Wingate’s Fitness Fest

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A group of men and women elegantly glide on roller skates to Motown tunes on the handball courts. A group plays soccer, ripping up dust as they run for the ball. From the track to the playgrounds, everywhere you look is movement. There is life sweating profusely in the hot sun, but finding the fun in fitness none the less. 

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Councilman Matthieu Eugene

Just past George Wingate High School on Saturday, June 16, the Brooklyn Fitness Fest in Wingate Park– Winthrop Street between Brooklyn and Kingston Avenues–was in swing making full use of the recently installed playgrounds and workout gym equipment.

In addition to the usual basketball and soccer games at the park, the fest offered inventive workouts and competitions for the residents; including toddler yoga, ‘afrobics’, ‘skaterobics’, battle ropes courses, drum fitness, and pilates.

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‘Cas’ and Dee Hibbert

Director of the Friends Of Wingate Park Vivia Morgan said, “The councilman and the parks department has been working on this for four years. We’ve been advocating and asking for eight so it’s good to see everything finally come together, but we’ve still got work to do on the park.”

Despite the improvements in some parts of the park, the parks inspection program still rated the overall condition as unacceptable in March for its athletic fields, fences and paved surfaces.

CEO of Ballstar Vaughn Caldon said that the courts were still sorely in need of repair since they are used so frequently by the youth in the community.

According to NYC Parks project timeline the design for the new courts has been completed and is currently in review by the staff and counsel.  It states the construction phase, set to begin in December 2018, will take about 12 to 18 months.

“First there is a vote. An allocation of funds, and then it has to go through the different departments,” said Councilman Matthieu Eugene about the budget, “It may take a while but we’ll get there.” It is the councilman’s last term, and has said that he is a doctor not a politician, but if the people want him to run again he will.

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Wingate Basketball Courts

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A Conversation with Cops and Youth in Brooklyn’s District 17

The atmosphere in the noisy, packed gymnasium was hesitant at best. The predominantly African American students sat in small groups with one or two officers in full uniform among them. “Officers! Don’t sit beside one another,” said long-time Community Board Chairperson Patricia Reddock as she scolded the crowd, earning a wave of laughter from all. The officers, now slightly embarrassed, move to disperse themselves among the adolescents. They all look expectantly to Reddock as the talks are set to begin.

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The Community Board District 17 Youth Committee’s 2nd Annual “Rap With Cops” event in Brooklyn, headed by Reddock, was held at the Madison Square Boys and Girls Club on May 9. In attendance were roughly 70 teenagers from ages 13 through 19 and about 14 officers from the 67 Precinct of different backgrounds, genders and races. The goal of the event was to encourage youngsters to ask their own questions of the police without parents or teachers inhibiting the conversation.

They start introductions to break the ice and then slowly move onto role playing both ways. The cops are asked about everything from why shootings of young Black men always occur in this country to who would win in a one-on-one game between the precinct and the school basketball team.

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PO Raul Flores and student listening intently at the group discussions on policing and gun violence.

With the controversial police shooting two months ago of Saheed Vassell in Crown Heights, the neighboring district on the corner of Utica Avenue and Montgomery Street, police response and shootings are at the forefront. District 17 comprises of 88.3 percent Black residents and 21.7 percent of residents under the age of 18 according to the American Community Survey from 2011 to 2015. The East Flatbush and Flatbush areas are made up of these girls and boys that don’t always have a voice. The community board aims to humanize not only the cops in their neighborhoods that they rely on to the adolescents, but the kids to the cops as well.

Joan Bakiriddin on the youth committee said, “Look how much they’ve brought the chairs together. How they lean in listening to each other. This is our second year with the kids and they remembered and came back.”

Once everyone gets comfortable enough the staff and facilitators sit off to the side to observe the cops and teens huddled into tight circles smiling, listening, paying attention, laughing. Even the disinterested participant has a chance to speak. After about an hour the groups stand to present what they’ve learned from one another. “Split seconds can bring out the worst in people,” said one teen as he held the microphone and attention of his peers. The teens talk about the uncomfortable topics and role playing so they could get into the headspace of what it takes to be a cop.

“We’re nervous too,” said P.O Maher, explaining how it feels to routinely investigate dangerous situations. He said with the constant supervision and body cams no one wants to make a mistake or be penalized for someone else’s mistake in another state.

