For the third consecutive year, the YWCA of Greater Pittsburgh is honoring women, especially women of color, who advance racial and gender equality in the region.
The 2023 Equity Awards ceremony will recognize this year’s recipients on Friday, Nov. 3, at the Omni William Penn Hotel. Tickets for the event are available on the YWCA website until Oct. 30.
Angela Reynolds, YWCA Greater Pittsburgh’s CEO, says joyfully celebrating work that can be draining, discouraging or drawn-out is key to sustaining justice movements and the positive outcomes they produce.
“This year’s awardees are inspiring in their own right as fierce equity advocates and trailblazers in their fields,” Reynolds says. “More importantly, their example is an invitation for all of us to continue their momentum to fuel a movement that transforms our communities to spaces where all can thrive.”
Here are the winners:
Sabrina Yow-Chyi Liu
Liu is founder of the Pittsburgh chapter of the Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance and assistant director of strategic campaigns for United Steelworkers.
“As a young leader, she built the APALA Pittsburgh chapter from scratch by dedicating hundreds of hours into community outreach, base-building and lifting up vulnerable communities who have long been marginalized and pushed aside,” says Vivian Chang, APALA’s civic engagement and racial justice director.
“Sabrina is extremely effective and puts her longtime organizing skills to the test every day: she hones in on what’s needed and rallies everyone to make important change happen.”
Liu has brought voter engagement and pandemic response programming alongside increased census responses to under-served — especially Asian and Asian American — communities.
“The Ally Award is really thinking about breaking down barriers … and making sure all people can thrive,” Liu says. “One thing we look at is who is among us — we focus on Asian, Asian American, Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander populations — and what are some of their needs.”
Creativity and Innovation Award
Diaz is the director of IDEA initiatives and community engagement with the Pittsburgh Opera. During her tenure, she has led a collaboration between the Pittsburgh Opera and the National Negro Opera Company house to honor the legacies of Black opera singers.
Within the region, she has contributed to a BIPOC arts apprenticeship program and multiple other projects that promote mental and physical health through exposure to operatic techniques and the arts more generally.
Her work at the intersection of art and systemic change earns her this award, YWCA writes.
Emerging Leader Award
Kaila Carter and Indira Cunningham
Carter and Cunningham are both Black ballet dancers, both with Pittsburgh’s Confluence Ballet Company.
They have performed with a number of dance companies across the U.S., from Baltimore to Atlanta to Houston to Oklahoma City. Now, in Pittsburgh, the two perform and teach aspiring dancers, and performed in a production of “Chocolate Nutcracker” last winter.
YWCA notes the two earned the award for “challenging status quo representation and inspiring young dancers of color.”
Bridge Builder Award
Tripp’s most public roles are vice chair of diversity, equity and inclusion for both UPMC Medical Education and the University of Pittsburgh’s Department of Emergency Medicine, but her resume stretches from EMS physician to reserve naval commander to co-founder of Akoma United — which provides life-saving health education, especially to communities of color.
“I’m not sure when she sleeps; she brings endless energy and empathy to our teams, ensuring that our faculty and staff are included and inclusive,” says Maria Guyette, one of Tripp’s emergency medicine colleagues. “She is constantly working to support historically marginalized communities, and yet every time a new opportunity arises she is at the table making plans for how we can do better and reach more people.”
Akoma United provides communities of color with training for CPR, Stop the Bleed, naloxone usage and stroke symptom identification — medical knowledge and resources that often are not disseminated to marginalized communities.
When Tripp was a child, she witnessed a car accident in Chicago to which police and emergency services were not able to respond quickly. Akoma trains others to take action in similar situations with the hope that no one feels helpless, as she did at the time.
“Unfortunately, our society was built upon racism,” Tripp says. “We’ve had 400 years of oppression, especially for our Black communities. It’s going to take even more time for us to really unweave that racism that has bound us.
“So I think that’s one of the great things about this award — it really signifies how we are trying to break those ties so people have a greater awareness and awakening to what is going on currently in our society, and then give them the tools to combat that.”
Meredith works with foster youth — specifically with young girls of color — as manager of the My Best Self Program at Ward Home, a subsidiary of Auberle.
“The program provides beauty and haircare products, training and support to teens and young adults experiencing homelessness or involved in child welfare issues,” YWCA writes.