Organizer of the Month

The Bayou Brief & Louisiana Lefty have teamed up to celebrate Louisiana organizers. Each month, we share the change-making work of a new awardee on our social media and present them with a framed Organizer of the Month certificate. Our honorees come from every part of the state and represent the full range of organizing roles that reflect our progressive values and move our communities forward.

Please scroll down the page to read more about these impressive Louisianians, and learn how to nominate your favorite organizer for recognition.




James Hiatt from Lake Charles has been organizing in his community for years and is currently working with the Louisiana Bucket Brigade to stop the buildout of liquid natural gas export terminals in Southwest Louisiana. He organized a group of shrimpers in Cameron and Calcasieu Parishes to set up a flotilla outside of an oil and gas conference in Lake Charles. It’s generally pretty difficult to organize shrimpers and fishers in the environmental movement, and James literally got dozens of them to come out with their shrimp boats. A former oil and gas worker, James has switched careers to become a full-time organizer against the oil and gas industry and has coordinated protests and press conferences from Lake Charles to D.C.



Joan Simon is an organizer with the Progressive Northshore Democrats. The current mission she’s working on is preventing censorship of LGBTQIA+ books in St. Tammany Parish Libraries. Joan has been organizing political action for well over a decade. She coordinates events in a very red part of the state in support of Democratic candidates, including two Town Halls for John Bel Edwards. She has also hosted informational panel discussions on issues to inform the community about the dangers of fracking, the need to protect the environment, and the injustices of mass incarceration. She was an early leader on these issues and remains persistent and relentless for the causes she supports.



Mariah Moore is a national transgender rights activist. Her work includes fighting to ensure equity, equality, and safety for the transgender community, especially Black transgender women. Mariah is co-founder and co-director of House of Tulip in New Orleans, which provides zero-barrier housing, case management, linkage to care, and community programming to trans and gender nonconforming people in need of a safe place to stay. Additionally, Mariah is co-director of policy and programs at the Transgender Law Center, serves on the New Orleans LGBTQ Task Force, and works with the CANS Can’t Stand campaign, which aims to abolish the crimes against nature law that have historically targeted LGBTQ people of color. Mariah is also involved with SONG, through the Lorde’s Werq! fellowship. Just recently, she was honored by the I Am Human Foundation, presented with the Active Advocate Award at BET’s Black + Iconic ceremony, and celebrated in the GLAAD Changemakers video series. Mariah is on a mission to change hearts and minds so that all LGBTQ people can live free from fear.



Mel Inari Manuel co-founded Queer Northshore in response to a group of local book banners that asserted that there was no LGBTQ+ community in the area. For Mardi Gras 2023, they organized the first Queer Mardi Gras Krewe to ever walk on the Northshore in the Abita Springs Push Mow Parade. With a goal of uniting and strengthening the LGBTQ+ community throughout Southeast Louisiana, they have made a huge impact quite quickly. Mel is also a spokesperson for the St. Tammany Parish Library Alliance, which aims to combat censorship and hate in their Parish. In conjunction with Queer Northshore, the Alliance organized the “Ban Hate not Books” rally at the Covington Library. The event, with an estimated crowd size of 150-200 people, addressed bigoted book bans and the range of dangerous anti-LGBTQ+ bills being introduced in the 2023 legislative session. Mel is a public school teacher, a parent, and a lifelong St. Tammany resident.



Gail Leboeuf has been working since 2020 as co-founder and co-director of Inclusive Louisiana, which was formed to protect the residents of her home St. James Parish and neighboring parishes from environmental harm caused by industrial pollution. Gail helped lead the charge to stop the Formosa plastics facility from opening in St James Parish. She also just helped to co-found People Power and Light to recruit and train candidates who will focus on Climate Justice and Environmental Justice issues. Gail is currently involved in bringing a federal Environmental Justice lawsuit for “Cancer Alley” that makes the case that their local government was built on a culture of white supremacy, claiming that land-use and zoning policies illegally concentrate polluting industrial plants in Black communities. Of the many roles Gail has played over the years, she is also a member of Knights of Peter Clavier Court #65, Progressive Benevolent Association, and St. James Parish NAACP.



