Milwaukee Neighborhood News Service
Women’s History Month

Three More Local ‘SHEroes’

Meet three more extraordinary women being honored by the Milwaukee Repertory Theater.

May yer Thao, Dasha Kelly Hamilton and Lisa M. Edwards. Photos from NNS.

May yer Thao, Dasha Kelly Hamilton and Lisa M. Edwards. Photos from NNS.

Before its recent cancellation due to the Coronavirus Pandemic, the Milwaukee Repertory Theater was in its second week of the powerful play “Eclipsed,” which also means three new women, whom the Rep calls “Milwaukee SHEroes,” are being honored for their leadership and dedication to their community. The play centers around five extraordinary women and their tales of hope and resilience during the Liberian Civil War.

Featured this week are: Dasha Kelly Hamilton, founder of Still Waters Collective; May yer Thao, assistant deputy director of Wisconsin Housing and Economic Development; and Lisa M. Edwards, founder of Proyecto Mamá.

Dasha Kelly Hamilton. Photo from NNS.

Dasha Kelly Hamilton. Photo from NNS.

Who: Dasha Kelly Hamilton
What she does: Dasha Kelly Hamilton is a writer, performance artist and creative change agent. She delivers sessions to campuses, classrooms, correctional institutions, association conferences, social service agencies, municipal departments and team retreats.

Her nonprofit, Still Waters Collective, has curated poetry programming and spoken word events in the region for almost 20 years. The work has impacted more than 13,000 youth, provided professional development to more than 100 young people and created platforms for thousands of voices to be honored and heard.

Kelly Hamilton has written for national, regional and local magazines; produced three collections of poetry; recorded four spoken word CDs, and published two novels. She holds an MFA in Creative Writing from Antioch University and has taught writing courses at Mount Mary University, Alverno College and UW-Milwaukee. She served as an arts envoy for the U.S. Embassy to teach, perform and facilitate community building initiatives in Botswana and the island of Mauritius.  A former Artist of the Year for the City of Milwaukee, she was recently named the city’s 11th poet laureate.

May yer Thao. Photo from NNS.

May yer Thao.

Who: May yer Thao
What she does: May yer Thao (pronounced “mine-za”) was recently selected by Gov. Tony Evers as assistant deputy director for the Wisconsin Housing and Economic Development Authority. As assistant deputy director, she is charged with the organization’s equity, inclusion and culture strategies to impact the areas of organizational infrastructure, leadership pipeline development (recruitment/retention) and procurement.

Thao formerly was executive director of the Hmong Wisconsin Chamber of Commerce, a statewide economic development organization. During her tenure, she led the organization to deploying the most business microloans in its history (over $2 million in loan funds) while leveraging over $10 million in private funds to minority and women-owned businesses throughout the state.

Thao is co-leading efforts to ensure that Wisconsin’s Asian American/Pacific Islander communities are included in preparations for the 2020 Democratic National Convention in Milwaukee. She is a co-founder of ElevAsian, a group committed to elevating Milwaukee’s Asian American community.

Thao came to Milwaukee 14 years ago. She and her husband, Phoun Say Thao, have two children, CyaSha and TsuChi Thao.

Lisa Edwards. Photo from NNS.

Lisa Edwards. Photo from NNS.

Who: Lisa M. Edwards
What she does:  Lisa M. Edwards is a licensed psychologist and professor in the Department of Counselor Education and Counseling Psychology at Marquette University. She teaches, conducts research and mentors graduate students.

Edwards’ passion is supporting the mental health of pregnant and postpartum Latina mothers. She launched Proyecto Mamá, a community resource for perinatal Latina mothers in the Milwaukee area. Proyecto Mamá is designed to gather information that can be used to ensure that Latina mothers receive the mental health care they need and deserve.

Thanks to a Greater Milwaukee Foundation grant, Edwards also recently started Círculo de Mamás, a wellness support group for pregnant and postpartum mothers at Sixteenth Street Community Health Centers.

Edwards, who is Colombian, grew up in Florida and came to Milwaukee 15 years ago. Edwards, her husband and two daughters enjoy exploring local parks and restaurants, going to Brewers games, and traveling to visit family in South America.

*Biographical information provided by the Milwaukee Rep.

This story was originally published by Milwaukee Neighborhood News Service, where you can find other stories reporting on fifteen city neighborhoods in Milwaukee.

More about the SHEroes

Read more about SHEroes here

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