Thursday, December 24, 2009

A Message from the Director of the Crown Heights Community Mediation Center


Dear Friends of the Crown Heights Mediation Center,

Happy Holidays! 

I wanted to take this opportunity to thank you for your support and encouragement over this year, and share with you some of our accomplishments from 2009, as well as our direction for 2010.

It’s been an incredible year.  Last year, we were concerned about how to keep the storefront doors open; this year we were awarded two new grants that will allow us to more than double the size of our staff and greatly expand the depth and breadth of our work.  Again, thank you for your contributions.  Without you, we would not have been able to weather the economic downturn. 

We’ve been planning the implementation of a new anti-violence program designed to prevent gun violence in Crown Heights. A Department of Justice study demonstrated that the program we will establish has yielded a 40-70% decrease in shootings in the neighborhoods where it is implemented.  This program will target individuals who are most likely to be involved in gun violence, and help them – with proven, effective practices -  to change their behavior. In the next few months, I’ll be updating you more about this exciting and innovative program.

Also in early January, a group of 16 young women from diverse backgrounds - but all from Crown Heights – will launch a media company collaboratively. These young women will learn skills in graphic design, photography, marketing, networking, and general entrepreneurship.  One of their first products will be a community cookbook that celebrates the different foods and cultures of Crown Heights.

Over the course of 2009, we helped over 1,200 community members at our storefront office with immigration issues, housing, legal advocacy, family services, education, employment, medical services, and substance abuse treatment.  We conducted 54 community facilitations, bringing people from diverse perspectives together to work on challenges such as gun violence and racial healing.  We held more than a dozen community trainings on conflict resolution and mediation reaching over 500 people.  Through our truancy, youth court, and pregnancy prevention programs, we helped 175 young people to stay in school and stay focused on their personal goals. All these activities share one common purpose – a stronger and more unified Crown Heights.  It's hard to find another small program making such a big impact.

The most important and rewarding aspect of what we do is, and always has been, the direct service we offer to the community at large. I wanted to share with you just one example of the kind of unique work we do, and the very real ways in which your support directly benefits community members in need.  This is a note we recently received from a client:


Dear CHCMC,

Thank you for everything. By the time I came to your door, I was overwhelmed and underwater. You gave me a lifeline. For years I had worked as a home health aid but my agency was unable to give me a patient for over two months.  I exhausted my savings. My lights were turned off, my refrigerator was empty and I had no income. I also have children to support.  I poured all this out at CHCMC.  The worker listened patiently and worked with me to develop a plan.  She helped me secure a payment arrangement with Con Ed, obtain emergency food stamps and, best of all, told me how to get unemployment benefits for which I had thought I was not eligible. I thank CHCMC not only for helping me through this crisis, but also motivating me to keep everything going until I get back to work.  Thanks so much.  –Rose M. 


We’re looking ahead to another great and productive year at the Mediation Center, and very much hope that we’ll continue to have your support.  We’re all very grateful to you for supporting our work, and enabling us to do such good work everyday – so thank you.

If you can make a financial contribution, checks can be made out to our parent organization, the Fund for the City of New York and mailed to the Crown Heights Community Mediation Center at 256 Kingston Avenue, Brooklyn, New York 11213.  You can also donate online through paypal,  clicking the donate button in the right hand column of our blog.

Best wishes for the holidays and a happy, healthy New Year, and, again thank you. 


Amy

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Urban River Arts Mandala Dismantling

Last Wednesday evening, visitors to the recently opened art space at 395 Flatbush Extension were treated to a special event at the space occupied by Urban River Arts, a community-based non-profit art organization founded by Kimberly Carmody on St. Marks Avenue in Crown Heights in February 2009.


In October, Carmody and members of the community began creating a 12-foot wide circular urban mandala on the floor, starting with a simple chalk outline made with a large scale compass, and gradually adding color and texture to the design by laying down found and recycled objects in an intentional way.  In Tibetan tradition, Buddhist monks create sand paintings in the circular shape of mandalas as a form of meditation.  After completion, the sand designs are swept away and returned to the ocean.


In a similar gesture of impermanence, Wednesday evening was the dismantling ceremony for Urban River Arts' urban mandala project. Visitors and people who had a hand in the project gathered together to learn more about mandalas and to take in the impressive array of colorful found and collected objects before taking it apart piece by piece.  It was quite a sight to see the huge project taken apart just as methodically as it had been put together, and it was great to see a Crown Heights-based artist engaged in such exciting work!


Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Applications Open for Leadership Training Institite 2010

The Mediation Center has been busy preparing for the next cycle of the Leadership Training Institute which will start in January 2010 and is seeking participants.  The Leadership Training Institute is a program aimed at bringing together community members who are dedicated to working to improve Crown Heights to both strengthen their leadership skills and build relationships with others in the community.

Through the Institute, participants will meet with trainers who are experts in their fields on a variety of topics to learn from each other, and develop and ultimately implement their skills.  These topics include networking, community organizing, grant writing and fundraising, coalition building, working with the media, and event planning.  Participants will be able to put their newly acquired skills to use by organizing a community project as a final project of the Institute.  Past groups have organized a local photography contest as well as organized a resource and entertainment fair to complement the Annual Family Day Picnic in Crown Heights. At the end of the program, participants will come away with concrete skills as well as relationships with others in the community who are dedicated to improving Crown Heights.

Applications are available in the sidebar on the right-hand side of this page under "Mediation Center Events," and can also be picked up by stopping by the Mediation Center.  Applications are due at the end of December.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

"I am C.H.A.N.G.E." Hosts Youth Town Hall

Last night around fifty young people and community leaders from Crown Heights gathered in the atrium at Marcus Garvey Nursing Home to talk about gun violence in the community.  Lead skillfully by two youth facilitators, Audley Jackson and Naiyah Wagoner, the young people present had a unique chance to voice their feelings and concerns about safety in the community in connection to gun violence, and to share their own experiences and ways they have been affected by it.  Unlike most community meetings, adults were not permitted to speak until the end of the discussion, in order to highlight youth voices and prioritize their concerns.


Many young people shared the reasons they believe people carry guns, as well as stories about their personal encounters with gun violence.  When asked how many people present had been personally affected by gun violence, either themselves or someone they know, almost every person in the room had a raised hand -- a poignant response that reminded everyone present why they were there.


In the last half of the conversation, some of the adults present were invited to ask questions, including Assemblyman Karim Camara, Councilmember Letitia James, representatives from the offices of Senator Eric Adams, Councilmember Al Vann, and the Brooklyn District Attorney.  This part of the discussion turned toward the practical, as the young people were asked what could be done to make them feel safer in their neighborhoods, and what kinds of programs they would like to see to prevent gun violence and encourage more youth engagement in the community.





It was agreed that more open discussions like this one must occur if something is going to change in the community.  Robin Lyde, the mother of a teen victim of gun violence, urged young people to go out and take action about this issue, and to let people know that they are committed to reducing violence in the community.  To this end, everyone present was invited to join the "I am C.H.A.N.G.E." Coalition to further open the dialogue on gun violence and collaborate on ways to change the community in a positive way.  The next meeting of the Coalition is being planned for January.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Help us find a name for a new program!

The Mediation Center is looking for a name for its new anti-gun violence program which will be launching soon. The program will use a data-based public health approach to reduce the number of shootings and killings in our community, and will have five major components: community mobilization, youth outreach, public education, faith-based leader involvement, and criminal justice participation.

Help us find a name that will stick for this important and exciting new program! A small prize and lots of appreciation will be given to the individual who creates the perfect name for us. Post your ideas in the comments or email ideas to director@crownheights.org.

We are also looking to hire several individuals for this new initiative. See the job descriptions at the column on the right and please pass them on to people you think might be interested.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Get to know your neighbors: New York WEB Center

Located upstairs at W.E.B. DuBois High School at 402 Eastern Parkway, the New York WEB Center is a mecca for young people with an interest in music and media. Started by Reverend William Grant several years ago in the cafeteria of the school, the WEB Center now occupies a modern and comfortable space on the second floor.

The WEB Center offers students from area high schools the opportunity to experience what Center manager Alecia Mason calls "mentoring through technology" as they exercise their creativity while working in a variety of different media. Equipped with computers that house graphic design software, as well as an audio recording studio, DJ equipment, and video cameras, students generate ideas for projects that matter to them and then are able to complete them in a professional way. This exciting work happens both in after-school sessions and during Hip Hop Academy music classes during the school day which teach the history of hip hop in addition to allowing time to work on independent and group projects.

Students at work in the recording studio.


