Newark Public Library Honors Outstanding Latino Community Leaders at María DeCastro Blake Annual Dinner
Their work deeply touches the lives of all New Jersey residents, that’s why three exceptional members of the state’s Latino community have been selected as the 2008 recipients of the María DeCastro Blake Community Service Award by the New Jersey Hispanic Research and Information Center at the Newark Public Library.
The Center will celebrate the accomplishments of the award recipients at the Sixth Annual María DeCastro Blake Awards Dinner scheduled for Wednesday, April 30 at 6:30 p.m. in the Grand Ballroom of the Newark Airport Marriott. Sponsors of the evening’s event are Verizon NJ, PSE&G, Anheuser Busch, Berkeley College, Provident Bank Foundation, Goya Foods, and The Matos Group.
Lillian Hernández, executive director of Dress for Success Jersey City, Anna "Cuqui" Rivera, outreach manager of the Hispanic Directors Association of New Jersey, and William Q. Sánchez, executive producer of New Jersey Network Images/Imágenes, have been selected to receive the award named after one of the Latino community’s most ardent supporters and promoters.
In addition, Mary Bustillo Donohue, a prominent Bergen County Democrat and the first Hispanic elected councilwoman in the Borough of River Edge, and later a Bergen County Freeholder, has been nominated to receive the María DeCastro Blake Lifetime Achievement Award. Verizon New Jersey, a sponsor of the annual María DeCastro Blake celebration, has been selected to receive the Corporate Partnership Award in recognition of the company’s consistent support and promotion of New Jersey’s Latino community.
The awards are named for the Puerto Rican immigrant who became an assistant dean of admissions at Rutgers-Newark and recruited and mentored hundreds of Latino students through their educational careers at the state university.
"I am proud to help in the selection process of the María DeCastro Blake Awards," said Ingrid Betancourt, Project Director of the NJHRIC. "Selecting just a few of the talented and dedicated Latinos in New Jersey to honor becomes a more formidable task every year. This year’s award recipients are a testimony to DeCastro Blake and exemplify how we can best serve our communities."
The Center, charged with the continued development of the Library’s Sala Hispanoamericana, is also striving to become a reference center for the study of New Jersey’s Hispanic community and the main archival repository of New Jersey’s Puerto Rican community. This would be the first of its kind effort to create a collection focused on the history of the state’s Puerto Ricans; nearly half of New Jersey’s population of 1.1 million Latinos has roots in the island commonwealth.
José Acevedo, chairman of the NJHRIC Support Network explained that the annual dinner is more than a fundraiser; it’s an opportunity for everyone affiliated with the NJHRIC to support and celebrate the Center’s accomplishments. "It becomes a family reunion of sorts, and it gets bigger every year," said Acevedo.
Noemí Figueroa Soulet, producer of the feature-length film The Borinqueneers, the documentary that chronicles the history of the all-Puerto Rican 65th Infantry Regiment and its contributions to the American effort in the Korean War, is scheduled to host the awards dinner.
Hernández, executive director of Dress for Success, has guided the outreach program that provides work-appropriate clothing for women interviewing for jobs in the professional world into a position where it can affect more than just job prospects for its clients. Initially an outreach program for women, Dress for Success has had such an impact that the Jersey City chapter launched a similar program for men"Suits for Success"in 2004. The chapter launched the Post TANF (Temporary Assistance for Needy Families) outreach program in 2005 and has already served over 7,500 needy families.
Hernández, a resident of Palisades Park, has worked in the fashion industry for decades, developing numerous private labels for department and chain stores, including Bloomingdales and Macy’s; but her best known and most popular label was working with K-Mart to develop the Jaclyn Smith line of clothing.
She has recently started a second career as a writer and lecturer about fashion and the business world, addressing the importance of personal presentation in securing a position and succeeding in a work environment.
Rivera, a lifelong community activist, lives by the credo she has established for her family through the years: "To always tell the truth, stay in school, respect the family and never bring cops to her door." She started as a full-time volunteer at the Puerto Rican Action Board of New Brunswick in 1988, serving as a founder of the Hispanic Youth in Progress Program. She was hired as an HIV Outreach Specialist by the Board two years later to work with minority women and youngsters.
In 2000, Rivera accepted the job of Outreach Administrative Assistant at the Hispanic Directors Association, a position that focuses on helping Latino organizations maximize their outreach programs. She has served as coordinator of the Association’s 2003 HIV prevention program "Toma Control" aimed at the state’s Hispanic population. Rivera is currently serving as the Planning Committee Chairwoman of the N.J. Department of Correction/HDANJ Initiative, a program that focuses on the overrepresentation of minorities in the state’s correction system.
This year’s third award recipient, Sánchez has spent his life in television, researching and promoting the contributions of the Latino community to New Jersey’s heritage. He directed the Emmy Award-winning Sembrando El Futuro, a New Jersey Network series focused on teaching parenting skills in the Latino community. He is also the producer and director of the cultural and public affairs program Images/Imágenes, the longest-running minority series on any public broadcasting system in the country.
A graduate of Rutgers University, he joined NJN in 1979 and has since explored and chronicled the life and times of New Jersey’s Hispanic community, delving into its art, dance, literature and impact on New Jersey’s cultural landscape. Sánchez created the annual program "NJN Hispanic Youth Showcase," that gives Hispanic youths throughout the Garden State an unparalleled opportunity to demonstrate their talents and win scholarships.
Cuban immigrant Bustillo Donohue was nominated to receive the Center’s lifetime achievement award. Currently an aide for Congressman Steve Rothman and his Immigration and Constituent Services, she was a New Jersey delegate to the 2000 National Democratic Convention.
She grew up in New York City and moved to New Jersey in 1952. She earned her BA and MBA in Spanish literature from Fairleigh Dickinson University, and served as the first female administrator at Paramus Catholic Boys High School, sitting as chairman of the Modern Languages Department. She also taught part-time at Seton Hall University for seven years.
Bustillo Donohue served as Democratic Town Committeewoman for River Edge District 4 for over 30 years and was elected to serve as a River Edge Councilwoman for two terms. She was also the first Hispanic elected to serve on the Bergen County Board of Chosen Freeholders. She was then elected by the New Jersey State Democratic Committee to serve two terms as a member of the Democratic National Committee, and was elected Chairperson of the National Hispanic Caucus of the Democratic National Committee during President Bill Clinton's tenure.
During her lifetime she has served on New Jersey’s Commission on the Status of Women, and the New Jersey Historic Tourism Task Force Commission. She has contributed to the Eagleton Institute for the Advancement of Women in Politics, by encouraging women to run for public office. She is one of the founding members of LADA, Latin American Democratic Association, based in Bergen County.
For more information about the dinner or to reserve a $75 ticket, please call 973-733-4791 or visit the Library's Web site.
©2008 The Newark Public Library