5 women to watch
Here are five Sacramento women working hard to be positive role models, caring educators and fierce advocates:
film director, activist
Imani Mitchell decided to write and direct her own film, Whirlpool, with an entirely African-American cast to overcome stereotypical roles and to tell stories for black people, but aren’t solely about racial trauma. The movie is set to premiere in April.
“It’s a human story with this film,” Mitchell said. “Sometimes, we don’t want to be reminded of the horrors of our history. We want to be entertained or we just want a good story.”
Mitchell, 26, founded Black Women United, the organizers of the Black Women’s March, but since stepped down. In 2017, she received the Exceptional Women of Color Award from the Sac Cultural Hub Media Foundation. She has a 5-year-old daughter and is a local activist.
“A really great tool that we have now is social media and the power of it, too,” she said. “I think for people who want to make women feel less than, or make women feel inferior or abuse women, people will call you out now. There’s an accountability. Folks are feeling more empowered.”
cannabis educator, business owner
Inside her office on North 10th Street, Eliza Maroney sat peacefully feeding her 6-week-old son Zion, multitasking with ease as a cannabis wellness educator and co-founder of the monthly subscription service Lucky Box Club.
“Being pregnant in the industry was incredibly challenging, but also more rewarding than I could have imagined,” Maroney said.
Maroney is often invited to speak on panels that discuss cannabis and its health benefits. Now, she’s the marketing director at Fenix Logistics, a cannabis distribution company, created a monthly industry mixer called the Herban Exchange and, as a certified yoga instructor, looks forward to publishing her book The Cannabis Yogi.
“Being a woman is hard, period. We are so marginalized and misunderstood. Being a woman of color, is even harder,” she said. “I’m not even sure what the future has in store for us, but I know that it’s made me cling to the other women in my life and really work with them and try to be inspirations to one another to try to stay focused on what matters.”
As a housing navigator with the Sacramento LGBT Community Center, Mari Wrobi helps those living at the 12-bed shelter get the resources they need, and hopefully, find stable homes.
“I get to be this really cool bridge for a lot of people connecting them to services that can house them long term,” they said.
Wrobi, an intersex activist, has volunteered just about everywhere in the LGBTQ community. With a grant from Voices With Impact, Wrobi is producing a film titled The Side Effects of Normal on the effects of medical trauma on intersex people.
“I’m very active as somebody who identifies as trans. Trans rights have been attacked, threatened; we’ve just faced a lot, especially trans women of color,” they said. “That’s a huge demographic in our community that are facing atrocities and direct violence. Fighting against that can seem very hard, but we’re very resilient and very tough.”
founder, Pivot Sacramento
When five teens on her street dropped out of high school more than a decade ago, Lisa Miller decided to get them into a GED program and bought them clothes for job interviews. Word spread throughout the neighborhood and people started knocking on her door for help.
Today, she runs the nonprofit Pivot Sacramento inside her former first grade classroom in Oak Park. Miller specializes in assisting single parents, the homeless and the recently incarcerated. Since she began 14 years ago, Miller has helped more than 700 people get the resources they need to be self-sufficient.
“I wouldn’t trade it for anything in the world. I’m here every morning and I’m here most of the day, holidays, weekends taking care of folks,” Miller said. “I just really love doing it. I love working with people. I like seeing them dream and being able to navigate them to that, and then watching them shine.”
owner/head coach, California Storm
Jamie Howard-Levoy is the definition of hard work and determination as she went from volunteering in the snack back to assistant coach of the California Storm women’s soccer team. When founder and former owner Jerry Zanelli died in 2018, he left the team to Howard-Levoy.
Now, as executive director and head coach, she and the Storm aim to make 2020 a breakout year. “The Storm is a real personal organization to me. I’ve been involved about 10 years,” she said. “I love that we’re seeing more women getting into the coaching and executive roles and we need to continue to see more of that in athletics.”
The Storm finished 11-1 last season; players also teach soccer drills to underserved students.
“There’s a lot of pressure for at-risk behaviors in the younger generation, and I think it’s important that they have role models that can connect with them in different ways,” Howard-Levoy said. “We use the platform of sports to connect with them and use that to try to be a positive role model in their life.”