FSU celebrates Women’s History Month Six women presented with awards

(Chon’tel Washington presents Marguerite Simpson-Lackard with her award. Photo by Kayllan Olicio)

FSU held its third annual Women Making History Now award ceremony on March 29 in the McCarthy Forum.

The event honored six women during Women’s History Month who have made significant contributions to the communities they serve, according to the FSU website.

The honorees were Framingham Mayor Yvonne Spicer, Framingham Public Schools (FPS) teacher Marguerite Simpson-Lackard, Secretary of Labor and Workforce Development.

Rosalin Acosta, Chief Risk Officer of the Middlesex Savings Bank Dana Neshe, General Manager at Langer Broadcasting Group Ilma Paixao and Vice President of Enrollment and Student Development Lorretta Holloway.

Millie González, interim chief officer of diversity, inclusion and community engagement, said, “There’s always a plethora of women to choose from.” She added the recipients of the award are chosen by a committee.

Several FSU students read the biographies of the honorees before presenting them with their awards.

Markiyah Bullard, a junior and vice president of Black Student Union (BSU), introduced Spicer and described the work she has done as an educator, consultant and committee councilor.

Bullard said BSU hopes to work with Spicer in the future. She added, “I’m personally inspired by all the accomplishments you’ve done so far.”

Spicer said, “When I think about the journey to becoming Mayor of Framingham, I think about the shoulders that I stand on and all the women that came before me.”

She added she doesn’t take any of her successes for granted and remains humbled and focused.

“With your support, I will lead my city to be the best city in the United States of America. We’re on our way,” Spicer said.

Chon’tel Washington, director of the Center for Inclusive Excellence (CIE), read Simpson-Lackard’s biography. Simpson-Lackard was a pediatrician at Boston Medical Center and co-founded the Walsh Mentoring Program, which offers students emotional and social support.

Simpson-Lackard said she is honored to be among such powerful women.

She added, “We can get distracted by life’s obstacles – sometimes at the very beginning of the dream or at the beginning of the task. That can cause us to lose our direction – we start to focus on the obstacle rather than the objective. … Don’t fear the obstacles. Stay focused and conquer it.”

Zae Valera, senior and public relations officer for Brother to Brother (B2B), introduced Acosta. She said Acosta “was a widely respected financial and banking service professional with over 30 years of experience in Greater Boston financial institutions.”

Acosta said, “It’s so critical when you are working, and when you are dedicating so much time to what you do, that you understand why you are doing it. Not just how you are doing it, or what you are doing to get it done, but why you are doing it.”

Ariel Deane, first-year student and CIE employee, introduced Dana Neshe.

She said Neshe, who is an FSU alumna, is involved in a variety of local non-profit organizations.

Neshe said, “The thing that is very unique about my story is that I have been able to work with some absolutely amazing people along the way.”

She encouraged people to engage in the mentoring process – to take someone “under your wing.”

She added if enough people get involved in “this kind of work, there is going to be a day where every young woman … and man has somebody they can look up to – a more experienced colleague who can maybe help them find their personal courage and dream their little dream.”

Melissa Bicalho, a first-year student, presented Paixao with her award and spoke about the volunteer and advocacy efforts she has completed on behalf of FPS and the MetroWest Health Foundation.

Bicalho said coming from a Brazilian household, her family listens to Paixao’s radio station every day when they go to work. She added, “Paixao is very involved in our community and has dedicated herself a tremendous amount.”

Paixao discussed the challenges she faced growing up in Brazil and how she persevered.

She said, “I never learned that ‘no’ was the final answer. Especially when I noticed a ‘no’ without an explanation.”

Deron Hines, senior and president of B2B, introduced Holloway.

Hines discussed Holloway’s achievements during her time at FSU, which include efforts to promote awareness of students who are experiencing housing and food insecurity, as well as being a “champion for college access and readiness.”

Hines said he was honored to present the award to Holloway.

He said Holloway has “been a major part in my growth here at the University. [Holloway] saw things in me that I couldn’t. She saw my potential. … Who would have known that a ‘D’ letter grade would place me in your life and place you in my heart?”

Holloway said it was intimidating when she found out she won the award, adding past recipients have brought the room to tears with their speeches.

She said she wanted to write a love letter “to this room of women. This is more than a thank you, but a chance to recognize yourself and your stories and the little things that keeps us all sane.”

Holloway thanked her mother, whom she believes is “magic.

“I don’t mean that she has magic – she is magic,” said Holloway. She added, “I think the magic that I felt from her was never being judged.

“Find the person who is the magic in your life so that you can learn to be your own magic and share that with those around you. …We can be the magic – heaven knows the world needs it,” she said.

State Representative Jack Patrick Lewis presented the recipients with citations from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.

Lewis said he had to pause when he was invited to speak at the ceremony, “Who am I to deliver remarks today, at an event celebrating women? All of my closest friends are women, and as a gay man, I’ve been told more times than I can count that I’m an ‘honorary woman.’ I never quite understood that.”

He added he was conflicted. He said, “I firmly believe that women don’t need more men mansplaining your role in society.”

Lewis spoke about his grandmother, who help shape the person he is today.

He said his grandmother probably never received an award in her life, adding in her era there weren’t any awards that honored women and their contributions. The contributions his grandmother made were forgotten and “relegated to the shadows.”

Lewis recounted the hardships his grandmother underwent. “Faced with abuse and violence in the home, she did the unspeakable. She left her husband and struck out on her own as a single mother,” he said. “She broke her own chains of oppression, reclaimed her life and did whatever was necessary to take care of her children.”

He added women have been changing the world since long before awards were given out for it. Women played a role in society long before anyone wanted them to. “They formed the invisible backbone of the American home and work place,” he said.

Following Lewis’s speech, the Afro-Caribbean Dance Group performed.

Roxanna Cooke, Delta Sigma Theta Sorority president, gave the closing remarks.

“I want to invite all of you, whether it’s a woman in the room or allies in the room, to figure out how to be fearless and get beyond the surface of the differences that you may see and find the commonalties,” she said.

Cooke added, “Let us speak up. Let us speak out and fight the disparities that may not be affecting you today, but it may affect you in the future.”