SF awards recognize strong female leaders in business 

Simone Batiste stood outside the Madam C.J. Walker Business and Community Recognition Awards Luncheon waiting as the crowd departed.

The annual luncheon, in its 17th year, was hosted by the Oakland-Bay Area chapter of the National Coalition of 100 Black Women Inc. on April 10, and the high school senior wanted one particular special guest to know how she felt about the organization that helped her prepare for college.

“Congresswoman Pelosi, I’ve watched you throughout my childhood and now I am getting ready to go to college,” a teary-eyed Batiste said as Rep. Nancy Pelosi left the Marriott Hotel in San Francisco where the luncheon was held. “I’ve been accepted to UC San Diego and USF.” Pelosi stopped to acknowledge Batiste.

“Don’t ever let anyone tell you that you can’t do anything,” Pelosi replied. “You can be whatever you want to be.”

The luncheon is a major annual fundraiser for the coalition’s local chapter and its core initiatives — the Sistahs Getting Real About HIV/AIDS prevention program, Positive Steps mentoring program and scholarship fund, which provides financial aid to underserved women and girls pursuing higher education.

Pelosi, a San Francisco Democrat, was not the only notable guest at the event. London Breed, president of the Board of Supervisors, served as the event’s host.

“I have been going to this luncheon since it started,” Breed said. “It’s always been an inspiring event full of women who care about the community.”

Pelosi spoke about her priorities as a legislator, namely advancing House Democrats’ Women’s Economic Agenda that includes promoting equal pay for women, paid family leave and affordable child care.

In the spirit of Madam C.J. Walker, who is considered the first black self-made millionaire, the event celebrates female entrepreneurs, philanthropists and business leaders who do positive work in the Bay Area.

The event also recognized five honorees:

Corporate Award: Shellye Achambeau, CEO of MetricStream

Advocacy Award: Sondra Alexander, executive director of Oakland Citizens Committee for Urban Renewal

Entrepreneur Award: Melanie Shelby, managing director of Gray, Greer, Shelby & Vaughn

Pioneer Award: Dr. Mary Ann Jones, CEO of Westside Community Services

Community Partner Award: KBLX-FM

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Kia Croom

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