February 13, 2023
Rev. Erika Ferguson, Secunda Joseph, and The People’s Paper Co-op will be
honored for their work in human rights advocacy on March 26, 2023
Houston, TX – The Rothko Chapel announced today the three recipients for its biannual Rothko Chapel Óscar Romero Award (ORA), which recognizes people and organizations working resolutely to enact social change through grassroots human rights advocacy. In the face of so many devastating threats to human and civil rights in the United States, the 2023 ORA focuses on efforts to further reproductive justice, socio-economic equity, and the rights of people who are or have been incarcerated. This year’s recipients are Reverend Erika Ferguson, the principal of Envision Justice in Dallas, Texas; Secunda Joseph, an activist-organizer based in Houston, Texas; and The People’s Paper Co-op, a woman-led advocacy project in North Philadelphia.
Since its founding in 1971, the Rothko Chapel has focused its efforts to advance social justice and equity through its public programming and community engagement efforts. In 1986, the Chapel initiated the ORA in honor of Archbishop of Óscar Romero of San Salvador who dedicated his life to advocacy for economic and political equity until his assassination in 1980 by El Salvadorian extremist political forces. He was canonized in 2018. Saint Óscar Romero’s profound dedication to social justice against all odds has inspired countless others to advocate for human rights. Through the ORA, the Chapel illuminates and supports the work and commitment of human rights activists from all over the world who work in the face of great duress, often with little recognition, to advance the cause of human rights.
This year’s award continues the work of the Chapel’s 2021-22 Symposium Beyond the Rhetoric: Civil Rights & Our Shared Responsibility, which engaged a variety of speakers over the course of two-years addressing topics such as the rights of immigrants, the roll back of civil rights for LBGTQI+ communities, American Indian perspectives on the concept of civil rights, and academic and journalistic censorship. The 2023 honorees’ work represent exemplar efforts in protecting and bolstering civil rights in the United States.
About the Honorees
Reverend Erika Ferguson
"In the relentless pursuit of Reproductive Justice, the future is too important to be held hostage by fear".
Rev. Erika Ferguson is the principal of Envision Justice – the reproductive justice strategy firm of the future – and Reproductive Justice Post Roe – a vibrant online community. Envision Justice provides strategic guidance, tactical support, and mission assistance to organizations, private companies, and leaders in government to craft messaging and create frameworks for the design, build, and implementation of unique programs around reproductive justice. As the visionary of Reproductive Justice Post Roe, Rev. Erika started the online movement that provides practical knowledge, real tools, authenticity skills, and engagement energy required for any individual to influence their own circle on reproductive justice. Rev. Erika has a BA in early childhood development which enabled her initial career as an educator, but it was the two abortions she had that afforded her that opportunity and enabled her success. Fighting for reproductive justice became her mission, leading her to answer the call to become an interfaith minister over 15 years ago and a national public speaker on matters of reproductive rights. She is proud of the abortions she had, considers herself privileged to have had access to them, and has made it her life’s mission to ensure this privilege is possible for future generations. Rev. Erika believes that we must be bold and brave in crafting a new vision for the movement that includes and works for everyone.
“Houston is one of the most diverse cities in the nation & one of the most inequitable. We are number two in evictions in the nation, in inaccessibility to affordable housing and our jail is one of the largest mental health facilities in the state. Our work directly impacts folks whose real lives are impacted by these statistics’. This award highlight’s the work we do but also brings more attention to the very significant issues Black, Brown, and disenfranchised folks face.”
Secunda Joseph, aka “For The People Bae,” is a devoted and conscientious activist-organizer and justice worker based in Houston, TX. She firmly promotes organic, community-based approaches to solidarity work and activism, and shirks at those who ignore the capacities of those for whom they advocate. Although her activist-organizer work broadly focuses on humanitarian rights and concerns, she utilizes Black abolitionist principles and concepts to create, build, and work beside vulnerable communities toward more liberating life options for future generations born into inequity. Joseph is a Co-Founder and Director of Smart Media & Community Organizing at ImagiNoir/BLMHTX, a collective whose aim is to educate, empower and build coalitions that address issues adversely impacting Black lives in the city of Houston. In addition to training consulting, and mutual aid work, Joseph delivers multimedia interventions and mind/body strategies toward liberatory existence. Inspired by the anti-lynching passion of her ancestor-mentor, Ida B. Wells, she hosts radio shows and curates online platforms with her collective. Through this work, she highlights Black radical traditions for striving and imagining new worlds in which “we can all breathe,” believing that traditional and gradualist approaches sacrifice the most marginalized. Joseph is also a Kemetic Yoga practitioner and offers intergenerational classes to adults, children, and seniors alike, realizing that her community’s healing work must be essential to her activism.
The People’s Paper Co-op
“We have spent years working with women coming home from prison to create public art that reaches large audiences and literally frees women, and our annual art fundraiser has raised over $200,000 to bail out Black mothers and caregivers. This award will help us flood Philadelphia with public art advocating for a world where all women are safe, free, and thriving.” – Courtney Bowles, Co-Director
Founded in 2014, The People’s Paper Co-op (PPC) is a women led, women focused, and women powered art and advocacy project at the Village of Arts and Humanities in North Philadelphia. The PPC looks to women in reentry as the leading criminal justice experts our society needs to hear from and uses a variety of art forms to amplify their stories, dreams, and visions for a more just and free world. Since 2018, the People’s Paper Co-op has collaborated with the Philadelphia Community Bail Fund on their annual Black Mama's Bail Out campaign. Each year, the PPC connects a powerful cohort of women in reentry with artists and advocates to co-create a poster series and corresponding set of exhibitions, parades, press conferences, and events to raise awareness and funds for the campaign. Their posters, prints, and t-shirt sales have raised over $200,000 to free Black mothers and caregivers. The collaborative work has reached hundreds of thousands of viewers through interactive public art campaigns and a diverse array of exhibitions from the Philadelphia Museum of Art, City Hall, to detention centers, church basement legal clinics, billboards, and guerrilla wheat paste murals. Their work has been featured by big and small publications, including but not limited to New York Times, BBC, Refinery 29, Philadelphia Inquirer, and NPR.