Tags Posts tagged with "Diversity"


The Long Island Museum recently acquired 'Fellowship Night' by Cyril Arthur Lewis for its permanent collection. Photo from LIM

The Long Island Museum (LIM) in Stony Brook has announced a long-range plan to improve diversity and equity in the museum’s permanent collection.

In December 2021, the LIM’s Board of Trustees and Collections Committee approved an initiative to enhance the multi-ethnic and multicultural representation of all Long Island residents in its permanent collections. In a Collections Development Initiative to improve diversity in its collections, LIM will work towards a five-year goal to build a much more inclusive holding of art and historical objects from Long Island’s diverse communities. In an initial move in this effort, the Museum purchased the oil painting Fellowship Night, c. 1940, a work depicting a Long Island Black church, by Cyril Arthur Lewis (1903-1994).

LIM is beginning this focused institutional priority to better connect with, represent and share the stories, histories, and art of all of Long Island’s residents. By 2027, LIM is aiming to have made significant strides towards building a more inclusive collection that has much stronger, deeper representation of Long Island’s diverse populations of Latinx, Black, Native American, and Asian American communities (sometimes referred to as “BIPOC,” which stands for Black, Indigenous, and People of Color, referring to Black, Native, Latinx, and Asian Americans).

“We are making large strides to have our collections meet our programming efforts,” said Deputy Director Joshua Ruff, citing such recent exhibitions as Long Road to Freedom: Surviving Slavery on Long Island (2019) and education programs like Vehicles for Change, a popular LIM Education program (grades 4-8) which explores the life and activism of 19th century Civil Rights pioneer Elizabeth Jennings Graham, using a streetcar from its Carriage Collection. 

“This is vital to the Museum’s future. It is crucial for us to ensure that our collection properly reflects and shares the history of all diverse communities that have lived, worked hard, struggled, and celebrated here on Long Island throughout our collective history,” said Ruff.

The Museum has well-regarded permanent collections in its Art, History, and Carriage Museums, highlighted by an important and large costume and textile collection of 10,000 artifacts, from the 1780s to the 1990s; the paintings, drawings, and archives of significant American genre painter William Sidney Mount (1807-1868); and nearly 200 horse-drawn vehicles of every description, which help to tell the story of American transportation in the age before automobiles. This initiative will add to these strengths by adding the inclusion of artists or historical objects that help to document Long Island’s resident communities of color.

The acquisition of Fellowship Night, which LIM purchased from South Bay Auctions in December, aids in this process. 

Born in Birmingham, England, Cyril Arthur Lewis emigrated to the U.S. in 1927, settling in Brooklyn. In 1937 he moved to East Williston and began painting and sketching local landmarks. Depicting an African American church during a nighttime event in this painting, he spotlights a building that was an important social center for the Black communities that developed on Long Island in the decades following the end of slavery in 1827.

In order to improve LIM’s collections diversity, the Museum will develop a collections advisory panel composed of external subject matter experts to periodically counsel and work with LIM’s curatorial department and Collections Committee. The Museum will also develop future exhibitions about Long Island’s diverse populations, such as a project next year that details the history of Sag Harbor’s historic Black Arts community, and make specific targeted appeals through Social Media and other community outreach efforts to help promote new donations to the collection.

“This is a long-term effort,” said Joshua Ruff. “But it is one we believe in down to our bones, one that we are fully committed to.”


Located at 1200 Route 25A in Stony Brook, the Long Island Museum is a Smithsonian Affiliate dedicated to enhancing the lives of adults and children with an understanding of Long Island’s rich history and diverse cultures. The LIM will reopen for the spring season with new exhibitions on Thursday, March 3, 2022. Hours are Thursday through Sunday from noon to 5 p.m. For more information, visit www.longislandmuseum.org.

School doors across Suffolk County may have been closed to study on Sunday, Oct. 17, but at the Long Island Welcome Center between exits 51 and 52 on the expressway, education was on many people’s minds.

Long Island Parents for DEI headed up the Commack rally to show support for diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives in public schools. The event drew dozens of parents, educators and advocates and was cosponsored by Suffolk Progressives, Moms Against Racism and student-led Voices for Change.

The subject of diversity, equity and inclusion programs in local schools has been a topic of debate at many school board meetings earlier this year, including Smithtown Central School District. DEI programs aim to make every student feel included and to create a culture of open-mindedness and objectivity regarding race, ethnicity, gender, culture, sexual orientations and disabilities.

