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CNY RISE Friendship Dinner
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CNY RISE Friendship Dinner
Ben Walsh
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CNY RISE Friendship Dinner
Jaime Alicea
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CNY RISE Friendship Dinner
Mustafa Santiago Ali
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Friendship Dinner 2023: We Rise Together to Address Climate Change

CNY RISE Center held its 18th Annual Friendship Dinner on Wednesday, November 8, 2023. The topic for this year was “How Will We Rise to Address Climate Change?” The CNY RISE Center and Women Transcending Boundaries co-sponsored the evening.

The event began with greetings from Master of Ceremonies Dr. Lisa Saka. Melek Yavuz, CNY RISE Board President and President of Women Transcending Boundaries, warmly welcomed everyone. She highlighted the urgency of the problem of Global Warming and the rise in natural disasters such as floods, droughts, and hurricanes as climate patterns are disrupted. Multimedia Presentations introducing CNY RISE Center services and the programs of Women Transcending Boundaries were shared with our guests. Then, a traditional Turkish Dinner was served and guests enjoyed live music performed by Azat Orazmyradov.

Everyone viewed a video describing the science behind Climate Change and the need to reduce the amount of carbon dioxide, methane and other heat-retaining gases humans release into earth’s atmosphere. Dr Rhea Jezer, President of Energy 21, gave a compelling and inspiring talk—emphasizing that humanity is being thrown a last life line. While we know what we need to do, significant progress will require true cooperation and commitment from Industry, Labor, Environmentalists, Government and All Communities.

CNY RISE Center recognized exceptional community leaders with the “Community Service Awards.” This year Rachel May, NYS Senator; Chris Carrick, Energy Production Manager of CNY Regional Planning and Development Board; Al Stirpe, NYS Assemblyman; and Joanie Mahoney, SUNY ESF President, received awards for their efforts in combating Global Warming. Matthew Millea accepted the award for Joanie Mahoney. Each spoke about some efforts he/she has championed and the challenges to progress.

We were honored to have John Mannion, NYS Senator, and Nodesia Hernandez, Legislator, make closing remarks. Barbara Bova of WTB said that though this scale of this problem feels overwhelming, we each need to do what we can with our actions, voices, and votes.

Friendship Dinner 2022: I-81 Project: Highway to Social Justice

CNY RISE Center held its 17th Annual Friendship Dinner on Thursday, November 10, 2022, after three years of unprecedented covid time we experienced. The particular topic for this year was "I-81 Project: Highway to Social Justice". The CNY Rise Center and the City of Syracuse co-organized the event. It was an honor to have our keynote speaker, Mayor Ben Walsh for the night.

The event started with a welcome speech Board President of CNY RISE Center, Tim Saka. He quoted from Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), "Whosoever of you sees an evil (injustice), let him change it with his hand; and if he is not able to do so, then, let him change it with his tongue; and if he is not able to do so, then with his heart." To introduce our CNY RISE Center services, our multimedia presentation was shared with our guests. Then, a traditional Turkish Dinner was served while listening to a live performance from Lisa and Dan Miller. Prof. Lisa Miller is the chair of the Music Department at Onondaga Community College.

We had a series of exceptional speakers share their passion for not repeating the injustices of the past. For closing remarks, it was an honor to have Assemblywoman Pamela Hunter, Senator Dr. Rachel May, OCC President Dr. Warren Hilton, Common Councilor Joseph Driscoll, and Scott Butler from the NYS Department of Transportation.

CNY RISE Center recognized exceptional community leaders with the "Community Service Award." This year, Mayor Ben Walsh; Aggie Lane; Emmanuel Henderson; Dekah Dancil, Urban Jobs Task Force; Lanessa Owens-Chaplin, and NY Civil Liberties Union were awarded for their leadership regarding the I-81 Project. Our guests had a warm conversation at the end of the night, and everyone received a small gift bag on the way to the exit.


Friendship Dinner 2019: Early Childcare-Invisible Crisis

CNY RISE Center held its 14th Annual Friendship Dinner on Thursday, November 7, 2019. The special topic for this year was “Early Childcare-Invisible Crisis“. The event was co-organized by CNY Rise Center and Childcare Solutions. Onondaga County Executive McMahon was the special guest for the night.

The event started with welcome speech by Tim Saka, Board President of CNY RISE Center. Mr. Saka emphasized the importance of early childcare and it increasing cost to families. Following the presentation on the topic, the dinner was served. It was an opportunity for guests share ideas and get to know each other.

