Texas Environmental Justice Advocacy Services (t.e.j.a.s.) is dedicated to providing community members with the tools necessary to create sustainable, environmentally healthy communities by educating individuals on health concerns and implications arising from environmental pollution, empowering individuals with an understanding of applicable environmental laws and regulations and promoting their enforcement, and offering community building skills and resources for effective community action and greater public participation.
Our goal is to promote environmental protection through education, policy development, community awareness, and legal action. Our guiding principle is that everyone, regardless of race or income, is entitled to live in a clean environment.
Juan Parras | Executive Director, Founder
Juan has been organizing community voices for years beginning as a social worker with the Harris County Welfare Office and later with City of Houston Section 8 Housing Department where he organized the workers at both offices. Recognizing his unorthodox organizing efforts, he was recruited by AFSCME (American Federation of State County and Municipal Employees) as project staff. Organizing people to fight for standards in their working environments Juan eventually was elevated to be an International Union Representative for AFSCME as an International Union Representative until 1993 where his efforts reestablished MLK day and impeached Governor Mechum of Arizona. He then began working with Louisiana Labor Neighbor Project an Oil Chemical and Atomic workers Union (now known as PACE) initiative. Where he helped established a community led fund to support union workers in during a 5 ½ year lockout. In 1995 Juan joined the ranks of Greenpeace USA in a longstanding battle and win against Shintech in Louisiana. 1996-2002 Soon after Juan began working with Texas Southern University at the newly formed Grover Hankins, at the Environmental Justice Law Clinic where he dedicated his skills and expertise in community organizing until 2002. In 1995 began the long-standing battle which started against the construction of Cesar Chavez High School and formed Unidos Contra Environmental Racism, which was later renamed T.e.j.a.s (Texas Environmental Justice Advocacy Services. From 2002-2006 Juan, concurrently was working as an EJ organizer for CLEAN (Citizens League for Environmental Action Now) formed by Jane Dale Owen granddaughter to one of the founders of Humble Oil which became Exxon Mobile. Juan was an original member of the National Environmental Justice Advisory Council (NEJAC), and has served on many other boards such as the Gulf Restoration Network, Coalition of Community Organizations (CoCO)National Childhood Lead Prevention Program, and the Center for Health and Environmental Justice (CHEJ). He is currently an Environmental Justice Ambassador for the Gulf of Mexico Alliance. Juan received the CEC Synergy Award in 2008 and the Sealy Center for Environmental Health & Medicine HERO Award in 2009. Juan was also recognized as a recent recipient of the 2015 Robert Bullard Environmental Justice Champion Award from the Sierra Club. Juan Parras and his resolve for equity, justice and community resilience is the driving force behind the T.e.j.a.s. with over 40 years of organizing and work from social services, to labor, to environmental justice Juan Parras can attest to the empowering force behind marrying issues of intersectionality in environmental work for marginalized communities.
Ana Parras | Research Director, Co-Founder
Ana has an extensive background in community organizing from her union work as president of AFSCME (Local 3242), American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees. Her work with organized Labor emphasized the importance of Civic Engagement. She ran phone banks for the Democratic Party in South Texas for several candidates and she brought her experience to Harris County. In her home town of Corpus, she received an award from the Central Labor Council for her efforts in establishing benefits for municipal workers. Her work has been dedicated to uplifting marginalized and affected populations as well as victims. Ana co-founded the Injured Workers of Texas and was also recognized for her outstanding efforts at the Battered Women’s Shelter in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Before T.e.j.a.s Ana served the Harris County Central Labor Council and helped develop there political program and database. During the Cesar Chavez high school challenge Juan along with Ana established UCER, Unidos Contra Environmental Racism, which was later renamed T.e.j.a.s. Ana also has extensive experience as a legal assistant for over 12 years. She co-founded “Our First Steps” a storefront whose purpose was to remove the stigma of food assistance and serve women who received WIC (Women, Infants, and Children) food and nutrition services. She is a pivotal member taking on Research and administrative duties for the organization.
