Berkeley’s Commission on the Status of Women (COSOW) honored fourteen Outstanding Berkeley Women at a public awards ceremony Wednesday evening at the North Berkeley Senior Center. The honorees were recognized before friends and family for their contributions to the Berkeley community in various fields of interest.
“These women certainly deserve this honor,” said Mayor Tom Bates in comments beginning the ceremony. “We’re so much better off and it’s so great to have them here.”
The Fifteenth Annual awards are part of the COSOW’s commemoration of National Women’s History Month.
For the last 15 years, the commission has chosen the Outstanding Berkeley Woman honor from a pool of women nominated by their peers for extraordinary devotion to their respective causes. This year’s honorees received certificates from both the commission and the California State Legislature. The 2004 winners work in fields ranging from public health to neighborhood organization and were presented at the ceremony by the people who nominated them.
Commissioner Rivka Polatnick said she believes that recognizing the “unsung heroines” of the community is an excellent way to celebrate women’s history.
This year’s award winners include long-time Berkeley community leaders like Sylvia McLaughlin, co-founder of Save the Bay, as well as a women from a new generation of community leaders like Brianna Georgi. A Berkeley High School senior, Georgi heads the Venture Crew 24, a coed, inclusive adventure program modeled after the Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts of America.
Also honored was Margi Adam, a singer/songwriter known for her contributions to the women’s rights movement through her exploration and development of women’s music as a political force. Adam spoke about coming to Berkeley at the age of sixteen seeking acceptance in a diverse community, and emphasized the uniqueness and reputation of the city. “There are ideas grown from root in this town,” she said, “and ideas put to the test in this town.”
Ethel Gomez, 19 year boardmember of the Berkeley Boosters Police Athletics League, reflected on her motivation in helping the city’s youth. “I love Berkeley,” mused Gomez. “I enjoy doing what I’m doing and as long as I can I’ll be out there.”
Environmental activist Sylvia McLaughlin explained her reason for continuing her long career of activism. “We may be activist visionaries, but there’s still work to do.”
Another young leader, tobacco prevention advocate Salita Mitchell, reminded the audience, “Us teenagers are the future.”