Oceanside JCC talent show to support self-advocates


A premiere event at Oceanside JCC will roll out the red carpet for people with developmental disabilities, shine a spotlight on their many talents and raise money for a cause close to their hearts.

The JCC’s Special Advocacy Coalition is hosting its inaugural Red Carpet Event on Sunday, Dec. 2 from 3 to 5 p.m. in the JCC auditorium. The talent show, craft fair and fundraiser will help SPEAC to establish a transportation fund for self-advocates to attend the Self-Advocacy Association of New York State Long Island Regional Conference.

“This is a program for people who are self-directed, and we need to make sure that people are involved,” said Amy Lubliner, SPEAC self-advocate and vice president of programming, who contributed to the idea of the talent show.

SPEAC is a community group for differently-abled, self-advocating adults to discuss issues of housing, transportation, employment, social opportunities and inclusion. For years, JCC has been training with SANYS to learn how to better serve self-advocates in the community. In winter 2017, the JCC received a grant from the UJA-Federation of New York to create a chapter of SPEAC, which officially started in April 2017 and now gets about 15 to 20 attendees at its monthly meetings.

Self-advocate coordinator and advisor Leslie Feinberg facilitates the group discussions at JCC. President and self-advocate Ashley Gazes, along with the rest of the self-advocate officers, help lead the sessions: “Advocacy in Action,” where group members with disabilities learn to advocate for themselves, and “Actions for Change,” where the group brainstorms ideas for activism in the community.

One day, Feinberg asked members what they wanted to do to create change and the overwhelming response was to gain community recognition and show off their talents. Thus, the Red Carpet Event was born.

“It’s going to be a really fun time and will showcase individuals with disabilities who have important things to say and want their voices to be heard,” said JCC’s Senior Program Director Marcy Hallerman.

The organization’s self-advocates will strut their stuff at the event, whether they’ll be singing a song, doing a dance or selling a craft. There will be musical performances and a gallery of original artwork, including jewelry, paintings and photography.

“It’s going to be a very good, thoughtful day for people with disabilities to be proud of who they are,” Lubliner said.

Lubliner said she wishes to dedicate the event to the memory of her father who died in the spring. When she was younger, he instilled in her a passion for music and a desire to be involved in the community.

“I joined choir, and then I took that and became heavily involved throughout my years,” Lubliner said. “He was very, very special to me.”

Funds raised from this event will help SPEAC and their efforts to create a transportation fund that SANYS can use to send self-advocates to their annual conference, a large, regional event where differently-abled adults come together, share their experiences and educate one another.

“It’s the regional connection,” Feinberg said. “Imagine if you didn’t have ways of connecting with people who think like you. When the group realized that some people can’t secure transportation to this, it really resonated with them and they wanted to help self-advocates across Long Island.”

Gazes expressed a hope for the Red Carpet Event to raise both funds and community awareness for their group. “We want [people with disabilities] to know we are here for them and we support them,” she said.