The month of March is packed with girl power! Not only is it Women’s History Month, but March 8 also celebrates International Women’s Day. San Pedro is proud to be the home of a multitude of inspiring females. So many, in fact, that we wish we could feature each and every single one within our pages! We encourage you, not just this month, to reflect on what females have truly inspired you and made a difference in your own life.
Additionally, we invite you to learn more about the several women featured in this issue. Each of these women have fascinating stories certainly worthy of a much longer conversation. Activists, entrepreneurs, mentors, artists, leaders, and change makers – discover how they continue to inspire our community and set a legacy for future generations.
Here’s to strong women: May we know them. May we be them. May we raise them.
Writer, historian, president of the San Pedro Heritage Museum
What is your definition of change/progress within our community? Change is a constant. As a historian, it’s my job to remind people just how much San Pedro is changing every day. In a short span of 150 years, we’ve gone from a sleepy rancho to a bustling suburb next to one of the biggest industrial complexes in the world. Progress would be for choices to be made with the most community input as possible, and for us all to make decisions with the community’s best interests at heart.
Describe what motivates and inspires you. San Pedro is both my inspiration and motivation. Every time I learn something new or hear a cool story for the first time, I get so excited about the work I do. It’s my job to research it and share it with everyone. I love spreading wonder! I know I’ll never know everything, but I’m on a mission to learn as much as I can.
Describe your thoughts on being a strong female in our community. My San Pedro work is what made me a strong woman, and I’m still getting used to my Pedro woman power. I was raised by strong Pedro women and I’m still uplifted by so many bad ass ladies. It was empowering growing up in a community where women were known for working, playing sports, and fighting just as hard as their male counterparts.
President/CEO San Pedro Chamber of Commerce
Describe your thoughts on being a strong female in our community. What does female empowerment mean to you? An individual came up to me several years ago and forcibly stated, “You are a woman of strong opinion,” and he didn’t mean it as a compliment. I was stunned, recovered my composure, and kept on going. Female empowerment is about the ability to have the opportunity and confidence to step out and work to make change in a responsible way. I am very fortunate to be working with many strong women in San Pedro who are great role models.
What heroes, colleagues, and/or mentors have inspired you? I grew up in a family that believed in public service. My maternal grandparents are my heroes. They were missionaries in South America for over 36 years, and my grandfather volunteered for Amnesty International negotiating the release of political prisoners. I never knew who was going to be at the family dinner on Sundays. I met people who had survived unimaginable circumstances fighting to change oppressive governments – fighting against brutal regimes for a better life. I learned at an early age about standing strong and speaking up. It was an amazing experience to witness the work of my grandparents who dedicated their lives to others and “walked the walk” every day.
Share a special memory/experience of your time in San Pedro. Each year, the Chamber honors outstanding women at our Women’s History Month Reception. I cry at every reception. There are so many incredible women working every day to better our community. Community members nominate the Women’s History Month honorees, and I have had the opportunity to meet women who are quietly working in their areas of expertise or are selflessly volunteering for a cause. It is awe-inspiring.
Artistic Director of San Pedro City Ballet and owner of San Pedro Ballet School
What is your definition of change/progress within our community? It isn’t hard to notice all of the new construction in Downtown San Pedro. We are witnessing a cultural renaissance, and the arts will surely be at the center of it. San Pedro City Ballet has been a force in the community for 25 years and will enjoy being a part of its revitalization.
Describe your thoughts on being a strong female in our community. I’m a strong artistic woman. I see myself as a facilitator, enabling my students to realize their potential and giving them the tools to become healthy, productive, and fulfilled individuals.
What heroes, colleagues, and/or mentors have inspired you? My grandmother, who was a young person during the depression, was orphaned at age eleven. She married young and raised two children carrying most of the burden on her own. She was in return to high school to complete her education. I was always impressed by her many skills, courage, and strength.
