Women to Watch: A Night of Inspiration and Resilience

Last night, hundreds of South Sounders came to Federal Way Performing Arts Center for South Sound magazine’s third annual Women to Watch event. The inspirational speakers themselves — five local women who unpacked their journeys of struggle and success — were complemented by a number of new elements this year, including a market featuring all-female vendors and a female DJ.

Editor in chief Lisa Patterson kicked off the event, followed by Shannon Childs of Kitsap Bank, presenting sponsor of Women to Watch and a proud women-owned business. Brooke Fox of MOViN 92.5’s Brooke and Jubal in the Morning served as emcee for the evening, and guests were treated to a performance of an original song by the Tacoma Refugee Choir.

Also new this year was the presence of a cohort of young women, who were raising money to attend the YMCA’s Camp Seymour. Between speakers, the group was welcomed onto the stage and presented with a $2,500 check from Kitsap Bank to kickstart their fundraising efforts.

For those who missed this year’s event but who are looking for some extra inspiration, words spoken last night by each Woman to Watch are highlighted below.

Leah Morgan, founder of the Tacoma and Gig Harbor Night Markets on the importance of community:


“At the end of the day, it’s our relationships that matter. It’s our communities that matter, but we get so wrapped up in our business and stress that we forget just how precious time with our people really is. I ask that when all of you go home tonight, to consider reaching out to that friend that’s been on your mind. Please call your mum and remind her that you love her. And finally, pick a date on the calendar that you’ve all been too busy to solidify with your friends and family to gather. We are here for our relationships with people and the Earth. Remind each other that we are not alone. We share in our struggles and our success. We’re in this together.”

KD Hall, founder of KD Hall Communications and KD Hall Foundation on getting a second chance after she was brandished with a federal felony:


“The shackles of a felony charge languish on my soul as heavy as any chain might have from our shared past not so long ago. For every one of me in the world, there’s probably hundreds that would never make it on this stage to tell their stories. So, I share my story for them. Reflecting now on this question of whether I believe in second chances, my thought is this: If we accept that (there’s nothing we can do) to help someone like me work toward a “second chance,” we risk losing sight of our collective moral imperative to ensure that every baby born into this country — black, white, brown, gay, red, blue — has a first chance to begin with.”

Erin Guinup, founder of the Tacoma Refugee Choir on the power of coming together:


“I went to Mount Rainier one day and noticed how the glaciers are retreating and how so often we retreat from the challenges of our own life. But what do glaciers do? Glaciers literally break rocks apart, and they transform the landscape. It’s because a bunch of ice particles all come together, and the weight of their unity breaks apart mountains. When we talk about moving mountains, we need to be the same way. We need to be connected to one another and put our weight behind it and not melting in the face of adversity. There’s a Billie Holiday song that says, ‘The difficult, I’ll do today. The impossible will take a little while.’ So often, we think that because we didn’t accomplish it this year that we we’re a failure, but it’s going to take a while. It’s going to take a while to make real lasting change. I cannot do this by myself. I really cannot do anything by myself. I’m just me. But when I have my choir family with me, that’s when things start becoming really powerful.”

Melannie Denise Cunningham, Tacoma’s 253 Peace Queen on finding success by being yourself:


“Faith is everything. You’ve got to believe in yourself. This is what got you to this space right here. I got to the Nobel Peace Prize room for doing me. Right? For doing me. So, whoever you decide that you are, baby, do you. Don’t be scared. Do you. If your momma be talking about you — because my mom talks about me — (it’s because) they don’t understand your vision. They just don’t understand it. That’s ok. It’s alright. Surround yourself with people that do — that will encourage you and speak a word into your heart to keep on going. Don’t be scared.”

Danielle Kartes, co-founder of Rustic Joyful Food photography and food styling and cookbook author on small steps lead to success:


“I bought this tapestry, and it’s really special to me. It might look old and dingy and it is. It’s from the 1850s. It’s from the south, so I imagine the woman that made this, and she painstaking put the needle in and put the needle out and put the needle in and put the needle out. Sometimes that’s painful, and this is sort of an (analogy) for life, because sometimes in life you’re putting that needle in and you’re putting that needle out and we don’t have the wherewithal to see the beauty that’s going to happen and the legacy that’s going to hang on for over 150 years later. I saw it on the wall, and it had so much value. And you know what? Today, your story, your tapestry, your life, it has so much value. And nobody knows all the little needles that go in and all the little needles that go out, but it’s your call to follow after your heart and who God made you to be.”

A special thanks to our sponsors:

Kitsap Bank

Harborstone Credit Union

YMCA of Pierce and Kitsap Counties

Bank of Pacific

Windermere Abode

Cascade Eye & Skin

The Doty Group

EDC of Thurston County

Virde Salon


Hardcastle AV

Coat Check Complete

Financial Insights

Edward Jones

Tacoma Night Market

Celebrity Cake Studios

Anthem Coffee + Tea

PJ Hummel Event Design and Decor

Verbovski Photography

is an assistant editor at South Sound magazine. Email her.
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