Marlon Lizama

Marlon “Marley” Lizama is a poet, writer, artist, author, and dancer who focuses on the cultural aspect of writing and the arts.

He is the Co-founder of the Iconoclast Artists program that focuses on empowering youth in underserved schools and incarcerated youth through the arts. 

He is the Artist-in-Residence in the for St. Paul’s United Methodist in Houston, TX.  With the help of fellow educators, Marlon developed a “How to Teach High-Level Creative Writing to At-Risk Youth” curriculum, which aims to create creatives, create writers, and create young authors. Through Iconoclast, they are able to publish a student anthology of poetry created by the youth who have participated in this program.

Marlon published his first book, Cue the Writer: Cheers to the Notion of Love, Hate, God, and Revolution, which is a collection of short stories and poetry from a young immigrant’s perspective, and launched his website MarlonLizamaPoetry.org.

Marlon is the recipient of the 2015 John P. McGovern Award for distinguished activities in science, literature, arts and humanities.

Through competitions, performances, poetry shows, and the U.S. Department of State, Marlon has traveled to more than 40 countries.  His work and ultimate mission is to use the arts as a tool to reach out and change perspective, environment, and lives.

Matthew Russell

Matt is an academic, activist, pastor, professor and teacher. He is on staff at St. Paul’s United Methodist Church in Houston and is the Executive Director of projectCURATE a non-profit educational and social enterprise incubator.  projectCURATE seeks to build bridges across cultural, economic, religious and racial divides in Houston.

He has taught at Duke Divinity, Fuller Seminary and recently completed a two-year postdoctoral fellowship at the University of Cambridge in Psychology and Religion.  In 2010, he completed his Ph.D. at Texas Tech University in Human Development where he explored how women construct alternative narratives of redemption from years of sustained trauma and abuse.  

Prior to this he planted and pastored a church called Mercy Street, a “church for people that hated church”.

Matt has worked extensively with ex-offenders and recovering addicts.   In collaboration with Marlon and other Houston educators he is developing innovative curriculum for public schools which seek to provide pathways of learning and economic opportunity for kids in the inner city.

Along with other stuff, he leads a weekly mindfulness meditation group at St. Paul’s each week called Con-spire.

Matt is married to Michele and they have three wonderful, crazy boys: Miguel, Lucas, and Gabriel.

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Torrina Harris

Torrina “Torri” Harris is a poet, teacher, and humanitarian who participates in open mics and poetry slams in the Houston and Galveston areas. She is the Poet-in-Residence at Central United Methodist Church and teaches the Iconoclast Artists Program in Galveston, TX. She has a background in offender education, teaching Anger Management and Drug and Alcohol Awareness to populations from the TDCJ Reentry & Integration Division and also to individuals on parole and probation. Her work continues to lead her into conversations with victims and survivors of domestic abuse and drug addiction, as well as with the individuals on the other end, the offenders. The educational programs she teaches focus on understanding how social structures and systems can divide us and the power that comes from personal responsibility and intentional lifestyle decisions. Torrina has also worked with UTMB Correctional Managed Care, providing care to inmates struggling with cancer, rehabilitation, mental health, and other long-term and acute illnesses in TDCJ. She believes that breaking boundaries, both physical and metaphysical, is essential for building community. Her goal is to open doors for discussion by creating and establishing spaces free of judgement, allowing catalysts for cyclical community deterioration to be identified, challenged, and changed to make transformation possible.