What motivates and inspires you? I am inspired by young people with passion and drive in achieving their full potential.
What is your definition of change in our community? I look forward to the trend that is “wellness” becoming a larger presence in San Pedro. I am happy to be a part of that trend and to offer the necessary products and services for this lifestyle. I know that it is not a fad, as health is the only true wealth!
Share a special memory/experience of your time in San Pedro. NUDA recently turned five years old this past October, a very hard benchmark for a restaurant to achieve. I think possibly even harder for a niche like organic health food in Downtown San Pedro. If I can make NUDA work in Downtown San Pedro, I can make it thrive everywhere!
What are your personal and professional goals for the future? One goal is to offer more catering to the community, and fundraising events for our local nonprofits. If you know of a local nonprofit that would like to hold fundraising events at NUDA, please do not hesitate to reach out! This is our way of giving back.
Anything else you’d like San Pedro to know about you? Do not be intimidated to come in. Some people see what we do as foreign and might be apprehensive to stop by. I assure you with our vast menu we will be able to help you find something that pleases your palette. I have a lovely staff that care about health and healing, and making something both delicious and beautiful for you.
Director, Coordinated Entry System at Harbor Interfaith Services
What is your definition of change in our community? One sign of progress is the acceptance and support of homelessness solutions, including welcoming more affordable and supportive housing into our neighborhood, along with short-term interim solutions such as bridge housing and safe parking programs. I see myself as helping to dispel commonly held “homelessness myths” by being involved in fact-based discussions on these solutions, so people can have an informed opinion of these solutions.
Describe what motivates and inspires you. Helping thousands each year reinforces the importance of our agency’s mission. I draw my daily inspiration from the successes we have made in providing permanent housing to those formerly living on the street. Those in our profession face many unique and formidable challenges every day, and successes in working with chronically homeless individuals often come after months or even years of effort.
What are your personal and professional goals for the future? One of my goals is to change the way in which people viscerally react to those who have been experiencing business, we call them the “chronically homeless.” I want the community to look beyond people’s outer appearance and behavior and recognize we in homeless services are successfully helping those who suffer from very personal unresolved trauma or illness that caused their homelessness. At the same time, I would like the community to understand about 75% of those experiencing homelessness do not fit this stereotypical view, and that a large cause of homelessness now is the lack of affordable housing.
Executive Director of Rainbow Services, Chair of the Los Angeles City’s DV Alliance, Co-leader of the DV Homeless Services Coalition
Describe what motivates and inspires you. I was raised by two nurses who instilled in me the importance of being of service to others. They inspired me to want to make the world a better place. Seeing the many inequities in our community and in our country motivates me to work towards social justice and to recognize that domestic violence is only a part of the inequities people face.
Describe your thoughts on being a strong female in our community. Female empowerment looks like women supporting women and
men supporting our strengths and contributions to this community. Finding ways to lift each other up and inspire one another to be our best selves. Acknowledging our own power is necessary for real and lasting change.
What are your personal and professional goals for the future? I want to see more men take a stance against violence. I want to see more men involved in the movement to end violence against women, young girls, and boys, too. The domestic violence movement was born out of the feminist movement. Women helping women get to safety when they made the courageous decision to reach out for help. Because of the roots of our movement, it is often seen as a “women’s issue” and therefore not many men have traditionally been involved. That needs to change.
For anyone who may be struggling with domestic violence, please call the 24-hour hotline at (310) 547-9343. If you are interested in learning more about Rainbow Services and how you can help, please visit RainbowServicesDV.org.
LYDIA HALEY-CLARK & JESSICA HALEY-CLARK
Co-founders, Haley Way Foundation
What is your definition of change within our community? Lydia: Change in our community should always allow for equal treatment of all people and afford everyone the opportunity to excel at whatever they feel will allow them an opportunity to live a happy and successful life.
