Women’s History Month originated in 1981 with a law passed by Congress establishing “Women’s History Week.” Then in 1987, the week was expanded to an entire month to celebrate and honor women’s contributions in the US; expanding on March 8th to encompass the celebration of International Women’s Day.
It is no secret that women and especially Latinas are very much invisible from history, textbooks, public art and many other manifestations that build our conscience on what is important. Significant progress has been made in the last years to incorporate Latinas representation and women representation in general, most recently, former US Treasury (and the first woman to ever have that position) Rosie Ríos shared with me and a room full of Latinas her quest to include women in US currency; a deliberate effort to include half of the population in something as basic as a bill.
In Georgia, women are leading the change in our Latinx/Hispanic community. We are dedicating this piece to highlight the important work so many Latinas are doing in the state. The women featured below are a small sample of thousands of individuals working daily, strategically and intentionally to better our community, to foster economic development, and driving positive change.
America Gruner: President of the Coalición de Líderes Latinos (Dalton, GA) . Since 2006, America has been dedicated to be a voice and a resource for immigrants in Dalton, GA the “Carpet Capital of America” and home to 60% of Latinos. America runs a volunteer organization that engages the community civically and culturally. CLILA, also provides importation services such as after-school programs, citizenship classes, English classes and parenting groups. She is the receipient of the 2013 Personajes Destacados Mundo Hispanico.
Adelina Nicholls: Executive Director of the Georgia Latino Alliance for Human Rights (GLAHR) and a leader in grassroots organizing in the state. Since 2001, Adelina has been a key player in the coordination of some of the most visible protests, workshops, and campaigns in the city in support of immigration reform and the end of discriminatory practices and profiling for our community. She has received the MALDEF Award Community Service (2001), the ACLU Georgia Civil and Human Rights Award (2008), and Mundo Hispánico’s Best Organization of the Year (2013)
Rocio del Milagro Woody: A Board Certified Clinical Social Worker (LCSW), a nationally certified Master Addictions Counselor (MAC), a Certified Clinical Supervisor (CCS) and an adjunct professor at Kennesaw State University, Rocío is the founder and president of The Road to Recovery, Inc; the first culturally and linguistically competent international behavioral health, female owned, private practice based in the State. In 2013 she was appointed by Govenor Deal to the Board of the Department of Corrections making Ms. Woody the first Latina to be appointed to Public Office in the State of Georgia in his administration.
Julia Perilla, PhD: Dr. Perilla, founder of Caminar Latino and professor at Georgia State University, retired recently from a life long committment to work with families that suffer from domestic violence. She developed culturally specific programs that work with the entire family to identify and create possibilities to transform their lives. Julia’s work was recognized in 2011 with the Carl V. Patton President’s Award for Community Service and Social Action Outstanding Faculty Award and was named “Woman of the Year” by the Georgia Psychological Association. Dr. Julia Perilla was honored by Casa de Esperanza in 2016 as part of the 2016 National Latin@ Institute.
Gyla Gonzalez: Executive Director and Co-Founder of Latinos United of Carrol County (LUCC) was inspired by her mother to share opportunities and resources with other Latinos in Carroll County. LUCC is currently an anchor in Northwest Georgia offering health services, civic engagement, English, and citizenship classes as well as information on immigration changes, parenting and substance use and abuse prevention. In 2003 Latinos United of Carroll County was awarded the fourth annual Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter Partnership Award for Campus-Community Collaboration.
Mimi Woodson & Brenda Lopez: The first Latina elected to public office in Georgia. Mimi Woodson has been part of the Columbus City Council for the past 20 years. Previously, Mimi served in the US army for 15 years. Brenda Lopez is the first Latina to be elected to the Georgia Legislature. An attorney and dedicated community leader, Brenda is leading a staff of diverse and young individuals bridging communities and languages.
Irma Walker: A former hospitality executive, Irma has dedicated the last decade of her life to lead the outreach of social and health services to the Latinx/Hispanic Community. Irma has been at the core of the most important services offered to families and is a committed volunteer and collaborative partner with a number of organizations. Currently at PADV, you can find Irma educating at consulates, nonprofit organizations and community events.
