MFP Fellows Involved in Human Rights Activities
Mona Amer, PhD
Associate professor of psychology, The American University in Cairo
Over the past few years, Egypt has seen marked political and socioeconomic turbulence. As a faculty member at the American University in Cairo, Amer has supervised and consulted on numerous community psychology projects related to human rights. Several semesters of students have worked on projects aimed at empowering residents living in deplorable shelter conditions in an informal settlement (slum area). She and her students have consulted on NGO projects focused on anticorruption monitoring of political elections, child labor, victims of torture and violence, status of refugees and other forms of human rights violations. Social justice is a deeply held value in the field of community psychology. As such, Amer's courses attend to human rights issues and their intersections with critical and liberation theories. She is also working on a forthcoming journal article that compares and contrasts the methods of the human rights field in Egypt with community psychology methods.
Donna Blackwell, BA, MA, PhD
Principal, HumanWorks Consultants
Blackwell is a member of the Desmond Tutu Peace Foundation Board of Directors. As chairperson of the program committee she directed the launch of a Desmond Tutu Peace channel on YouTube and the revamp of the foundation's website, which now provides online education and experiential tools for adolescents seeking ways to prevent conflict as well as news about preventing or restoring peace and protecting human rights. As principal of HumanWorks, Blackwell designs programs that improve conditions for at-risk people and communities. Recently, she worked with the International Fund for Agricultural Developments (IFAD) on their strategic communications plans. Previously, she designed and produced a global forum on girls' education called, Audacia. The forum brought scholars, human rights practitioners, philanthropists and business people from 14 countries together to share the best practices for dismantling the barriers that prevent nearly half a billion girls and women from around the world from obtaining an education.
John Chavez, PhD
Chavez is currently in private practice in the city of Duarte, Calif., and conducts immigration evaluations for clients seeking legal residency in the United States. Chavez provides services for undocumented immigrants seeking asylum, waivers of extreme hardship and cancellation of removal. Chavez has worked closely with human rights immigration attorneys, community agencies, advocacy groups such as Catholic Charities Esperanza Immigration Services and the Central American Resource Center. In 2008, Chavez was recognized by Esperanza Immigration Services for exemplary pro bono services serving the undocumented. Chavez continues to provide psychological services to the undocumented and works closely with community groups and agencies serving underrepresented populations. His services also include work with incarcerated prisoners, victims of domestic violence and victims of crime.
Samuel Gordon, PhD
Coordinator Medical and Pediatric Psychology, MedStar National Rehabilitation Hospital
Gordon is a clinical psychologist at Washington, D.C.'s MedStar National Rehabilitation Hospital working over the past 25 years on helping inner-city residents with violently acquired spinal cord and brain injury-related disabilities regain the sense of dignity that comes with living independently in their home communities. Through his weekly Urban Re-Entry Group these young individuals have struggled to move from living in degrading conditions in nursing homes to accessible and affordable community housing, to get adequate healthcare and equipment such as wheelchairs, to achieve employment and adequate income, and to avoid police harassment based on their race, social situations and histories. Also as president of the Washington, D.C., Spinal Cord Injury Association he expands these efforts with the goals of safeguarding the rights of all persons living with paralysis through political action, advocacy and networking across racial and social class lines.
George Hu, PsyD
Clinical psychologist, Beijing United Family Hospital
Hu consults with nongovernmental organizations in Uzbekistan, Cambodia and Thailand serving people with developmental and other disabilities, as well as victims of human trafficking. Hu is also an advocate for access to mental health services for disadvantaged populations in China.
Eduardo Lugo, PhD
Associate investigator, University of Puerto Rico
Lugo works within the Puerto Rico public school system promoting children's rights to be active participants in the decisions that affect them. His work stems from a community-based participatory research approach. Specifically, he has developed a research club where middle school students are trained in participatory research methods to address violence within their school. Lugo's work is based on the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and the importance of promoting integration of children's voices into decision making structures. He uses a wide array of methodological approaches such as PhotoVoice, focus groups and youth forums, among others, to generate violence prevention initiatives that are informed by youth perspectives. In addition, he works with adults in the school system to explore the social, cultural and structural barriers to youth participation.
