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.
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 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.
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 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.
To recommend an organizer to be recognized, click here to fill out our nomination form.
Archive | 2021
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 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 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 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 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 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 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, 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 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 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 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.