In an email after the rally, Shoshana Hershkowitz, founder of Suffolk Progressives, said she believes the misconception many have is that they think the DEI “curriculum is divisive.”

“DEI allows us to gain empathy and understanding for experiences and perspectives that are different than ours, and I believe it is ultimately an excellent preparation for our students becoming global citizens of the 21st century,” she said.

Many have confused the program with critical race theory, which is an academic concept that looks at how racism is embedded in legal systems and politics — and not just a matter of individual bias or prejudice.

According to a press release before the rally, the protesters’ goal was “to highlight the broad support for DEI initiatives.” Among those who stopped by to show support were Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone (D) and county Legislator Jason Richberg (D-West Babylon).

Long Island Parents for DEI president, Amanda Cohen-Stein of Miller Place, founded the group in June to respond to what she described as “the rise of extremist groups on Long Island” who have not only targeted DEI learning but also mask wearing in schools.

“We chose to connect with three other fabulous organizations — Suffolk Progressives, Moms Against Racism and student-led group Voices of Change — to hold our first-ever rally this past Sunday to support our mission of promoting the DEI initiative passed down by the NYS Board of Regents and to deliver the truth about DEI to our boards of education and our communities,” she said in a statement. “I felt it was important to hold this event at the L.I. Welcome Center on the LIE to amplify the message that the hate these people are displaying toward diverse groups of students and other human beings will not be tolerated on L.I. and that the majority of Long Islanders do not support this extremist behavior.”

She added Parents for DEI has started a nonprofit with the goal “to continue to bring the truth about DEI to every school district and community on Long Island. We are working toward ensuring that our L.I. schools implement DEI programs and follow through on the commitment to be equitable and inclusive.”

New Suffolk County Police officers were sworn in this week at the academy in Brentwood. Photo by Kimberly Brown

By Kimberly Brown 

A total of 54 new recruits were sworn in by Suffolk County officials in Brentwood police academy, Monday, April 12.

  Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone (D) and county Police Commissioner Geraldine Hart were responsible for swearing in the second portion of the class, one that had the highest percentage of minorities in the history of the county.  

The first class, holding 50 recruits, was sworn in March 29. With a total of 104 recruits from all over Suffolk County, including eight women, 28% are minorities and 10 are fluent in Spanish. 

Photo by Kimberly Brown

“Being a law enforcement officer is a crucial role in our society,” Bellone said. “So first let me say thank you for your willingness to stand up and serve your community and being willing to take on the responsibilities of a law enforcement officer.” 

 Almost half the recruiting class had prior law enforcement experience and one-third of the class are military veterans.  

Bellone expressed his anticipation for the recruits to begin their 30-day training.

Special recognition was given to the good Samaritans, a retired NYPD officer and a Marine, who did not hesitate to offer assistance to Officer Christopher Racioppo in his time of need after a traffic stop stabbing in Patchogue Saturday. 

“Officers responded immediately and relied on their training, the quality training that they received here in this academy to make the critical, split-second decisions that needed to be made that very well may have saved his life,” Hart said.  

Hart welcomed the new class in taking their next step into a life of service as they embark on their new careers in law enforcement.

One of the new signs on a local lawn. Photo from Setauket Presbyterian Church Facebook

Despite the turbulence the country has been enduring for the past few months, Three Village residents and those in surrounding areas are showing support for all human beings.

Signs featuring the colors of the rainbow with additional black, brown, pink and blue stripes, and bearing the messages, “Our faith community celebrates pride” on one side and “Our faith community celebrates diversity” on the other, have popped up on random lawns the last couple of weeks. The signs are the result of a committee made up of local clergy members and lay people from various faith communities, according to the Rev. Ashley McFaul-Erwin, community outreach pastor at Setauket Presbyterian Church.

The pastor said the group was in the early stages of planning the first Three Village pride walk for June but then the pandemic happened. The members threw around the idea of a car parade but weren’t sure how they could do that safely and decided the signs would enable them to display the message in front of their homes and religious buildings.

McFaul-Erwin said it was an important message to share with many Christian churches having discriminated against the LGBTQ community in the past. The blue and pink stripes were added to represent transgender people and black and brown stripes are to show unity with people of color.

