New Women New Yorkers’ summer potluck in Prospect Park

Written by Jahaida Hernandez Jesurum

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Summer in New York City is the rare time of year when you can feel everyone coming together to welcome freedom from the snow and cold with bare arms and sandals. (Unfortunately, humidity is also a given when it comes to city summers.)

Having grown up in the Caribbean where it’s summer all year round, I have learned to appreciate each season for what it brings — the hard way.

Nonetheless, this year has been particularly special because I have had the opportunity to volunteer for a cause that hits close to home: empowering young women immigrants. I remember walking in the same shoes of uncertainty with the feeling of being new and the anxiety of wanting to belong, or at least fit in.

Even when young immigrants have family members nearby for support, a lot can be lost when trying to find your place in the overwhelming and diverse environment of New York. Not knowing how to access accurate information for the simplest of things, like the format of a resume or how to improve language and writing skills, create unexpected difficulties when trying to figure out how to make a living or start a career.

I have now shared unforgettable moments with a group of women who together are bringing guidance and support to other young women immigrants, like myself. Being a part of New Women New Yorkers has brought a new purpose to my days. I have not only become more creative, but it has also raised my sense of social duty and responsibility.

As an organization, we come together to successfully launch programs like LEAD — which provides free training to young women immigrants in areas like social, technical, and leadership skills — but we have also become a multicultural sisterhood. I feel proud and lucky to be able to live in this city and to now help other women feel the same way and advance toward their personal growth.

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Food from around the world at the NWNY summer picnic.

Last weekend, to celebrate our diversity and our achievements as a team, we all decided to meet in Brooklyn’s Prospect Park to enjoy a feast, al fresco–style, that celebrates women immigrants and New York City.

Each of us brought custom dishes to share, ranging from Georgian lobiani (or “bean bread”), French Camembert cheese and baguettes, to Kansas-style banana bread.

We not only shared a meal and laughs, but we also shared family anecdotes and recipes that brought more meaning to every dish. I made rice and black beans — my all time favorite since childhood. I paired it with an eggplant stew to commemorate my mother, who is known for her unorthodox cooking skills and recipes. She’s always improvising, but has mastered at least five original ways to cook eggplant. I even added olives to the dish, because she adds capers and olives to everything (even against the request of her most avid patrons).

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