Long Island Women’s Diversity Summit


Long Island Women’s Diversity Summit Brings Together Women Across Long Island to Educate, Empower and Celebrate our Diversity across a Wide Array of Social and Political Issues
Followed by SUNY Old Westbury Student Run “March For Our Lives

Long Island, March 24 – The newly-formed Long Island Women’s Diversity Network (LIWDN) held their first Women’s Diversity Summit on March 24th at SUNY College at Old Westbury. The conference, which sold out well before the date, presented over two dozen workshops, panel discussions, and cultural entertainment to more than 300 women, men and teens. The Summit covered a wide range of topics including race and ethnicity, children and youth issues, exploring LGBTQIA lives, advocacy and activism, women and politics, and the impact of social inequality.

“This conference, held in honor of Women’s History Month, celebrated all of Long Island’s diverse communities, bringing together communities that are often segregated or hidden here”, stated Shanequa Levin, Every Child Matters – NY Campaign Director and the Diversity Network’s Chair. “The strong lineup of programs was well received and achieved our goal of engaging participants in lively discussions and active learning around meaningful topics for 21st Century Long Island. Participants expressed appreciation for the opportunity to learn about different perspectives on the complex issues we face today.”

The Herstory Writer’s Workshop, led by Barbara Levin, helped set the tone for the day with a few writers sharing moving selections from their memoirs. The morning convocation ended with a Keynote address by Autumn Rose Miskweminanocsqua Williams, Miss Native American 2017, a member of the Shinnecock tribe in Southampton, as well as a performance of Shinnecock dance by fellow tribal members.  “It was such a pleasure to meet [Miss Williams]. Her poem was incredibly moving,” said Eva Pearson, “Running for Office” panelist and an attendee.

Attendees came from all over Long Island to learn from each other about how the social and political issues of the day manifest in their lives and communities. Starting with “Parenting Children with Different Abilities” and “#METOO and Beyond,” attendees had a wide variety of workshops and panels to choose from. It was an eye-opening and empowering experience for many.  Rebecca Bonanno, who chaired the Programming Committee, explained, “We, as organizers of this event, worked hard to represent the true diversity of Long Islanders. This meant reaching out to community leaders, nonprofit agencies, and community organizers and blasting it out on social media. It was important that both our workshops and our attendees included the many diverse communities in our region and that we could bring everyone together in one space.”

A “Youth Track” was included in the programming, providing Teens and Young Adults programming specific to their concerns and interests, and included them in the panels. Panels include “What’s Up With the N-Word?” and “Meet Diverse Scientists.” The hit of the day was “Unpacking Black Panther… The Movie,” where a lively discussion was held with a large group of young people.

Midday, everyone came together for an important cross-cultural forum, “The Language of Cultural Awareness: Using Words that Connect, Heal and Empower,” moderated by Adesuwa Obasohan, of the Suffolk County Department of Health, Office of Minority Health.  Emily Ladau of Words I Wheel By, participated and wrote of the experience afterwards, “Yesterday, I took part in a panel about language and cultural awareness at the really powerful LI Women’s Diversity Summit. Disability is so often not recognized as an identity, or as a marginalized group, even by social justice-minded people. So it was a really valuable experience to both learn and speak outside what can sometimes feel like a vacuum of disability-focused events.”

