Female strength and resilience were palpable when some of the Bronx’s most accomplished women were recognized at an award ceremony at the Bronx Museum of the Arts on March 22. Among the five recipients of the annual International Women’s Month awards were two of Hunts Point’s own: Tanya Fields and Maria Torres.
“I feel like I’m soaking in some of their greatness,” said Bronx District Attorney Darcel D. Clark in her opening remarks.
Rep. Jose E. Serrano emphasized his support for gender equality while presenting the awards to the honorees.
Serrano promised to continue advocating to prevent gender-based discrimination in the workplace, by fighting to pass the Paycheck Fairness Act. In 2018, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) received a budget increase of $15 million, according to a report released by Serrano’s office last year.
Fields, founder & executive director of The Black Feminist Project, expressed her gratitude for the recognition.
“It’s nice that someone in the Congressman’s office is keeping an eye on what’s going on in the community,” said Fields. “People always try and say good stuff doesn’t come up out of the Bronx, but there’s really powerful women here in this community who are doing work, and as usual it is the women who build up and sustain the community.”
In recent years, Fields has become a key figure in the urban farming movement, which calls for educating residents in low-income neighborhoods like Hunts Point about the importance of a balanced and nutritious diet. Through “The Black Feminist Project,” Fields advocates for female-led economic development opportunities for underserved women of color. In 2016, she launched the Libertad Urban Farm on Simpson Street as part of that effort.
Fields said that the best part of the night for her was being surrounded by other strong women of color.
“We must unlearn harmful behavior, and we do that by listening to black women and women of color,” she said. “We show belief in them by getting out of the way and allowing them to fulfill their leadership potential.”
Serrano introduced Torres, co-founder & C.O.O. of The Point, as a key advocate for important local issues, and credited her for helping revitalize the South Bronx in troubled times. Although Serrano has spoken out about issues such as youth development and the need to clean up the Bronx River in his role of elected official, he said, Torres made those changes happen.
The understated Torres said she was surprised by the elaborate ceremony.
“I was thinking it was going to be a little certificate,” said Torres, adding that there were plenty of powerful women who could have been chosen. “It was humbling.”
Under Torres’ guidance, The Point has served Hunts Point residents of all ages with after-school programs, arts, education and advocacy since the 1990s. The center offers youth workshops for a variety of disciplines including social activism, circus arts, Latin dance, culinary arts, yoga for teens, and self-love.
Other honorees at the event included poet, writer, and educator, M.P. Frias, President of the Central American Black Organization & President of Honduras Against AIDS, Mirtha Colon, and Founder & Executive Director of Sauti Yetu, Zeinab Eyega. Spoken word, and two dance performances by the Club F.A.M.E Dance Team were also featured.