Tacoma’s Most Inspiring Women (Part 2)

“For most of history, anonymous was a woman.” –Virginia Woolf 

Herstory: A term for history written from a feminist perspective and emphasizing the role of women or told from a woman’s point of view.

Behind some of the world’s greatest inventions, ideas, creative works and successes is the ghost of a woman duct-taped and tied to the chain and ball of a “man’s world.” 

In history, you might catch women laying around somewhere in the footnote of men’s accomplishments. 

As though Ada Lovelace didn’t invent the earliest sketches of computer programming. She did.

And Rosalind Franklin didn’t discover DNA’s groundbreaking double helix. She did.

Or R&B singer, Willie Mae “Big Mama” Thornton wasn’t the first to wail “You ain’t nothin’ but a hound dog,” before it was shamelessly appropriated by Elvis Pressley. Oh, she did.

Constantly being put behind men oppresses women’s full self and leaves her potential contribution to humanity to live in the invisible ink of the anonymous.

So let’s continue to honor courageous women who are boldly stepping forward to tell their stories. And speaking of bold, here are five more inspiring women of Tacoma!

Watch your step people, there’s glass everywhere. 


KRISTA PEREZ – Community Leader & Organizer

Krista is the Founder and President of the Tacoma Women of Color Collective (TWCC) and Co-Founder of the Community Market.  

As a proud Mexicana and daughter to immigrant father and migrant worker mother, Krista felt pulled to study law and economics in her undergraduate year at the University of Washington. She had her sights set on Immigration Law but in the midst of pursuing her education she became hyper aware of the lack of opportunities and representation for women of color. 

I didn’t have a woman of color educator until my last year of undergrad, and I didn’t have a Latina educator until the last quarter…One of the biggest challenges in my life was not seeing anyone like me in professional spaces… and because of the lack of representation and constantly doing invisible labor it’s taken me years to see my value. Now that I have, there’s just no going back.” 

Perez has always had a knack for community building, so when she saw the gaps in community spaces for women of color, she began ideating solutions. In 2019, she decided to test the waters by facilitating her first event on Imposter Syndrome in the workplace. The event was such a success Krista formed TWCC right after and went on to do 35 more events within its first year, won the Power Collaborator Award from Tacoma Urban League and was featured in South Sound Business Magazine and Grit City Magazine. 

TWCC is focused on providing opportunities for women of color to do the work they love, be recognized for it and compensated appropriately. Some of their programs focus specifically on young women of color in business, educational opportunities, community building, and collaborating with other nonprofit organizations. 

Women of color do a lot of invisible labor. We’re constantly creating something out of nothing  and it’s time we’re recognized and compensated for it…TWCC holds space for women to be whoever they are. That’s the most important thing, because women are amazing. They don’t need to be anything that others say they are. They can be a stay-at-home mom, janitor, lawyer– whatever it is you do women deserve to have safe spaces to blossom.” 

Learn more about TWCC >>> https://www.thetwcc.com/ 


DIONNE BONNER Community Artist

Dionne Bonner is an artist, graphic designer, and community advocate. 

Dionne attributes her artistic style and inspiration to coming from a large family of artists, musicians, dancers and writers. 

Raised by a grandmother who was heavily involved in community work and church shaped Dionne’s budding community artistry. She became entranced by the idea that art can serve as both an expression for herself and a source of dialogue, reflection and healing for others. 

She says, Artists are record keepers. We interpret the conditions of the world around us and capture them.” 

As someone who grew up in the Hilltop area, she’s experienced firsthand the conditions of gentrification in her community. When asking herself what she wanted to say with her art, she found helping others discover their own voice was part of the impact she wanted to make. With this in mind, she created three chalkboard PUBLIC NOTICE signs and placed them throughout Hilltop with the idea of having people write on it what they truly wanted to see happen for and in their community.

When developments happen in a community, people aren’t involved in them and are only informed when it’s kicking them out of homes they can’t afford anymore. A Public Notice is all you get… Gentrification really strips down the soul of a culture. Because that’s what part of a place is for people…and I just want to give power back to the people again.

In collaboration with Fab-5, Bonner is one of five artists creating murals in Hilltop’s abandoned Rite Aid building. The art is meant to enliven the building to more accurately reflect the vibrant community and history of the area. 

Dionne continues to use her creative expression to uplift and empower Tacoma to use their voices and be a model for other communities to follow. 

I believe we’re creative because we were created. In that way everything around us is a model for creativity; the birds, the air, the colors in the sky. We LIVE in creativity, so how can we not be creative? As black folks, we’ve had to tap into our creativity because it’s the one thing you can’t separate us from. You can judge it, you can compare it but no two artists have the same marks because our art is an extension of our hand, every fingertip has a code on it…

See more of Dionne’s art and other creative works>>> https://www.dionnebonner.com/ 


HIEN HONGYoga Teacher & Disruptor

Named one of twenty Yoga Teachers of Color to Watch in 2020, Hien is a Vietnamese-American yoga and meditation teacher committed to making the practice of yoga more accessible and equitable. A yoga practitioner since she was fifteen years old, Hien knew deep in her heart chakra that sharing yoga with others was her unique path. 

It just didn’t happen the way she envisioned. 

After experiencing trauma at a young age, she found creative expression in journaling and fashion as a way to heal. It worked for a time, but in the back of her mind was the teenager who had found purpose through peace in her P.E. yoga classes.

Years later at a yoga retreat, she became profoundly aware of the elephant in the room…that except for her, there were no people of color there. This stubborn elephant continued to follow her through each room she showed up to that provided yoga and wellness services.