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The second annual “Rap With Cops” event was held in the gym of the Madison Square Boys and Girls Club in Brooklyn, NY.

Sgt. Bruno Pierre told his group about the instance where he was being attacked with an individual with a machete where he had to use his firearm. He said he talks to his kids at home in the same way, and hopes they learn from his situations.

Teen coordinator at the Boys and Girls Club Johnson Burrows said, “There should be more of these events. Sometimes you got to let people figure it out for themselves. Out in the streets, I’m not there to facilitate between the cops and teens. This way there’s an understanding.”

Reddock gingerly walks around to each group as some erupt in laughter or remain engaged as the evening comes to a close. Afterwards a signed jersey by Brooklyn Net’s Caris LeVert and student certificates for participation are given out as everyone flocks to the provided food and refreshments. 

#NationalWalkoutDay At Brooklyn Tech High: Photo Story

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Brooklyn Technical High School

 

 

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BKTech student at the walkout has a 17 marking for the seventeen fallen at Parkland.

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Student bows head in solidarity for victims of shooting.

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Group of students pose for a 4×5 photographer at the rally against gun violence.

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Crowds gather in front of Brooklyn Borough Hall in protest of gun violence in schools.

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Crowds gather in front of Brooklyn Borough Hall in protest of gun violence in schools.

Brooklyn Tech students gather at Borough Hall in protest of gun violence in schools.

Crowds gather in front of Brooklyn Borough Hall in protest of gun violence in schools.

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Student holds sign in front of Brooklyn Borough Hall in protest of gun violence in schools.

Solar Power Prepares Southern Brooklyn For the Future

The realization that clean energy, namely solar, can save the city in a crisis such as Hurricane Sandy, is sweeping through neighborhoods. Solar, which is renewable, efficient, and off-the-grid, provides energy which was needed throughout the damaged areas of the boroughs lacking in emergency preparation.

A press release in November 2016 announced that the Office of Storm Recovery, funded by Governor Cuomo, appointed 26 facilities and 19 service providers under the New York Rising Community Center Program to create a network of neighborhood-based recovery centers for extreme weather events.

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Caesar Nash, a Solar One employee from Yonkers, pulls apart the summer stage in preparation for fall.

In 2014 the reconstruction plan for Canarsie was set in motion, which was directly inspired by the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy. Two of the hubs are in the Canarsie area, having been identified by the community center program committee as necessary. They will be fitted with solar power and sustainable batteries.

The Canarsie planning committee members include established local organizations such as the Canarsie Disaster Recovery Coalition, Flatlands 108th Block Association, Fresh Creek Civic Association, and the Jewish Community Council of Canarsie. Major non-profits, such as Solar One, the largest weatherization organization in New York State, help connect these local residents with the program’s renewable services.

Kristin Devoe of the Division of Emergency Services for New York City said, “Through our stockpiles, we can provide generators, light towers, etc. to local emergency managers for local use to power essential buildings such as gathering centers, warming centers, critical infrastructure public buildings. However, none of these items are fueled by renewable energy.”

Solar energy is a powerful resource. The lithium ion batteries, its non-toxic counterpart device, stay charged with the sun’s energy for when it is needed, while the excess is sent back into the city’s electrical grid. The Energy Association reports that, “Today’s electricity grid is increasingly vulnerable to threats from nature, terrorists, and accidents. Power outages cost as much as $130 billion annually, while hitting the job-creating commercial and industrial sectors the hardest.”

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The rebuilt Stuyvesant park nature trail behind the Solar One facility at sunset.

The Solar One site at Stuyvesant Park Cove on The East River was pummeled when Hurricane Sandy hit on October 29, 2012. According to their program report that year, they were able to quickly adapt their solar panel system into a crucial charging station for people nearby during the city’s recovery. Without alternative methods for powering electronics, and in one case a child’s nebulizer for asthma, people’s communications and safety would have suffered.

“You have to be prepared,” said Elba O. Melendez and Community Emergency Response Team volunteer from Canarsie.

Melendez and the committee have dedicated their time to readying their neighborhoods for natural disasters. The idea is to transfer Solar One’s adapted crisis methods into full-blown emergency and environmental education centers. “Many sources encourage the use of solar chargers by the general public in the event of a power outage for small items such as personal cell phones, rechargeable or crank operated lanterns, flashlights, and weather radios and these are considered effective in these instances,” said Devoe.