Describe what motivates and inspires you. Jessica: My students are my inspiration and I’m motivated by their passion and willingness to learn. I became a teacher because I wanted to make a difference by helping children achieve their goals.
Describe your thoughts on being a strong female in our community. Lydia: As a single woman who raised five children, I consider myself a very strong woman. I know the struggle of raising a family while working two, three, sometimes four jobs to make ends meet. As an empowered black woman, I feel I have set a positive example for others to follow when it comes to going after what I want and need to ensure that my life reflects love, compassion, and perseverance.
Share a special memory of your time in San Pedro. Lydia: Watching my son Jamaal Street, an adult living with autism, graduate from San Pedro High School with full honors. Jamaal now announces for our high schools and is an awesome sports writer for San Pedro Today.
Jessica: The San Pedro Holiday Parade has always been a joyous experience for me. My dance company has been a part of the parade since 2015. I get to watch my students dance, have fun, and make memories with each other.
LESLIE JONES & MONA SUTTON
Co-owners, Omelette and Waffle Shop, Community Advocates
What is your definition of change in our community? Leslie: I feel being involved helps you educate yourself on the direction San Pedro may be headed. Educating yourself you feel a part of the bigger picture and it empowers you to become engaged and speak out. We’re on the board of Bridge Cities Alliance. A nonprofit that is working on the first ever, gay pride event at the Port of Los Angeles. Thanks to the overwhelming support for CD 15, Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors, Janice Hahn, the San Pedro Chamber of Commerce, and all our allies, this will be an event that will encourage our community to progress forward in acceptance and awareness of the LGBTQ neighbors in the San Pedro community.
Describe what motivates and inspires you. Mona: I’m a lover of people and my community. If I can feed someone and make a connection through food, family, and love, I feel like we might have a chance to break down ill-conceived barriers that divide us as human beings, that stifle our voices, that keep us weak, and further us away from coming together to realize we’re all the same people, we all want to live in a safe environment with an excellent quality of life. I’ll continue to model love and dignity with the hope to inspire others around me to do the same.
Anything else you’d like San Pedro to know about you? Mona: I hope San Pedro knows that I love my community deeply. I’ll continue to work hard for positive, thoughtful changes.
Leslie: There are so many ways to be involved in the community, you just need to think about things you may enjoy and hunt them out. I feel there’s something in everyone to give and our community is waiting to hear from you.
Mosaic artist, 25th Street Mural Project
What is your definition of change within our community? I recently attended a gathering of artists in the community and this question was asked, “How do we bring in people from outside of San Pedro?” My answer was to change San Pedro’s tarnished reputation around. A daunting task, but I thought I could at least do my part to make a huge welcome sign at the south/west-most entrance to the City of San Pedro and Los Angeles. It demonstrates the pride of our community and shows who we are. We are the people on the mural, and we are people who are not afraid to get our hands dirty with hard work.
Describe your thoughts on being a strong female in our community. Females and males alike should follow and strive for their goals. Hard work and dedication are needed for success in any endeavor. I am blessed to have a brother and father who were supportive of me with following in their footsteps as an L.A. City Fire Fighter. This support was what drove me to become one of the first two L.A. City female Fire Fighters. We should all strive to make the most of what we have been given and be happy in a life we choose to live for ourselves.
What heroes, colleagues, and/or mentors have inspired you? Everyone who has given funds, encouraging words, texts, and emails, they are all an inspiration to me to keep going! There were about 600 people who helped this wall be what it is. They are all heroes for believing in the unbelievable.
Founding Member and Managing Director, San Pedro Waterfront Arts District
What is your definition of change in our community? San Pedro is going through tremendous growth and change. The challenge we face is to remain centered and not lose sight of our authenticity. In our own small way, the Arts District tries to reflect San Pedro’s genuine character by using our expertise to choose the best public art, depicting our history and adding unexpected vibrancy in our public spaces.