The Rev. Linda Anderson, community minister in affiliation with the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship at Stony Brook, said she thought it was a brilliant idea.

“The signs will last longer than a parade,” she said. “They can be spread out more widely. It’ll just keep saying the message of peace, love of humanity, justice and fairness.”

Elaine Learnard, a Quaker and member of Conscience Bay Friends Meeting, agreed.

“I think it’s a great way to do it and very creative during this time where everything is so crazy,” she said.

Barbara Ransome, director of operations of the Greater Port Jefferson Chamber of Commerce, was part of the committee as a member of Conscience Bay Friends Meeting. She said she has one on her lawn and also placed one in front of the chamber office.

“With all the stress going on — George Floyd’s death, rallies, COVID-19, etc. — this is a symbol of unity,” Ransome said.

McFaul-Erwin said the Setauket Presbyterian Church also placed a pink triangle on the Village Green with 51 flags. She said the flags are “in memory of all who have been harmed by churches throughout the years. We want to repent for harm done as well as celebrate.”

Library director open to hosting it again, though no plans currently in place to do so

Drag Queen Story Hour takes place at Port Jefferson Free Library Sept. 22. Photo by Amanda Schleisner

A Port Jefferson Free Library event aimed at promoting inclusion and diversity achieved its goal for some but also inspired the opposite reaction from others.

The library hosted an event entitled Drag Queen Story Hour Sept. 22, during which a drag queen trained by children’s librarians reads picture books, sings songs, and leads children ages three to eight in craft activities. The event took place at the PJFL and about 100 people attended, according to library Director Tom Donlon. The organization, Drag Queen Story Hour, has chapters across the United States and conducts the events in an effort to “capture the imagination and play of the gender fluidity of childhood and gives kids glamorous, positive, and unabashedly queer role models. In spaces like this, kids are able to see people who defy rigid gender restrictions and imagine a world where people can present as they wish, where dress up is real,” according to its website.

I think you’re going to be on the right side of history, and I’m glad to be here to see it.”

— Kyleen Burke

The library promoted the event on its online calendar as “a program that raises awareness of gender diversity, promotes self-acceptance, and builds empathy through an enjoyable literary experience.” During the event in Port Jeff Sept. 22, several protestors stood outside the library holding signs and verbalizing their opposition to exposing children to the message promoted by the event.

Donlon said the board of trustees got the idea from a patron of the library who said they had heard of the events taking place elsewhere.

“We liked it because the program was just about diversity,” he said. Donlon added the goal was not to get into gender or sexuality. He said in the lead up to the event he received many calls both in favor and against, though the program filled up completely in just five days.

“We kind of knew that people were going to be upset,” he said. “I was a little dismayed people saw it as an indoctrination.”

Donlon added he was disappointed people who elected to protest or oppose the event “co-opted” it to promote their own agenda. The social media buzz leading up to the event and the subsequent protests likely led to what Donlon and board President John Grossman each characterized as an unusually large turnout for its monthly public board meeting at the library Sept. 24, during which several community members spoke in favor of and against the program.

“I don’t know a lot about living in this community as an adult,” said Kyleen Burke, a 2008 graduate of Port Jeff schools who said she has just recently moved back to the community as an adult. “I was thrilled to learn about this program because going to school in Port Jeff schools, it was a really small district, and I watched kids who diverted from the norm in any way get bullied and not feel represented here unfortunately, even though this is, in large part a really loving, really beautiful place to grow up. So embracing this opportunity totally blew my mind of what this community could be, and represents just a tremendous opportunity to continue to embrace every single kid, and to make this a welcoming space despite what the norms might be. So thank you for wading into this water and for standing up for unpopular people. I think you’re going to be on the right side of history, and I’m glad to be here to see it.”

Others stressed their concerns about the event didn’t come from a place of hate or discrimination.

“I understand all kinds of positions, and we love people, but please don’t mess around with the kids.”

— Ruben Cruzate

Ruben Cruzate, who said he participated in the protests, said his picture and contact information had been circulated on social media, leading to harassment and attacks, he said.

“The reason I’m here is because I’ve never experienced such hate and intolerance,” he said, attributing his experience following the protests to members of the LGBTQ+ community. “I understand all kinds of positions, and we love people, but please don’t mess around with the kids.”

Children’s librarian Margaret Smith said during the meeting the event was a “joyful” occasion featuring sing-alongs and stories about inclusion.

