Women of color look to the past in order to inspire the future

Compiled by Stacy Nguyen
Northwest Asian Weekly


French author Andre Maurois famously wrote, “A man cannot free himself from the past more easily than he can from his own body.”

On Feb. 3, the Women of Color Empowered Luncheon will attempt to prove this adage true for women also, that the past and one’s legacy inform one’s future.

Held at the New Hong Kong Restaurant in the International District, Women Empowered is a tri-annual event that celebrates the accomplishments of women who have shattered glass ceilings.

The theme for the upcoming event is appropriately titled Heritage Keepers: Preserving and Educating for the future.

At the luncheon, guests will listen to honorees share stories and lessons in their respective fields.

The honorees, in alphabetical order:

Lalitagauri Agashe, instructor at Tanjavur Dance School

Agashe was ranked first and graduated with distinction from Vallabh Sangeetalaya in Mumbai. She has advanced training in the Bharat Natyam style dance.

She helped launch the Seattle chapter of the Nargis Datt Cancer Foundation and is also involved with Ragamala, which connects communities with the arts of South Asia.

Rose Cano, founder of the African ConeXion Project

Cano is a graduate of Cornish College of the Arts. She performs and directs bilingually in English and Spanish and has presented her shows worldwide. Locally, she has performed at Seattle Repertory Theater, Seattle Children’s Theater, Intiman Theatre, Book-It Repertory Theatre, and Seattle Group Theatre.

She is founder/director of the North-South ConeXions Project, a cultural exchange program between artists of the Americas.

Dorothy Cordova, founder/director of Filipino American National Historical Society

Cordova, with her husband, Fred, has been involved in Filipino American activism since the 1950s. They formed and directed the Filipino Youth Association, which became a force for organization demonstrations in the 1960s and 1970s.

Cordova has served as director of the Demonstration Project for Asian Americans (Filipino American National History Society’s predecessor), where she researched and collected oral histories.

Iris Friday, co-founder of Native Action Network

Friday is a member of the Tlingit tribe and volunteers her time working on Native Action Network initiatives to provide an environment in which American Indian women can interact and share knowledge with one another, inspiring each other to make a difference in their communities.

She also serves as treasurer of the American Indian Women’s Service League. Friday is on the board for the Center of Women and Democracy.

Michelle Habell-Pallan, associate professor in the Department of Gender, Women & Sexualilty Studies at the University of Washington

Habell-Pallan is also an adjunct professor in the Department of Communication and School of Music at the University of Washington. She directs the Women Who Rock Research and Digital Oral History Project hosted by UW Libraries Digital Initiative and makes music in the Seattle Fandango Project, which holds free music workshops that are open to the public every Saturday in Beacon Hill.

She is the author of “Loca Motion: The Travels of Chicana and Latina Popular Culture” (NYU Press, 2005), which received a Modern Language Association Prize Honorable Mention.

LaVerne Hall, associate minister at Mount Zion Baptist Church

Hall is an ordained Baptist preacher and serves on the ministerial staff at Mount Zion Baptist Church in Seattle, where she is in the initial stages of developing a Christian Women’s Institute.

Her collection of original poetry, stories, and sermons is based on real life experiences.

Her books include, “She …”, “The Quiet Brilliance of Onyx,” “Hair’s What It’s All About,” “My Little Mahji Paper Doll Series.”

Mari Horita, CEO of ArtsFund

Before joining ArtsFund, Horita was a practicing attorney and managing director in the Seattle office of Major, Lindsey, & Africa, which provides recruitment and placement of lawyers and legal professionals.

Currently, she serves on the boards of the United Way of King County and the Densho Project, whose mission is to promote civil liberties and preserve the testimonies of Japanese Americans who were incarcerated during World War II.

Shelly Lacy, principal of Tulalip Heritage High School

Before becoming principal of Heritage High School, Lacy was Tribal Government General Manager of Tulalip Tribes. Lacy has an advanced degree in education.

Heritage High School is located in Marysville on the Tulalip Reservation and is made up predominantly of American Indian students.

