Women who have worked in government, nonprofit organizations and the arts were honored Sunday at a “Celebration of Women” ceremony, the first of what organizers hope will become an annual event.
Gisele Haralson, an author and screenwriter, said she came up with the idea for the event about two years ago. Veraniece Williams, director of the Tulane University-based PI 3.14 organization, helped her plan the program — appropriately held in March, which is National Women’s History Month.
PI 3.14 trains high school teachers to help students understand the importance of entrepreneurship and giving back to community.
“We wanted to honor and celebrate women and pull women together from different backgrounds and races, and spotlight and showcase their accomplishments,” Haralson said.
The theme of the event held at the Belle of Baton Rouge was “Linking the Chains to Success,” an image used by many award recipients as they gave speeches stressing the importance of people working together to make the best use of their talents.
Haralson encouraged women to work hard and set a good example for girls.
“It’s you who show them it’s possible,” she said.
Many of the seven honorees pointed out the importance of getting women involved in business and politics.
“In the state of Louisiana, approximately 25 percent of elected officials are women,” state Sen. Regina Barrow said. “That’s a good thing, but we make up more than half of the electorate, so I believe we still have a lot of work to do.”
Former Gov. Kathleen Blanco, the first woman to hold that office in Louisiana, told the nearly 200 attendees that women must not be shy in telling others about their accomplishments.
“It is an opportunity to change the mindset of what women can and cannot do,” Blanco said. “I think the greatest thing that has happened since I became elected governor is that so many young women come up to me and say, ‘I am going to be the second (female) governor of Louisiana, because you were the first.’ ”
Anisha Morrell-Charles, a communications consultant who works in St. Louis, Missouri, urged women to take part in efforts that will improve life in Louisiana. A New Orleans native who moved away as a child, Morrell-Charles now works from Missouri for some Louisiana organizations.
“I’m giving all of my talent to a place I am not from,” she remembered thinking as floodwaters rose in New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina.
Louisiana needs more development, Morrell-Charles said, in order to keep its young people from leaving.
“We need to develop our state economically,” she said. “We need to develop our workforce, and we need to keep our brain trust so more people like me” don’t move away from Louisiana.
In addition to the seven award recipients, ten other people were recognized at the ceremony for their contributions as community advocates.
Proceeds from admission to the event will go toward St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.