In celebration of Women’s History Month, Queens District Attorney Melinda Katz hosted a virtual celebration on Thursday, March 25, to honor women who have influenced Queens through their leadership and work.
The four honorees celebrated at the event were Victoria Schneps, Dr. Maria L. Hubbard, Carolyn Dixon and Sandi Pope of CISTA Girls.
The virtual event started with performances by young girls from the Queens community.
Alexandra H., from Girl Scout Troop 1680, opened the night reciting the Pledge of Allegiance. Next was Lanesha Burton from the Frank Sinatra School of the Arts, who sang “The Star-Spangled Banner.” The final opening performance was a poem written by Serena Yang from the 2021 NYC Youth Poet Laureate. The poem reflected on grief and rage regarding women’s inequality through the generations.
Following the performances was a speech from Congresswoman Stacey Plaskett, who represents the United States Virgin Islands and was the event’s keynote speaker. In her speech, Plaskett addressed equal rights for women, police injustice, gun violence and shared a message of hope for women who have been negatively impacted by COVID-19.
“When women lead, communities advance,” Plaskett said. “Female representation in elected roles is vitally important. When women don’t have a seat at the table, gender experiences and perspectives do not enter the debate, as they should.”
Plaskett was honored with the 2021 Women’s History Month award for her accomplishments while in office. Plaskett also reminded everyone that March is Virgin Islands History Month.
“I’ve made it a point this month to wear as much as our traditional clothing as possible to let our daughters know that they can incorporate their own culture and their traditions, along with being forward thinking in the 21st century,” Plaskett said.
Katz then turned things over to Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul, who spoke about how important it is to embrace fellow women in government.
Following Hochul’s speech was Lisa Helmni Johanson, who performed a spectacular rendition of Alicia Keys’ “This Girl is on Fire.”
Focus turned to the honorees, starting with Schneps.
Schneps founded The Queens Courier in 1985 from her Bayside living room with an investment of $250. Today, the media company — now known as Schneps Media — owns over 70 media outlets across the New York City area and Schneps serves as president and co-publisher. She also founded Life’s WORC, a nonprofit that helps individuals with disabilities. Katz honored Schneps for her commitment to the news industry and advocacy with nonprofits.
“I know that with great passion, great persistence and a positive attitude, women can rule the world,” Schneps said.
Katz next honored Dr. Hubbard, who is a minister and advocate for economically disadvantaged communities. Her leadership and evangelism of the word of God has served many individuals in underprivileged communities. She credited her success to her female ancestors and the women who raised her, including her mother and grandmother. During the COVID-19 pandemic, Dr. Hubbard has partnered with churches and elected officials to provide resources for those struggling during this time.
The next woman to be honored was Carolyn Dixon, founder of Where Do We Go From Here. Dixon was recognized for her work helping families affected by gun violence transition into healing from the grief process. After losing her own son, Darrell Lynch, right in front of her eyes, Dixon turned her own mourning into a way to help others.
“I’m going to accept this for all my survivor families to let them know we can live without our loved ones and continue to do the work,” Dixon said.
Dixon changed her career as a substance abuse counselor to working with LIFE Camps Inc. to help families find their new life after experiencing a death.
The last honoree was Sandi Pope, who leads the CISTA Girls, a nonprofit that teaches girls about the environment and their community. CISTA Girls learn the value of community service through education and resources that requires them to engage in activities and fundraise. They also encourage good self esteem and a positive environment.
“In March of 2020, a lot of people were moving about without the consciousness of this pandemic. So I put together the CISTA Girls COVID-19 task force, in which I included all the members and team leaders to assist organizations within the pandemic give out healthy information and anything and all things related to the pandemic,” Pope said. “Most importantly, I needed girls out there to show that they were consistent with following CDC rules.”
Pope warned that people need to be more aware about the plastic and debris that is collecting in oceans and waterways. She encouraged people to recycle as much as possible.
To conclude the night, Katz introduced the newest Council member, Selvena Brooks-Powers, who was declared winner of the City Council District 31 special election. Katz thanked her and the honorees for their unwavering commitment to helping the next generation of females.
“When we celebrate Women’s History Month, we need to remember all of the women that came before us, all the women whose shoulders that we stand on every single day, all of the women who are responsible for the fact that we can all be here doing what we do,” Katz said.
Watch a recording of the event here.