Our Trusted Messengers Honored with the Women Warrior Award

The San Diego Union-Tribune
Our Trusted Messengers Honored with the Women Warrior Award

‘There is nothing like a strong woman’: ‘Sheroes’ honored at annual breakfast

The Women of Color Roar Breakfast goes virtual for first time, bringing a national audience along the way


JUNE 19, 2021 3:19 PM PT

Moving testimonials, vivid poetry and striking graphics entertained viewers of Saturday’s fourth annual Women of Color Roar Breakfast, a virtual event for the first time, which allowed participants from San Diego and across the United States to recognize their “sheroes.”

“There is nothing like a strong woman,” said San Diego City Councilmember Monica Montgomery Steppe, one of three recipients of the event’s Women Warrior Awards. Montgomery Steppe earned recognition for her efforts to improve public safety, make city government more equitable, and create economic opportunities for people of color.

“My goal is to promote trust and transparency between the community and police officers,” she said in a brief clip from a news report that brought fresh attention to the issue of police brutality that has dominated local and national events for the past year.

Monica Montgomery Steppe
Monica Montgomery Steppe
(courtesy photo)

Also honored with Warrior awards were San Diego Dr. Suzanne Afflalo, a family physician and medical director of the Alliance Health Clinic, for her service to minority and under-served communities; and Georgia state Rep. Park Cannon of Atlanta, who gained national attention for her efforts to promote voting rights.

Saturday’s breakfast took place on Juneteenth, which became a federal holiday just two days earlier. It commemorates June 19, 1865, when news of the emancipation reached enslaved people in Texas, the most remote of the slave states at the time.

Suzanne Afflalo
Suzanne Afflalo(courtesy photo)

San Diego Mayor Todd Gloria, County Supervisor Nora Vargas, and U.S. Rep. Sara Jacobs were among the local elected officials who made brief appearances at the online event. Four high school students recited personal poems.

Last year more than 400 people attended the event in person in February at the Jacobs Center Celebration Hall, just weeks before COVID-19 health precautions began to prohibit such gatherings.

Many of this year’s speakers encouraged young women of color to prepare for careers in public service.

“Especially on Juneteenth, as we celebrate the freedom of the last enslaved Americans, this year’s theme of ‘Sheroes Rise’ is so fitting,” said Jacobs, who at 32 is California’s youngest member of Congress.

More young women should seek elected office, Jacobs said.

“You don’t have to wait,” she said. “There is no perfect time or perfect candidate. Your voice matters, you are enough and we need you.”

Carlsbad Councilmember Priya Bhat-Patel named her “shero” as her mother, who immigrated to the United States from India and taught her the importance of breaking the glass ceiling for future generations.

“She gives without expecting anything in return,” Bhat-Patel said. “For me that has been the true definition of public service.”

Other participants included San Francisco Mayor London Breed, Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance-Bottoms, California state Sen. Sydney Kamlager, California Secretary of State Shirley Weber and State Controller Betty Yee.

“My shero is Harriett Tubman, who risked her life time and again to free African Americans from slavery,” said Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton of Washington, D.C.

Freedom from slavery was just the beginning, and the struggle for equality is still underway, said the event host Angela de Joseph, founder of the Women of Color Roar event.

A journalist, filmmaker and editor, de Joseph also hosts a podcast and a weekly radio show, and is the program manager for GRID Alternatives, the nation’s largest nonprofit solar installer.

“The beauty of the Women of Color Roar Breakfast is seeing the tapestry of people from communities come together to celebrate Black women leaders,” de Joseph said.

“I really was reluctant to produce an online event, but elicited the help of my long-time friend, Earnest Winborne, a former ‘Entertainment Tonight’ producer,” she said. “With my background in filmmaking and Earnest from television we turned a Zoom meeting into an entertainment spectacular.”

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Together Against COVID is an initiative led by the Multicultural Health Foundation (MHF) in partnership with the County of San Diego. MHF's mission is to bring health justice and wellness to the multicultural communities of San Diego County by focusing resources on the most vulnerable populations with community-based wellness strategies, social-clinical interventions, and research that will lead to the elimination of racial and ethnic health disparities. For more information, please contact us at (619) 915-6734.