Celebrating sistas never gets old

Top: (l-r) Calandra Revering, Shelly Carthen Watson, Judge Tanya M. Bransford, Dr. Joi Lewis and Woke Weah, Dr. Faynesse Miller, Kenya McKnight-Ahad and Keiona Cook Bottom: (l-r) Kevin Johnson, Karl Michele Smith, Rev. Dr.Tracey Gibson, Gwen Matthew, Sherrie Pugh, Jasmine Brett Stringer, and MC Neda Kellogg
Photo by Travis Lee

The Doubletree Hotel in Bloomington was bustling with a rhythmic energy—the kind that only women of color can produce. Vibrant colors, elegant hairstyles, and sweet fragrances filled the lobby in anticipation of the 15th Annual Celebrating the Sistas (CTS) event on May 1.  

Women of all shapes and shades socialized while being serenaded by the soulful sounds of jazz pianist Wenso Ashby, KMOJ’s Walter “Q Bear” Banks, and DJ Dime as the ballroom filled for the main event. 

There was something special about this group of sistas. I lost count of how many areas of influence and power were concentrated in one space, from doctors, lawyers, judges and activists to journalists, educators, and real estate brokers, to name a few. 

The award ceremony was hosted by Neda Kellogg and featured inspiring acceptance speeches by the 10 awardees who were all in attendance. 

One common thread expressed by all the honorees was the gratitude to event founder Kevin “KJ” Johnson, who said that he created the event because he thought women of color weren’t truly being recognized for their contributions to the community.

Johnson seemed reluctant to receive the praise and was almost brought to tears as he was asked to come to the stage and be acknowledged by awardee Gwen Matthews.

All photos by Travis Lee