The message is loud and clear in Queens: 2018 is the year for women.
Across the nation women are mobilizing to fight sexual harassment and discrimination that have burst out of the shadows onto the public stage following the lurid revelations about Hollywood movie producer Harvey Weinstein, who happens to be a Flushing native.
In Albany Senate Democratic Minority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins led the Senate Democrats in proposing legislation that would make lawmakers found guilty of sexual harassment pay for any settlements. The Yonkers senator said the package of bills would combat harassment in both private and public sector workplaces, which she has experienced.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo introduced his own plan to harness society’s revulsion at the recent acts by famous men demeaning women and impose a zero tolerance policy on such behavior throughout every government agency in New York state.
In California, a group of 300 high-powered Hollywood women launched an initiative called Time’s Up to empower working-class women in male-dominated workplaces to combat harassment and discrimination. The action was in response to criticism that the #MeToo movement, created for women to tell their stories of sexual abuse and harassment, overlooked blue collar women.
In Queens hip-hop mogul Russell Simmons has denied accusations of sexual harassment by about a dozen women, but he stepped down from his businesses and the Rush Philanthropic Arts Foundation, which donates to nonprofit groups and schools throughout the borough.
The Simmons case is an example of the collateral damage unleashed when one of our cultural heroes loses his footing.
The Hollis native was an inspiration to youth in southeast Queens and elsewhere in the borough. Whether he is found guilty or not, his star has been tarnished.
Queens has an impressive lineup of women fighting to protect women from predatory practices.
Corona’s Shandra Wowortuntu, who was born in Indonesia and unwittingly brought to the United States as a sex slave, has founded an organization that helps rescue trafficked women. Named to the U.S. Advisory Council of human trafficking by President Obama, she recently won the 2017 L’Oreal Paris Women of Worth award.
Narbara Chhetri, the director of a Woodside nonprofit, Adhikaar, promotes human rights for Nepalese women.
Tabitha Gamonski, director of Counseling at Queens Community House in Forest Hills, helps girls from 11 to 18 develop their goals and a positive self-image.
She is preparing the next generation of women in Queens for a better future.