Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Twenty-six young people came to the 94th Precinct in Greenpoint to participate in a youth court training on Monday and Tuesday, December 29th and 30th. These young people are training to serve as jurors, judges, and advocates, handling real-life cases involving their peers. The goal of the youth court is to use positive peer pressure to ensure that youth committing low level infractions pay back the community and receive the help they need to avoid further involvement in the justice system. The youth court teaches young adults that actions have consequences. Because this message comes from their peers, it is more likely to be heard and understood. Thank you to all the high school students who came out during their winter vacation to start training!

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Happy Holidays!

The staff at the Crown Heights Community Mediation Center wish you a very happy holiday season!

Navigating the Financial Crisis

On December 17th We Are All Brooklyn, in collaboration with Project CARE, the Mediation Center, and Sovereign Bank hosted an event for the non-profit community about how to manage the current fiscal crisis. With over 200 attendees, this successful event taught us the importance of collaboration with other organizations and communication within our communities. Thank you to those who came to the forum. Special thanks to our presenters: Elana Broitman of UJA-Federation of New York, Marilyn Gelber of Independence Community Foundation, Nia Rock of Sovereign Bank, Wayne Ho of Coalition for Asian American Children and Families, Joanne Oplustil of CAMBA, and Ilene Marcus of Met Council on Jewish Poverty.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Reentry Resource Directory

The Mediation Center recently collaborated with the Langeloth Foundation and the Bellevue Re-entry Consortium to produce a directory of resources for formerly incarcerated people and their families. The directory is available in print at our office or online here:

Reentry Town Hall Forum stories

"Committing a crime is what I did, not who I am." --Mr. Campos

"In order to come back to society, my thinking had to change. I had to let someone else take charge of me and steer me for awhile. When I did it myself, it only lead me back to the chains." - Mr. Price

On Tuesday December 9th, District Attorney Hynes, State Senator Adams, City Council Member Letitia James, and ComALERT graduates Mr. Campos and Mr. Price spoke to an audience of 100 people at Medgar Evers College. The event was hosted by the Crown Heights Community Mediation Center and State Senator Eric Adams in an effort to increase public awareness about the effectiveness of the ComAlert program. ComALERT was designed by the Kings Count District Attorney to support the reduction of recidivism as well as to enhance community safety for Brooklyn residents. ComALERT connects parolees to onsite substance abuse and anger management services, on site services for job placements and referrals to job training and educational services.

WAAB response to attacks

Amy Ellenbogen, the Crown Heights Community Mediation Center Project Director is on the Steering Committee for We Are All Brooklyn (WAAB). WAAB wrote this statement in reaction to the attacks on the Sucuzhanay brothers:

In the early morning of Sunday, December 8, the city of New York and the borough of Brooklyn were the victims of a malicious bias attack. Two Ecuadorian immigrant brothers, Jose and Romel SucuzhaƱay, were viciously attacked by four individuals yelling anti-gay and racist slogans. Jose was beaten so severely that he barely clings to life. The two brothers were walking the streets of Bushwick Brooklyn, arm and arm, celebrating the recent arrival of Romel. As of now, the police are still looking for the perpetrators. We applaud the patrol officers for their timely response as well as the NYPD Hate Crimes Task Force, which has categorized the incident as a hate crime and is investigating further. Our thoughts and prayers go out to the entire SucuzhaƱay family and the Bushwick community. They are not alone.

Our borough, one made rich by its diversity, must not fall prey to the blindness of such hate. An attack in words or deeds directed against any person due to their race, religion, sexual preference, ethnicity or any other characteristic, is an attack on the fundamental freedoms that are the hallmark of American democracy. When any one group is assailed, the very fabric of our society is torn. Hatred in any form can not and will not be tolerated by the citizens of Brooklyn.

