Girls Inc. Awards 2021 ‘Women Who Dare’

Barbara Lee, U.S. Representative for the 13th District of California

Girls Inc. Awards 2021 ‘Women Who Dare’

Each year Girls Inc. of the Island City selects extraordinary local Women Who Dare awardees who truly exemplify the group’s motto “strong, smart, and bold” and provide powerful role models for girls. This year the organization has chosen to celebrate Rep. Barbara Lee, award-winning filmmaker Marielle Heller and Alameda High School senior Raquel Williams.

Barbara Lee was born in El Paso, Tex., in 1946 and her family moved to California in 1960. Growing up in the segregated Southwest, Rep. Lee learned at an early age the importance of standing up for one’s beliefs and of fighting for equality for all.

Currently, she serves on the Budget and Appropriations committees, overseeing all federal government spending. Rep. Lee is the highest-ranking Woman of Color in Congressional Leadership, serving as House Democratic Co-Chair of the Policy and Steering Committee. As Co-Chair, she works to ensure that committees reflect the diversity, dynamism, and integrity of the Democratic Caucus.

In addition, she currently serves as the Chair of the Majority Leader’s Task Force on Poverty and Opportunity, Co-Chair of the Pro-Choice Caucus, Co-Chair of the Cannabis Caucus, and most recently, Chair of the House Appropriations subcommittee on State and Foreign Affairs. Rep. Lee is the former Chair of the Congressional Black Caucus and Chair Emeritus of the Congressional Progressive Caucus.

Marielle Heller is an award-winning and critically acclaimed director, writer, actor, and producer. She most recently directed A Beautiful Day In The Neighborhood starring Tom Hanks, which earned him a Best Supporting Actor Oscar nomination. Heller previously directed the three-time Academy Award-nominated film, Can You Ever Forgive Me?, starring Melissa McCarthy and Richard E. Grant, just three years after the release of her highly lauded directorial debut, The Diary Of A Teenage Girl.

She is currently starring in the Netflix series, The Queen’s Gambit. Heller is also the founder of Defiant By Nature, a production company focused on telling stories that uplift and entertain while shining a light on women and non-binary creators. The company’s first release was a filmed version of the Pulitzer-Prize- winning play What The Constitution Means To Me, available now on Amazon Prime. A proud native of Alameda, Marielle currently resides in Brooklyn with her family.

Raquel Williams is an honor student and varsity basketball player who has accepted early admission to play for the University of Rochester. Last season as captain, she helped lead the Alameda High School varsity basketball team to the division championship.

Raquel has been attending Girls Inc. of the Island City since second grade and feels their empowering programs have been instrumental in helping her achieve her academic and personal goals. She entered the Girls Inc. Eureka! Teen Achievement program as a freshman in high school. Raquel credits Eureka! with introducing her to a diverse group of successful female role models who inspired her to strive for excellence in her everyday life.

She currently serves as president of the Black Student Union at Alameda High School and is the Diversity Commissioner. Raquel also is the vice president of the Youth Activists of Alameda and a member of the City of Alameda’s Police Reforms and Racial Equity’s Subcommittee on Systemic and Community Racism.

Learn more about Girls Inc. at

Marielle Heller, award-winning director, writer, actor, and producer
Raquel Williams, senior, Alameda High School