NORTHRIDGE, CA âCal State Northridge officials next month will celebrate the contributions of six “phenomenal” women whose efforts to make the world a better place have touched the lives of thousands.The Ninth Biennial Phenomenal Woman Awards ceremony is scheduled to begin at 5 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 23, in the Grand Salon of the University Student Union.
The honorees are: “SoCal Connected” anchor Val Zavala, vice president for news and public affairs for Los Angeles public television station KCET; Katherine Spillar, executive vice president of the Feminist Majority Foundation and the Feminist Majority; Andrea Smith, co-founder of Incite! Women of Color Against Violence and the Boarding School Healing Project; acclaimed artist and writer Synthia Saint James; Lisa Powell, founder of the online organizing network Camp Courage and co-founder of Black Lesbians United; and Roberta Madison, professor emeritus of health sciences at Cal State Northridge and a noted epidemiologist.
“The Phenomenal Woman Awards are a way for us to honor the outstanding work of women within our extended Los Angeles community,” said Sheena Malhotra, chair of CSUN’sGender and Women’s Students Department. “These women serve as role models for our students as their work in diverse fields empower women and draws attention to issues they care about.”
The Phenomenal Woman Awards event raises funds to support the programmatic offerings of the Gender and Women’s Studies Department at Cal State Northridge. The money supports special programming, student and faculty research and scholarships. Contributions also support CSUN’s Women’s Resource and Research Center, the oldest continuing women’s center in the California State University system.
The award gets its name from Maya Angelou’s poem, “Phenomenal Woman,” which recognizes the strengths, abilities and integrity of women. Event organizers say the five women being honored truly embody the spirit of the poem.
Val Zavala is anchor/reporter for KCET’s signature award-winning news series, “SoCal Connected.” She has been at KCET since 1987, serving as anchor, reporter or executive producer of the long-running “Life & Times” as well as other news programs and specials. She has won 14 L.A. area Emmys and eight Golden Mikes during her time at KCET.
Katherine Spiller is executive vice president of the Feminist Majority Foundation and the Feminist Majority. As one of the organization’s founders, she has been a driving force in executing the Feminist Majority’s diverse programs securing women’s rights since its inception in 1987. In 2005, Spillar was named executive editor of Ms. Magazine.
Andrea Smith, who teaches media and cultural studies at UC Riverside, is co-founder of Incite! Women of Color Against Violence and the Boarding School Healing Project, a coalition of organizations across the country that seeks to document the abuse of Native Americans who were forced by the government to attend Christian boarding schools during the 19th and 20th centuries. She also is the author of “Conquest: Sexual Violence: and American Indian Genocide” and “Native Americans and the Christian Right: The Gendered Politics of Unlikely Alliances.” Smith is currently U.S. coordinator of the Ecumenical Association of Third World Theologians.
Synthia Saint James
Artist Synthia Saint James has earned numerous international awards and prestigious commissions for her vibrant celebrations of family, community and the cultures of the world. Her art can be found on the covers of more than 60 books, including works by such authors at Terry McMillan, Alice Walker and Iyanla Vanzant; in 17 children’s books, three of which she wrote; on the first Kwanzaa stamp commissioned by the U.S. Postal Service; in architectural designs for public places and in art wok commissioned by dozens of organizations, corporations and individual collectors.
Lisa Powell, a leader and organizer in the LGBT movement since 1986, co-founded United Lesbians of African Heritage and Sistahfest 1989. In 2008, she worked as a deputy field organizer for the Obama campaign and is now a frequent trainer for Organizing for America, President Obama’s national network of organizers. In January of 2009, in the aftermath of the passage of California’s Prop. 8, she co-founded Camp Courage, an organizer-training group inspired by Camp Obama. That same year, she co-founded Black Lesbians United.
Roberta Madison was a health sciences professor at Cal State Northridge for 35 years before retiring in 2008. During that time, she helped guide the development of the Gender and Women’s Studies Department. Madison published more than 30 papers on environmental epidemiology and assessment and addressed dozens of national and international academic and health research conferences. Her work on lung cancer as an epidemiologist at the City of Hope is most notable. She currently serves on the board of directors of My Friends Place, a haven for homeless youth.