The students' projects offer them a creative outlet for expressing themselves and the issues that are important in their lives. When cell phones were banned from the school, students in the WEB program who disagreed with the policy wrote a rap song about their disgruntled feelings on the matter, with the line "Why I can't use my phone?" and produced a music video to go with it. The school principal then rapped a song in response, which detailed the reasons why students cannot bring their phones to school. The principal's response was played over the school's intercom system, both highly entertaining the students and opening up new methods of communication within the school setting. Students in the WEB program have also produced a school reality show called "Noise in Dubois," a song and music video about Barack Obama, and are now working on a series of songs for an AIDS awareness campaign.


The staff at the WEB Center treat the students like they are members of a record label, encouraging them to promote themselves and their work on MySpace and to develop press kits. Regardless of what field students decide to pursue after high school and their time in the WEB program, Alecia Mason says the skills of leaning how to take an idea, develop it creatively, and ultimately complete it will help students in any area. Though the content of the program has to do with media, a main focus of the program is encouraging youth development. The WEB Center is run in conjunction with the PRIDE Youth Development Agency, which works toward developing Personal growth, Responsibility, Initiative and integrity, Development of self and community, and Economic empowerment in young people. Together, the PRIDE Agency and the WEB Center are working to provide positive opportunities and the chance to develop media skills to the young people involved in their program.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Seasonal Jobs in the Area

As part of working on increasing youth engagement in the community, the "I am C.H.A.N.G.E." Coalition and the Mediation Center have put together a information sheet on holiday jobs in the area, including information on which stores are hiring for the holidays and some basic tips for those seeking jobs. Feel free to print and distribute the flyer widely as part of our effort to get this timely information out to those in the community while employers are still hiring!

Friday, October 9, 2009

Highlights this Week

Lots of things have been going on at the Mediation Center during the first full week of October!

Here are a few highlights:
  • Project Director Amy Ellenbogen enjoyed the holiday of Sukkot with Governor Paterson, Senator Eric Adams, Council Member John Liu and Council Member Letitia James at the Jewish Children's Museum on Eastern Parkway. Click here for Senator Eric Adams' press release.
  • Lawyers from Legal Aid came to the Mediation Center this week for our monthly immigration clinic, and assisted seventeen people with their immigration status.
  • Program Associate Eleanor Anderson launched fall recruitment for the Greenpoint Youth Court, and met with students and leaders at area schools to recruit for this program. Applications are due Tuesday, October 13. For more information or an application, email eanderson@crownheights.org or call 646-460-1764.
  • The Mediation Center met with People's Production House, an organization that emphasizes media and media skills in its pursuit of social change.
  • This was also the first full week of work for our new Americorps members. We welcome them warmly to the Mediation Center as they get to know their way around the office!

Friday, October 2, 2009

I am C.H.A.N.G.E.

Since the beginning of September, a new coalition has been meeting at the Mediation Center. Organized by Assemblyman Karim Camara and Council Member Letitia James and comprised of organizations, leaders, and residents of Crown Heights, the I am C.H.A.N.G.E. (Crown Heights Area Next Generation's Empowerment) group has taken up the issue of disconnected youth as its focus.

The group has defined disconnected youth as people ages 16-24 who are both out of school and out of a job. In an effort to reduce the numbers of disconnected youth in the community and re-engage them in a positive way, participants in I am C.H.A.N.G.E. have been working together and building partnerships between the various organizations and individuals involved, with the belief that much more can be accomplished through combining our efforts.

In this collaborative spirit, the group has decided that its first event will reach out to the target group of youth in a direct way, through street team outreach. The event will feature a musical performance as well as an array of resources through which youth can become engaged in the community in a positive way.

Though still in the planning stage, the goal of the event will be to engage disconnected youth in a way that facilitates the opportunity for youth to connect with the available resources in area, to build relationships, to illustrate the value and importance of utilizing one's voice, and to be able to move forward after the event in a sustainable way.

Look out for more information on this exciting event in the coming weeks!

Job Opening at Mediation Center

Position: Office Manager/Trainer (Volunteer AmeriCorps Position with a living stipend and educational award)

PLEASE NOTE THAT THIS IS NOT A SALARIED POSITION

The Organization:

The Crown Heights Community Mediation Center is a unique neighborhood institution that works to improve community problem-solving, collaboration, and inter-group relations in Crown Heights, Brooklyn. Operating out of our storefront offices since 1998, the Mediation Center seeks innovative ways to promote community cohesion in our neighborhood, known for fragmentation. This includes providing residents with links to resources on issues like education, parenting, housing, and immigration; providing support to young people navigating the challenges of a community tainted by violence, drugs, and poverty; and galvanizing neighborhood, borough, and city stakeholders in order to improve the quality of life for all residents.

