As the New York Women’s Foundation Radical Generosity Dinner “fireside chat” with award-winning journalist Bill Moyers, titled “A Conversation on Justice,” opened to questions, the evening’s honorees on stage, President & CEO of JustLeadershipUSA DeAnna Hoskins, and Founder and Executive Director of the Equal Justice Initiative Bryan Stevenson, were asked how racism is insidiously perpetuated today. The Criminal Justice system, they answered. Often a white child will be sent home to parental discipline for a petty crime, and a black child, sent to prison. Mass incarcerating people of color is the vestiges of slavery, the honorees explained. Reform was the evening’s topic, and their life’s work.
Also honored at the event were the grantee partners of the Justice Initiative Fund, which The NY Women’s Foundation launched last year to invest in community-led solutions to dismantle gender and racial based mass incarceration and help women and families reenter society and become earners after prison. This dovetails with the general NYWF mission: to support underserved women to lift their families and communities.
Karen Choi, Jean Shafiroff and Lola C. West co-chaired the 300 plus event at the Essex House. Ana Oliveira, President & CEO of The New York Women’s Foundation, and Reverend Vivian D. Nixon, Executive Director of College and Community Fellowship, were among the speakers. Reverend Nixon, a formerly incarcerated woman of color, received her higher education through CCF.
Also in the room were Hyatt Bass; Me Too Movement Founder Tarana Burke; Hon. Judy Harris Kluger, Executive Director of Sanctuary for Families; Commissioner Lorraine Cortés-Vázquez, NYC Department for the Aging; Hon. Jonathan Lippman, former Chief Judge of New York and Chief Judge of the New York Court of Appeals and Chair of the Independent Commission on New York City Criminal Justice and Incarceration Reform; author and activist Ellen Bravo; Anne Delaney; and Gloria Steinem.
“It always takes guts to take up the issue of criminal justice reform because the general superficial response to incarceration is, ‘Good! Lock ’em up and throw away the key,'” Bill Moyers told Hamptons.com. “So any time you defy that popular theme you’re going to bring wrath down on your head, particularly if you’re a lot of women doing that. Most of the sheriffs in this country are men. Most of the prosecutors are men. Most of the people putting people in jail and prison today are men. They feel that women are intruding in their space — wrongly. So, when The NY Women’s Foundation said we’re going to try to work to improve the lot in the lives of the marginal and the really marginal — who have been locked away — they were flying in the face of public sentiment.”
Moyers is responsible for the documentary “Rikers: An American Jail,” detailing prison abuse in our own backyard. Dismantling that institution was a leitmotif of the evening. “It’s really tough in this city to advocate for closing down Rikers because it’s been around a long time, it’s got a constituency of guards and bureaucracy and it’s an easy place to put young people who have no place to go,” Moyers told us. “But it also has a culture of cruelty to which most New Yorkers pay no attention. I used to drive along FDR drive. There was Rikers out there, but I didn’t know what Rikers was, even as a journalist. So we’ve been breaking down the barriers and The Women’s Foundation has taken on the toughest of all issues to try to explain to people that more smaller jails would be better than one giant cell. And I wish them every success.”
Since 1987, The New York Women’s Foundation has advanced a dynamic philanthropic strategy based on the fundamental reality that, when women thrive, their families and communities also thrive. The Foundation’s grant making places it at the top of public women’s foundations in the United States, and in the top two in the world. They invest in women-led, community-based solutions that promote the economic security, safety, and health of women and families in New York City.
To learn more, visit www.nywf.org.