First published in the March 24 print issue of the Pasadena Outlook.
The YWCA Glendale and Pasadena recognized four area women this week in the organization’s 25th annual Heart and Excellence Awards event.
Pasadena real estate broker Carla Buigues, CEO of the Buigues Group, received the Compassion Award. Shannon Currie Holmes and Anahid Oshagan, curators for the ReflectSpace gallery at Glendale Central Library, received the Courage Award. Georgette Green, a partner at the Hutchinson and Bloodgood accounting firm in Glendale, received the Commitment Award.
Areva Martin, an award-winning civil rights attorney and commentator, delivered the keynote for the ceremony, which was broadcast live via YouTube to an audience and served as a fundraiser for the YWCA’s domestic violence, girls’ empowerment and racial justice programs. Emili Cruz-Sosa, a Clark Magnet High School student who will be the first in her family to attend college, also received the Cami’s Courage Memorial Scholarship from the YWCA.
Buigues, an Argentina native who gives to and volunteers with a large number of Pasadena foundations and nonprofit organizations, said she learned during all of the most difficult moments of her life that giving back and helping others is ultimately what fulfills her.
“Status, money, none of those things define us, and that’s what I want to share with all of you,” she said. “During those difficult points in my life, that’s when I learned that giving to others is what fills my heart up.”
Currie Holmes and Oshagan were recognized for their work curating and developing the “Reckoning: Racism and Resistance in Glendale” interactive exhibit through ReflectSpace last year. The project, in numerous episodic sections, explored the city’s odious history as a “sundown town” which employed redlining to exclude Black and other minority communities from homeownership and was home to a prominent Ku Klux Klan following.
“Through the process of creating the exhibition, I really began to understand the position of privilege I sit in. By learning the history of Glendale, I began to really understand systemic racism and just how pervasive and insidious it is,” Currie Holmes said Tuesday. “For Black families in Glendale, racism and the courage to succeed in spite of it was their lived experience.”
The exhibit was developed in the wake of the City Council adopting a so-called Sundown Town Resolution formally apologizing for the racist past, which itself was prompted by the nationwide racial reckoning in 2020.
“It was a huge undertaking to challenging and unprecedented times,” Oshagan said on Tuesday. “The exhibit was borne out of the courage and persistence of the activists who ensured the passage of the sundown town resolution.”
Green, who in 2017 achieved her dream of being made partner at an accounting firm and also serves as a board member with the Glendale Educational Foundation, discussed the importance of targeted educational programs in elevating socioeconomically disadvantaged students. She highlighted that her firm, which has existed in Glendale roughly as long as the YWCA, has long championed representation and progressive values.
“I have long believed that education is one of the keys to lifting up women and people of color,” Green added.
Martin, who opened and closed by reciting Maya Angelou’s “Phenomenal Woman” poem, used the event date — International Women’s Day — to highlight honorees as well as other prominent women who have made history recently.
Those examples included Holly Mitchell, whose 2020 election created the first all-woman Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors; Congresswoman Karen Bass, who is vying to be the first Black woman elected as Los Angeles mayor; Kamala Harris, the first woman elected as vice president; and Ketanji Brown Jackson, who may become the first Black woman appointed to the U.S. Supreme Court.
“These are indeed some remarkable moments and accomplishments,” she said. “We should be shouting from the rooftops, but at the same time, we also have to ask ourselves ‘Why?’ As in, ‘Why did it take so damn long to have so many of these firsts?’ This reminds us that we can’t be complacent with ‘first.’ We need to keep the momentum going. We need to run up the score, because we know how long these women had to fight.”
The YWCA raised more than $31,000 for this fundraising event.