Courts’ Committee on Equal Justice hosts 1st Unity in Diversity Fair
DOWNTOWN BROOKLYN — A committee setup by the court system held its inaugural Unity in Diversity Fair inside the Kings County Supreme Court on Oct. 21 with the theme of, “celebrating our different ethnicities, cultures, heritages, experiences, abilities and other attributes that make up the world.”
Organized by the Second Judicial District Equal Justice Committee, the event was part of the court’s recognition of October as Global Diversity Awareness Month.
The fair invited more than 20 fraternal organizations and local bar associations into the court including the Asian American Bar Association of New York, Asian Jade Society, Catholic Lawyers Guild of Kings County, Caribbean Attorneys Network, Cervantes Society Inc., Emerald Society, Guardians Association of New York State Courts, Iranian American Bar Association, Jewish Lawyers Guild, Korean American Lawyers Association of Greater New York, Latino Court Officers Society, LGBT Bar Association of Greater New York, Metropolitan Black Bar Association, NYS Courts Columbia Society, Puerto Rican Bar Association, Red Hook Virtual Court Action Network, Sankofa Society, The Tribune Society, Franklin H. Williams Judicial Commission.
There were more than 75 court personnel, attorneys and other community members in attendance at the event as each stopped by participating organization’s tables to learn about them and to get a sample of the organization’s culture.
“As a Mexican American Professional who has worked in government affairs for the past 13 years, I know the struggle of dealing with workplace diversity and inclusion,” said Michelle Enriquez, a member of the Cervantes Society for the New York State Courts, and a member of the Second Judicial District Equal Justice Committee.
“Participating in the Global Diversity Fair was a heartwarming experience – bringing a sense of belonging and collaboration among court members and fraternal organizations,” Enriquez continued. “The fair served as a reminder that our presence in the court system is much more significant than the titles we carry. It is about amplifying the positive impact on the lives of others by cultivating a culture of community versus competition and leading the way through intentional and mindful action.”
The program was called to order by the NYS Courts Ceremonial Unit with new member Isaiah Coad reciting the Pledge of Allegiance. Those in attendance were then treated to a wonderful performance by the NYS Courts Pipes and Drums, which played several songs including America the Beautiful.
Judge Joanne Quiñones, chair of the Second Judicial District Equal Justice Committee, emceed the event and gave opening remarks. She introduced the speakers, including Administrative Judges Hon. Lawrence Knipel, of the Kings County Supreme Court, Civil Term, and Hon. Matthew D’Emic, of the Supreme Court, Criminal Term. The two judges, known throughout the legal community for their musical ability, also offered to perform at next year’s Unity in Diversity Fair.
Deputy Chief Administrative Judge for Justice Initiatives Hon. Edwina Mendelson was unable to attend in person but provided written remarks, which were read by her Deputy Chief of Staff Rosemary Martinez-Borges. The esteemed speakers at the event included: Deputy Chief Administrative Judge for NYC Courts Hon. Deborah A. Kaplan, and Presiding Justice of the Appellate Division, Second Judicial Department Hon. Hector D. LaSalle.
“On behalf of The Guardians, it was my pleasure to not only represent my organization but to take part in an event that brings together all the different ethnicities, cultures and communities,” said Supreme Court Officer Kevin Carter, president of the Guardians Association of the New York State Courts. “A great way to spend a Friday afternoon, celebrating each other. I look forward to next year and beyond, as I assuredly know that this event will grow.”
The program ended with a performance by Lt. Jessica Hernandez, President of the Latino Court Officers Society. Lt. Hernandez, who usually sings the National Anthem at many court functions, surprised all in attendance by dancing as she belted out Gloria Estefan’s “Rhythm is Gonna Get You.”
The event ended after Judge Quinones introduced the “dynamic duo” — Natoya McGhie and Lissette Morales. The judge explained that the duo, along with Michelle Enriquez, were responsible for organizing the fair in just six weeks.
“We were honored to take part in this wonderful celebration of our diverse workforce, as diversity is a key part of any workforce, especially ours, and it is our goal to promote it as often as possible,” said Michael Primiano, president of the NYS Courts Columbia Society. “It truly was wonderful to see all the different organizations represent their different respective cultures. I also hope that this becomes an annual event.”
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