“I started to notice the inequities in yoga spaces and felt it deeply… Most studios have a culture of exclusivity so I decided to do something different and offer classes for women of color.”

Still, pioneering something so pivotal for Tacoma didn’t come without a sprinkle of imposter syndrome.

I was really reluctant at first to do this type of class because it wasn’t the norm. But, I’ve learned just because no one is saying anything doesn’t mean they’re not feeling anything. Sometimes they just don’t have the words to describe how they feel. I believe yoga and wellness should include BIPOC especially because yoga actually belongs to BIPOC.

As a trauma-informed yoga teacher and disruptor, Hien loves giving women a safe space to be wholly themselves.

So much of the world doesn’t want to see women as people..I’ve had to unlearn some of the norms placed on me as a woman. As an Asian woman, you’re expected to be a certain way, not show certain emotions…But, that’s not me. For one, I’m angry a lot. And my anger is valid because it tells me something isn’t right and that’s why I need to continue to disrupt and show how something could be.

Hien continues to offer yoga for BIPOC along with weekly meditation classes, mentorship for other yoga instructors and online class offerings. 

See her class offerings here >>> https://www.hienhong.com/


KRYSTINA JARVISEnvironmentalist 

As the Founder and CEO of A Drop in the Ocean, a zero-waste boutique in Tacoma, Krystina continues to make waves towards creating a sustainable future for all living things. A Drop in the Ocean’s mission is to encourage individuals to take small steps towards a sustainable lifestyle in a ripple effect that collectively will make a huge impact on our planet. 

The birth of her mission starts with a Buzzfeed article, a metal fork, and Chipotle. 

Then an aspiring Zookeeper, Krystina had always considered herself eco-conscious. So all it took was one Buzzfeed article on the zero-waste movement to convince Krystina to completely trash her dependent relationship with plastic. 

One day she was sitting with her coworkers for their usual lunch at Chipotle. Everyone had just started digging into their meals when Krystina (casually) pulls a metal fork out of her purse.

Their faces were so priceless when I pulled a fork out of my purse at lunch! But after explaining why I was going plastic-free all of my coworkers joined me and from there we started bringing our own forks, cups, straws and napkins to lunch everyday.

But the ripples didn’t stop there. At the Columbus Zoo in Ohio where she worked, she started a plastic-free initiative that spread through her department and then through zoos in different cities. She was amazed by the shifts she saw Zoos take to inspire a new culture of waste reduction.

Realizing her true passion was in conservation and zero waste she moved to Tacoma and started A Drop in the Ocean.

What’s really powerful to me is the idea that anyone can actually be an environmentalist or conservationist in their everyday life. My background in Conservation Biology made me believe that to be a conservationist you had to have fancy degrees and a fancy job title with the word conservationist in it. But the idea of zero waste is that there are things we can do every day that will have a tangible effect on our environment.” 

Krystina is committed to using her business for change. She wants to see all living things living harmoniously together, but knows that achieving that goes beyond reducing waste. There are intersectional issues at play including capitalism, social justice and field conservation.

Learn more about reducing waste >>> https://adropintheoceanshop.com/ 


MS. MONKEYArtist & Community Organizer

Are you a real Tacoman if you don’t know about Monkeyshines and the fabled Ms. Monkey? Ms. Monkey is a real person, but she prefers to stay anonymous so that people can focus on the essence of monkeyshining – getting to love Tacoma and your neighbors. 

Monkeyshines are what Ms. Monkey called hand-made pieces of glass art she and other artists began distributing all over Tacoma every Chinese Lunar Year eighteen years ago. The monkeyshines are stamped with the coinciding animal for the Chinese Lunar New Year and hidden in every single corner of Tacoma for people to find and keep. 

But, Ms.Monkey doesn’t want people to think that’s what monkeyshining is about.

We’re not really about hunting, it’s about the treasure that is Tacoma and its community– but the glass pieces are the carrots that get people out looking. When you’re out there you get to instantly bond with people around you. People need that connection to each other, it’s what gives us hope and a sense of unity.

The Monkeyshine art movement wasn’t meant to go beyond the first year, but it started to quickly evolve as Tacoma responded with fanatic participation. Each year, it takes on a life of its own with more artists, more hunters, and more Tacoma lovin’. 

So why does she stay anonymous? Who is Ms. Monkey?

I feel like the steward of the Monkeyshine project. Ms. Monkey is a concept or idea, because it’s not about me. It’s about you, your family, your community, your interpretation of Tacoma. It’s always been about sprinkling magic all over Tacoma so people can appreciate the jewel it is.”

Ms. Monkey didn’t always love Tacoma. But in creating art and sharing her art with others, she was able to kindle a deep bond to the gritty nature of Tacoma and its can-do spirited people. 

I don’t know if you would find a following for monkeyshines in any other city, because it’s pretty funky. Us Tacomans make our own fun and we have this ‘we have something you don’t have’ attitude. There’s a lot of pride for our city and I think that’s pretty gritty.”

As an artist, Ms. Monkey is incredibly passionate about the local artists who donate countless hours of their talent and time to making this community a brighter place with monkeyshines. She is incredibly appreciative of their work as well as how supportive and generous the community has been through such a tough year.

Stay up to date on all things Ms.Monkey and Monkeyshines here >>  https://www.facebook.com/MonkeyshinesTacoma 

We are so thankful for all the amazing work women do for their families and communities. This work should never go unnoticed. 

Stay tuned for Part 3!