Describe what motivates and inspires you. I’m happiest when I can introduce folks to things they may not normally come to on their own. I’m inspired by the plethora of creativity on this peninsula, the gritty glamour of our port community, and being surrounded by so much natural beauty. I’m grateful for the wealth of dance, theatre and visual arts just a few blocks from our home, as well as proximity to the major L.A. arts institutions. Seeing a show or going to an art museum charges my batteries and gives me tremendous context and perspective. For me, regular doses of arts and culture are an antidote to today’s tumultuous times and a necessary part of being human.
Describe your thoughts on being a strong female in our community. In my humble opinion, women are the major ‘doers’ in this town and I’m honored to be counted as one of the strong females who give back to the community by working to make incremental improvements every day.
Owner, Managing Partner of The Chori-Man and Salchicha Foods
What is your definition of change in our community? When I moved to San Pedro in 2010, I’d think about how great it would be to be able to work in town and never have to leave. I never imagined then I’d be opening a business here, and now that I have, hope to be able to grow our business here and use our success to help San Pedro grow. There’s a lot of great food programs and businesses in town and there’s a lot of opportunity to work with some truly inspirational people.
Describe what motivates and inspires you. Being part of a great business partnership definitely keeps me motivated on the day-to-day level. Humberto, in becoming The Chori-Man, has shown incredible dedication and focus, and his motivation inspires me to bring my A-game to the table every day. When I first began working with Humberto, he laid out the vision that he wanted The Chori-Man to be “the Boar’s Head of chorizo.” That’s a pretty clear mission statement and makes it easy for me to set goals to advance our progress towards getting our chorizo in every restaurant, deli case and supermarket in America.
Anything else you’d like San Pedro to know about you? When I’m not building a chorizo empire, I like to make cheese using raw milk and natural kefir culture. My favorite cheese to make is Oaxacan string cheese and I hope to be able to teach cheesemaking classes at The Chori-Man someday.
Director, Los Angeles Maritime Museum
Describe your thoughts on being a strong female in our community. To me, “empowerment” means responsibility. For women, it means the importance of assisting and mentoring other women, helping younger women get established in our field and help them navigate and lead.
Share a special memory/experience of your time in San Pedro. Shortly after I started working at the Maritime Museum, I attended a festival in Downtown San Pedro. An older gentleman came up and asked me my name, where I worked, how long I had been there, and how I liked San Pedro. He took a small notebook out of his front shirt pocket and wrote everything down. He explained that he was raising funds for something called “Cabrillo Beach Fireworks” and he would appreciate it if I donated $4.00 right then and there. I donated the money (Did I have a choice?), and of course later realized I had been speaking with John Olguin! A most appropriate start to working in San Pedro was meeting “Mr. San Pedro” himself, and this was the beginning of many years of friendship with John and Muriel.
What are your personal and professional goals for the future? Enhancing and expanding the museum’s capacity to serve more visitors is the number one goal. San Pedro has a fascinating history all its own, but the museum’s broader focus is the growth of the port, and how the work of people in the maritime industries and trades grew and shaped international trade.
Gift Shop Manager, Cabrillo Marine Aquarium and Board Member, San Pedro Meals on Wheels
Describe your role. For two years, I have been working on this interesting project for the Friends of Cabrillo Marine Aquarium. The aquarium is a city-run facility, but its programs, marketing, and additional resources are supported by dollars raised by the Friends. I’m one of the team of five, along with solid fundraising it’s been important to reboot the retail side and create a gift shop that more reflects the mission of the aquarium and is a fun visitor experience in its own right.
What are your thoughts on being a strong female in our community? I’m not sure how strong I am, but I am thrilled to see so many women coming into their own at this time. I love working with strong women. I see women my age bringing a lifetime of experiences to where they are now. For me, strong implies resilience, a belief in the end goal, hard work and the ability to persist.
