Since 1987, the month of March has been dedicated to Women’s History and celebrates the contributions, culture and narratives of powerful and unsung women nationwide.
During this month, three notable community members — Jacque Julien, Patricia (Pat) Valle and Justine Locke — were honored by the Lift Every Voice Legacy (LEVL), founded by Donnie Griffin of Edmonds. Griffin was inspired by the life and work of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. to create LEVL, which engages, educates and empowers communities with artistic programs of cultural diversity, inclusion and equity while following Dr. King’s example of a “beloved community.”
Here are the honorees’ reflections on mentors who have inspired them:
“There are many women that shine my crown and hold me to my highest,” says Jacque Julien, “One is (racial equity consultant) Karena Hooks. Her love and care for me encourages me to come out of my hiding places. I feel seen and inspired to love life vibrantly.”
As executive director of the Communities of Color Coalition (C3), Jacque — whose leadership style is focused on collaboration and partnership to facilitate dialogue — says that if she had the chance to mentor another woman, she would give them the gift of space to discover self-love, worth and value. “I encourage women of all ages to make space to know self. Be willing to give yourself same if not more love, grace and energy you freely give others.” Jacque continues: “Spend time with self, journal, paint, sing, dance, create a fantasy world if needed. Life will come full speed when you least expect, situations will try to rearrange your purpose, passion and everything in-between.”
Jacque has an extensive background working with diverse and vulnerable populations that include those experiencing chronic homelessness, substance abuse, sexual exploitation and court involved and at-risk youth. “I am not a single story,” she says. “I am the sum of many things. One element is not complete without the next, and it is only when all those elements are activated do I feel complete in all aspects.”
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An educator and the prior chair and a founding member of the Edmonds Diversity Commission, Pat Valle celebrates several mentors who have positively impacted her life. “Maria Valle, my mom, taught me empathy.” Pat says. “She gave me opportunities to interact with disabled people of all kinds.” Another mentor Pat celebrates is Seattle Public Schools teacher Nohra Giraldo. “Nohra helped me understand the meaning of compassion. We worked with Latinx students who were struggling in school and also faced a variety of challenges in their personal lives.”
The strength of her mentors is a power Pat draws on daily. “When I’m faced with a challenging situation, I see their faces in my mind’s eye or hear their voices in my head. My naturally out-going demeanor has been enhanced because of the confidence I’ve learned from each of them.”
If given the opportunity to mentor another woman, Pat says she would tell them to “stop and breathe. When you feel yourself becoming frustrated, angry or confused, stop and breathe and choose your words carefully – say what you mean and mean what you say.”
Pat adds: “I believe the greatest gift we can give each other is compassion. My dad always said, ‘there are two sides to every story.’ We do not know what others are going through and what challenges they are facing. Considering the possibility of another’s story before I act is the epitome of compassion.”
An educator in the Shoreline School District, Pat won the 2020 Washington State Teacher Excellence in Education award fromAlpha Delta Kappa. The award is based on dedication, knowledge, skills, professional achievement and success; school/community involvement; contributions to the educational process and active participation in Alpha Delta Kappa.
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“She listened as I shared my story of being a biracial kid raised by my white mom,” elementary school teacher Justine Locke says of her mentor — equity consultant Andrea Lising-Paull. “It made me reluctant to apply for scholarships for people of color when I was in school. Andrea invested in and advocated for me. Having just met me she understood my passion for serving kids in whatever way I could.”
Another mentor, Edmonds School District teacher Tanya King-Bazor, gave Justine one of her most powerful lessons with the words, “Don’t fight the river. We move to the flow of the kids.” Justine said that Tanya’s unique teaching style helped her find her way in her own third/fourth grade classroom. “I was blessed to observe the genuine connections she (Tanya) made with her students, and I fell in love with her pedagogy immediately,” Justine says. “Under her wing I learned how to bring myself and my love into the classroom as the foundation for community.”
The imprint of her mentors is with Justine every day, “Both my mentors have always invited and welcomed me to be my true self.” She credits them for sharing valuable wisdom and opening doors by helping her to stand up for herself.
Gifts she would pass on as a mentor herself: “I would hope I am able to help them discover and celebrate their own gifts and turn them into occupational talents. I have been blessed with gifts that I share with everyone – love, joy, compassion, grace and hope.”
For her own journey, Justine said, “Prayer has taught me that indeed the power of life and death are in the tongue. I always pray that kids who need me and kids I need will land in my classroom.”
Justine also is the voice for the Lady Mavs basketball and Mavericks wrestling teams at Meadowdale High School. She co-facilitates district workshops on disruptive teaching and is a member of the district’s ethnic studies planning committee.
You can find more information about LEVL and how you can be a part of a Beloved community, including board members, programs and ways to support the organization, at beloved4all.org/our-story.
— By Misha Carter