CSUN Commemorates Five Phenomenal Women for Their Activism and Scholarship

Five “phenomenal” female scholars and activists will be honored for their achievements in their respective industries at California State University, Northridge’s 13th Biennial Phenomenal Woman Awards in November.

The event will be held on Sunday, Nov. 4, at 1 p.m. in the Grand Salon of the University Student Union, located on the east side of the campus off Zelzah Avenue.

Susan Dunlap

Susan Dunlap

“We want people to feel the spirit of celebration of the women that we are awarding and the accomplishments and achievements of our department,” said Breny Mendoza, chair of CSUN’s Department of Gender and Women’s Studies. “These are our ‘unsung heroines’ who really contribute through their art, activism, journalism, work in nonprofit sectors, academia, etc. We try to identify women who are outstanding, phenomenal and making contributions. This is also an event to honor the importance of the work we all do — particularly important in the times we are living in.”

The award ceremony marks the 25th anniversary of CSUN’s Department of Gender and Women’s Studies, as well as the 45th anniversary of the university’s Women’s Research and Resource Center.

Melina Abdullah

Melina Abdullah

Those being honored with the Phenomenal Woman awards are:

  • Susan Dunlap, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood Los Angeles, an organization that provides comprehensive reproductive and sexual health care services to 250,000 patients each year.

“Many women have benefited from the existence of Planned Parenthood so Susan Dunlap is a fighter and representative of Planned Parenthood, keeping it alive and standing, so we want to honor her,” Mendoza said.

  • Melina Abdullah, is professor and chair of Pan-African Studies at California State University, Los Angeles, a scholar and activist who was an original organizer of Black Lives Matter. She was also instrumental in replacing Columbus Day with Indigenous People’s Day.

“Melina Abdullah is the co-host of ‘Beautiful Struggles’ — a radio program on KPFK focusing on African American social and political issues and social change — and supports important and symbolic changes for indigenous people and people of color,” said Mendoza.

  • Judy Baca,an artist and activist who was the founder of the first City of Los Angeles Mural Program in 1974. The program has since evolved into a community arts organization known as the Social and Public Art Resource Center (SPARC), which has been creating sites of public memory since 1976.
Judy Baca

Judy Baca

“A very well-known patron and muralist in Los Angeles, Judy Baca is what we call an ‘artivist’ because she combines art and activism,” said Mendoza. “She contributes to different groups, [including] the Chicano community and the LGBTQ community; she’s really one of a kind.”

  • Sandra Harding, a feminist philosopher and research professor emerita of education and gender studies at UCLA, she directed the UCLA Center for the Study of Women.

“A very prominent feminist philosopher in the United States and worldwide. Sandra is an outstanding scholar, she has made incredible contributions to feminist scholarship,” Mendoza said, “She is a very important figure, we use her work in our department in different courses,” said Mendoza.

  • Sandra-Harding

    Sandra Harding

    Nayereh Tohidi is the founding director of Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies at CSUN and has also served as a consultant to the United Nations (UNICEF and UNDP) and represented women nongovernmental organizations at both the third and fourth World Conferences on women.

“She is one of our own, now professor emeritus,” Mendoza said. “She is an incredible activist around issues related to women and feminism in Iran and the Middle East as well Muslim communities in the US. She is one of our stars here at the department.”

Elizabeth A. Say, dean of the College of Humanities, described all of the awardees as “exceptional women.”

“They’ve all made significant contributions to their communities and to the broader Los Angeles area, which is one of the expectations of the Phenomenal Women [Awards],’” said Say. “They have contributed to a more just and equitable society. They’ve done it through art, scholarship and activism. This is about people who give back to their community.”

Nayereh Tohidi

Nayereh Tohidi

Say stated one of the goals of the event is to draw attention to CSUN’s Gender and Women’s Studies department, “But, it is also to inspire others, particularly other women to go on and see themselves as agents of change in this society.”

Proceeds from the event will be used to benefit CSUN’s Women’s Resource and Research Center, the oldest continuing women’s center within the California State University system. The money will be used to sponsor student and faculty research support and finance scholarships for Gender and Women’s studies. Lillian Lehman, CSUN professor emeritus of theater and Elizabeth Berry, professor emeritus of communication studies, are to emcee event.

This year, the awards will feature performances which may include spoken word, music, a silent auction and a photo retrospective. The silent auction will be primarily online to keep the event interactive for all participants. Complimentary food and drinks will be provided.

Tickets can be purchased for $80 online. For more information on the Phenomenal Woman Awards Reception and Fundraiser, visit: https://www.csun.edu/humanities/gender-womens-studies/phenomenal-woman-awards-2018.


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