What are your personal and professional goals for the future? I have so many things I’d like to see happening in San Pedro that I haven’t had time to work on just yet. With my involvement in San Pedro Meals on Wheels and a background in food, I’d like to see a nonprofit food incubator or commercial kitchen built in our town. Purposefully built to support food entrepreneurs, as well as a production facility for San Pedro Meals on Wheels and others who feed the community.
Founding Executive Director of AltaSea at the Port of Los Angeles
Describe what motivates and inspires you. It is no exaggeration to say that the fate of our planet is tied to the oceans. The struggle to restore the ocean’s health is the struggle for our future. Saving the planet keeps me motivated.
Describe your thoughts on being a strong female in our community. Honestly, I would prefer to be seen as a strong person focused on empowering our community, rather than as a female leader. I do recognize that I am female, but would rather be defined by my accomplishments… and maybe a sense of humor. For me, female empowerment means to be protective of the next generation as well as the strong women in this one.
What heroes, colleagues, and/or mentors have inspired you? This year, I was completely blown away by Greta Thurnberg, the Swedish 15-year-old who shamed the world into paying attention to climate change. I loved it when she said: “I don’t care about being popular. I care about climate justice and the living planet.” What bravery.
TRINA MENDOZA & JASIREE FOURNIER
Co-Owners/Operators of Babouch Moroccan Restaurant and Lounge
Describe what motivates and inspires you. Trina: Initially, I was motivated because I wanted more for my family and my two daughters. I raised them alone and I have worked hard for everything I have.
What heroes, colleagues, and/or mentors have inspired you? Jasiree: My mother is my hero. She is the best business mentor anyone could ever ask for. From her work ethic to her love for the community, she is truly inspirational. She has taught me to do everything with purpose.
Describe your thoughts on being a strong female in our community. Trina: All females are empowered. Some just need reminding. I hope to be a reminder to my daughters, Krystina and Jazz. They have been my fuel to life, and I am inspired by the beautiful women they have become.
What are your personal and professional goals for the future? Jasiree: My business goal is to keep Babouch, a 40-year-old local landmark, operating and serving the community. I welcome the community to continue to support us, and spread the word about the new and exciting changes that have been implemented.
Owner, Flipside Gymnastics, Music, and Dance
Describe what motivates and inspires you. Maintaining a safe space for people to express themselves and to be able to grow through the arts motivates me. I grew up in a household where my opinions did not count and being super artistic was not something to chase as a career. I am happy to provide a space where everyone’s opinion matters.
Describe your thoughts on being a strong female in our community. Based on my own experience, female empowerment is the attitude much like Bessie Coleman of “Don’t take no for an answer.” She was the first Native American and African-American to hold a pilot’s license, and an American Civil Aviator. American flight schools did not allow women or African-Americans to fly, so she went to France and got her pilot’s license. I love that story.
What are your personal and professional goals for the future? Personal goals include raising likable, intelligent sons. Traveling, and unplugging. Professional goals include gaining more business knowledge, while also learning how to stay grassroots.
LIZ SCHINDLER JOHNSON
Executive Director, Grand Vision Foundation
What is your definition of change in our community? I can think of two examples of change. Not long ago,
we didn’t have any housing or proper street lighting in Downtown San Pedro. A group of us were able to help get the historic streetlights installed, providing much needed lighting. Now, it’s much more viable to be outside in downtown at night.
We also have many new downtown residents. They walk their dogs, frequent restaurants and have become a part of our downtown culture. Many are professionals who have come here because they love the environment.
Describe what motivates and inspires you. I get really excited about making a contribution and seeing the fruits of our labor at Grand Vision. I’m really moved by what we do. I get up every day and I feel responsible for what I’ve sparked and what others have continued to maintain and create.
Do you have a special San Pedro memory? I have so many. I got a lot of really special vibes when I first came to San Pedro. When I started working here, I remember driving across the bridges every day from Long Beach, driving up 7th Street and parking, walking through the breezeway towards 6th Street, and thinking to myself, I really love it here.