The first annual Students in Service to Women Recognition Award was presented to each of nine recipients March 30 in Richard Harris Terrace, on the main campus of Borough of Manhattan Community College.
The award is sponsored by the CUNY Women’s Centers Council, a group comprised of representatives from the ten Women's Centers on CUNY campuses.
The event featured a buffet luncheon and gift bags for the awardees. Deborah Parker, Director of the Women’s Resource Center at BMCC opened the event.
Women’s Resource Centers across CUNY provide many services to students, as well as leadership opportunities, she said. “We rely heavily on students to lend a helping hand and help implement forums on our campuses.”
Vice President of Student Affairs Marva Craig welcomed the audience. Ricci Niles, BMCC alumna and former president of the BMCC Sisterhood Society presented her poem, “A Dedication,” which honors the boarding school girls still held captive today by the terrorist group Boko Haram in Nigeria, as well as foreign aid worker Kayla Mueller, who was held captive in Syria and murdered by ISIS.
As Niles’ poem puts it: “We salute the famous and/the nameless millions gone before./But for the grace of them/go we.”
“Our work is not done.”
Guest speaker Andrea Shapiro Davis, Associate Vice Chancellor for Corporate, Foundation and Major Gift Development, CUNY shared a childhood experience that set off her lifelong dedication to the issue of inclusion.
After attending Queens College/CUNY, Davis graduated from Hofstra University School of Law and served as Assistant District Attorney in Queens County. She also held positions including Executive Director of the NYC Commission on Women’s Issues in the administration of former Mayor Michael Bloomberg. She talked about balancing family and work, and having been sexually harassed in the workplace, advising others in that situation, “Don’t keep it a secret.”
Honoree Freida D. Foster, CUNY Board Trustee and Commissioner of the New York State Worker’s Compensation Board, thanked BMCC health education professor Olivia Cousins for being “the best mentor in the world.”
She noted that while the landscape of women’s rights has improved slightly in recent decades, “our work is not done,” and highlighted women who are part of that work, including Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, former congresswoman Shirley Chisholm and singer-songwriter Beyoncé.
Honorees, poet, artist
As the ceremony came to a close, it honored teaching artist Michelle Alexandria Payne, who has led poetry workshops for over ten years in the annual Student Women’s Leadership Conference and Retreat sponsored by the BMCC Women’s Resource Center.
Also recognized was Laura James, whose artwork had a presence throughout Women’s Herstory Month at BMCC. James is co-founder of The Bronx 200, an online directory featuring the work of 200 Bronx-based visual artists. She is also creating an ongoing series of paintings, Nannies and Other Mothers.
Students in Service to Women awardees came to the podium one by one, to say a few words and receive their plaque.
• Sumaiya Sarwar, from BMCC;
• Akosua Benewaa-Bonsu, from Brooklyn College;
• Rahima Sajid, from College of Staten Island;
• Mirella Laure, from Guttman Community College;
• Sanjida Afrin Meem, from John Jay College of Criminal Justice;
• Jhodi-Ann Dunkley, from Kingsborough Community College;
• Modupe Marks, from LaGuardia Community College;
• Sarah Lefry, from Medgar Evers College and
• Teresa Mercer, from York College.