About Democratizing Racial Justice

Who We Are

Workers on the Rise panelists; Fred Garza, Rebecca Flores, and Araceli HerreraDemocratizing Racial Justice seeks to transform the role of higher education, by changing and adapting Ethnic Studies and Humanities, in particular. The DRJ is combating the erasure of people of color and their histories, and reimagining a society in which people are equally valued. Through the Mellon Foundation's recent $5 million contributions to our project for a just society, we’re able to create a new vision for higher ed in our community and beyond.

The Democratic Racial Justice project is bringing our communities from higher education together to plan a just future for those who have felt displaced or unseen in the world. Our team is creating projects that are inclusive to all and will grow future leaders in democratizing racial justice. Our upcoming projects include the Ethnic Studies Academy, the People's Academy, and more. Through the Mellon Foundation, we are able to explore and fight for an equitable and just future.

Who We Serve

Our team has a long history of collaboration between the Esperanza Peace and Justice Center, the Alamo Colleges, the university, and other partners. Most importantly, we not only work with communities, but we are also members of the community. Our team formed of community activists, activist scholars, and graduate and undergraduate students works together on many projects and community events that advance the group's visions for social justice.


Connecting Educators & Students with the San Antonio Community

Our students, faculty, and community members will work in multiple endeavors and pathways; from internships, fellowships, teaching academies, and more to fight against racist ideologies. Our educators and students will learn to build and develop meaningful relationships with their local community from diverse backgrounds and origins by taking part in our fight for a just future.

DRJ's History

Building on the legacy of social justice movements in San Antonio and the long history of ethnic studies, Democratizing Racial Justice emerged to bring working groups together to work on pressing racial justice issues. We also seek to increase student access to ethnic studies as a pathway for learning about and creating more just societies.

The original team of Jackie Cuevas, Alejandra Elenes, and Rhonda Gonzales collaborated with community partners to respond to Mellon's call for building Just Futures.


Founding Principal Investigators


Dr. Jackie Cuevas

Founding Principal Investigator

Dr. Jackie Cuevas was the initial Principal Investigator for DRJ in 2021. Since leaving UTSA for UT Austin in 2021, Cuevas continues to contribute to the project as a collaborator.






Rhonda Gonzales

Founding Co-Principal Investigator

Dr. Gonzales was an initial Co-Principal Investigator for DRJ and continues as a collaborator now that she is Dean of the College of Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences at the University of Denver. Previously at UTSA, Dr. Gonzales served as Chair of the History Department and Professor of History. At UTSA, she also served as Interim Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at UTSA. Prior to serving as Interim Dean, the Interim Vice President for Student Success and Associate Vice Provost for Strategic

Initiatives. Dr. Gonzales has been principal investigator or co-principal investigator on several multi-million dollar grants and was instrumental in developing UTSA's highly successful first-gen program.