Letter from Our CEO – February 2023

Dear NYWIFT Community:

Happy Year of the Rabbit and Happy Black History Month! When I was a kid my mother and I would make pineapple upside down cake. We would carefully pick the best ingredients from the supermarket: a fresh pineapple, maraschino cherries in the glass jar, and the Betty Crocker cake mix from the baking isle. We would carefully set up the ingredients on our formica kitchen table and begin preparing the cake pan and we would giggle. Mami would say: “This is risky business…tricky, like life. We do our best but then it gets turned upside down and you just never know what you are going to get.”

Nine out of 10 times it turned out great but of course when it didn’t, my mom would blame the ingredients, saying they didn’t play well together in the oven when we weren’t looking. I would  take a flashlight from my father’s toolbox to keep an eye on the cake… wondering if the ingredients were playing well together.

This morning, as I was driving my daughter to high school, all I could think about was how life is so unpredictable, like my risky pineapple upside down cakes. It is an exciting time to renew and reinvent how we work and celebrate together. Yet, like the cakes, change always is risky. But we are delighted to try new ways.

We are reinventing how we work at NYWIFT every day. We are thrilled to announce that our NYWIFT Muse Awards will be held on Tuesday, March 28, 2023 at Cipriani 42nd Street at 11 AM in celebration of Women’s History Month. NYWIFT corporate partner tables are going fast! To buy a table or find out more information on group sales please email development@nywift.org. Single ticket sales for members and non-members will open soon.   

It is with a heavy heart that we begin celebrating the contributions of Black women in media and entertainment history on the heels of yet another brutal attack. For us at NYWIFT, our prayers and healing thoughts are with the family of Tyre Nichols during this unbearable time of grief.

Most of the NYWIFT members know that Leslie Fields-Cruz was elected this past Summer as the new NYWIFT President. We are so proud of her decades-long track record as a filmmaker advocate, media executive, and digital visionary. Black Public Media (BPM), where she is Executive Director, has a long legacy of supporting Black filmmakers, establishing unique distribution strategies in public media, and developing creative digital content.

NYWIFT is transforming how we do our work, taking risks, trying to not do business as usual, and, as per our strategic plan, continuing to diversify, encourage, and increase new and unique members, board members, staff, and consultants, to ensure diversity on all levels. Stats are as follows: 65% of the NYWIFT Board, 67% of staff and consultants, 64% of filmmaker grant recipients, and 80% of our scholarship recipients this past year are diverse. During the last four years we have worked diligently toward an organization that values equity as a core operational value.  

We hope you’ll join us for our next virtual NYWIFT Talks, next Friday, February 10th at 4 PM ET, where President Leslie Fields-Cruz will moderate a conversation with leaders from media arts organizations dedicating to amplifying BIPOC creators. You can register here.

During this critical time where change is happening every day, we have had some very difficult losses to our community. Notably, 1997 NYWIFT Muse honoree Barbara Walters made instrumental and inspirational contributions to media and entertainment industry. We are saddened by her departure but take solace in what we learned from her and carry forward her legacy.

Television executive Anne Sweeney and journalist Barbara Walters attend the NYWIFT Muse Awards on December 16, 2004 in New York City. (Photo by Peter Kramer/Getty Images)


I had the great pleasure to meet her at the Emmy Awards and later at a women’s lunch many years ago and took a photo, which I normally don’t do… keep an eye out and I’ll post them on Twitter soon! Barbara taught me a valuable lesson – it is not that we shouldn’t ask a provocative question, but rather it’s the style in which we ask the question will determine if we get an appropriate response. Thank you to all the women that fought the good fight at news, television stations, and studios to get our point of view across.

Lastly, one of our founders is being recognized! Lenore DeKoven will receive a League of Professional Theatre Women award on March 27th.  Congratulations, Lenore! We are so proud of all of your accomplishments.

Kind regards,



Cynthia López
CEO | Executive Director
New York Women in Film & Television