Jo and Joy Banner are co-founders and co-directors of the Descendents Project, which was founded to preserve and protect the health, land, and lives of the Black descendant community located in Louisiana’s River Parishes. Their nonprofit is committed to the liberation of the Black descendant community through the dismantling of inequitable and discriminatory economic, environmental, and social systems inherent in the violent legacies of slavery. The Banner sisters both use their post-graduate degrees in Communications to further their mission. Jo was instrumental in the passage of the Environmental Justice for All Act. Joy comes to the project after her tenure at the Whitney Plantation, the only plantation museum in Louisiana that centers on the lives of the enslaved. In one of their key recent initiatives, they arranged town halls and press conferences and collected almost 5000 signatures opposing a grain project in Wallace, LA, which would have endangered and fractured their community. They work with several industries, including entertainment and tourism, to develop job options outside the petrochemical industry. Earlier this year, they produced Born by the River: A Musical Pilgrimage Toward Restoration and Healing, which used music and storytelling to trace the deep ties that bind together the land, the river, and St. John the Baptist Parish, acknowledge the past, honor the present, and plant seeds of hope for the future.



Jeremy JF Thompson (he/they) is a veteran marketing consultant and strategist and an activist focused on First Amendment Rights and LGBTQ+ Equality. He invests his skills in both political and community organizing. He served as marketing strategist for 2022 Congressional District 1 candidate, Katie Darling, and currently serves as campaign manager for Mel Manuel. Currently, he’s recruiting progressives to run for the St. Tammany DPEC. For the past two years, Jeremy volunteered 40+ hours per week organizing for campaigns, as well as Queer Northshore, which he co-founded, and the St Tammany Library Alliance, where he serves on the board and acts as communications director. He has produced 22 social events and facilitated 24 more. He organized 9 political actions and 2 meal trains for QNS members recovering from surgery. He organized the fundraiser that raised $9,000 after the “Ban Hate Not Books” billboard was torched in an Abita hate crime. While working tirelessly for the state, their work tends to go unrecognized behind the scenes.



Lynette Bech is a political organizer who works with the Washington Democratic Parish Executive Committee and on behalf of multiple Democratic candidates. She has been active for years, tirelessly supporting local, state and federal Democratic candidates and their platforms. Lynette restarted the Washington Parish DPEC, the local arm of the state Democratic Party, after it had been dormant for years, and established a Washington Parish Democratic Women’s Club. She also served as a Biden delegate to the Democratic National Convention in 2020. She advocates for voting accessibility as Louisiana co-chair of the DNC Disability Caucus and through the American Association of People with Disabilities’s REV-UP project. As a person with a pre-existing condition of brittle bone disease, she understands the importance of healthcare rights for all and has consistently defended the Affordable Care Act, Medicare, and Medicaid. Lynette has further served her community as a teacher and an assistant secretary for the local NAACP. She continues to inform her network and encourage them to engage via emails, zooms, and social media during election cycles and legislative sessions.


checo yancy

Checo Yancy is a founding member of VOTE, and the Policy Director of their sister advocacy organization, Voters Organized to Educate. He is based in their Baton Rouge chapter office, where they just hosted his “Freedomversary” to celebrate his anniversary of being 20 years free. Checo works alongside the Department of Corrections and the legislature, laying the groundwork for formerly incarcerated people like himself to strengthen their capacity to fight for their rights. Checo & VOTE are actively leading voter strategy and information sessions, and focused registration and mobilization drives. Whether he’s working with Louisianans for Prison Alternatives, the Southern Poverty Law Center, the ACLU, Black Voters Matter, the Urban League, or another partner, he keeps his focus on the same goal: restoring the human and civil rights of those directly impacted by mass incarceration.



Jesse Manley

Jesse organizes with Court Watch NOLA and the People’s DA Coalition. Jesse has significantly grown Court Watch’s volunteer base, ensuring almost complete court coverage. A community organizer, political operative, and victim’s rights advocate, he has a long history of recruiting, training, and mobilizing volunteers. Jesse combines experience from the corporate world, the non-profit sector, and electoral campaigns to empower volunteers with the skills and confidence they need to make a positive change in their own world.


Ivy Mathis

Ivy is a Baton Rouge chapter organizer with Voice of the Experienced (VOTE). Ivy was sent to prison as a child. In her 26 years inside, she educated herself and became involved in programs that would set her on a better path. Her work and leadership skills have also been lifted up by Governor John Bel Edwards, who appointed Ivy to the Children of Incarcerated Parents and Caregivers Council, and the Department of Corrections, which approved her to write and teach a reentry program called “Life Support” at the Louisiana Correctional Institute for Women. Additionally, Ivy has been selected by Columbia University’s Center for Justice to serve in the 2021-2022 cohort of their Collective Leadership Institute.


IBreka Peoples

Breka Peoples organizes with The Peoples Promise in North Louisiana from Shreveport to Monroe. Breka took The People’s Promise Youth Division to Baton Rouge to participate in the Redistricting Takeover at the Capitol. Their testimony made an impression on conservative Rep. Barry Ivey, who cited their words in his last speech attempting to convince Republican colleagues to add more majority-minority districts to the maps. Breka is a trusted community organizer who has stood with families during cases of in-custody deaths, like Tommie McGlothen, Wavey Austin, and Ronald Greene. On any given day, you can see her working in North Louisiana communities, registering people to vote, and advocating for the importance of community power. In 2020, in DeSoto Parish, she organized a caravan driving 100 voters to the polls to cast their ballots. She is recognized by community members and elected officials alike, and was named by the Shreveport Times as one of five community leaders to watch in 2022.


Michael cahoon

Michael Cahoon is statewide co-lead organizer and policy advocate for the LA Repeal Project, a coalition working to replace Louisiana’s broken death penalty with alternatives that will keep communities safe, ensure the innocent aren’t executed, honor the dignity of all people, and save taxpayers millions. Michael is also active in the East Baton Rouge Parish Prison Reform Coalition, which organizes to end the inhumane conditions at one of the deadliest jails in the country. Before taking a role at the Promise of Justice Initiative in 2018, Michael was a lead organizer with SEIU Local 509, a 20,000-member union of social workers, human service providers, and educators, where he also served as president for an independent union of SEIU organizers and support staff.



Maria is co-founder & co-director of Step Up Louisiana. She has worked in almost every kind of organizing space you can name, starting as a young woman in her church in Lake Charles doing faith-based organizing. When she was in school at Southern, she led student organizing efforts for the Louisiana Democratic Party. She joined the political organizing world in Mary Landrieu’s 2014 statewide campaign. After that she got engaged in community organizing in New Orleans with the Micah Project. Today she leads the Education Justice efforts for Step Up, working out of the offices of their Baton Rouge chapter.


peyton rose michelle

Peyton is director of operations for Louisiana Trans Advocates and as a state progressive leader managed a flurry of organizing around the 2022 legislative session on bills impacting the LGBTQIA+ community. She kept allies updated throughout session on issues that needed support or opposition. And she was a regular at session to lobby legislators, as well as offer her own testimony in committee hearings. Peyton is the first openly transgender person to be elected in Louisiana, serving from Lafayette on the Democratic State Central Committee in house district 46. Her successful DSCC campaign focused on a platform of racial justice and government accountability. Peyton is also a policy strategist at the Reproductive Justice Action Collective, and as a member of the Acadiana Queer Collective helped coordinate the first Pride Acadiana celebration this year.



Lessie LeBlanc is the Acadiana Community Organizer for the Promise of Justice Initiative’s #LAREPEAL Project working to end the death penalty in Louisiana. A staunch advocate for criminal justice and prison reform, Lessie has worked with a number of groups on projects that address racism and systemic inadequacies, including the Justice and Accountability Center’s Clean Slate Initiative, the Stop Solitary Coalition, and the efforts that brought about the removal of the Jim Crow-era Confederate statue from downtown Lafayette in 2021. As a photographer, projectionist, and content creator for Prōject Prōtest she has been able to advocate and educate through progressive grassroots activism. Through guerilla art installations and informational campaigns, she promotes social justice, police & prison reform, LGBTQ+ protections, and abortion rights. Lessie is also elected to the Democratic State Central Committee, representing the people of district 42.



Billy Anderson is the Power Coalition’s newest organizer for North Louisiana and spearheaded the largest Juneteenth celebration in the state this year. Passionate about building community power, Billy works to register and engage voters of all ages. In concert with a coalition of North Louisiana partners, he educates about local, statewide and federal elections. He sits on the boards of the Shreveport-Bossier African American Chamber of Commerce, Red River Revel, Highland Area Partnership, The Art of Gentlemen Inc., and New Leaders Council of Louisiana. He is one of the founders of Shreveport-Bossier Black Restaurant Week. Recently, Billy was announced as one of the Young Professionals Initiative Shreveport-Bossier 40 Under 40 Class of 2022.



Sherie Thomas is the Outreach & Engagement Director at the Justice and Accountability Center of Louisiana where she leads engagement and outreach activities with people with criminal records, survivors of solitary confinement and their loved ones, pro bono attorneys, volunteers, law students, community organizations, and allies. She also works with JAC staff, contractors, and partners to carry out advocacy campaigns, primarily through coalition management, relationship building, and facilitating the engagement of impacted communities in envisioning and implementing systemic change. Sherie built out transformational state legislative campaigns to stop solidarity confinement and to pass clean slate laws for automatic free expungements. She is a critical part of the criminal justice reform organizing infrastructure of Baton Rouge and Louisiana. Further community engagement activities include serving as the Medical Taskforce Director for the East Baton Rouge Prison Reform Coalition and as a committee member of the Workforce & Education Committee of the Baton Rouge Area Chamber.



Angela Adkins has been organizing on reproductive rights and abortion rights for three decades. She has led efforts for the National Organization of Women (NOW) in the state for many years and is currently working with the newly formed 10,000 Women. She coordinated the largest Women’s March in the state in January of 2017 when women’s rights protests were held around the world. She has organized Women on Wednesdays, rallies on the Capitol steps, informational zooms and other events to mobilize women during each legislative session. In addition to the organizations she’s working with now, she has collaborated with Lift Louisiana, the Legislative Agenda for Women (LAW) and the Louisiana Coalition for Reproductive Freedom (LCRF).


Roishetta Sibley-Ozane

Roishetta Sibley-Ozane is the Healthy Gulf Clean Energy Organizing Director for Southwest Louisiana and Southeast Texas, as well as an Environmental Justice Coordinator and She Leads Fellow for the Power Coalition for Equity and Justice, where she empowers women of color to make positive change in their communities. Roishetta is the founder, director, and CEO of The Vessel Project of Louisiana, a small grassroots mutual aid organization in Southwest Louisiana. Highlights of her organizing include working to prevent a petrochemical build out, assisting community members with funding assistance for utility bills, and turning out voters in her region. With over a decade of experience representing organizations as a community outreach specialist, she is also a member of the National Association of University Women – Lake Charles, McNeese State University Black Alumni Chapter, Junior League, and the Hive Fund. Additionally she is a townhall facilitator for Gulf South For A Green New Deal and an Americorp Vista alum. She is currently pursuing a Masters in Criminal Justice. And she has done all this while raising her own 6 kids, and organizing holiday events for children and senior citizens in Sulphur.



Based in New Orleans, Lila Zucker is the field manager for Fair Fight Action, the Stacey Abrams-founded voting rights organization. Lila remotely trains and organizes volunteers across the country to help fight voter suppression and turn out the vote. She recently worked in support of Stacey Abrams’ gubernatorial run in Georgia, then turned quickly to help re-elect Senator Raphael Warnock and maintain Democratic control of the U.S. Senate. Before this role, Lila has held a string of organizing positions, assisting with Stacey Abrams’ previous run for governor, as well as both of John Bel Edwards’ successful bids for governor. She has been a strong labor organizer, working with unions in Louisiana, Wisconsin, Oregon, and Washington state. She started organizing early in life as a campus organizer for reproductive rights, and has long been an advocate for disability rights in Louisiana.

To recommend an organizer to be recognized, click here to fill out our nomination form.

Archive | 2021



Naima Savage

Naima has dedicated herself to organizing in the southern region for workers’ rights and voter empowerment. In her work with Color of Change PAC, she contributed to their efforts to flip the senate through support for Rev. Raphael Warnock & Jon Ossoff, as well as elect Jason Williams, the new progressive District Attorney of New Orleans. She’s Board Chair of Step Up for Action, former lead organizer for Show Me 15 & a Union, and former Director of Equity & Strategic Growth.


Candice Battiste

Candice currently organizes in North Louisiana with the Power Coalition. An LSU alum & graduate of the Southern University Law Center, she’s also worked with local candidates, the Unanimous Jury Coalition, Citizen SHE, & Spread The Vote.


