On May 28th at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, the McSilver Institute was joined by friends, colleagues, and partner organizations to celebrate the Second Annual McSilver Awards. The Awards recognize individuals and organizations that are making significant contributions in addressing the root causes of poverty and addressing its consequences.
The evening began with welcoming remarks from President of BAM Karen Brooks Hopkins, and Dr. Lynn Videka, Dean of the Silver School of Social Work. A special Lifetime Achievement Award was presented to Martin Silver, one of the benefactors of the McSilver Institute whose generosity allowed for its establishment in 2008.
The McSilver Awards were then presented to the honorees. In his remarks, the first awardee, Dr. Pedro Noguera, Peter L. Agnew Professor of Education, New York University and Executive Director, Metropolitan Center for Research on Equity and the Transformation of Schools, emphasized the importance of the impact of the environment on the child. He stated, “Poverty is not a learning disability. Being poor in no way means that a child can’t learn, so long as we are attentive to the conditions within the school and within the environment in which that child lives.”
Next, McSilver Advisory Board member and NYU Trustee Phyllis Barasch presented an award to Jonathan P. Edwards, Training Specialist for Parachute NYC of the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene. Mr. Edwards gave a very thoughtful speech about his personal journey as a peer counselor and how hope, resilience, and perseverance have helped him achieve his goals. He closed by saying, “Poverty is not ameliorated merely by financial assets – but through meaning and purpose and actionable plans for the future.”
Sheena Wright, President and CEO of United Way of New York City, presented the next award to Rosemonde Pierre-Louis, Commissioner of the Mayor’s Office to Combat Domestic Violence. Commissioner Pierre-Louis reflected on her passion for her work, especially given current events taking place throughout the world in terms of domestic violence and human trafficking. She shared an important statistic. “Twenty-four percent of New York City’s population lives in neighborhoods impacted by high poverty, high unemployment and low education attainment. These neighborhoods also account for forty percent of the City’s domestic violence homicides.”
McSilver Deputy Director Gary Parker presented Andrea Elliott, Investigative Reporter for The New York Times, with her award. Ms. Elliott shared that the award was, for her, a tribute to the families that allowed her to enter their lives for over a year which led to her award winning New York Times series, Invisible Child, “They let me into a world that is rarely glimpsed by those who are not in it,” said Ms. Elliott.
The final award was presented by Dr. Constance Silver to Ruben Diaz, Jr., Bronx Borough President. Mr. Diaz spoke passionately about the path his life has taken to eventually shape him into a community leader and elected official and his goal to create a “New Bronx.” He concluded by saying, “you have to believe, you have to stay committed, you can make a change – and many of you have been making that change.”
Closing the awards ceremony, Dr. McKay shared how humbled she was by being in a “room of giants.” She closed by introducing to the audience that a special group of guests– students from McSilver´s Step-Up Program who´s photographs were on display– in attendance to display their recently completed PhotoVoice project during the reception.
The second annual McSilver Awards brought together many familiar and new faces alike to recognize those whose work is making incredible contributions in the fight to ameliorate poverty.