After the dinner, the director of Childcare Solutions, Lori Schokaw made a presentation on their efforts to support families. Huntington Family Services Director Robin Manning, Children and Family Services Director Tina Cook joined her for a panel discussion on the new state regulations and answering questions from the guests.

CNY RISE Center has been recognizing exceptional people with "Community Service Award. This year, County Executive McMahon and the Early Childhood Alliance Director, Laurie Black were awarded for their leadership in initiating county-wide programs.

All the guests received a gift bag prepared by the volunteers at the end of the night.

Friendship Dinner 2018: The Impact of Poverty on Education

CNY RISE Center held its 13th Annual Friendship Dinner on November 7, 2018. The topic of the event was “The Impact of Poverty on Education” presented by Superintendent Jaime Alicea from Syracuse School District (SCSD). Superintendent Alicea described the challenges in the classroom that come with the poverty. He also highlighted the current services provided for the low-income families within the district and encouraged everyone to join those initiatives.

The event started with welcome speech by Tim Saka, Board President of CNY RISE Center. Mr. Saka emphasized the role of education to overcome the poverty and he also mention about his own challenges of growing in a low-income family and pursuing higher education as an immigrant in the US. Following the welcome speech, the dinner is served, an opportunity for guests sharing the table to share ideas and know about each other.

The program launched its award winners after the keynote speech by Superintendent Alicea. The winners were Daniel Lounsbery from SCSD, Magistrate Jawwaad Rasheed and Darris William from 100 Black Men, Mariel Anderson from Onondaga Community College, Mark Cass from Northside Learning Center, all of whom were recognized by their valuable effort in helping the students facing poverty in Syracuse area.

Friendship Dinner 2017: Ending Childhood Lead Poisoning in Syracuse

CNY RISE Center hosts event to raise awareness

The 12th annual CNY RISE Friendship dinner took place Jan. 24 to bring awareness to lead poisoning. The dinner hosted a number of speakers who spoke about the negative impacts of lead poisoning and how the community can come together to fix the issue. The South Side is working hard to end childhood lead poisoning in Syracuse by 2025.

“This is a poverty issue,” said Assemblywoman Pamela Hunter (D-Syracuse). “This is landlords who are not taking care of their properties and people who can’t afford to live in places that don’t have lead paint. … It’s not acceptable. Our children are our future, and we need to act like it.”

Around 24 million homes in the U.S. contain deteriorated lead-based paint and elevated levels of lead-contaminated house dust, according to the Centers for Disease Control. Additionally, 535,000 U.S. children between ages 1 to 5 years old have blood lead levels high enough to damage their health.

Keynote Speaker Mustafa Santiago Ali shared his thoughts on these issues during the dinner. He serves as the senior vice president of Climate, Environmental Justice & Community Revitalization for the Hip Hop Caucus.

“We all have the ability to make change happen,” Ali said. “Lead is an issue that we can win on, but we have to prioritize it.”

Ali spoke about changing the dynamic and focusing on the right type of housing opportunities. He believes the Environmental Protection Agency plays a huge role in this rising problem.

“The EPA has a responsibility to make sure that we are moving forward on lead,” he said.

Speaker Mary Traynor from Legal Services of Central New York said she believes the people affected need to be more involved in the process. The community needs to recognize that the ones affected are the ones who are the experts in the matter.

“Six hundred kids a year are poisoned,” she stated. “This is violence against our children, against our families, against our neighbors… If we want change in the world, we have to change.”

Similarly, speaker Dr. Indu Gupta, health commissioner for Onondaga County, said she believed that those affected need to have a bigger role in the course of action. She talked about how community engagement needs to be the driving force in moving forward.

Additionally, there needs to be more performance evaluations and environmental scans to keep up with the progress, according to Gupta. Without it we cannot fix the issue. She believes that filling the missing pieces and gaps is what is going to help improve and protect the health of those kids.

Speaker Elizabeth McDade from the Rochester Community Foundation also made a guest appearance. She explained how Rochester was able to reduce the amount of lead poisoning to the area and make a positive difference.

“Rochester has seen over an 80 percent reduction in the number of children reported,” she stated. “But most important, I would say to all of this, is that our community decided to make this change.”

— Article By Sarah Perkes, The Stand Staff reporter

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