Since becoming mayor of the District in 2015, Muriel Bowser has used Women’s History Month to recognize District women who have achieved success in their careers, business pursuits and nonprofit endeavors.
On March 31, Bowser and Jennifer L. Porter, the executive director of the Mayor’s Office on Women’s Policy and Initiatives, highlighted eight women at the annual Washington Women of Excellence Awards at the Wharf Dockmaster Building at The Wharf, located in Southwest.
The honorees ranged from the owner of a professional sports franchise to the leader of a longtime organization that provides shelter and support to abused women and children. Members of the DC Commission for Women, the director of the commission and Bowser’s senior staff recommended potential honorees. The mayor ultimately selected those women chosen.
Bowser said one of the highlights of being mayor includes hosting the event and celebrating well-deserved Washingtonians.
“This year’s honorees have led the way through one of the toughest times in our city and I am proud that they continue to make history here in the District and beyond,” the mayor said. “These women are thriving, leading, succeeding and more importantly, creating environments where women and girls in the District are uplifted, supported and provided resources and opportunities to succeed.”
Porter said this year has been noteworthy for women.
“Women have made great contributions in all eight wards,” she said. “We have just announced a women’s sports coalition that will encourage girls to try out for sports, we have the first assistant fire and EMS chief ever and D.C. native Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson has been nominated to be the first Black woman justice on the U.S. Supreme Court. Throughout the year, these honorees have provided healing and promoting hope and we’re proud to honor them.”
Those receiving honors included the following:
Deesha Dyer, founder of Hook & Fasten
Hook & Fasten stands as a Black woman-owned social impact consulting firm that seeks to build partnerships between communities and corporations by crafting customized programs, initiatives and campaigns. Clients include a former U.S. president and first lady, world leaders such as the pope and leading entertainers and professional athletes.
Services include: sustaining social impact campaigns that inform and influence public policy issues such as college affordability, maternal health and food insecurity; advising clients on how to structure and support employee volunteerism efforts; offering advice on policies on diversity, inclusion and opportunity; and aiding in the recruitment of talent and corporate speaking engagements using Dyer’s life story from community college to the highest ranks of the U.S. government for motivating employees.
Judy Berman, executive director of Capitol Hill Village
Capitol Hill Village exists as an organization dedicated to improving the lives of senior citizens. Judy Berman, who leads the administrative staff and operations, has lived in the Capitol Hill area since 2001 and holds a bachelor’s degree from Brown University and a doctoral degree from the University of California at Berkeley. Throughout her life, she has taught American literature, trained healthcare workers and police on intimate partner violence and since 2006, conducted policy research and advocacy on economic, social and health issues in the District.
Sandra Jackson, president and CEO of the House of Ruth
The House of Ruth [HR] exists as a non-profit social service organization designed to aid abused women and their families. HR offers supportive housing for families and single women who are undergoing a crisis, a daycare for homeless children and counseling services to domestic violence victims. Jackson credits the employees of HR for its success.
“For 46 years, we have helped over 13,000 women and children get their lives together,” Jackson said. “It is a privilege to be recognized for the work of the House of Ruth. The staff at the House of Ruth deserves the praise and the credit.”
Patricia Nalls, founder and executive director, Women’s Collective
The Women’s Collective [WC] has experienced working with low income, disadvantaged and marginalized women and girls over the age of 12. The organization grew out of the experiences of Nalls, who lives with HIV/AIDS. Since 1992, the WC has reached out to and advocated on behalf of females who have or are at risk of getting HIV/AIDS. Nalls couldn’t attend the event due to traveling but one of her colleagues, Jackie Conley, accepted the award on her behalf.
“We work hard to provide information to women in D.C. about HIV/AIDS,” Conley said. “Even though the talk has been about COVID-19 for the past two years, HIV/AIDS is still around and should be dealt with too.”
Nikki Osei-Barrett and Simona Noce Wright, co-founders of District Motherhued
Started in August 2016 by Osei-Barrett and Wright, District Motherhued operates as a nonprofit for millennial mothers of color in the District, Maryland and Virginia. Since its inception, District Motherhued has grown its community to 25,000. The organization has hosted over 30 sold-out events and workshops as well as debuted “The Momference” – the country’s first large scale conference dedicated to millennial moms of color and “Mommy en Banc” – a pop-up picnic.
“It is incredibly humbling to be honored by the mayor,” Osei-Barrett said. “We founded this to serve Black mothers. We are excited to continue this service.”
Maria Patricia Corrales, president of Fiesta DC
Corrales serves as the president of Fiesta DC, an annual celebration of Latino heritage and culture featuring a parade in one of the city’s major streets in addition to performances by entertainers, food vendors, children’s festival, arts and crafts displays, a science fair and diplomatic pavilion. Additionally, she works as the vice president of Capital Construction Enterprises. Corrales has been instrumental in the building of schools, churches, office buildings, homes and apartments in the city.
Y. Michele Kang, owner, Washington Spirit pro soccer team
Kang has recently become the first woman of color to own a pro women’s soccer league. Kang secured the sale of the Washington Spirit last month for $35 million and serves as the majority owner with mainly women holding the other shares. Outside of sports, Kang founded Cognosante, a health-care technology firm based in Falls Church, Va., in 2008. Cognosante has clients in the federal health, military and intelligence sectors and has performed work for state health agencies.