The Latina Book Club welcomes Maria Aponte, artist/author/teacher/founder of the Latina 50-Plus initiative, where Latina trailblazers are honored for their contributions to the community. We applaud Maria and her vision.
Latina 50-Plus Mission Statement: Latina Fifty-Plus, pays tribute to Latinas over fifty years of age who were pioneers. They shaped their careers in a time when Latina women were venturing onto pathways where very few Latinas were seen or accepted. This program acknowledges the trailblazers who were among the first in their profession.… By honoring these Latina Pioneers we are honoring our history as women of a certain generation who laid down the stepping stones of change for future generations of Latinas. These are the women who mentored and inspired younger women to pursue their own dreams and realize their own goals.
FROM FOUNDER MARIA APONTE
There are moments in your life when you know that you are going to do something so important that it resonates in your core spirit. And when the moment happens you keep your fingers crossed that what you put out there to the world will work. This is how I feel about launching my new initiative, Latina 50-Plus, a program created to honor Latina women over 50 who have dedicated their lives for the betterment of their community and families.
After a year of decision making, research and planning on Saturday June 21st, 2014, the Latina 50-Plus Inaugural Luncheon took place at Fordham University’s Bronx campus in collaboration with the Office of Career Services where I work. I am grateful that everyone that I approached gave their support, love and professionalism to make the event come together as it did and the response and reaction was an amazing success.
The awards were designed and created by artist Olga Ayala. The logo and marketing materials created and designed by Mia Roman ArtbyMia. Gloria Rodriguez, founder of DeAlmas Institute was the keynote speaker. The event was catered by Flora Montes –Chef Flora, and the cake and Latina 50 Plus cookies by Boo Bakes. I could not ask for a more wonderful group of women to work with, who put as much energy and love as I did in making the luncheon happen.
The women selected as the first Latina 50-Plus Honorees are powerhouses in their own fields, and I was not ready for the wonderful emotional and powerful acceptance speeches they each gave as they received their award on Saturday. Their openness about life experience, history and work related issues were inspiring and encouraging to every woman in the room. It was in those moments, that I felt that I was doing the right thing by creating this program. Throughout the entire afternoon women I knew and women I met for the first time that day came up to me to thank me for giving them this space of recognition. Everyone loved the positive energy and connection they felt and related to what was being said by the Honorees.
It was not only a beautiful first day of summer, but also a beautiful new beginning in honoring our Latina Elders who have made their contributions to the cultural, educational and historical growth to the Latina Community. The biggest compliment that I received and continue to receive via social media, emails and text messages is, “I can’t wait until next year!”
Founder Latina 50-Plus
2014 Latina 50-Plus Honorees
Ms. Nilda I. Soto (Education); Ms. Maria Elena Piña-Fonti (Medicine/Health Care); Ms. Dahlma Llanos-Figueroa (Literature); Ms. Yvette Martinez (Arts); Judge Lizbeth Gonzalez (Law) and Ms. Anita Antonetty (Community Service)
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: MARIA APONTE is the author of TRANSITIONS OF A NUYORICAN CINDERELLA. Born and raised in New York City’s East Harlem (El Barrio), Maria has worked extensively in Latino Theatre. She has performed in various theatre productions; and videos that dealt with racial discrimination, women’s rights in theatre and film. Maria’s work as an artist and teacher is focused on community art related projects and the empowerment of women through positive affirmation of self-esteem and education. She holds a BA in English Literature from Marymount Manhattan College. In April 2010, Maria was awarded from the Eve Ensler Organization’s The Vagina Warrior Award by R. Evolucion Latina’s V-Day Espanol at the Nuyorican Poets Café. (Vagina Warrior--Someone who has suffered or witnessed violence, grieved it, transformed it, and then does extraordinary work to make sure it doesn't happen to anyone else in their community.) Currently, Maria works at Fordham University in Career Services, where she is completing her Master’s Degree in Latin American & Latino Studies. Learn more about this extraordinary woman at www.mariaaponte.com and http://www.latina50plus.com/.