We, the undersigned, the membership of We Are All Brooklyn, a coalition of community based organizations representing the diversity of the borough that have come together over the past five years to address issues and concerns that cut across ethnic and racial lines, stand together as a beacon of hope and a voice of defiance to this unbridled hate in the borough. We celebrate and honor the diversity of Brooklyn’s residents, and will not stand idly by and permit prejudice to shatter the harmony in Brooklyn’s neighborhoods. A crime against one is a crime against us all.

We will act together to educate our leadership and constituencies about the tensions and stresses experienced by all people. We will continue to promote the message of how our diversity does and will bring about a more just and inclusive society for all. Finally, we will continue to dedicate ourselves to fostering the values of cooperation, understanding, and respect as we rise to confront this challenge and others that may lie ahead.

We Are All Brooklyn continues to work with all groups throughout the city to respect others' backgrounds and their contributions and to prevent such incidents from occurring.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

In Loving Memory

Michael David Willoughby, a former participant in the Mediation Center's Youth Court programming at Paul Robeson High School passed away in a car accident on November 30th. His obituary is below.

In loving Memory

Michael David Willoughby

Sunrise: June 27, 1989
Sunset: November 30, 2008

Michael David Willoughby was born on June 27th, 1989 at Interfaith Hospital in Brooklyn. After his birth, Michael was placed in foster care for thirteen months before his grandmother was awarded custody of him.

At eighteen months, Michael began attending the Special Sprouts School, where his infectious personality began to form. He would run up and hug everyone he was introduced to and often had to be told to ask for a hug just before embracing someone.

At the age of four, Michael began attending St. Mark's Day School in Brooklyn. While in the second grade, at the age of seven, Michael began taking Judo classes. At this time, it was just meant to be used as an outlet for him outside of school, but it blossomed into something that helped shape Michael's life and instill morals into him that he would continuously live by. The biggest reason for this was because Michael was introduced to his mentor and the closest person to a father figure in his life, Duane Frankson. By him being sucha positive influence in Michael's life, Michael was able to be a positive influence on everyone else's life.

Michael graduated from St. Mark's Day School in 2002 and began attending high school at the Paul Robeson School of Business. While attending high school, Michael was actively involved in a Crown Heights Mediation Program as well as the Upward Bound Program at Pace University. In 2006, Michael graduated from Paul Robeson School of Business and began pursuing his degree in Business Administration at St. Francis College in Brooklyn.

Michael leaves behind: "Grandma," his two sisters, Norrell and Lorraine; his "twin," Carla; his two closest friends, Pablo and Justyn; numerous aunts, uncles, cousins, extended relatives and all the Judo trophies. Michael also leaves behind all the people from his schools, palces of work and his church who were so positively affected by him.

He will be dearly missed, but honestly, who could forget him?

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Praise for TIP

The Mediation Center's Truancy Intervention Program (TIP) at Ebbets Field MS 352 provides a system of support and accountability for students who are chronically late or absent from school. Staff members check in with students on a daily basis, conduct family conferences, write and distribute letters home and operate an in-school Youth Court addressing attendance and related issues.

Stacey Antoine, a 6th grade math teacher at MS 352 had the following to say about TIP:

"The Truancy Program has been an essential tool for my students. This program has helped turn around many rebellious students I have taught in the past. I have seen a tremendous “turn around” for these students, behavioral wise and academically. Ms. Barker and her team has and continues to do a wonderful job reaching out to truant students.

Many of our students come to school with various problems. Many children deal with peer pressure, abuse, problems at home and so forth. Many times these problems affect the attitude, motivation and most importantly their performance level at school. Many truant children tend to be absent, excessively late, fail out of school and tend to involve themselves in deviant behavior. Furthermore, this program aims to improve attendance among students as well as decrease the amount of deviant behavior present in schools.

I love the fact that parents are contacted when their child is excessively absent, late for school or taking part in deviant behavior. This allows parents to take responsibility for their children and help make an effort to make sure that children take responsibility for their education.

Overall, I hope that this program continues to support the truant child in every way possible. I have seen change in many of my students and change will continue as long as everyone takes responsibility for their actions."