The organizations determined that solar powered devices, panels, and storage batteries would be the most helpful to maintain communications and basic comforts during a crisis recovery in Canarsie. Even suggesting in the reconstruction plan that resilient street lights powered by solar energy would improve safety during an emergency.

Angelica Ramdhari, Solar One Project Director of NYRCR Solar and Battery Backup Program for Community Facilities, hopes to create backup power for neighborhoods in need with elderly or local residents that have less access to charging, resources, and transportation.

 

 

 

Community Joins Forces to #GetBKOrganized Against Racism in Brooklyn

Senior Rabbi Rachel Timoner and the Racial Justice Subgroup of Get Organized Brooklyn have banded together on Wednesday to assist with their community in self organizing efforts to confront racism in Brooklyn in response to the white nationalist rally and attack in Charlotte, Virginia.

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Senior Rabbi Rachel Timoner shown before her opening remarks for the GOBK meeting

The Charlottesville incident last month concluded when several people were fatally injured after a man ran his car into a crowd of counter-demonstrators at a white nationalist gathering.

In response, the Brooklyn organization decided that it was important for white and non-white members to reflect on root causes of white nationalism that affect their borough. Since last year the massive bi-monthly meetings brought together a “multi-racial, multi faith” group focused on breaking down systematic racism. About 300 people were in attendance in the large auditorium, quietly murmuring amongst themselves until the beginning of the meeting.

Councilman Lander, who was present and in full support of the group, and Rabbi Timoner gave brief introductions and updates on the agenda. Dara Silverman, director of Powerlabs, which is a network that backs other independently run organizations took the floor.

“Racism isn’t just what happens in the south, or in Charlottesville, or in other places, but it also happens here in Brooklyn,” said Silverman. She spoke briefly on different forms of oppression.

The other prominent speaker and group member, Eric Ward, advocated for positive and creative responses to bigotry or racism rather than violence, such as marching or artistic expressions.

“The best defense is unity,” said Ward, “unapologetic unity.”

A panel of community leaders spoke on diverse subjects such as the criminal justice system, segregated schools in New York city, passing meaningful legislation, and intergenerational incarceration.

As part of the non-hierarchal philosophy, the closing “break out groups,” small sections of attendees that are interested in specific panel discussions or activist subgroups, convened afterwards. They even took to separate floors or rooms in the building with self-appointed leaders to hyper focus on their interrelated agendas.

“We have these mass gatherings,” Timoner said, “to build democracy. I do think that’s the answer.” She said that they are committed to holding an open space for people to continue to organize themselves and make an impact.

Utica Ave.

hectic street

scandalous

dollar vans

gypsy cabs

jovial juve

thugs slink

ripple of looks

watch the horde

march by

white castle

the parkway

bobby’s

jerk chicken

expendable

please

with the excuses

they’re just misunderstood youths

unlimited stop

two fare zones

from home

defenseless to the ghetto

spit out a diss

be different

pioneer

something new

ice grill if you have to

but be yourself

and nothing else

 

Hood Dreams And Tar Beaches

He reeks of cookie dough and alien paranoia, wipes his astronaut dreams on a snot crusted superman shirt as his eyes climb every star. He counts them as day slowly releases it’s grip and turns to night. “1,672…1,673…”. He used his fingers to mark his space in space and counted until his eyes were red and sore. Unable to focus anymore he drifted into sleep, dreaming of a cold shapeless desert filled with planetary wonders on top his tar beach.

The next day began with his mother’s knocks on the door to the rooftop, telling him to get ready for school. He rolled out of his lawn chair and raced down the stairs. Shower, dressed, and breakfast. He raced down a few more flights, out of the double doors, then ten blocks down to his elementary school. When his mom hugged him good-bye, there were always stars in her eyes that dripped down her cheek. Those hugs were for every teacher that would report back that her son was nothing more than a dreamer. He needed reality. Great feats and stars were beyond his grasp.

The angle of the tall, red, brown brick school building reminded him of communication towers on Mars. He was a spaceman, outfitted with a suit and gear to find his friends among the aliens. To the control homeroom before the bell rings, and he shrinks back into his regular clothes. He takes a seat at his desk and tries his best to listen to what the teacher says, but she was a creature with a ruler that didn’t believe in him. Year after year they would be there theses creature features pitted against him. He would laser blast them. He was invincible; with each of his counted stars he built a shield against their bitter remarks, stereotypical and cynical laughter.

