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NIOT Northport holds third annual park event, with uplifting message of commUNITY

People by: Chrissy Ruggeri, October 18, 2022

Children work on a project sponsored by Ink'd Art Studio at the third annual NIOT in the Park event this past weekend.

Not In Our Town (NIOT) Northport held its third annual outdoor event on Sunday, October 16 in Cow Harbor Park in Northport Village. A steady flow of Northport-East Northport residents attended the two-hour gathering, which had representatives from several community organizations and local businesses present.

The origins of NIOT Northport date back to July 2020 when eight Northport women formed a local chapter of the national non-profit organization Not In Our Town after graffiti with swastikas and racial slurs were found at Dickinson Avenue Elementary School. The group’s mission is to speak out against acts of intolerance, spread awareness and implement changes to combat hate, said cofounder Meghan Dolan-Saporita. Since its inception, the group has responded to several local occurrences of bias, while also working to promote a sense of acceptance and togetherness via kindness initiatives and charity drives.

This year, the group announced a specific theme to focus on at its NIOT in the Park event: commUNITY. “While years past have been focused on combating and reacting to issues of intolerance within the area, this year is focused on the celebration of our differences and how far we’ve come in just three years,” Meghan explained. “We still have work to do,” she added, “but seeing people come together behind a common cause has been simply remarkable.”

As part of the theme, local organizations and businesses who have worked with NIOT in the past were invited to be part of the park event. The Huntington Anti-Bias Task Force, Long Island Pride PTSA, Northport Historical Society, Northport-East Northport Public Library, Northport Native Garden Initiative and Youth Direction Alternatives (YDA) set up information tables and shared resources with attendees. Additionally, authors Bill Kiley and Valerie Goldstein had their children’s books for sale, Clark Ruggeri of Ink’d Art Studio and Tiffany Asadourian of Art Pop installed creative spaces for children, and Monique Da Cruz Silva of Raizes sold Brazilian-made, ethical and sustainable jewelry.

During the event, a summer project spearheaded by Ms. Asadourian of Art Pop and created by residents was unveiled to the public and presented to Northport Village Mayor Donna Koch. The candlelight mural, which is made up of hundreds of small tiles that were placed by NIOT members and other passersby at Art in the Park, represents the community coming together to be part of something beautiful and inspiring, said NIOT Northport co-founder Molly Feeney Wood. The mural will travel throughout the Northport-East Northport area, with its first stop being the lobby of Village Hall. Mayor Koch accepted the mural at the event, while giving gratitude to the group and its mission to create a safer, more united community.

“The Village supports Not In Our Town and its mission to stop hate, racism and bullying, and making Northport a more inclusive place for all of us,” Mayor Koch said.

Chrissy Ruggeri is a founding member of NIOT Northport.

NIOT Northport co-founders presented a candlelight mural to Northport Village Mayor Donna Koch. Assemblyman Keith Brown joined in on the festivities.

Local author Bill Kiley was present to talk about his children's book, Hope and Freckles, with the community.

Representatives from the Northport Historical Society were just one of many local organizations present at the event.