ABOVE PHOTO: From left: Anita Lewis, Phoebe Coles, Andrea Custis, President Urban League of Philadelphia, Ramona Riscoe Benson, Keeya Branson-Davis and Shari Williams. (Photo: Robert Mendelsohn)
By Patricia Gilliam Clifford
The 2nd Annual WomanUP! Living Your Best: Mind, Body and Spirit Hat and Tea Awards Party was held at the historic Belmont Mansion last Sunday. The event, organized by Shari Williams and Tanya T. Morris, is a fundraiser for the American Women’s Heritage Society and honors a diverse group of women who make meaningful contributions in their communities and professions.
“[The] WomanUP! Hat & Tea Awards Party 2018 was another electrifying hat and tea party that was sold out once again with no standing room at all,” Williams said. “Every seat was filled with a beautiful woman wearing her hat and gloves, sipping her tea and toasting to her fellow sisters, the kind of awards and fundraising event that truly focuses on the mission of celebrating women who are stepping up in their career and community to achieve success personally and professionally. I was so honored to host this annual event with my sister-friend Tanya T. Morris and a committee of other trailblazers that quietly work to support other women, you don’t have to ask, yes, we will ‘WomanUP!’ again and we hope you just say ‘yes, I’m ready to “WomanUP!” and support.’”
Denise Nakano — NBC 10 anchor, reporter and Emmy Award winning journalist — was the afternoon’s mistress of ceremonies. Kimberly S. Reed — diversity & inclusiveness solutions innovator trainer and award-winning speaker — was this year’s dynamic keynote speaker.
Reed performed a memorable, high energy dance to the podium before delivering her motivational message.
“There have been many women trailblazers who have paved the way for us whose contributions will be forever archived in the journal of excellence, the vault of perseverance and the corridors of each one of our journeys,” Reed said. “For me, one of those extraordinary women, is my beloved mother in heaven, Barbara E. Reed. Her love, unyielding strength and legacy ignites my soul every day!”
“It was a magnificent time celebrating remarkable women making significant impacts in the communities they serve,” Reed continued. “I am incredibly proud of each of them. My gratitude to Shari Williams and the WomenUP! team for trusting my voice with these amazing women. When you realize who you are and what you deserve, you become unstoppable — the eye of an unstoppable woman!”
The outstanding women from a range of backgrounds were honored this year.
Latifah K. Fields is the current first vice president of the Pennsylvania chapter of the National Coalition of 100 Black Women, Inc., where she’s been an active member since 2005. Fields continues to lend her time, talents and treasures to various entities such as West Chester University’s Black Alumni Chapter, Penn Wood High School Alumni Association, Penn Wood Foundation, VISIEN Ministries, Mt. Zion Baptist Church and New Mercy Worship Center/Church Done Different in Philadelphia.
Tanya Amir is the founder and CEO of Beauty for Ashes Inc. and partnering sponsor of the Miss Black America Pageant & Little Miss Black America Pageant Experience.
Torri P. Grice is an entrepreneur, animal advocate, group fitness professional, City of Philadelphia ward leader and the first African -American female owner of a dog rescue and upscale full-service dog business in the state of Pennsylvania.
Mariam Rajput is an award-winning international artist and Arabic calligrapher. She is the founder of Mariam Raj Artistry — a non-profit initiative helping various causes through profit and in-kind product donations. Rajput ‘s work combines dynamic designs with elements of Islamic history to create distinctive pieces. A portion of the profits from her art sales are donated for hunger relief, women’s rights activism, youth programs and free legal services for victims of violence, discrimination, Islamophobia and hate crimes.
Da’Lia Starkey is a skilled fitness trainer, wellness, and nutrition expert. The expert in the health field advises her clients on the importance of good physical and spiritual health. She is especially focused on health risks related to obesity. Starkey serves as the assistant director and recreational leader for the City of Philadelphia Department of Parks and Recreation.
Author Andrea Lawful Sanders is a dedicated parent and child educational advocate. She conducts parent workshops and speaks tirelessly about the importance of being an advocate for all children. She is a past president of Abington School District’s Parent Council. Lawful Sanders’s most recent work is as a monthly contributor on the “Michele Speaks” radio show heard on WWDB-AM860 with a segment titled “A Lawful Truth”, which is also the title of her book.
Nikki Johnson-Huston, Esq. is a tax attorney and the principal of The Law Office of Nikki Johnson-Huston, LLC. Johnson-Huston is a frequent speaker on how she overcame a life of poverty and homelessness to become a successful attorney.
Patricia Holmes is the proprietor of Brown’s Kitchen, which was the vision of her grandmother, Agnes Clagon Brown, who opened a small restaurant in South Philadelphia during the early 1930s. Later Holmes, affectionately known as “Miss Pat” and her mother Doris Jones, started Brown’s Kitchen. Brown’s Kitchen remains a proud family business.
Veder M. Reddick, Senior Vice President of Small Business Lending for Customer Bank is a financial services professional with over 20 years experience in banking. She excels as a commercial lender and manages a small business portfolio of $50 million. Reddick is focused on small business growth and community and contributes by lending her expertise through financial literacy programs and loan reviews as an advisor to West Philadelphia Financial Services and the Women’s Opportunities Resource Center, among other initiatives.
The final honoree, Lisa M. Crutchfield, has served as managing principal of Hudson Strategic Advisers, LLC since 2016. She served as chief executive officer of the Council for Growth and the Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce in policy, strategy and legislative functions. Her extensive experience includes serving as senior vice president of Regulatory & External Affairs for PECO Energy Company and vice chairman of the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission. Crutchfield has more than 20 years of experience in leading corporate teams and has extensive knowledge of the financial industry and business practices with expertise in risk mitigation, compliance and regulatory matters.
Among the distinguished ladies attending the affair and acknowledged were: State Representative Joanna McClinton — delivered the invocation; Philadelphia City Councilwoman Cindy Bass; Philadelphia City Councilwoman at-Large Blondell Reynolds Brown; Pennsylvania State Representative Vanessa Lowery Brown; Andrea Curtis, president, Urban League of Philadelphia; Ramona Riscoe Benson and Patricia Fennell of PECO; Judge Lori Dumas; Judge Timika Lane; State Rep. Donna Bullock; State Rep. Morgan Cephas and Catherine Hicks, co-owner and publisher of The Philadelphia Sunday SUN.
“It was a pleasure to support this event and its mission since its inception last year, along with the opportunity to meet and fellowship with the many beautiful and talented women and honorees who attended,” Hicks said.
Congratulations to event hosts, Shari Williams and Tanya T. Morris, the team that helped them organize this event, all of the honorees, and everyone who supported this fundraiser.
It was a great time to be “All Around Philly!”