|Another Group of Ladies who Brunch
by Susan Sawyers
Anyone wandering into the New York Hilton for breakfast last Thursday, expecting to find a bunch of society types discussing the season’s fashion trends or Maria Shriver’s troubles was in for a bit of a shock. The midtown hotel’s third floor ballrooms were bursting at the seams as the New York Women’s Foundation President Ana Oliveira announced to the crowd of more than 2000 cheering attendees, “When women and girls do well, families do well.”
The group, which included Hyatt Bass, Barbara Dobkin, Swanee Hunt, Marnie Pillsbury and Laurie Tisch gathered to honor award-winning journalist Maria Hinojosa, for her social and economic reporting, Human Rights Advocate and Artist Faith Ringgold for her life’s work and Philanthropist Jennifer Buffett, President of the NoVo Foundation, whose aim is to prevent discrimination, violence and inequality.
|Throughout breakfast, which began promptly at 7:30am and concluded at 9am sharp, there were speeches, accolades and applause as well as fresh berries, melon and healthy muffins. No wait staff shuffling through, blocking the view or delivering beef to guests who had requested fish. These women, and a few men, meant business.
“Men are part of the solution in the empowerment of girls and women,” said Ted Bunch, co-founder of A Call to Men; a national organization that believes preventing domestic and sexual violence is the responsibility of men.
We should “challenge the culture so men and boys do not think buying sex is okay,” said Novo’s Jennifer Buffet. And “change the laws so those who profit are penalized.” Buffet vowed to “take this amazing responsibility and opportunity to raise up the voices of all girls and women in the world.”
|Maria Hinojosa, the petite powerhouse of a storyteller, WGBH Boston talk show anchor and managing editor of her NPR program, “Latino USA,” gratefully acknowledged her mother who supported her decision to go to Barnard College, describing her as “una feminista.” Her mother balked at this idea. But Hinojosa got her mother to concede when she explained that a feminist is “a woman who helps another individual,” she said. “The New York Women’s Foundation makes us believe in ourselves.”
Perhaps best known for her painted quilts, illustrated children’s books and magnificently long ringlets, Faith Ringgold’s work came to prominence in the early 1960s and 1970s and depicts gender inequality and racism. “My mother told me I could do anything I want,” she said. The thing was, “I would have to work twice as hard to get it.” The artist, who is 80 years old, reassured the audience that the recognition would keep her going. Her daughter and manager, Barbara Wallace, joined Ringgold.
|A number of people at the breakfast were some of the same New Yorkers that are often cited for their beneficence, including Agnes Gund, Anne Bass, Antoinette LaBelle, the morning brought forth a broad swath of cross-cultural do-gooders. Among them were NYWF Board and Executive Committee Members such as Taina Bien-Aimé, Lorraine Cortés-Vázquez, Aiyoung Choi, Anita Channapati, Anne E. Delaney, Susan R. Cullman, and Carolyn Buck Luce.
In 2010, NYWF awarded $3,170,085 in grants to 69 partner organizations in New York City including Turning Point for Women and Families, an organization addressing domestic violence in under-resourced Muslim communities, buildOn, a group who empower at-risk youth through community service, and TransJustice, an organization that works to end harassment, discrimination and violence toward trans people and youth.
|By the end of 2011, NYWF expects to award $4 million to 70 organizations in New York City. Thanks to an anonymous matching grant of up to $1 million announced the day of the breakfast, this year’s event raised $1.979 million, about twice as much as the previous year.
Since 1987, NYWF has designated $28 million in grants to more than 270 nonprofit organizations dedicated to improving the lives of women and families in New York City. “The NYWF founders had modest ambitions,” that first year when they distributed $50,000 to four community based groups, said Carmel Owen, Vice President of Development. Things changed in 2005 when the board decided to ratchet up its efforts to fund small women’s groups with $50,000 to $80,000 a piece. And there’s no stopping them. Mark your calendars for next year’s 25th annual breakfast on May 10, 2012. It’s all for a good cause.