Village Independent Democrats celebrate 65 years of fighting for rights

Local politicians and judges came to celebrate for the first gala in two years.
(Photo by Tequila Minsky)

With its annual gala on Tuesday night, Village Independent Democrats (VID) celebrated  65 years of Fighting for Your Rights at Ristorante Rafele.  

During the Pandemic members of this Democrat club kept up their civic and political engagement through Zoom meetings, candidate signature gathering and on-street campaigning, but It’s been a long time since they’ve met as a group.

Mingling and smoozing, sampling appetizers and a beer or wine in hand, for many, since the shut-down,  this is the first time seeing the twinkle in their friends’ and political allies’ eyes.  

In 1957, VID, a new progressive club,  was organized to push back against Tammany Hall politics.  In the 60s, it stood on the progressive side protesting the war in Vietnam, supporting Black Panthers, gay rights and abortion legalization.  VID endorses candidates and ballot proposals in all national, state, and local elections.

(Bk Row) Lauren Esposito, VID; Mar Fitzgerald, Co-President; Caroline Donahue, V.P.; Katherine Wolpe, former President happily greet attendees.(Photo by Tequila Minsky)

With a big smile on his face, four-term past president and former District Leader Tony Hoffmann greeted guests as they arrived. He voiced the sentiment, “I’ve seen some while campaigning; there are many I haven’t seen in two-and-a-half years! “

As is gala de rigeur, activists and organizations are recognized for their contributions to the local community, NYC and greater environs, and VID itself.

Odile Schalit, Executive Director of The Brigit Alliance accepted the award for the organization, which is a referral-based service providing travel, food, lodging childcare and other logistical support for people seeking abortions.  She informed gala attendees how important—now more than ever  is the organization’s mission in propping up abortion care access in an increasingly hostile environment. 

Recognized for her leadership, Laura Marceca, Greenwich House (GH)  Associate Director of Adult Service received an award. Under her direction in the past few years, GH experienced a huge growth in membership. During the Pandemic she worked tirelessly to facilitate food deliveries to older adults and among her many achievements, without any hesitation,  she pivoted programming to Zoom.  This increased Center participation, even now for many who are reluctant or can’t travel to the Centers. Classes have resumed in-person but a good number continue to be offered hybrid or Zoom-only. 

Addressing his local Democrat club, Councilman Erik Bottcher.(Photo by Tequila Minsky)

Kathy Slawinski received the VID Leadership Award.  A product of the union movement, for 40 years a member of several Communications Workers of America unions and a VP of her local, she has served as VIDs recording secretary for  10 years. Among her many VID initiatives, she organized a forum on decarceration and has drafted numerous resolutions and letters to legislators. 

Award-winning visual artist and NYC storyteller Kamau Ware was also honored. He founded the Black Gotham Experience in 2010 to answer the question: Where are Black people in the story of New York City and how did Black people get here?  His organization, based in the Seaport district, sponsors walking tours combining history and visual storytelling to celebrate the impact of the African Diaspora on New York City. He has also worked with Manhattan’s Community Board 2 to monumentalized The Land of The Blacks, the 17th-century community owned by free Black men and women that encompassed most of what is now The Village. 

During the formal part of the evening, local politicians were greeted by name—some spoke—while club members and judges appreciated an unmasked evening that felt like previous times

Village Independent Democrats is one of many current local downtown Democrat political clubs with others based in Chelsea, further downtown, Lower East Side, and one particularly focused on minority and LGBTQ human rights.

Laura Marceca. Her award reads: For her extraordinary compassion and dedication to older adults in lower Manhattan especially her tireless effots to distribute food for those in need during the Covid crisis.(Photo by Tequila Minsky)
Leadership Award recipient Kathy Slawinski with fellow club member Sara Kimbell.(Photo by Tequila Minsky)
VID Co-Presidents: Mar Fitzgerald & Cameron Krause.(Photo by Tequila Minsky)
Award recipient: The Brigid Alliance: For breaking down barrier to get people abortion care.(Photo by Tequila Minsky)