Two long-time — and active — Lawton women will have their faces immortalized in bronze as part of a project to celebrate women’s right to vote.
Isidra “Chila” Chavez, founder of the Mexican Folkloric Dancers, and Lawton real estate agent/businesswoman Pam Marion are two of the five women who will “lend” their faces to the suffrage monument being planned for Ned Shepler Park. That statue, to be created by Tulsa sculptor Denise Ford, will feature five women, facing outward while standing in a circle, reflecting the collective strength of women who fought for the right to vote and for civil rights.
Those five women represent the ethnic groups of women involved in those fights: African-American, Asian, Caucasian, Hispanic and Native American. Barbara Curry, who crafted the idea of a monument marking the history of voting and civil rights, and Ford said from the earliest days that they wanted the faces of the women in that circle to reflect actual women, rather than being a generic representation of a specific ethnic group, dressed in either cultural or period clothing to reflect the era in which they were active.
Curry said that’s how Marion came to represent the Asian statue, while Chavez will represent the Hispanic statue. Curry said both women were the obvious choice; when the residents supporting the idea of the statue began asking for suggestions for statue models, Chavez and Marion were suggested repeatedly.
LaDonna Harris, a native of the region who has made her mark on a national level politically and socially, will represent Native Americans, while Curry’s late grandmother, Estella “Aunt Tootsie” Butler will be the face of the African-American statue. Curry said members still are working to finalize the selection of the woman for the Caucasian statue.
Chavez, a native of Mexico who moved to the United States in 1964, created the Folkloric Dancers in 1976 to share her culture with Lawtonians while also teaching that culture to her children (original members of the dance group). The group has grown in stature to become a cornerstone in the arts community, performing at events such as Arts for All and the International Festival. Chavez closes every show the same way: “God loves you and I do, too.” Chavez received the Governor’s Award for Arts in 2006 and has earned several appreciation awards, including the Papal Holy Cross, Pro Ecclesia et Pontific, bestowed by the pope on lay persons and clergy to honor those especially zealous in outstanding service and leadership.
“I love to do what I do,” Chavez said, of her cultural efforts in the arts community.
Marion was a successful business entrepreneur in her native Korea before she moved to the United States in 1977. She started her real estate career in Lawton in 1989, quickly becoming one of the city’s top real estate agents. She has helped more than 8,000 families sell and buy homes, and was recently recognized by Re/Max International for her lifetime achievement by joining its International Hall of Fame. She teaches at Star Power seminars and conferences each year, and has earned her designations as Certified Residential Specialist, and Certified Distressed Property Expert. She has been active in local civic activities for decades and highlights the importance of what women in the past have done to bring the right to vote to women — and the power that conveys.
“We have the power to change the world,” Marion said.
Curry, also a major force in the city’s civic and political circles, credits her grandmother for her heart for activism and volunteer work. One of her favorite childhood memories is working with her grandmother in her volunteer efforts, to include encouraging African-Americans to register to vote.
“That’s my signature,” Curry said, of lending her grandmother’s face to the statue.
Selecting the women for the statue faces starts the clock moving forward on completion of the monument.
Curry said Ford will create a model of the statue and bring it to Lawton for final approval before starting on the monument. Ford plans to move to a Lawton location to create that monument, working in a storefront that will allow residents to watch her progress.
Information is available via Facebook at Women That VOTE Arts Corporation or www.womenthatvote.com.