Patricia Arquette and Donna Karan – Giving Girls Wings to support WFLI
By Heather Buchanan
Photos courtesy of WFLI
There is an amazing energy around a gaggle of girls who believe there is a bright future before them.
Dressed in wedges, high heels, flats, lace ups, gladiator sandals, and sneakers, this diverse group of young women in Girls FLI T-Shirts was abuzz Saturday evening at the Instagram-worthy Sebonack Golf Club in Southampton for a fundraiser to benefit the Women’s Fund of Long Island (WFLI).
Executive Director Stacey Scarpone commented, “Founded over 20 years ago and serving over 100,000 women and girls, WFLI invests in a grass roots lifeline and source of empowerment for girls and women.” Girls FLI brings together high school girls each year from diverse social-economic, racial, religious, and ethnic backgrounds across Long Island. Annette Richardson, Senior Advisor at the UN Office for Partnership who with Marcia Dyson, the founder and CEO of Women’s Global Initiative stated, “These young women change makers are not just our next generation — they are our NOW generation. If you invest in girls you invest in all communities.”
They key is that instead of dictating an agenda to the girls, the girls set the agenda themselves, identifying issues in their communities and collaborating to create strategies for change. But this is not a bake sale by any means. The issues these girls tackle are gang violence, self-esteem, drugs, bullying, human trafficking and poverty. One project focused on meeting with community leaders to address 11 and 12 year old girls who were scared to walk to school because of a gang initiation rite of raping young girls.
A Tale of Two Cities
Long Island can be a tale of two cities. It’s not just the Hamptons and the Gold Coast. According to the Long Island Index there was a 43% increase in poverty from 2007 t0 2013, and 24% of households on LI are run by single females with no partner present. Graduation rates are as low as 38%.
Supporter Donna Karan spoke to the crowd, “We mother in so many ways, and the gift that a woman has is birthing. They birth an opportunity to face the issues here today. Listen, I failed typing and draping – but all the negativity brings positivity. Do you hear that girls – there’s something deep inside of you that lets you go to the next level. You have to search and find but when you find it, it’s like magic. It’s not how much you’ve done but how you’ve done it.” She even opened up her home to the young singer who performed that night Celia Babini. Now that’s what we call high end couch surfing.
Oh and did we mention how much we love the men who support women and girls.
Inspiration From Patricia Arquette
The young women were thrilled to have a round table discussion with Academy Award winning actress and fierce gender advocate Patricia Arquette. Patricia equally enjoyed her time commenting, “They are my super heroes and came up with the most amazing questions. I wish journalists were that smart.” Forget designer dresses for the red carpet, the topic which fascinated them most was women’s pay equality.
Patricia Arquette commented, “I won an academy award playing a single mom who had to move again and again and put herself through college – trying to provide for her kids. So I thought long and hard what her life would have been life like if there was wage equality and she could have made those extra cents on the dollar. I want my own daughter and others to be paid fairly and to live safely and free of violence and understand the power of their voice.”
Taking a moment to stop and smell the roses or in this case the fragrant lilac, Patricia paused to give Hip Hamptons insight on her craft as well and the women she has played. “They all have their own survival mechanism. That’s part of what’s interesting as an actress — to look at the character in that time and place in the world and how they got their needs met or didn’t get their needs met. It’s a never-ending journey as an actor to keep looking at human beings and human nature.” In terms of the amazing women she has played she added, “I hope my best part is yet to come.”
One dad present commented that the greatest thing the program gave his daughter was “awareness.”
Maya Dixon, a peer advisor for Girls FLI said, “My two years taught me how to be a leader and what that meant and to speak up for myself and the community, and most importantly I learned to be happy with who I am.”
The Coordinator for the Girls FLI Program, Malisa Ali, has been with the program since its inception two years ago. She said, “It opened up my heart more than any other experience in my life. Every girl who walked in the room saw that girls looked different from them – they were the ‘other,’ but they knew they wanted to come together to change the world. You would see the shy girl was no longer shy, and the school president learned to work in teams. They had it inside of them – they just needed the platform.”
She added, “They all lift each other higher and it helps them get their wings so they can fly. I don’t know what the future holds but I know Girls FLI holds the future.”
A rap by one of the Girls FLI members Mehrin Ali summed up the evening:
This is a night we will never forget.
Women’s equality and Patricia Arquette.
And the best advice they received from Patricia came from her own mother, “Ask yourself every night before you go to sleep who you are.”
We expect some great answers.
For more information and on ways to help, please visit www.womensfundli.org.