The Summit organizers took great care in inviting all of Long Island’s communities to attend. This was highlighted by the diverse cultural entertainment that inspired and delighted the attendees. Dancers Cindy Brown and Charline Charles mixed mediums by performing to a recitation of Maya Angelou’s “Still I Rise.” Randi Baldwin, of Paparoxxi Event Photography and one of the event’s photographers, found Eugenia Woods-Rosa’s Praise Dance to be a “beautiful, flowing inspiration.” Attendees were also treated to a Bharatanatyam Dance, a classical Indian dance, performed by the Nritya Saagaram Dance Academy and beautifully captured by Photography by Sena.
Even the food was diverse, with Summit organizers providing a Tasting Menu Lunch from eleven local restaurants, much of it donated, and representing a wide range of cultural fair, including: Hush Bistro, Havana Central, Jamaica Grand, Juice Docta, Monaco’s, Nisin Sushi, Punta Cana Dominican Grill, Tanika’s Eats, and Umberto’s of Huntington; and, for dessert, Bella Latina Cakes and Cupcake Cartel NYC. Cynthia Roethgen, a Summit volunteer, raved afterwards, “The food at the Women’s Diversity Summit was amazing!  So many choices spanning so many cultures.  Everything was fresh, hot and delicious!  My personal favorites were the Mac&Cheese from Hush and the peanut butter cookies from Get Nyce (who also created beautiful woodwork art). The fact that there were vegan and gluten free options was also wonderful to see. I’m looking forward to the selections next year!”

After two more rounds of panels, covering a wide range of topics such as “Our Interfaith Community: Living Your Faith and Being An Advocate for Others” and “On Being Young, Trans/Non-Binary on Long Island,” everyone came together for closing remarks and more cultural entertainment. The Summit ended on a high note with Latin inspired dance from USZ Elite Dance Team, High School student Ariana Levin leading attendees in singing “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” and a traditional African Dance by Khadijah S. Abdus- Samad. Much of the day was recorded by Derrick Bazemore and the Summit organizers plan to prepare a “highlight reel” of the days events.

Immediately after the Summit, attendees joined SUNY Old Westbury students in a powerful show of support for sensible gun control with a March For Our Lives. One thousand strong, they marched across campus and held a rally where young people took center stage.

The Summit was sponsored by a wide variety of organizations, including: SUNY Empire State College; the nonprofits Choice for All, Jack & Jill, Suffolk Chapter, IMEC; local small businesses Grassi & Co, Universus Physical Therapy, QS2 and Brooklyn Surgical PLLC; and local activists Long Island Activists and #Get2Work Long Island. Anne Seifried, of #Get2Work Long Island and a Summit organizer, stated, “We’re so pleased with the variety of businesses and organizations  that supported us in this inaugural effort. They, as well as Long Island Community Foundation and SUNY Old Westbury, recognized the need for this kind of event on Long Island, and wholeheartedly threw their support behind it. Their donations and in-kind support were instrumental in making the Summit happen.”

The 2018 LIWDN Summit was a project of Every Child Matters and over thirty other community-based organizations and was co-sponsored by SUNY Old Westbury. Summit organizer Lareichia Hunter reflected, “A few months ago, I joined a phenomenal group of women and our goal was to plan a Women’s Diversity Summit right here on Long Island. It was something that had never been done before. The summit would unite women from all backgrounds, of all colors, shapes, and interests. We felt this was important because of the country’s current political climate as well as the already segregated state of Long Island. Today, we accomplished a great deal. We hope our attendees left this summit feeling a sense of empowerment, community, inclusiveness and an increased sense of cultural awareness.”

The women organizing the event, almost all volunteers, were buoyed by the success. Retha Fernandez, owner of Soul of Long Island and one of the Summit’s early supporters, wrote “It truly was a privilege to work and share and bond with the powerful women of this planning committee! 30 organizations, 300 attendees, 24 necessary workshops and everyone leaving inspired, hopeful, and empowered.”

The organizers are already thinking about their next event and how to formalize their Network. They fully intend to hold another Summit in 2019. Interested persons can sign up for updates at their website www.liwomensdiversity.com

About the Long Island Women’s Diversity Network

“The Long Island Women’s Diversity Network” is a project of Every Child Matters and over thirty community-based organizations. The group is a partnership of female leaders and organizations working to positively impact the lives of all Long Islanders. Together, we will build a safer, healthier, more just and supportive Long Island.

For more information contact:

Shanequa Levin
Every Child Matters – NY Campaign Director
L.I. Women’s Diversity Network Chair
[email protected]
(631) 885-8044