Katie Hunter-Lowrey

Katie is co-lead organizer, crime survivor organizer, and policy advocate at the Promise of Justice Initiative. Katie organizes monthly meetings with Louisiana Survivors for Reform, and for more than a decade has advocated for the service industry, collective organizing, and housing assistance. She is a long-time organizer for NOLA to Angola, and serves on the Board of Jane Place Neighborhood Sustainability Initiative.


Kristen Gonzalez

Kristen is a Marine Corps vet, with a masters in public health. She organizes community leaders in Southwest Louisiana to educate about and distribute Narcan. She also encourages a whole-person view of addiction and recovery.


Caleb Holmes

Caleb is Baton Rouge Organizer for Step Up Louisiana, coordinating their dynamic Unemployment & Education Justice Committees. Originally from Shreveport, he’s an Honors Graduate from Southern University, with a Bachelor’s Degree in Political Science. He is a young and passionate community organizer, who has has already racked up a history of organizing for political campaigns, as well as All In For Louisiana, and the 771 Alliance at Southern.


Rev. Alexis Anderson

Rev. Anderson, a strong and strategic organizer, is a leader with the East Baton Rouge Parish Prison Reform Coalition. She is also an ordained elder in the African Methodist Episcopal Church, as well as founder and executive director of PREACH. PREACH is a 501(c)3 nonprofit focusing on the 3 C’s of literacy: competence in basic life skills, computerization, and commerce, with a special focus on special need populations such as domestic violence survivors, ex-offenders, and at-risk families.


Marcelle Beaulieu

Marcelle is the digital organizer behind Louisianah Brah. She started her work to message to millennial voters and pro-choice women during the 2019 governor’s race. Today she continues her efforts to inform & engage voters in state issue politics, using memes and humor as a tool. Marcelle’s premise is, “Being able to make someone laugh is instrumental in keeping them engaged as they are processing information that might be overwhelming or despairing.”


Pearl Ricks

Pearl is the Executive Director of the Reproductive Justice Action Collective, which envisions a world in which all Southerners are able to access reproductive health care without judgement and with dignity. Pearl was a major contributor to the statewide organizing efforts against anti-trans legislation this year. They prepared the pitch points legislators used to respond on the Floor during the final votes in regular session and the veto override session. Those were crucial in giving quick, coherent, and correct arguments to many who had been unfamiliar with the issue, and should be a model for advocates in giving legislators tools to do what is right, even when it is out of their comfort zone.


Sharon Lavigne

Sharon Lavigne, an environmental justice activist, runs faith-based organization, Rise St. James, which focuses on preventing further petrochemical plant pollution in Louisiana’s Cancer Alley. She is a retired special education teacher, a plaintiff in the White Hat v. Landry case to change Louisiana Oil and Gas law, and was recently the sole United States recipient of the Goldman Environmental Prize. She is a master organizer, from successfully stopping the construction of a billion dollar plastics manufacturing plant in St. James Parish by mobilizing grassroots opposition, to coordinating Hurricane Ida relief efforts for her community.


Ben Zucker

Ben Zucker is co-founder of Step Up Louisiana, Step Up for Action, and NOLA Rising PAC. Ben comes from a family of union organizers, and has been steeped in the economic justice movement in Louisiana, starting his organizing career with the local Fight For 15 chapter: Show Me 15 and a Union. Ben was, in fact, the spark that initiated this award series, as he is a relentless advocate for organizers.


Frances Kelley

Frances Kelley has run successful field operations for national and local candidates. She’s worked on climate, environmental, and health quality issues, like rallying statewide support to force the military to protect North Louisiana communities from an open burn of aging explosives. Frances currently invests her energy in Louisiana Advocates for Immigration Detainees. In addition to advocacy work for better immigration policies, she recruits volunteers to pick up immigrants from the airport and from ICE detention centers and then coordinates drivers to take them to the bank, grocery store, and pharmacy. Frances expanded her capacity for social activism with a bachelor’s degree in religious studies from Yale and a master’s in education from Centenary College of Louisiana.


Omari Ho-Sang

Omari Ho-Sang is the Louisiana Coordinator for Black Voters Matter, the Founder of ASAP Shreveport, and a powerful organizer across movements in Louisiana. Omari always puts the people first and has also organized with the American Federation of Teachers, as well as the Louisiana Poor People’s Campaign. With her work at Black Voters Matter, Omari has developed, connected, and mobilized networks of Black voters who impact our state every election cycle.