California State University, Northridge will celebrate the contributions of four women who have made a difference in their communities on Saturday, Nov. 22.
CSUN’s biennial Phenomenal Woman Awards honors women from various disciplines who have made an impact and/or significant contributions to the community. This year’s event will honor writer and human rights activist Parvaneh Bahar, civil rights activist and teacher Dorothy Wood Lawson, Academy Award- and Emmy Award-winning filmmaker Freida Lee Mock and community activist and scholar Michelle Raheja.
“The event gives us an opportunity to showcase the wonderful work of women in the larger community who, in their respected fields, are making an impact on the world,” said R. Dianne Bartlow, chair of CSUN’s Department of Gender and Women’s Studies. “These women are not just role models for our students to be inspired by, they are change agents in the wider community.”
The ceremony will take place from 4 to 7 p.m. in the Grand Salon of the University Student Union, located on the east side of the campus off Zelzah Avenue.
As the daughter of acclaimed but persecuted writer, academic and politician Malek o’Shoara Bahar, Parvaneh Bahar grew up amidst the intellectual and political turmoil of the democracy movement of Iran. She endured his repeated imprisonments, shared his exile and accompanied him to Switzerland when her father sought treatment for tuberculosis. In the process, she absorbed his passion for the freedom and dignity of all people.
Bahar carried those lessons with her when she came to the United States in the late 1950s as the wife of a diplomat. Not one to stay at home, she became active in the women’s movement and marched with the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. in Alabama.
Her memoir, “The Poet’s Daughter,” chronicles life in Iran in the early and mid-20th century and the role her father played in the nation’s fight for democracy. She dedicated her life to fighting for social justice for all, including equal rights for women.
Dorothy Wood Lawson, wife of renowned civil rights leader the Rev. James Lawson, has spent her life advocating for peace and justice. Trained as a teacher, Lawson worked alongside her husband during the tumultuous 1950s and 1960s championing the rights of women and people of color. She took part in many of that era’s more famous boycotts and sit-ins.
During the 1960 Voter Registration Campaign, known as “Mississippi Summer,” Lawson opened office space in Memphis, Tenn., for the NAACP Legal Defense Fund when the organization could find no space in Mississippi. She coordinated the schedules for volunteer attorneys from across the country who offered their services during this historic period.
Lawson continues to advocate for those without a voice, including the LGBT community. She also volunteers with several nonprofit organizations, including the Holmen United Methodist Church, where she works with its adult literacy program.
Director, writer and producer Freida Lee Mock won an Academy Award in 1995 for “Maya Lin: A Strong Vision,” a documentary about the designer of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C. She also received Oscar nominations for “Rose Kennedy: A Life to Remember,” “To Live or Let Die,” and “Never Give Up: The 20th Century Odyssey of Herbert Zipper,” about Vienna-born composer and musician Herbert Zipper.
Early in her career, Mock produced episodes of the TV series “National Geographic Specials” and “Untamed Frontier.” She won a prime-time Emmy Award for Outstanding Information Special in 1989 for her documentary “Lillian Gish: The Actor’s Life for Me.”
Mock’s newest feature documentary, “Anita: Speaking Truth to Power,” about the life of Anita Hill, had its world premier at the 2013 Sundance Film Festival and was released nationally earlier this year by Samuel Goldwyn Films. “Anita” has been selected for the 2014 American Film Showcase, to be shown at U.S. embassies around the world.
Michelle Raheja is an associate professor at the University of California, Riverside, where she teaches courses in Native American and early American literary and visual culture studies.
Raheja has served as director of the California Native Nations at UC Riverside, co-organized a milestone conference on Native American stage dance and organized one of the first indigenous hip-hop symposia and concert. In recognition of her work, she was awarded a Fulbright Fellowship to research Sami hip-hop and visual culture.
She also is the author of “Reservation Reelism: Redfacing, Visual Sovereignty and Reservations of Native Americans,” a landmark study of the Native American filmmakers, actors and spectators who helped shape, contest and complicate Hollywood’s representations of indigenous peoples from the silent film era to the present.
The biennial Phenomenal Woman Awards ceremony includes a reception and silent auction, with proceeds going to CSUN’s gender and women’s studies department for special programming, student and faculty research and scholarships for students. Funds also support CSUN’s Women’s Resource and Research Center.
Tickets are $65 each and $40 for alumni. Reservations are due by Nov. 10. For more information, contact the Department of Gender and Women’s Studies at (818) 677-3110 or visit the website http://www.csun.edu/humanities/gender-womens-studies.