Women of Color Network celebrates the big 3-0
Smiles, laughs, and flashing cameras filled the meeting room in Madison, as members of the Wisconsin Women of Color Network (WWOCN) hosted a special celebration. Folks gathered to honor the women of achievement throughout the group’s 30-year history, as well as to recognize this year’s awardees. The featured speaker was Milele Chikasa Anana, and Gale D. Johnson served as emcee for the event.
The 2013 Women of Achievement Awardees are Dawn B. Crim, Carola A. Peterson-Gaines, Marty L. Richards, Mari Yamashita de Moya, and Julia S. Arata-Fratta. Focusing on the day’s theme, the honorees spoke about their own life experiences to serve as an inspiration to all conference participants.
Johnson said that one of the charges of the WWOCN is “to recognize women in our communities who are actual role models of leadership, inspiration; women you’d like to meet as friends; women you’d like to interact with on a regular basis.” She highlighted each honoree, referring to the program booklet, which featured more details about this year’s award winners.
Dawn B. Crim
This year’s African American Women of Achievement Award goes to Dawn Crim, Associate Dean of External Relations at the School of Education UW-Madison. She is considered an expert on university relations, educational collaborations, and community organizations. She makes time between working and raising her family, Johnson said, to be a mentor, volunteer, and advocate. Crim is active with the Network of Black Professionals, which she was instrumental in starting more than five years ago.
She is a member of the Edgewood College Board of Trustees, and has served on the search committee for a Madison College president. She received a number of awards over the last several years, including one of the Top 40 Under 40 by In Business Magazine, and Urban League’s Young Professional of the Year, 2010.
“Dawn is a wonderful point person at the University of Wisconsin Madison when it comes to any and all things related to campus and community. And because of her time and efforts in the community, she is great at connecting professionals around the campus and community alike,” reported Johnson.
In accepting the Woman of Achievement Award, Crim said, “I think we all realize that the good works that we do, don’t happen alone.” Acknowledging the importance husband and children play, she thanked her family members that attended the event along with her, pointing out, “we really are a team…we do the good work, because we support each other at home…” ”
Carola A. Peterson-Gaines
This year’s African American Women of Achievement Award goes to Carola Peterson-Gaines, who has worked with Unity Health Insurance and the UW Medical Foundation for 19 years. She is challenged daily as she aims to meet the needs of 14,000 BadgerCare Plus members. To accomplish her goals as BadgerCare Outreach Coordinator, “she proactively develops and implements programs to improve access to care. “ She serves on the Dane Co. Immunization Coalition, Dane County Asthma Coalition, Fetal Infant Mortality, and Black Women Wellness Foundation. She is also a proud member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Johnson said, and now serves as president of the Madison Alumna Chapter. In addition, she is a very active disciple at Mt. Zion Baptist Church and has taken a leadership role in a number of areas.
Peterson-Gaines has received numerous awards over the years, including the Water Bearer Community Award and Woman of Distinction.
As she accepted the 2103 Woman of Achievement Award, she thanked Agnes Gutierrez Cammer “for holding up the banner of strong women” and for her years of hard work and commitment. She also thanked Milele Chikasa Anana for sharing her pearls of wisdom, which she indicated she plans to take to take to heart and put into action.
Referring to the key piece about forgiveness, Peterson-Gaines said, “It frees us and it makes us a better person.” In closing, she thanked Johnson for her ongoing leadership and also expressed gratitude to the WWOCN for honoring her with the award.
Marty L. Richards
This year’s American Indian Woman of Achievement goes to Marty Richards, who is “above all an educator in a formal classroom setting and outside of those confines,” said Johnson. At present, she is a faculty member of Madison College, and has taught at UW-Madison and other universities over the years as well. Her studies have taken her out of the country where she studied Russian and Czech; in fact, in addition to an M.A. degree in English, Richards holds a Master’s degree in Slavic languages and literatures.
Besides teaching at Madison College, she works as a tutor in the college writing center and “serves as a great model for those students and others who want to ‘stretch; themselves and reach beyond what is expected of them.”
Richard’s service to community extends to her being a partner in working with native students of the Metropolitan Madison School District’s Title VII program. She participates in their All-City Indian/Alaska Native Graduation Committee, as she “knows how important these programs are to the Native community.”
Richards received the Phi Theta Kappa Faculty Mentor Award in Spring 2013. She is a role model and mentor to kids of American Indian/Alaskan Native heritage and adults through graduate school level.