Responsibilities:

General office administration:

  • Provide secretarial and administrative support.
  • Process and respond to general requests for information.
  • Manage and maintain inventory of office supplies and all office equipment.
  • Manage calendar and appointments for the Judge and Director as needed.
  • Manage and maintain contacts database.

Accounting/Financial Management

  • Prepare vendor payment requisitions for external vendors.
  • Maintain filing system of receipts and invoices.
  • Manage relationships with external vendors.

Training

  • Assist in conflict resolution and mediation trainings when needed (the opportunity for increased responsibility facilitating trainings may be available if desired).
  • Coordinate the program planning and activities for the Crown Heights Leadership Training Institute. The Crown Heights Leadership is a program designed to bring together diverse members of the community together to learn concrete skills in community strengthening such as coalition building. Grant writing, working with the media, etc…

Qualifications:

  • Ability to multi-task and adapt to changing environments
  • Computer savvy including knowledge of Microsoft Suite
  • Excellent phone manner
  • Personable and excellent people skills
  • Excellent oral and written communication skills
  • Ability to work well with diverse populations
  • Personal experience with public assistance, food stamps, public housing, homelessness, or medicaid is a plus but not needed
  • Commit to the mission and purpose of the Crown Heights Community Mediation Center
  • Represent the Mediation Center in a professional manner

This is a Full-Time AmeriCorps Member position. The Office Manager/Trainer will serve 1700 hours in 365 days, receive a living stipend, and an educational stipend.

To apply: No phone calls please. Please email your resume and cover letter to crownheightsjobs@gmail.com Please put the job title, “Office Manager/Trainer” in the subject line. Please submit your resume as soon as possible.

The Fund for the City of New York is an equal opportunity employer. Diversity gives us strength and depth. All qualified candidates are encouraged to apply.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Coro Presentation on Crown Heights

Last week the New York cohort of Coro Fellows in Public Affairs gave an evening presentation of their findings about Crown Heights, after studying the community intensively during the previous week. In pursuit of what they referred to as the "logic of change" in Crown Heights, they spent the week immersed in researching the community and the institutions, individuals, and leaders that influence how change occurs here.

Their presentation took place at the Mediation Center and was attended by Coro alumni, community members, and Mediation Center staff. Based on their research, the Fellows developed a model of change that they posited must occur for change to happen, the steps of which include recognition of an issue, a willingness to change on the part of the players involved, and the appropriate resources and programs to faciliate the potential change itself. In group discussions about the details of their model and the various resources in the community, attendees had a chance to discuss Crown Heights in the context of a public affairs reading of the community, with a group of people who had experienced the neighborhood in a unique way--not by living or working in it, but by studying it intensively for a short period of time.

The Mediation Center was happy to host the Coro Fellows during their week of study in Crown Heights, and their insights proved thought-provoking for all who attended their presentation.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Coro Fellows at the Mediation Center


This week members from the New York contingent of the Coro Fellows Program in Public Affairs have been studying Crown Heights, using the Mediation Center as their home base. They have been working intensively, spending their days out in the community making connections, and meeting with people to examine how change occurs, through institutions, individuals, and community leaders. On their first day, Program Director Amy Ellenbogen presented the Fellows with a brief introduction to the Mediation Center and the neighborhood on a tour, and they have spent the remainder of the week engaged in research.

They will present their findings to the public on Tuesday, Sept. 15 at the Mediation Center from 5:30 to 6:30 pm. All are welcome!

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

GED Classes Coming Soon

The Mediation Center will soon be offering free GED classes for those interested. Look out for more information coming soon.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Current Job Openings at the Mediation Center

The Crown Heights Community Mediation Center is recruiting for three full-time AmeriCorps positions. AmeriCorps is an intensive service program designed to meet the nation’s critical needs in education, public safety, health, and the environment. Participants receive a bi-weekly stipend check and upon completion of their service hours an educational award of $4,725. At our office, AmeriCorps members will assist clients, create and run programs, and ensure that the storefront operations run smoothly. These jobs have tremendous responsibility and provide plenty of opportunity for learning and professional development. If you or someone you know would like to join our team, send a cover letter and resume to crownheightsjobs@gmail.com Please put the job title in the subject of the e-mail. The first round of interviews will take place the week of September 7th, so please submit your materials as soon as possible. We look forward to hearing from you! Here are the job positions:

Position: Outreach, Resource and Entrepreneurship Specialist (Americorps Position)

The Organization:

The Crown Heights Community Mediation Center is a unique neighborhood institution that works to improve community problem-solving, collaboration, and inter-group relations in Crown Heights, Brooklyn. Operating out of our storefront offices since 1998, the Mediation Center seeks innovative ways to promote community cohesion in our neighborhood, known for fragmentation. This includes providing residents with links to resources on issues like education, parenting, housing, and immigration; providing support to young people navigating the challenges of a community tainted by violence, drugs, and poverty; and galvanizing neighborhood, borough, and city stakeholders in order to improve the quality of life for all residents.