Mónica Maldonado: A dynamic community leader, small business advocate and trailblazing entrepreneur, Mónica has received the 2014 Blue Legend Award from the Georgia Minority Supplier Development Council, Inc. (GMSDC) among countless awards over the years, including Latina Entrepreneur of the Year, Business Woman of the Year and various diverse supplier of the year awards from publications, organizations and corporate clients.
Glianny Fagundo: An employment and labor attorney and community leader currently appointed by Governor Deal to the State Personnel Board, spearhedad the creation of City of Brookhaven and was recently recognized by the Atlanta Business Chronicle among Atlanta’s “Women Who Mean Business”.
Juliana Ramirez & Luz Dary: Julian and Luz are leading the Latina movement for education, respect and access to health services through the Lifting Latina Voices Program, part of the Feminist Health Center. Juliana and Luz can be found throughout the state visiting homes, non-profit organizations and consulates discussing with women how to have difficult conversations with their children about sex, getting to know their bodies and understanding patient rights and human rights. The program was founded by another powerhouse: Maria Soledad Azuri, currently Director of Programs at City of Atlanta, Office of Immigrant Affairs, Welcoming Atlanta.
Aida Perez Flamm: One of the most influential Latinas in the state and responsible for the development of the two largest Latino-serving organizations in the state: The Latin American Association and The Georgia Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. Through Aida’s advocacy and connections, she founded the largest fundraising event for The LAA, the Latin Fever Ball and spearheaded the growth of the GHCC alongside Sara Gonzalez (former President and CEO who died in 2008). Aida is a member of the International Women’s Forum and has served on numerous boards including the Atlanta Women’s Foundation and Leadership Atlanta
María (Mayte)Vinces Peck: A hard-working entrepreneur at heart, Mayte Vinces Peck started as a car sales executive and moved on to open one of the most successful Latino-owned restaurants in the state: “Sweet Devil Moon” in Oakhurst, featuring small plates and Peruvian-inspired tapas. Currently, Mayte leads the Women’s Business Center at ACE Loans where she focuses on serving minorities and especially women with financial education programs, one-on-one business consulting and lending. Her team serves hundreds of micro, small and medium size businesses and has won the Women’s Business center of Excellence Award from the Georgia District Office of the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA). Mayte is a NALCAB Colegio Community Economic Development Fellow and sits on the board of the National Association of Women’s Business Centers
Belisa Urbina: Executive Director of Ser Familia, Belisa has grown the organization from an tiny all-volunteer project to become one of the fastest growing non-profits in the state. Ser Familia provides parenting programs, teen programs, support groups and behavioral health services in 3 offices and is a leader in cultural competency training. Mrs. Urbina was named one of 2012 Women of the year by the national organization Womentics. Ser Familia’s youth program won the prestigious “Heart in Hand Volunteer Group Award” from United Way in Cobb County in 2012. In 2014, she was chosen as one the 11WhoCare®by Atlanta’s 11 Alive Channel and named one the 35 most influential Latinos of the past 35 years in Georgia.
Giomar Obregon: CEO of Precision 2000, a female and Hispanic-owned construction firm with tremendous growth and high-profile contracts including the new Braves BallPark site, the Valdosta Regional Airport, Hartsfield-Jackson Airport, AirCargo and AirForce structures.
Yehimi Cambrón: An award winner printmaking and digital media artist, a Teach for America educator, and community advocate that happens to be a DACA receipient; Yehimi is dedicated to celebrate the humanity and dignity of immigrants. She is the Grand Prize Winner from Grantmakers Concerned with Immigrants and Refugees for her work “Monumentos”. She is a Director at the Cross Keys Foundation.
Lilian Rodriguez-Lopez: A powerhouse and former chair of the National Hispanic Leadership Agenda ; Rodriguez-Lopez was at the helm of the Hispanic Federation in New York for 6 years, garnering the strength of 100 Latino organizations to influence and drive positive change to the community. Lilian’s influence reaches across the entire country for her work as leader and convener as well as for her work at The Coca-Cola Company as Vice President forSustainability and Stakeholder Relations. Lilian has received the Excelencia Award from the Joseph A. Unanue Latino Institute and has been honored by the Hispanic Federation with the Legacy Award.
