Women Who Dared: Our Legacy & Our Future


After a fun night on Sunday, I turned around Monday morning to attend the 17th Anniversary Breakfast Gala for the California Black Women’s Health Project.  Themed “Women Who Dared: Our Legacy & Our Future”, the CABWHP honored legendary percussionist Sheila E, former director Avid Ridley-Thomas, and famous artist Synthia Saint James.

As the founder and president of Heaven Productions Music, Sheila E and her company have been hired to direct and arrange music for the 1998 and 1999 ALMA Awards, the 1998 WoW Awards, the 1998 Gospel Music Association’s annual event, and the 2005 MTV Video Music Awards.  In addition, Sheila E dedicates her time and talents to the Elevate Hop Foundation, a charitable organization established in 2001 that assists the needs of abused and abandoned children through music therapy. Sheila is also the co-founder and co-chair of this organization.  She has contributed to the Pediatric Aids Foundation by singing her rendition of “Mary Had a Little Lamb” on an album that sold 6 million CDs and videos worldwide for the “For Our Children” project. She has also started a line of percussion instruments for kids called The Sheila E. Player’s series to continue giving back to the new generation of children.  For her work, specifically with Elevate Hope, Sheila E has received the Prism Lifetime Achievement Award in 2003 ,the Imagen Foundation’s Humanitarian Award in 2004, the Angels Across America Award in 2004, the Woman of the Year Award in 2005, and the Women of Soul Award.

The second honoree, Ms. Avis Ridley-Thomas, helped establish the Rosa Parks Sexual Assault Crisis Center in 1984, and she also assisted in establishing the Loved Ones of Homicide Victims and the Martin Luther King Dispute Resolution Center.  In 1989 Avis served as Director of the Dispute Resolution Program, which specializes in mediation, violence prevention, cross cultural relations and has provided consultation, training and support to institutions throughout Southern California.  She also chaired the California Advisory Committee on Sexual Assault Victim Services and the South Central Los Angeles Domestic Violence Task Force.  For the past five years, Avis has served as co-instructor in a twenty-week UCLA course entitled Restoring Civility: Understanding, Using and Resolving Conflict.  For her work, Avis has been honored with the Healers of Conflict Award in 1994, the Rosa Parks Award in 1995, the Phenomenal Woman Award in 1996, and she was selected as a Black Woman of Achievement recipient in 1998.  In addition, Avis and her hustband received the Angel of Peace award in 2003.

The last honoree, Ms. Synthia SAINT JAMES, is an international award-winning artist who designed the first United States Postal Stamp to honor the Kwanzaa holiday.  To date, Synthia has written and/or illustrated thirteen children’s picture books, three poetry and prose books, four children’s activity books, a cookbook and a postcard book.  In 2010, Synthia was commissioned to create an award for Africare, an organization that works to improve the lives of those in Africa. Their vision is to be the premier Africa-focused non-governmental organization (NGO) working in partnership with African people to build sustainable, healthy and productive lives and communities, and to be a leading voice addressing African development and policy issues.  The award Synthia created was a painting entitled “Madiba Mandela” to honor His Excellency Nelson Mandela for Lifetime Achievement. Synthia also painted an award for Diversity Woman Magazine’s “A Mosaic Woman Award”, presented to Dr. Maya Angelou in 2010.  Her paintings span the course of over 70 books, merchandise for Black History Month, and murals.  For her work, Synthia has received a Woman of the Year Award in 2008, and the prestigious Trumpet Award for “The Arts”; she was the first painter to be so honored.  In addition, in March of this year she was inducted into the National Organization of Women Business Owners – Los Angeles’ Hall of Fame.

The CABWHP made a wonderful choice honoring this women, for they really encompass the meaning of “women who dared.” The women of the CABWHP have also contributed a great deal of their time and talents to the community.

Stated on their website, “The California Black Women’s Health Project was founded in 1994 and is the only statewide non-profit organization soley dedicated to improving the health of Black women and girls in California through policy, advocacy and education. CABWHP is committed to advocating for policies and practices that promote the physical, mental and emotional health of Black women and girls. We seek to empower women to become active participants in improving our health status. Working in partnership with health care providers, health advocates and community-based organizations, we believe as healthier future for Black women and girls in California is possible.”

It was a beautiful breakfast filled with tributes to dance, music and spoken word, and the honorees are all strong, inspiring women. Check out the photos below.

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