Sunday, May 6, 2012

Everyone, Meet Floria and Sidney

I had two interesting professional engagements last week, thanks to Floria Lasky and Sidney Hillman. Each had a substantial career that included service to the larger community, and each had been such a force in their own fields that after their deaths colleagues took the time and effort to create something in their names that bring people together. That's the exciting part.

I greatly admire people whose very lives bring people together. We all try to contribute to the conversation and make an impact where it will tangibly help someone, but that's a talent some people have more than others. And then there's Floria and Sidney, who can do it from the grave.

Floria Lasky

Because Floria met Jerome Robbins as a young women last century . . . there was a workshop of people who run the social media accounts for many of the city's nonprofit cultural institutions.

Here's How:
Floria Vivian Lasky was born in the Bronx on April 24, 1923, the daughter of Polish immigrants, who named her after Floria Tosca, the heroine of Puccini’s opera. She entered Hunter College at the age of 14. After graduating first in her class at New York University law school in 1945, she joined the law firm of Fitelson & Mayers, where she would stay for the next 62 years, eventually becoming a principal.

A master negotiator, she was a leader in the field of entertainment law, representing such clients as Jerome Robbins, Jule Styne, Elia Kazan, Tennessee Williams, and Carson McCullers.

Robbins was a particularly close client and friend. She knew him for more than fifty years, and continued to serve as executor of his estate as president of The Jerome Robbins Foundation and trustee of The Robbins Rights Trust until she died in 2007.

In her honor the Jerome Robbins Foundation created the Floria V. Lasky Award and Symposium. The award this year went to Paul H. Epstein, a partner at Proskauer Rose for nearly 30 years, he founded Volunteer Lawyers for the Arts and was instrumental in establishing the George Balanchine Trust and the Leonard Bernstein Office as well as helping to bring Jerome Robbins' Broadway to the stage.

To have even more direct impact on the cultural life of the city, the foundation partnered with the Rockefeller Brothers Fund to produce a workshop, Digital & Social Media Strategy: Strategy, Planning, & Implementation. It was a good Saturday afternoon at the Jerome L. Greene Space on Charleton & Varick, with presenters from leading digital agencies and the audience of people who run the social media accounts for cultural nonprofits across the city, which was excellent.

Sure I can always reach out to my social media counterparts--like Christopher Gruits at Carnegie Hall or Doug Reside at NY Public Library for the Performing arts—but in the hectic day to day of the Paley Center, I rarely do. So, thank you Floria, for helping me stay connected.

Livestream of some of the sessions.

Sidney Hillman

Because Sidney immigrated from Lithuania and became a garment labor leader . . . I met some excellent journalists whose work I might have missed, I learned something about Labor Union history, and I connected with fellow bloggers in person.

Here's How:

Sidney Hillman was the founding president of the Amalgamated Clothing and Textile Workers Union of America, a predecessor union of Workers United, SEIU. An architect of the New Deal, he fought to build a vibrant union movement extending beyond the shop floor to all aspects of workers’ lives.

Hillman died in 1946. His passing was felt as a deep personal loss by men and women in every walk of life. Before long, the union, which he had led since its founding in 1914, was besieged with requests to create a living memorial to the man who had become the spokesman for progressive industrial democracy.

The Foundation is deeply concerned with the responsibilities of a free press, including radio and television. Since 1950, the Hillman Prize program has honored contributors to the daily, periodical, and labor press, as well as authors and broadcasters.

The very first daily press winner was the great liberal columnist Murray Kempton. In later years, photography and, most recently, blogging, were added as prize categories.

The Sidney Hillman Foundation has sought to illuminate the great issues of the day—from the search for a basis for lasting peace, to the need for better housing, medical care, and employment security for all people, the promotion of civil liberties and the battle against discrimination based on race, nationality, or religion.

And so I was invited to join the Bloggers Committee by old friend Tom Watson, joining Lindsay Beyerstein, Lance Mannion, Howard Greenstein, Marcia Stepanek, Jamil Smith, Jill Filipovic and others to bring some real-time attention to the winners, who included Frank Bardacke, Ta-nehisis Coates, Sarah Stillman, Katie Falkengberg, and Yoav Potash. Danny Glover and Sidney Poitier were inspiring presenters, and lovely to meet.


dorki said...

Nice to see a write-up on "People that I should have known about".

Being a progressive oriented techno-geek here in the deep South I just do not see much of that.

I will read up on these folks.

Thanks for the posting.

M.A.Peel said...

hi dorki, reading biographies of full lives is always interesting, isn't it? Also the satisfaction and ilumination of seeing a life in its whole, with the beginning, middle, and end, something we can't do for our own life.