This special-edition Community Chat with political strategist, narrative interpreter and voting rights and anti-racist policy advocate Maya Contreras laid the groundwork for becoming a better activist/advocate. Maya shared her incredible journey as a lifelong social-justice advocate, including being on the front lines in the 2020 Election, and offered ways to get activated for anyone wondering how they can be a part of the change.
Maya Contreras is a political strategist, a narrative interpreter, and an advocate for anti-racist policy. Her focus has been on Voting Rights because all paths to policy begin with access to the ballot box. On the road to equity, dominant political narratives that stem from domestic policy inhibit civic participation. Maya deconstructs these narratives exposing their origins and purpose in order to dismantle their power for her audiences. As a political strategist, Maya bridges communication between political leaders and groups who have been deemed “hard to count” by the Census (e.g. BIPOC communities, those experiencing homelessness, low-income individuals, members of the disability community). One of Maya’s voter outreach programs during the 2018 midterms was “Step up and Vote” which provided voter registration and voter education support to all 101 HBCUs.
Maya has given Voting Rights lectures at the Brennan Center for Justice, Clark University, and NYU. She was invited to testify in support of the New York State Voting Rights Act at the New York Senate on March 3, 2020. Maya has held anti-racist narrative and messaging clinics for leading members of the media, and U.S. Democratic Senators’ social media teams.
As a lifelong scholar, Maya knows the importance of continuous learning from prominent advocates, organizers, and activists. In 2018, she organized a conference in Washington DC with guest speakers Dr. Ibram X Kendi (Director of Boston University’s Center for Antiracist Research), Kristen Clarke (President of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law), Shannon Watts (Founder of Mom’s Demand), Rebecca Cokley (Director of the Disability Justice Initiative at CAP), Tarana Burke (Founder of #MeToo), and many more. Maya was awarded a Graduate Research Grant from NYU for her “Decolonize the Media” project which focused on the lack of inclusion in media. She was also awarded the GSO Research Grant for her “Sandra Syndrome” project exposing systemic subversion of Black women.
Maya’s own civic participation is a critical component of her work. Maya was appointed by City Councilwoman Carlina Rivera to the Neighborhood Advisory Board, Community 3 Manhattan of now which she serves as Chairman.
Contreras co-founded All Women’s Progress Policy Center to create an intersectional policy institute dedicated to improving the lives of womxn and marginalized groups through research and education.
Maya Contreras has a M.A. in Arts & Public Policy from NYU and a B.A. in Comparative Religion from FSU. Follow her on Twitter at @mayatcontreras.