On Thursday, Jan. 12, 2023, King County honored Kent Chamber of Commerce CEO Zenovia Harris with its 2023 Larry Gossett Service Award.

This annual award recognizes and affirms an individual or organization who has made significant contributions in the areas of racial equity, social justice, and/or human rights, and is presented annually at the county’s Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration, and selected by the King County Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration Planning Committee (PC) and the King County African American Affinity Group (AG).

Harris was nominated by King County Councilmember Dave Upthegrove, and serves as the only Black chamber CEO in the state of Washington.

“Zenovia has been instrumental in leading not only the Kent Chamber in their equity work, but also other Chambers throughout King County, including the Renton Chamber, Kirkland Chamber and Seattle Southside Chamber to name a few,” the county said.

Through Harris’ leadership, she has supported both her own and other local chambers with the following:

    • Revisited the Chambers mission/vision, ensuring that they are leading with equity
    • Diversified Board member participation (age, race, position etc.)
    • Introduced a Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Committee that has been doing internal/external work to ensure their Chamber is leading with equity.
    • Instituting equity talks (open to both chamber members and larger community)
    • Performing internal evaluations to understand where the challenges and needs are in order to meet their equity goals for their members.

“I am beyond honored to be the recipient of the 2023 Larry Gossett Service Award,” Harris said in her acceptance speech. “This award, or any recognition. As distinguished as this was the furthest from my mind when I became the CEO in 2019.”

CUZenoviaLarryGossettAward23“She’s diversified the chamber’s board of directors, created a diversity, equity and inclusion committee and recruited local minority-owned businesses as chamber members by leading with equity and identifying and addressing the diversity challenges faced by the Kent Chamber of Commerce and other Chamber organizations,” King County Executive Dow Constantine said. “Zenovia Harris is contributing in the spirit of the namesake of this award, Councilmember Larry Gossett, here in Martin Luther King Junior County, and I congratulate her on earning this prestigious honor.”

“Make no mistake, my job is the spokesperson for all chamber members,” Harris added. “Although we understand that economic equality is something our Community is still striving to achieve, I am just doing my part. I am one of many leaders who are constantly searching for ways that will lead to opportunities to level the playing field for our uninformed businesses, so I share this award with them. I share this award with my allies, my supporters and young leaders who see my being the only Black CEO for a chamber in Washington state as an inspiration that leads to change. Last but not least, I am sharing this award with my husband Archie Harris, who has never questioned the long hours, countless events, travel, and my frustration when change is not forthcoming. He has stood by my side and counseled me in ways that have made a huge impact on my ability to see things from the other side.”

Here’s video of the awarding to Harris, including her acceptance speech: