King County Councilmember Joe McDermott on Tuesday awarded Sili Savusa with the Martin Luther King Medal of Distinguished Service—an award that recognizes individuals whose work has answered the question asked by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. “What are you doing for others?”
Savusa is the executive director of the White Center Community Development Association (White Center CDA), and has made a lifelong commitment to help, uplift, support and promote her community.
“Sili Savusa has been a force for positive change and community her entire life, and we’ve been so fortunate to have her bringing that skill and passion to White Center over the last decade,” said McDermott. “Sili’s impact in White Center has been undeniable—with thousands of families uplifted, businesses supported, and organizations buoyed by her leadership and friendship.”
Savusa said she learned from childhood the power and importance of community. Her father, a Samoan Matais (chief), helped found the Samoan National Chief’s Council in the 1980s, and then started the chief’s council in Seattle as well. In her childhood home, her father brought people in for community meetings, ceremonies, and organizing.
As an adult, Savusa has carried on that tradition. She established the first Samoan Pacific Islander Parent Teacher Student Association in the nation, successfully managed the multi-million-dollar Making Connections community change initiative for the Annie E. Casey Foundation, and became the first woman of color elected to the Highline School Board.
Later this year, Savusa will leave White Center CDA to lead the Pacific Islander Community Association of Washington. Savusa’s official last day will be Aug 31, 2023.
“It is bittersweet to see her leave the CDA, but at the same time, we are also excited about what great work she will continue to do in her next endeavor,” said KaLehua KaApana Faletogo, White Center CDA’s board chair.