Event Features Dolores Huerta, Houston Mayor Parker, Fort Worth Activist Combs

October 10, 2014

The Texas Freedom Network will honor Houston Mayor Annise Parker, labor and civil rights icon Dolores Huerta, and the Rev. Valda Jean Combs of Fort Worth for their work on behalf of equality, civil rights and reproductive justice at the organization’s 19th annual gala celebration on Oct. 19 in Austin.

“As our nation continues to work toward realizing the promise of equality and justice for all, we couldn’t be more proud to honor these strong women,” TFN President Kathy Miller said. “Each of them has worked tirelessly for public policies that treat all people with dignity and respect and allow them to make their own decisions about their health and their lives.”

Huerta will receive TFN’s Walking the Walk Award. She co-founded, along with César Chávez, what became the United Farm Workers for America in 1962. She continues working to develop community leaders to advocate for the working poor, immigrants, women and youth through her work with the Dolores Huerta Foundation. Huerta has received numerous national awards, including the Medal of Freedom Award from President Obama in 2012. In 2010, however, the Texas State Board of Education voted to remove Huerta from the curriculum standards for Grade 3 social studies, arguing that her political beliefs made her an inappropriate role model for students.

Mayor Parker will receive TFN’s Equal Right’s Champion Award after presiding over her City Council’s passage this year of the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance (HERO), the city’s first comprehensive civil rights ordinance. HERO bars discrimination in employment, housing and public accommodations based on sexual orientation, gender identity, race, gender, religion and other characteristics. Parker is one of only two women to hold Houston’s highest elected office, and her election to that post made Houston the nation’s most populous city with an openly gay mayor. She has been a dedicated public servant for almost two decades, winning election three times each to the positions of Mayor, City Controller and member of City Council. Time magazine in 2010 named Parker one the 100 most influential people in the world.

TFN will present its annual Samantha Smoot Grassroots Activist Award to Rev. Combs for her tireless advocacy on behalf of reproductive justice for women and responsible sex education. In the mid-1990s, Combs also created a Houston organization to break the stigma surrounding HIV in churches and involve faith communities in education, services and advocacy. She later expanded FullProof HIV Ministry to Fort Worth and Waco. Since its inception, FullProof HIV Ministry has educated nearly 10,000 people on HIV/AIDS. She has a J.D. from the South Texas College of Law, where she founded a chapter of the National Black Law Student Association. In Waller County, Texas, a coalition of students and progressive voters elected Combs to the office of County Attorney, the first African-American to hold the position in the United States. An ordained minister, Combs today serves as a chaplain resident at the North Texas Veterans Administration Medical Center in Dallas and at St. James United Methodist Church in Waco.

TFN’s Epic Evening celebration is 6-9 p.m., Oct. 19, at the Hyatt Regency in Austin (208 Barton Springs Road). For more information, visit tfn.org/epic.

Founded in 1995, the Texas Freedom Network is a strong advocate for women’s reproductive rights, civil rights and LGBT equality. TFN also opposes textbook censorship, including the State Board of Education’s decision to remove Huerta from the social studies curriculum standards for Grade 3 in 2010.


The Texas Freedom Network is a nonpartisan, grassroots organization of religious and community leaders who support religious freedom, individual liberties and public education.