Betty Reid Soskin
2010 Women of Achievement, Vision and Excellence awardee
Betty Reid Soskin’s deep, ingrained sense of culture, place, and purpose are obvious in the way she lives her life. Raised in a Creole-African American family, her life changed dramatically when in 1927 at the age of six, a horrendous hurricane in New Orleans destroyed her family?s home and business. With her mother, two sisters, and one shared suitcase, the family took refuge in California. Her dad was not able to join them until several months later. Facing adversity from childhood, Betty Reid Soskin?s life experiences encouraged her to develop a vision of community in many diverse forms. The rich diversity of her ancestry encouraged her to become a bridge between cultures and races. Yet, she was unprepared for the hostility and danger she and her family faced when in the early 1950?s they moved to a northern California suburb. Against this milieu of brutal racism, she found support from people who were part of the Unitarian-Universalist community. Over the next 20 years, this community, beginning with 25 families meeting in living rooms and then growing to a congregation of over 300, encouraged, sustained and supported her values and beliefs.