African-American Oakland women use professional skills to help community

In honor of Black History month, KTVU brings you the story of three African American women who've been using their professional skills to help the community for decades.   

The public may not know their names, but it's likely that many people have seen the impact of their work.

These women of Oakland shared their stories of giving back.  

They walked on parallel paths for three decades, forging a bond that's professional and personal.

They've used their skills in public relations, promotions and event planning to make a difference.

"What are you going to do to impact the lives of others," said Cathy Adams, the president of the Oakland African American Chamber of Commerce. 

She said she has helped 250 Black-owned businesses receive a grant to help survive the pandemic.

Adams said she's driven by her love for the community, 

"What would people say about you when the journey ends?" she said. "And every time I  think about it, they would say I helped people."

 LaNiece Jones is involved in political organizing, including emceeing the Women's March.

As  the statewide executive director for Black Women Organized for Political Action,  she held a fundraiser for Vice President Kamala Harris when she ran for the U.S. Senate. 

She also helps students as executive director of Peralta Colleges Foundation.

"Working to empower the students so they can see their future  and be able to graduate and become great," said Jones. 

Sandra Varner is a publicist with clients including health clinics, Black winemakers, and the African American Sports and Entertainment Group negotiating with the city of Oakland to buy or lease 50% percent of the Coliseum site, with plans to bring in a black-owned NFL  team.

 "They want to develop that whole area around the Coliseum with affordable housing and retail," said Varner. "I get worked up about it.  I get so excited about the work.  I have to tell the story."

The story behind each of these ladies is their behind-the-scenes work, their friendship and professional alliance. 

They've collaborated on various projects.

"If there is something we cannot handle and we know it's in the wheelhouse of the other , we refer to each other," said Varner. " We respect each other. We admire each other.  We support each other.  We want each other to be successful."

Each woman runs her own company: planning, organizing ,and promoting businesses, individuals and  events. 

 "It's always important that we have champions, advocates and ambassadors to make sure that we're doing this great work," said Jones. 

 "You're doing the work,  but we don't do it by ourselves," said Adams, "If you don't have any sisters by your side, you better get you some."

These women said  empowering each other is the foundation of their friendship and they want to pay it forward by helping the next generation of women.