Responsibilities:

Outreach

  • Represent the Mediation Center at community meetings such as community board, precinct council and parent teacher association meetings 7-10 times a month. On those days, work hours will be flexible, generally from 3-10pm.
  • Retrieve the information from the meetings and communicate it to the staff at the office.
  • Set up meetings with other local service providers to share information about our services and learn about other programs in the area.
  • Propose programming based on information gathered at local meetings.

Resources

  • Update a Community Resource Directory with current information and new service providers and programs
  • Provide resource referrals for community members in areas such as housing, employment, job training, immigration, public benefits, etc.

Youth Programming

  • Lead activities in a weekly youth entrepreneurship program designed to help young people (16-20) start their own business (January-May)
  • Engage the youth in educational and fun activities that teach business skills
  • Prepare lessons, organize materials, invite guest lecturers, assist in finding supporters for the business

Qualifications:

  • Ability to engage people and speak in front of groups
  • Ability to work some evenings and weekends
  • Knowledge of Crown Heights area service providers a plus, or ability to research and find services in the community
  • Ability to prioritize and multi-task
  • Excellent phone manner
  • Commit to the mission and purpose of the Crown Heights Community Mediation Center
  • Represent the Mediation Center in a professional manner
  • Excellent oral and written communication skills
  • Ability to work well with diverse populations
  • Resourceful and creative
  • Extremely detail oriented with graphic design experience a plus

This is a Full-Time AmeriCorps Member position. The Community Outreach, Resource and Entrepreneurship Specialist will serve 1700 hours in 365 days, receive a living stipend, and an educational stipend.

To apply: No phone calls please. Please email your resume and cover letter to crownheightsjobs@gmail.com Please put the job title, “Community Outreach, Resource and Entrepreneurship Specialist” in the subject line.

The Fund for the City of New York is an equal opportunity employer. Diversity gives us strength and depth. All qualified candidates are encouraged to apply.

Position: Leadership Training and Employment Specialist (Americorps Position)

The Organization:

The Crown Heights Community Mediation Center is a unique neighborhood institution that works to improve community problem-solving, collaboration, and inter-group relations in Crown Heights, Brooklyn. Operating out of our storefront offices since 1998, the Mediation Center seeks innovative ways to promote community cohesion in our neighborhood, known for fragmentation. This includes providing residents with links to resources on issues like education, parenting, housing, and immigration; providing support to young people navigating the challenges of a community tainted by violence, drugs, and poverty; and galvanizing neighborhood, borough, and city stakeholders in order to improve the quality of life for all residents.

Responsibilities:

  • Revamp the Center’s current employment programming to include:
    • Meeting with clients for a fixed number of sessions
    • Helping clients create resumes
    • Teaching clients how and where to search for jobs
    • Providing clients in need with resource links to computer and job training courses
    • Developing relationships with local Employment Placements
  • Coordinate the program planning and activities for the Crown Heights Leadership Training Institute. The Crown Heights Leadership Institute is a program designed to bring together diverse members of the community together to learn concrete skills in community strengthening such as coalition building, grant writing, working with media, etc.
  • Develop and plan other programs and projects as they arise (examples include planning a health fair, a community photography contest, a reentry-resource fair, etc.)
  • Assist walk-in clients with resources and referrals for such issues as housing, employment, and immigration
  • Support other staff members as needed
  • Commit to the mission and purpose of the Crown Heights Community Mediation Center
  • Represent the Mediation Center in a professional manner

Qualifications:

  • Organized with strong attention to detail oriented
  • Ability to create relationships with other job resource coordinators
  • Personable with clients
  • Ability to engage others and teach them
  • Creative, patient, and decisive
  • Computer savvy including knowledge of Microsoft Suite
  • Ability to keep track lots of information
  • Ability to delegate responsibility
  • Excellent phone manner
  • Excellent oral and written communication skills
  • Ability to work well with diverse populations

This is a Full-Time AmeriCorps Member position. The Leadership Training and Employment Specialist will serve 1700 hours in 365 days, receive a living stipend, and an educational stipend.