Maxine Mimms, founder of Evergreen State College’s Tacoma Campus Program

Before joining Evergreen, Mimms was a social worker in Detroit. After joining Evergreen’s faculty, she focused on developing an educational program that would serve place-bound working adult students. Her focus on serving the educational needs of urban, African American adult students, combined with her interest in teaching inner-city adults, led to the founding principles of the Tacoma Campus.

Mimms became the first director of the Tacoma campus.

Thu-Van Nguyen, citizenship and immigration services manager at Asian Counseling and Referral Service

Nguyen served as a medical interpreter at Pacific Medical Center and helped to develop the Society of Medical Interpreters, as well as the Cross Cultural Health Care Program. Through her mother, Nguyen was involved in the Southeast Asian Women’s Alliance.

Currently, Nguyen is the case manager of the naturalization program at Asian Counseling and Referral Service. She is also a citizenship class instructor for Vietnamese and other ethnic immigrants.

Patsy O’Connell, founder/president of Asia Pacific Cultural Center

O’Connell studied interior design, Chinese ink painting, Sumi-e, oil, watercolor, pastel, and many other disciplines in Korea, Japan, China, and the United States.

She founded the nonprofit Asia Pacific Cultural Center in Washington in 1996, where 47 countries of Asia and the Pacific Islands are represented. The mission of the organization is bridging communities and generations through arts, culture, education, and business.

Victoria Romero, educator

Romero was a demonstration teacher for the Lake Washington School District before becoming an elementary school principal at Coe Elementary and Zion Preparatory Academy. Within her first two years at Coe, the school became the highest performing school in the Magnolia-Queen Anne Consortium. Based on the 2011 state test results, Coe is one of Washington state’s Schools of Distinction.

Marianne Scholl, publisher/editor of Seattle Woman Magazine

Before becoming editor and publisher at Seattle Woman Magazine, Marianne Scholl was a publisher consultant at Washington Lodging Association and a communications relations manager at Northwest Parent Publishing. She was also a freelance writer, editor, and translator.

She founded Seattle Woman Magazine seven years ago. It’s a free publication that empowers local women.

Dolores Sibonga, former Seattle City Councilmember

Sibonga was the first female Filipino American lawyer in Washington state. She was a public defense attorney and worked as a King County Council legislative analyst before moving to the office of civil rights, where she was responsible for its day-to-day operations.

In 1980, she became the first woman of color to serve on the Seattle City Council, where she served for three terms.

Stephanie Stebich, executive director of the Tacoma Art Museum

Stebich has extensive experience in the museum field and has held positions with nationally respected museums, such as the Cleveland Museum of Art, Brooklyn Museum, and Guggenheim Museum in New York. Stebich has also served in professional arts organizations, such as the Association of Art Museum Directors and American Federation of the Arts.

Beth Takekawa, executive director of The Wing

Takekawa is executive director of the Wing Luke Museum of the Asian Pacific American Experience (The Wing), a community-based cultural institution in Seattle’s Chinatown/International District, the only pan-Asian Pacific American museum in the nation, and the first Smithsonian Institution affiliate in the Pacific Northwest. She was hired as the museum’s associate director in 1997 and in 2008 became executive director.

Shiao-Yen Wu, president of the Seattle-Kaoshiung Sister City Association

Wu is CEO and founder of her own business, WPI Real Estate Services Inc., which is a Seattle-based, full-service property management and real estate brokerage company. She is currently devoted to the International Leadership Foundation (ILF) and is president of the Seattle branch.

Wu also served as co-chair of the North Seattle Community Education Fundraising Board and commissioner for Overseas Compatriot Chinese Affairs Commission in Taiwan.

The master of ceremonies for the event is Claudia Kauffman, director of Intergovernmental Affairs Liaison for the Muckleshoot Indian Tribe. Kauffman served formerly as a Democratic Washington state senator, representing the 47th District. (end)

The Women of Color Empowered Luncheon takes place Feb. 3 from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. at New Hong Kong restaurant. For more information or to buy tickets ($25 before Jan. 30), visit www.womenofcolorempowered.com or e-mail rsvp@nwasianweekly.com.

Stacy Nguyen can be reached at stacy@nwasianweekly.com.

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