Maria Francis: Maria leads the largest network of clinics serving Latinas with OBGYN services in Georgia. Delivering thousands of babies every year, Maria Francis and her team provide excellent and affordable culturally competent care in four locations. Maria Francis has been honored for her work by the Mexican Consulate in Atlanta and by Caminar Latino. Maria and her network of clinics have supported underinsured and uninsured patients receive services for years through sliding fees, health fairs complementary screenings and investing in local nonprofits.
Monica Campana: An artist and Executive Director at Living Walls, seeking to promote, educate and change perspectives about public space in our communities via street art. Monica is one of the winners of Ideas Challenge Top 10! by the Center for Civic Innovation and the Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta.
Ana Maria Martinez: A staff attorney for Judge Dax Lopez, Ana Maria is the founder and Director of the Georgia Latino Law Foundation, a nonprofit dedicated to increase diversity in the legal profession by supporting the Latino legal community pipeline. Ana Maria identifies, leads and matches students with mentors and provides educational and leadership programs for upcoming community leaders. In 2012, she received the Award of Achievement for Outstanding Service to the Public from the Young Lawyers Division of the State Bar of Georgia; she serves in the Atlanta Regional Commission’s Millennial Advisory Committee and is a Barrister in the Lamar Inn of Court and a LEAD Atlanta graduate.
Verónica Maldonado-Torres: Director of the Georgia Mentor Protege Program, Founder & Creator of the D.R.I.V.E.N Series, Motivational Speaker and budding author, Verónica is a multifaceted community leader dedicated to empower women, entrepreneurs and advocate for supplier diversity. Veronica is the force behind the Georgia Innovation Summit and has received numerous awards, including the 2016 “Georgia Latina of Excellence”- Rising Star, the “Community Builder Award”from The Georgia Hispanic Construction Association among other recognitions.
Grace Lopez-Williams: CEO of her own CPA firm, was the first Latino member appointed by Governor Roy Barnes to the Workforce Investment Board. Also, The Georgia Hispanic Chamber of Commerce bestowed upon her the award of Business Woman of the Year. She was chosen one of Atlanta’s 100 Most Influential Women in Business by the organization Women Looking Ahead and was the President and Founder of the Board of Directors of the Atlanta Chapter of the National Society of Hispanic MBAs. Lopez-Williams was also first Latina to serve on the Gwinnett Chamber of Commerce board. She is the author of the book “Taxes: 10 Most Costly Mistakes”
Carolina Ramón-Bernal: First with WEDA and now with the Small Business Development Center, Office of Minority Business Development, Carolina has been instrumental in the design, creation and execution of business training for Hispanic business owners. She has created and implemented marketing strategies to reach minority entrepreneurs through collaborations and well thoughtout program design and curriculums.
Estrella Sanchez: A vocal leader working tirelesly for the transgender and generally the LGBTQ community, Estrella leads the Georgia Translatina Coalicion and advocates for inclusion, education and access to services. She volunteers for the Feminist Health Women’s Center.
Julie Koriakin: Director of Strategic Initiatives: Emerging Communities/International for the Atlanta Metro Y, Julie leads the implementation of youth and children programs that provide early educational experiences for Hispanic childrens and caregiver training as a strategy to bridge the educational attainment gap. It is the only program of its kind in the state. Julie is a founding member of the Cross Keys Foundation. Julie and her staff have been recognized as “Personajes Destacados” by Mundo Hispánico. She is a Paul Harris Fellow and recently won the Rotary Club Vocational Service Award
Natalie Hernandez-Green, Phd, MPH: Dr. Hernandez-Green has dedicated her life to improve women’s health, sexual and reproductive health disparities through research and health policy. She is a former Satcher Health Policy Leadership Fellow and is an assistant professor at Morehouse School of Medicine. Previously, she was the local project coordinator for the National Council of La Raza (NCLR).
Lizbeth Cárdenas: Liz directs Danceando Promotions with her husband Antonio. Liz is the brain and talent behind traditional outfits, choreography and craft design showcasing Mexican and Latinamerican folklor and traditions. With presentations at the Westminster Schools, the Rialto Center, the Atlanta History Center and more, Liz and Danceando bring color, art and education to hundreds of events throughout the state and the Southeast.