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Platinum Pias Awards: An Inwood Manhattan Story by John Yianni Stamas

Hi. My name is John Yianni Stamas and I am the founder of the Platinum Pias Awards. I've also been a resident of Inwood Manhattan for around a decade. In fact, the upcoming 6th Annual Platinum Pias Awards (March 21, 6:30pm at DCTV, 87 Layfayette) owes it's history to Inwood and is still very connected to Northern NYC.

It started around seven years ago when my wife Alison and I dressed our then infant daughter Lily as a Peapod for Harvest Festival NYC and All Hallow's Eve. We were ready for kids to come to our door asking for candy as well as excited for Lily to be a part of a community experience. We live East of Broadway on Academy, and sadly no one came to our door.

Fast forward a year later we formed a community group called Lights Camera Read in conjunction with the Inwood branch of the New York Public Library and decided to again try to celebrate Harvest Festival with Lily. But this time we contacted more than 100 Inwood residents and a slew of local Inwood businesses and created a parade starting at Grandpa's Pizza, going down Broadway, then turning East and ending at the fire station.

We had pre-arranged with the multitude of the businesses to have treats ready for the kids. Our daughter Lily (this year in a lamb costume) had a great time. As a special thank you to all the Inwood-ites who participated, soon thereafter in 2010 we held the First Annual Platinum Pias Awards - to recognize those making a difference in the community.

The Platinum Pias and Lights Camera Read have grown a lot in the ensuing years, including having celebrity guests like pro football player Justin Tuck, being interviewed on camera to inspire the kids. Just Google "Platinum Pias" and you'll see the phenomenon the Pias have evolved into. But they've never lost touch with celebrating community and Inwood.

Case in point, the entire "Community Entrepreneurship" category consists of three nominees all of whom are local Inwood businesses. The "School Platinum Pia" has an Inwood/Washington Heights resident, plus two of the five judges this year are from Inwood, including a beloved pediatrician. Also, the Washington Heights Y has been nominated in the Community Center Platinum Pia category.

You can see all fifteen nominees below, just click on any one of the links of a person's name and it will take you to their video. We create a personalized video for each one of the awards show candidates.

Here's the link to view the fifteen videos.

Here also is a link to a press release on the Platinum Pias:



But the Platinum Pias is not just an annual awards show recognizing those making a difference. It has become a year round experience that includes the weekly "NYC Make a" newsletter and ongoing Lights Camera Read Artist Entrepreneurship Workshops.

These workshops are for young people to learn how to be an artist entrepreneur, acquire valuable media skills and navigate success in the challenging world of arts and entertainment. Plus the Pias are a communications powerhouse, utilizing the combined resources of its newsletter and coalition of more than 40 online publications to reach in a meaningful and educational manner, over 4,000 individuals weekly and growing.

The Platinum Pias Awards show itself as well as the “NYC Make a” Video Newsletter web series plus documentaries such as “Celebrity Entrepreneurship: Youth Empowerment” are all media projects that young people work on as a part of the Lights Camera Read Workshops in libraries, community centers and schools primarily in Northern Manhattan.

Called Video Film Web Apprentices, the youth additionally hone their prowess on the over 40 online publications. This means they are not only learning how to be an artist entrepreneur but in addition are receiving valuable job placement and career building credits.

And even if a young person does not ultimately decide to become an artist entrepreneur, he or she will have acquired habits and qualities like responsibility, punctuality and creativity, that will be useful in any work place scenario. And not only that, the activities are fun and engaging.

Who wouldn’t want to participate in a documentary such as Lights Camera Read's Celebrity Entrepreneurship that includes John Amos (the father on the TV show "Good Times"), Victoria Price (daughter of horror icon Vincent Price who is the voice of Michael Jackson's "Thriller”), Gary Sohmers (of PBS's "Antiques Road Show") as well as Julie Newmar (the original Catwoman of the “Batman” TV series) plus more.

The Platinum Pias Lights Camera Read workshops are always free to participants and are made possible because of generous contributions from institutions, organizations and others. This year's Platinum Pias are sponsored by SUNY: Empire State College.

So what started out as wanting baby Lily to have a community experience has become an annual event and year round educational project. And all thanks to Inwood Manhattan!