovery

Doris is West Street Recovery’s Co-Director of Community Research, Organizing, and Special Events. She is also a co-founder of the NORTHEAST ACTION COLLECTIVE (NAC). She graduated from HCC with a degree in Human Service Technology and Certification in Mental Health. In 2016 she graduated from University of Houston with a Bachelor of Science in Interdisciplinary Studies. She joined staff at West Street in June of 2020.

Aaron Ambroso – Co-founder, Houston Climate Justice Museum & Cultural Center

Aaron Ambroso is a museum professional, educator, writer, activist, and artist. He received his Masters in Art History from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He has worked at the Nasher Museum of Art, the North Carolina Museum of Art, and the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston.

Intro to Climate Change and Environmental Justice – Sylvia Dee and Carmen Cavezza

Dr. Sylvia Dee – Professor, Rice University Climate & Water Lab

Dr. Sylvia Dee, an Assistant Professor in the department of Earth, Environmental, and Planetary Science, is a climate scientist specializing in climate change and the hydrological cycle in the past, present, and future. Her research focuses on how Earth’s modes of natural variability, like El Niño and La Niña events, compound with climate change to alter the characteristics of weather and climate extremes, such as flooding hazard on the Mississippi River.

Sylvia received her Bachelor’s degree in Civil & Environmental Engineering at Princeton University, with minors in Environmental Studies and Geological Engineering. She received her Ph.D. in climate dynamics at the University of Southern California, and subsequently completed postdoctoral fellowships at Brown University and the UT Austin Institute for Geophysics before arriving at Rice in 2018. She was named a National Academies of Science and Engineering Gulf Research Program Early-Career Research Fellow in 2021 for her work on climate change impacts on the Gulf of Mexico.

Outside of Rice, Sylvia regularly leads environmental science programming for the Girl Scouts of the USA, work for which she was recently honored with the “Global Leadership Award,” by the Girl Scouts of New England. She is a regular contributor to media coverage on climate change including via NPR, AccuWeather, and the Houston Chronicle. Finally, Sylvia is a college associate and the Divisional Advisor for Natural Sciences in Duncan College, and loves working with Rice undergraduates to find solutions to environmental problems.

Carmen Cavezza – Climate Justice Community Organizer, Coalition for Environment, Equity, & Resilience

Carmen Cavezza is a foreign medical graduate with experience working with underserved communities. She has been extremely fortunate to live in several states and have met many different people involved in the environment and sustainability, which has exposed her to the impact humans and industry are having on our natural ecosystems. She relocated to Houston just before Hurricane Harvey and was confronted with Houston’s many environmental justice challenges and industry’s lax regulation. This ignited her desire to be active and to advocate for policy solutions and to shift the power dynamics. Carmen works to bring the voices of the most impacted community members by the climate crisis to the decision-making table and to empower communities in the frontlines to advocate for themselves.

Federal Investments for Climate Resilience – Michael Lewis

Mike Lewis – Clean Air & Water Advocate, Environment Texas

Michael Lewis is the Clean Air and Water Advocate for Environment Texas. Before moving into advocacy, he was a project manager for various technology companies. After getting his Master’s in Environmental Science from Texas A&M Corpus Christi, he was a biologist for Texas Parks and Wildlife where he worked on restoration and remediation projects.

From Knowledge to Action: Industry and Government Accountability – John Beard and Adrian Shelley

John Beard – Founder, Chairman, CEO of Port Arthur Community Action Network.

After working in the oil industry for 38 years, Beard turned to holding the industry accountable and became a community advocate in his hometown of Port Arthur, Texas. He founded the Port Arthur Community Action Network to fight for health and safety protections in an area teeming with refineries, export terminals, petrochemical plants — and cancer. In the past year Beard has emerged as an environmental justice leader on the national and world stage. He was one of the frontline leaders of October’s historic People Vs. Fossil Fuels week of action in Washington, which saw thousands demanding that President Biden stop approvals of fossil fuel projects and declare a climate emergency.

Adrian Shelley – Texas Director, Public Citizen

Adrian Shelley is a native Texan from the City of Houston. He is the Director of Public Citizen’s Texas office, which works on issues including clean energy, environmental enforcement, and ethics reform. Adrian has a law degree from the University of Texas and previously served as the Executive Director for Air Alliance Houston. He enjoys spending time with his family, reading, playing music, growing food and other plants, and the outdoors.

Youth Movements for Climate Action – Anika Shethis, Gargi Rakhade, and Varun Manikam

Anika Shethia – Houston Youth Climate Strike

Anika Shethia is a high school student at St. Agnes Academy and a grassroots community activist. She co-leads Houston Youth Climate Strike, a youth-led nonprofit dedicated to promoting environmental justice. Anika also spearheads the Office of Resilience and Sustainability’s Youth Engagement Working Group for the implementation of the Houston Climate Action Plan.

Gargi Rakhade – Houston Youth Climate Strike

Gargi Rakhade (she/her) is a senior at Bellaire High school and one of the general coordinators for Houston Youth Climate Strike. She started climate organizing in 2020, and has worked on educational campaigns, political lobbying, and has spoke and hosted rallies and events for climate justice! 

Varun Manickam – Houston Youth Climate Strike

Varun Manickam is a junior at Bellaire High School and is the Political and Research Lead of the Houston Youth Climate Strike. He has been involved in debate and political campaigning events since 2017 and created Drain the Hurricane in 2021, a student-based project that hand-manufactures hurricane kits for distribution as well as teaching hurricane preparedness tips to numerous schools in the local Houston area. He can’t wait to spread his climate advocacy as well as learn from a diverse set of individuals and their climate stories from all across the Houston area!

Our Journey to Justice: A CEER Ambassador’s Story – Araceli Ramos and Carol Smith

Araceli Ramos – Ambassador, Coalition for Environment, Equity, & Resilience

“I am an Ambassador & Educator for the community at CEER. My role is to inform and help the community to live in a better and healthier environment. I am a volunteer for the Harvey Forgotten Survivor Caucus, Northeast Action Collective, East Aldine, and Houston Food Bank.”

Carol Smith – Ambassador, Coalition for Environment, Equity, & Resilience

“I have chosen the role as a climate ambassador in the attempt to save lives. I have always possessed a strong passion to help people and now as a Climate Ambassador I can fulfill that quest. As we know, according to the World Health Organization, air pollution is the world’s top environmental health risk and we all need air to breathe. And people’s life expectancy is shortened due to pollution. I did not realize as an individual that I could make a change. And with CEER as my sword and shield it’s my greatest desire to fulfill my duty as faithful stewardess, and enlightened all that will adhere for the betterment of everyone that’s being affected.”