She is an enrolled member of the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma, and “is very much aware of the difficulties native students can experience at an institution (college) that for many, is a first time experience and a break from the home and family.”
In receiving the award, Richards said she wanted to accept this great honor in the name of her mother and grandmothers, who made her achievements possible. She also thanked WWOCN President Janet Saiz, stating, “Her generous, warm spirit is a tribute to all who know her.”
Richards shared a few reflections on the idea of life as a maze or a puzzle, and talked about “life’s wonderful, twisting journey that sometimes happens.” Though she has been teaching since 1989, she said, “It’s hard to imagine that I’d do anything else…but there are indeed times when I wonder, how in the world did I get here?”
The path she has taken as a member of the Choctaw Nation to becoming a student and professor of Russian literature has been “anything but straightforward.”
She said what has been a constant, a polar star on the journey, has been education. “My parents always taught me to value education,” Richards explained. “They told me you can do anything you want, and it has been a wonderful brainwashing,” she said, which is something she tells her students as well.
“Education can save anyone,” she contends. “Education can save the world…Again, that is the polar star.”
Mari Yamashita de Moya
This year’s Asian Woman of Distinction Award goes to Mari Yamashita de Moya; well known for her passion for her arts and commitment to countless volunteers she has recruited for national and regional community nonprofit groups. “She has demonstrated her extensive knowledge, talents, and hard work in all her activities. “ Johnson said, and also has served as “a role model for women and youth of color in pursuit of their personal and professional goals.”
Her volunteer management services included recruiting and working with more than 1,000 volunteers for organizations such as Kajsiab House in Dane County, RSVP of Dane County, and Blackhawk Council of Girl Scouts.
Yamashita de Moya has extensive experience in the fields of the arts, Johnson detailed, having developed outreach and teaching kits for classroom and museums. She has also coordinated many folk art fairs in local schools, and spoke to students about Asian Fusion Design.
All of her life, she told those at the event, she has been listening to the voices of her elders and following what she believed were their expectations for her. It’s only in her retirement, she said, “and actually, with Agnes’ (Agnes Gutierrez Cammer) encouragement,” that she has begun to see that her individual gift is art. She is a participant in the network’s “Artful Women of Color Multicultural Exhibit” which will host its third show on March 30, 2014.
Yamashita de Moya described how growing up, her parents considered art to be “frivolous,” and saw it as a hobby. Of all the members of her family she wishes could be with her as she receives the award, she said the person she most wished could be there is her Japanese-American father.
“You cannot deny those gifts you were given,” she asserts. “This is my gift, art…”
She intends to pursue her art full-time in her retirement, she announced. “I plan to continue to serve my community, but in a different kind of way.”
Julia S. Arata-Fratta
This year’s Latina Woman of Achievement Award goes to Julie Aratta-Fratta. She came to the U.S. from her home in Cordoba, Argentina in 1993, and moved to Madison in 2004.
Arata-Fratta, who holds a Master’s degree in Business Administration, became an accountant with Wegner CPAs, where she worked with Latino clients. She found that while many of the Latino business owners were strong in providing service particularly in the food service/restaurant industry, Johnson said, they did not have skills in how to run a business and make it profitable.
After learning this, she joined the Latino Chamber of Commerce as a way to help provide skills and expertise to the Latino business community. “As a board member and treasurer of the Commerce group, one of her goals was to create a financially independent organization,” Johnson stated. In 2010, the group elected her as president; recently, the Latino Chamber of Commerce was honored with an offer by the Greater Madison Chamber of Commerce for a seat on their board.
Johnson commented that the Latino Chamber is highly visible in Madison and in Dane County, and stated that “Julia is instrumental in creating a Latino middle class” in the area. Through her work with the Chamber, she helps Latino businesses expand their business and invest in their community. In 2012, Brava magazine named her one of 23 Madison women to watch.
The Latino Chamber recently celebrated 10 years, she enthused to folks at the event.
“The (Latino) Chamber is my second job, my husband’s calling it,” Arata-Fratta said.
In helping Latino folks make their businesses stronger, it improves the Latino community, she said, as well as the entire community.
This year’s Women of Color Annual Holiday/Scholarship Fundraising Event takes place Sat. Nov. 30. (Note change in date from usual first Saturday in December.) Visit www.womenofcolornetwork-wis.org for details. The network also has a brand new Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/WWOCNET