The daughter of two cotton workers, Mary Ann Warren was taught at an early age by her parents that whenever she observed an injustice, it was her obligation to speak out.
That message resounds within her, even to this day.
Warren, a University of Arizona Honors College student, has seen and experienced much in life, having served as a lieutenant colonel in the military and earning a degree from the University of California, Berkeley prior to joining the UA.
Along the way, she has remained devoted to justice and, as a researcher, said she is very conscious of how she delivers her work to others.
Most recently, Warren completed a project titled "Negative Portrayal of African American Women in the Media: A Qualitative Study of Silencing Stereotypes and Strategies for Change in Today's Media."
She was among the UA student researchers chosen to present their work during the 25th annual Honors Expo on Feb. 15.
Warren's study involved analyzing the historical context of African American actresses while also researching ways in which positive dialogue can overcome unfortunate stereotypes found in some films.
"I do not want to be seen as ‘the angry, black woman.' We have men dressing up to play women in these degrading contemporary roles. It is pretty startling to say the least," said Warren, an Honors College senior majoring in creative writing, photography and media arts.
Her work sheds light on other professionals such as producers and journalists who are breaking barriers and empowering their communities with their work.
Warren's initial interest for developing the project came after she wrote a paper on actress Louise Beavers for a film history course taught by Mary Beth Haralovich, a professor in the UA's School of Theatre, Film and Television.
Beavers, who appeared in American films during the 1920s and 1930s, was commonly cast as the stereotypical, African American "mammy" character.
"Mammy" characters were defined as uneducated, obese and portrayed roles including maids, servants or slaves. When viewing certain modern-day film characters, Warren could not help but think to herself, "this is where we are...really?"
Warren said exposing the next generation of youth to different mediums of art and entertainment is crucial.
"Collectively we've got to say, ‘No, this is not OK.' We have got to change our mentality or else this will continue to accepted," she added.
After taking her film history class, Warren developed a close friendship with Haralovich and now considers her to be a mentor.
"Mary Ann brought a lot to the class and consistently participated in discussion. I really believe that everyone in class benefited from her input," Haralovich said.
"She is inspiring," said Haralovich, whom Warren describes as her "therapist, psychologist, everything."
Warren, in reflecting on the the passing of her mother, Frances Warren, last year, said she remains devoted to her work.
As her mom once told her, "No matter what situation or circumstance that life throws at you, you must keep going, keep moving and keep looking up."
Warren said this serves as a guiding statement, one that she never forgets.