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Community Leaders Honored

Updated: Aug 16, 2023

Commission for Women announces awards

Sharon Gary-Smith, left, and Adrienne Nelson

Oregon Supreme Court Justice Adrienne Nelson and long time social justice leader Sharon Gary-Smith, two members of Portland’s African American community, are part of a group of four women being recognized by the Oregon Commission for Women for outstanding leadership in promoting equity and diversity.

Nelson and Gary-Smith join Belinda Carroll, a stand-up comedian and LGBTQ activist, and Andrea Paluso, co-founder of a nonprofit building economic and political power for mothers and caregivers, as the commission’s 2019 Women of Achievement winners. The honorees will receive their awards on Tuesday, March 10 as part of a Women’s History Month proclamation signing ceremony by Oregon Gov. Kate Brown.

Nelson was appointed to the Oregon Supreme Court in 2018, making her the first African American to sit on the state’s highest court and on any appellate state court. Her election during the same year to a six-year term made her the first African American woman elected statewide in Oregon. She previously served as a trial judge on the Multnomah County Circuit Court.

Over the years, Judge Nelson has been a tireless advocate and mentor for others, helping people succeed by living their best lives. She is a frequent speaker on several topics including diversity, inclusion, equity, leadership and professional development. She sits on the Reed College Board of Trustees, chairs the Self-Enhancement, Inc. (SEI) Board of Directors, and serves on the Girl Scouts Beyond Bars Advisory Board.

Sharon Gary-Smith is a native‐born Oregonian, a second-generation racial and social justice activist and community leader. She served as the first national director of self-help programs for the National Black Women’s Health Project in Atlanta, was a vice president for the Austin Area Urban League in Texas, and was a special advisor to the late Texas Gov. Anne Richards. Recently she led the MRG Foundation, Oregon’s leading social justice fund for more than five years, retiring in 2016.

Belinda Carroll is a writer, stand-up comedian, actor and activist. She was awarded a Queer Hero award by the Gay and Lesbian History Archives of the Pacific Northwest in 2018. Andrea Paluso has led campaigns for paid family and medical leave, affordable child care, equal pay, increasing the minimum wage, paid sick time, pregnancy accommodation, protections against workplace discrimination, reproductive health care access, and more. She is co-founder and Executive Director of Family Forward Oregon and Family Forward Action.


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