Nicole Monteiro, PhD
Senior lecturer, University of Botswana
Monteiro has diverse international experiences, including: conducting mental health research in Ethiopia; working on initiatives to improve rural health care in Senegal; developing a global mental health training program for U.S. doctoral students to gain experience in West Africa; consulting with doctors treating victims of political violence in Peru and with victims of child labor in Liberia; and working as a psychologist in Bahrain. She was the mental health team leader for a post-earthquake medical mission in Haiti. Monteiro completed the Harvard Program for Refugee Trauma's Global Mental Health Master's Certificate Program where she obtained in-depth training in the unique needs of culturally diverse traumatized populations and post-conflict recovery. That experience informed her work with torture survivors, asylum-seekers and refugees in the U.S., including pro-bono work with the organizations Torture Abolition and Survivor Support Coalition (TASSC) and HealthRight International. The unifying thread connecting her work is the belief that general health and mental health are human rights and psychologists have significant contributions to make to global human rights causes.
Nadine Nakamura, PhD
Assistant professor, University of La Verne
Nakamura is an assistant professor in the department of psychology at the University of La Verne. Her research focuses on LGBT immigration issues. Until the Supreme Court ruled against the Defense of Marriage Act in June 2013, same-sex binational couples could not sponsor their spouse for a green card like U.S. citizens in a heterosexual relationships could. She is conducting a qualitative study on same-sex binational couples in California to understand the stressors they face and how they cope with their uncertain futures, a qualitative study on same-sex bi-national couples who are no longer living in the U.S., and a quantitative study on members of same-sex binational couples exploring themes of resiliency, relationship satisfaction, coping, stress and social support. She served on APA's Presidential Task Force on Immigration, which addresses the psychological factors related to the experience of immigration. LGBT immigration issues are addressed, as are other populations facing unique challenges including undocumented immigrants, refugees and asylum seekers, and immigrants with disabilities. The report is available online through APA.
Yesilernis Pena, PhD
Professor, INTEC, Dominican Republic
Pena has dedicated her career to the study of racial prejudice against the African diaspora in Latin America, particularly in the Dominican Republic. Given the fact that the racial composition and conceptualization in the Dominican Republic is quite different than those in the United States, she has recently added a new component to her work: The effects and consequences of Haitian immigration into the Dominican Republic. This new component tries to determine if the conflict between Haitian immigrants and Dominicans is based on nationalistic notions or primarily due to racial prejudice in order to assist in determining the best strategies and solution to the increasing violence against the Haitian population.
Randolph Potts, PhD
Staff psychologist, Memphis VA Medical Center
A major problem impacting communities of color is mass incarceration. More African-Americans are now under correctional control than were enslaved in 1850 (Michelle Alexander, 2010). There is an urgent need to address the economic, political and mental health issues contributing to incarceration, and also a need to break the grip of underlying values, beliefs and attitudes that contribute to this problem. Potts implemented a prison based rites of passage program described in his recently published article "Rites of passage in prison settings: Interrupting rituals of mass incarceration." (Black Child Journal, Summer 2013, Special Edition: Rites of Passage Foundations & Practices.) As a psychologist at the Memphis VA Medical Center, Potts now works with the Veteran's Justice Outreach (VJO) program. The purpose of VJO is to reduce incarceration and homelessness among veterans by ensuring that veterans have access to VA mental health services and other needed services.
Michele Vella, MS, MA, MEd
Doctoral student, Lehigh University
Vella mentors racial and ethnic minority youth to understand the importance of behavioral health within their local and global communities. She and her husband Michael won the 2014 Committee on Teaching About the United Nations Best Practices Award for educating youth on behavioral health and infectious disease, mentoring youth to work directly with populations enduring the most extreme health disparities to dispel stigma, strive for greater social justice and move towards achieving health equity. Vella co-advises the United Nations Academic Impact (UNAI) ASPIRE of East Stroudsburg South High School (East Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania), a global citizenship group made up of racial/ethnic minority high school students and first-generation Americans. Highlights of UNAI ASPIRE include a nominated attendance to UN MALALA Day and hosting a youth lead round table at the students' high school with U.S. Congressman Matt Cartwright. In 2013, Vella moderated the youth forum at the third anniversary conference of UNAI at the United Nations Headquarters Economic and Social Council Chamber.
Sherry Wang, PhD
Assistant professor, University of Southern Mississippi
Wang identifies as a counseling psychologist and a social justice advocate. Her clinical, research and outreach activities include working with immigrants, refugees and survivors of political torture. She is passionate about understanding the cultural correlates of health disparities and helping to empower the voices of those who have been historically underserved and underrepresented. She draws from quantitative, qualitative and mixed methods research approaches to best advocate for/with diverse cultural groups.