“Thank you for your courage and for sticking with this program that was proposed, investigated and was planned,” she said.

Smith and Donlon each said the library plans to hold “story hour” events with people from other walks of life on a monthly basis going forward. While no date has been set, Donlon said the library is open to hosting Drag Queen Story Hour again if the community is interested.

This post was updated Sept. 25 to remove mention of Ruben Cruzate as a resident of Port Jeff. This post was updated Sept. 26 to remove a quote from Theresa Bendel at her request.

Stony Brook University, President Samuel L. Stanley, Jr. MD

By Samuel L. Stanley, Jr., MD

At Stony Brook University, we’re proud to be a diverse community of scholars, researchers, educators and professionals representing many races, ethnicities, ages, genders, religions, abilities, socioeconomic levels, sexual orientations and veteran status.

In consideration of persistent issues of inequality in our society, Stony Brook University is implementing a new Plan for Equity, Inclusion and Diversity, which will build on successes and address opportunities to take us to the next level in enhancing student, faculty and staff diversity and building an inclusive community.

Involving the campus community was key in developing a comprehensive plan, which embraces SUNY’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Policy in aspiring to be part of the most inclusive state university system in the country. In March, Stony Brook students, faculty and staff were invited to view a draft of the plan and share feedback. Their thoughtful comments and suggestions were received, reviewed and included, where possible, prior to releasing this plan.

While people celebrated some or all of their experiences at the University, many also recommended ways to improve how we embrace our diversity to create and maintain a welcoming environment on campus. Opportunities raised by all groups encompassed the broad areas of hiring, student enrollment and the daily campus experience.

The plan has four overarching goals: improve the diversity of the Stony Brook Community through enhanced recruitment and retention; expand educational, research, healthcare and other efforts to ensure that Stony Brook students have the ability to thrive as members of the campus community and as global citizens in a diverse society; support the development of a campus climate that values diversity, equity and inclusion in a way that promotes the ability of members of the community to thrive and to achieve their individual goals; and establish a culture of accountability and assessment around diversity and inclusion initiatives and policies.

Each goal will be achieved through a variety of initiatives and action items identified specifically in the plan, and highlights of data on our students and employees provide an overview of where we are today, giving us the ability to understand and monitor progress toward those goals. I invite you to view Stony Brook University’s new Plan for Equity, Inclusion and Diversity at stonybrook.edu/diversityplan.

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National Hispanic Heritage Month, a time when the country pays tribute to the generations of Hispanic-Americans who have influenced our society, ended on Oct. 15. But that doesn’t mean Long Island’s North Shore should stop thinking about this growing demographic.

There’s more we can do as a region to better accommodate and embrace Hispanic-Americans who help diversify our neighborhoods and are a huge economic driver on the Island. According to a 2007 research report, prepared for the Long Island social activism nonprofit, Hagedorn Foundation, Hispanic residents add nearly $5.7 billion to total Long Island output as a result of their consumer spending, and Hispanic employment continues to grow rapidly. Those numbers can only have grown in the last several years since the report was published — and community tensions have grown along with them.

Tensions between Hispanic residents and police officers have been well documented.

Earlier this year, a class action lawsuit by a group of Latinos alleged the Suffolk County Police Department targeted them. The group claimed several officers robbed them or issued them traffic citations in unfounded, race-based stops. There has also been an outcry from Huntington Station residents, many of them Hispanic, who say they don’t feel safe in their own neighborhoods or protected by police.

And there have been instances of Hispanic people being made to feel marginalized by their own neighbors.

Police should continue to cultivate a stronger relationship with the Island’s Hispanic communities by involving youth and hosting local programs, like forums, where residents can discuss local issues or share concerns. Non-Hispanic residents should also do their part to call out prejudice when they see it, and encourage more Hispanic neighbors to join their various community groups.

We should strive to include Hispanics as we steer Long Island toward its future, and we should do it because it’s necessary, not just because of some national holiday prompt.

The annual Huntington Awareness Day Parade and Fair kicked off on Saturday, beginning at 11 a.m. The parade honored a number of local individuals. Ed Brady, longtime commander of the Suffolk County Police Department’s 2nd Precinct who retired earlier this year, served as the event’s grand marshal. Huntington Awareness Day has become an annual tradition, with thousands of people turning out to celebrate the community’s unity, diversity and solidarity.