Melissa Martinez

Melissa Martinez

Tell us about yourself. Include where you’re from, what you do, how you’re thriving, and anything else everyone should know about you.

Hi! I was born in Washington D.C., but mostly grew up in San Antonio from when I was 6. I moved to Austin at age 18 to go to St. Edward’s University, where I graduated in 2010. Since then I’ve worked at the Austin American-Statesman, and now, at the Texas Civil Rights Project. I am the communications coordinator and I love my job. I get to tell people about all the amazing work TCRP does to empower communities and make lasting change. I’m currently doing the New Leader’s Council institute which is a leadership training program for progressive leaders in the community and I’m learning a lot and meeting amazing people because of it. I mentor a 10-year-old girl through Big Brothers Big Sisters and I love hanging out with her. I love to bake, embroider, and read YA fiction. I have an amazing group of friends in this city that nourish me and help me know I am loved. I have struggled with mental health issues since I was 15 and I am greatly interested in normalizing these struggles for people. It doesn’t make you unloveable; it actually has helped me love even more.

How do you identify culturally?

I identify as a Puerto Rican woman. My parents were both born and raised on the island, and we’ve visited a lot. I don’t know exactly how I feel about Latinx/Hispanic identifiers because it’s so complicated historically.

Melissa Martinez

How does your cultural background inform your thinking and sense of being in the world? How has it informed past decisions, successes, failures?

My cultural background has played a huge role in making me the woman I am today. Knowing how hard my parents worked to learn English and assimilate stateside so that we could have the best life possible in their eyes has helped me have compassion and understanding for people who face similar struggles. Speaking (limited proficiency) Spanish also has made me able to get the job I have now, which I love, and allowed me to spend two years as an AmeriCorps tutor with bilingual preschoolers. I think being a woman and being Puerto Rican have both made me the passionate person I am when it comes to social justice, civil rights, and the struggle to make the world a better place for all people no matter their identities.

What inspires you and who do you look up to?

Right now, I am super inspired by the people in my organization. All of them, from a diversity of backgrounds, spend their work week fighting hard to seek justice for marginalized communities in their different ways. I am particularly inspired and look up to my coworkers who work with immigrant victims of domestic violence—they listen to their stories day after day to make it possible for these women to file their immigration paperwork and get immigration status in this country. This enables them to work, leave their abusers, and stay with their children. I’m inspired by the women they work with, as well, who overcome the barriers to reporting abuse and leaving an abuser in order to seek a better life for themselves and their children

What is your best piece of advice to anyone who may be struggling?

My best piece of advice is to reach out to those who love you, even when you don’t believe they love you or that anyone could possibly love you. We are designed to exist within communities, surrounded by others who help us carry our burdens and we have to choose to believe that people love us even when it doesn’t seem possible.

What are your future goals and aspirations?

I want to continue in the fight for social justice and civil rights—to make the world a more equitable, enjoyable place for all people. I love working in communications and nonprofits and will probably continue in that vein for the foreseeable future. My biggest dream is to one day own my own bakery/community center that operates as a socially conscious business that trains workers who traditionally struggle to find work, pays a living wage, and brings joy to all in the community.

Melissa Martinez

Share one thing people should know about the Latinx community.

The Latinx community is diverse—I may not look like your typical member of the community, but my history and heritage as a Puerto Rican woman have shaped me into the person I am and are very near and dear to my heart.

What is your favorite Latinx driven project and why is it your favorite?

I have to give a shout out to my former roommate, Raquel Juarez, for her small owned and operated business designing and selling buttons, patches and other things as Radical Xicana. It’s probably my favorite because I’m biased by my love for her, but also because she is giving Xicanas the opportunity to proudly display their heritage and history as a “proud product of immigrants” or other ways they choose to identify.

Where can people find you on the internet?

I’m on Facebook, where I occasionally post publicly about social justice issues, on Twitter where I sporadically tune in, and on Instagram (privately, but I accept follow requests).

I also operate the Texas Civil Rights Project website and social media pages which are great sources of information about the struggle for civil rights in Texas!