Then came high school and those afternoons into the nights were no longer spent on his tar beach. He hung out with his friends in the streets, movies, parties. Sometimes smoke filled the nights because he no longer gazed at the sky. One by one they faltered into the sea of daunting maturity like sunset, drowning those hood boy dreams. He was at the edge overlooking his friends. The Dancer, the Artists, the Basketball star…the stars…

And there she was, his mother, sitting across from him. It had been a long time since he actually looked at her, or hugged her the way he used to. Her star drops, her wasted tears rippled through the gulf that had formed between them to reflect his night sky before morphing back into the kitchen table. He couldn’t bare her disappointment, so he strapped on his boots and reached for the moon, graduating at the top of his class. He returned to the roof, but this time, instead of counting his stars he held them in the palm of his hand.

To My First Love

Hello Brooklyn,

The first time it hit me that I was in love with you B, thought it was bugged how you had me. Talked about you to my friends, acquaintances, co workers constantly, like let me introduce you to this dude I knew. Come through, I’ve got someone I want to show you. It was unbelievable, that new shit. Name on my tongue, scribbling shit cross my notebook since May 23rd, birth. My foretold, my first.

Fresh, like grade school when I stumbled through the phonics of my parents language. Clumsy, children running with ice cream cones, elated by the frozen joy they’ve been sold and the elusive notion that it will all be gone soon. Ice on a steaming stove, love was dripping off my chin, Brooklyn. My style was molded to my speech in the exact shape that you picked out for me. You taught me how to think, and I didn’t mind because I trusted you mind and soul. I walked through the streets bigging you up to everyone I knew, defending your slandered name, until you took a swing and my face was your aim.

Safe to say I had to go, yet I thought without a doubt that you loved me. Who was going to take me in? This chick with an accent and attitude accentuated to suit you. This chick with secrets that sometimes came unglued at just the wrong moments.

My love laid dormant while I bounced around    from house to house  until he caught me. You know Poetry wasn’t just an affair he was my passion. I love him unconditionally because I know he’d never leave me.

Days spent after school when I should’ve been doing homework, I wrote him. Notes, letters, words, verbs, similes laid sweetly next to metaphors and phrases, quotes, scribbles, and rants. Guess he had me open. I’d wake up at 3 am with his voice in my ear, touching each one of my thoughts until they strapped suicide bombs to their chests and explode with new ideas and ways for me to love him.

We were so real that I’m sorry Brooklyn but that first thing didn’t appeal. We were inseparable. I couldn’t get enough, like platanos and collard greens.

I’ll always miss you, but

He listened to me.

Cuddled up to my natural kush, I wanted to be with him more than anything

fated to be

like a Vandross rift

like coolaid sugar stains lingering on my smiling lips

I thanked God for this poetical gift and a green notebook to hold my words down whenever inspiration kicks up.

Don’t misunderstand one day I will come back, because the voice I found with you helped stumble every word I ever wrote into existence. There is more to be done where I am. I can’t abandon him.

Just know you are here with me in the things I carry.

Love,

The Poet

 

 

Train Of Thought

I live herePlatform Girl
breathing in the screech of a poorly managed system listen to the cluttered steps passing by ignoring me
while i lull myself to sleep with piss cement blocks for sheets
I am here
representative of the underbelly of these so called streets
the catacombs of an eyes wide shut city Feel me
in every devastatingly dirty train car rattling through the tunnels of my home
I cant go home
So I claim this for my own
You’ve seen me
every piece of blue plastic you sitin or pole you wrap your grubby fingers around holding on for dear life
praying to whoever that its your stop so you dont have to talk to me
Down here is a new hierarchy
i am king if the meek shall inherit the earth then i get the subway
the crying children and filthy tracks
hobos homeless guys bums and sideshow acts
the peddlers and loiters or the guys who hop up & down the aisle holding out thier hats
sharing sob stories of grave misfortune so you ll cut them some slack
people shoveling McDonalds trying not to look fat
hustlers thieves every MTA employee who takes his job way too seriously killers robbers rapists & drunks
We all are here
YOu pay admission to witness our society at its finest from Brooklyn to the Bronx and back
we are the back of a jungle laying on its back
legs open and willing for any customer that dips his card in the turnstile
turn while peering at the surface of the plate glass
we are your reflection
gurgling below the pavement craving retribution