Bryan Parras has also been an instrumental part of the organization bringing new media skills to the organization. Bryan now serves as an Advisor to the Gulf Coast Fund, and sits on the board of the Environmental Support Center. Bryan was recently awarded a Gulf Coast Fellowship and has been working to help organizations use media for education, organizing and advocacy. He co-produces Nuestra Palabra on KPFT, Houston’s local Pacifica affiliate. He is currently acting as a Bridge the Gulf Fellow and helping launch a new interactive website where communities along the Gulf Coast can share their stories through the use of Blogs, Video and Photography. Bryan has been trained by Augusto & Julian Boal as a Theatre of the Oppressed facilitator. He has made presentations at various national Pedagogy & Theater of the Oppressed (TO) conferences and worked with communities in Buffalo, Chattanooga and Harlingen. Bryan has also contributed to two TO projects involving on-the-job environmental exposures of immigrant workers.
Yudith Nieto was born in Mexico and grew up in the fence-line refining community of Manchester in Houston, TX. Which helped in inspiring Yudith to become involved in the environmental justice movement. Yudith has worked with Texas Environmental Justice Advocacy Services and has also been involved in organizing with the Tar Sands Blockade to organize direct actions. Earlier this year she participated in the 2013 4 Directions Intergenerational Youth Exchange. Where she learned how to build an intergenerational movement along with how the Chican@, Mexican American, and Indigenous cultures are intrinsically linked to the struggle of environmental justice. Yudith is now currently working with other youth in Houston to teach people about environmental issues that affect their communities through culture, art, music and poetry. Yudith is dedicated to confronting the petrochemical industries that perpetuate environmental racism and classism in marginalized communities of color.
Deyadira Arellano | Campaign Organizer, Community Health Worker/ Promotora
Deyadira has extensive experience in working on campaigns regarding voter registration, lobbying, education, union organizing and Medicaid expansion. Her Mexico/Texas connection, grounded in family heritage and respect for nature, has given her the understanding to work to preserve and restore what we have in terms of land, resources, species, and humanity through a variety of efforts and collective decision making. She is proficient in community organizing, planning actions local and national, logistics, community advocacy, coalition building, intersection of immigrant rights and environmental justice, event coordinating, media outreach & training and interpreting material. Currently she is the campaign lead for T.e.j.a.s with the Coming Clean Network where she is working on the Campaign for Healthier Solutions. Dollar stores are pervasive through marginalized communities especially food desserts. This campaign focuses on removing products containing toxics such as PCB’s and Parabens from dollar store shelves. She also leads our efforts in the Healthy Ports Communities Coalition tackling emissions from transportation sources. Her work has consisted of creating stronger relationships between the issues in Manchester and the Baytown area through community outreach, education workshops, youth development and relationship building. She is also a lead member of Community Voices for Public Education where community collaborations have attempting to remove the current standardize testing models prevalent throughout districts nationally.
Yvette Arellano | Research and Policy Liaison
Yvette graduated from the University of Houston with a degree in Political Science and a graduate of the University of Houston’s Pre-Law Institute and Hobby Center for Public Policy (CHIP) program. She is a strong believer in supporting the community through volunteer efforts. She has contributed efforts to organizations such as Donna Marie Clubhouse Mental Health Recovery Center, Planned Parenthood, Kids’ Meals Houston-Houston Food Bank as well as others. She believes that through a commitment to community engagement, education and political pressure we can achieve a better standard of living. Yvette believes that political participation is vital to her work at T.e.j.a.s and has extensive knowledge regarding EPA databases and toxics registry’s such as the EJ screen. In 2015 she lead the campaign against H.R 702 the exportation of crude and other products. Yvette represented the gulf south and T.e.j.a.s at the United Nations COP21 in Paris along with the Gulf South Rising Coalition. Recently she aided in a collaborative project with Union of Concerned Scientist and T.e.j.a.s which jointly published “Air Toxics and Health in the Houston Community of Manchester” and “Double Jeopardy in Houston: Acute and Chronic Chemical Exposures Pose Disproportionate Risks for Marginalized Communities (2016)”. Yvette’s work in environmental justice highlights that access to clean water, air, land and food is a human right. She believes that success can be best achieved through intersectionality.