To apply: No phone calls please. Please email your resume and cover letter to crownheightsjobs@gmail.com Please put the job title, “Leadership Training and Employment Specialist” in the subject line.

The Fund for the City of New York is an equal opportunity employer. Diversity gives us strength and depth. All qualified candidates are encouraged to apply.


Position: Office Manager/Trainer (Americorps Position)

The Organization:

The Crown Heights Community Mediation Center is a unique neighborhood institution that works to improve community problem-solving, collaboration, and inter-group relations in Crown Heights, Brooklyn. Operating out of our storefront offices since 1998, the Mediation Center seeks innovative ways to promote community cohesion in our neighborhood, known for fragmentation. This includes providing residents with links to resources on issues like education, parenting, housing, and immigration; providing support to young people navigating the challenges of a community tainted by violence, drugs, and poverty; and galvanizing neighborhood, borough, and city stakeholders in order to improve the quality of life for all residents.

Responsibilities:

  • Provide up to date resource referrals for community members in areas such as housing, employment, job training, immigration, public benefits, and other areas of client needs
  • Provide case management assistance to a select number of clients
  • Manage office by performing tasks such as billing, filling out expense forms, ordering supplies and maintaining office equipment
  • Supervise immigration intakes for monthly clinics, and call clients to confirm attendance
  • Assist in conflict resolution and mediation trainings when needed. The opportunity for increased responsibility facilitating trainings may be available if desired.

Qualifications:

  • Ability to multi-task and adapt to changing environments
  • Computer savvy including knowledge of Microsoft Suite
  • Excellent phone manner
  • Personable and excellent people skills
  • Excellent oral and written communication skills
  • Ability to work well with diverse populations
  • Personal experience with public assistance, food stamps, public housing, homelessness, or medicaid is a plus but not needed
  • Commit to the mission and purpose of the Crown Heights Community Mediation Center
  • Represent the Mediation Center in a professional manner
This is a Full-Time AmeriCorps Member position. The Office Manager/Trainer will serve 1700 hours in 365 days, receive a living stipend, and an educational stipend.

To apply: No phone calls please. Please email your resume and cover letter to
crownheightsjobs@gmail.com Please put the job title, “Office Manager/Trainer” in the subject line.

The Fund for the City of New York is an equal opportunity employer. Diversity gives us strength and depth. All qualified candidates are encouraged to apply.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Training Peer Educators

Mediation Center staff spent three days last week training Peer Educators at the Morris Heights Health Center at Truman High School. The training created a cohort of peer educators who will contribute to the community, learn about the services of the clinic, and help their classmates navigate sexual health decisions and other issues adolescents face. Topics focused on pregnancy prevention, abstinence, and positive decision making. Throughout the workshops, youth developed skills such as group facilitation, active listening, and how to appropriately communicate about the program.

New Resource Guide for Families in Crown Heights

Megan Sloat and Jodi Winemiller, two nursing students from Yale University, researched the community this summer and created a phenomenal Resource Guide for Families in Crown Heights. Included in the guide are resource links to social service providers, information about childhood nutrition, local day cares and neighborhood preschools, ideas for recreation, afterschool, and summer programs for children, and much more. Thank you so much for combining so many different organizations and information in one helpful place. To read the guide, click here or look under the documents section of the blog.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

StoryCorps comes to Crown Heights

StoryCorps, an organization that records stories of everyday people, came to the Crown Heights Mediation Center on August 5th to preserve the stories of community members. Three facilitators came and set up microphones and other recording devices in the office, as staff members prepared the rest of the office, unplugging phones, covering the doorbell, and being careful to be extra quiet during the day. Each noise can impact the recording quality of the CD StoryCorps makes for each participant. StoryCorps believes that through the storytelling and listening process, people experience others' history, hopes, and humanity. Those who participate in StoryCorps recieve a copy of their recorded story, and another copy gets stored in the Library of Congress.Community members streamed into the Mediation Center throughout the day to interview others and tell their own stories. Arna Lipkind, Community Liaison at Council Member Darlene Mealy's office spoke about how she brings community members together though her work, including how she hosted a Health Fair last year. Julia Boyd, an active Crown Heights resident, told one story about how she was arrested for protesting the City's budget allocation towards education, and ended up talking to Sex in the City star Cynthia Nixon during the arrest. Each story preserved an important part of Crown Heights history.
Thank you to our residents for sharing your stories with us, and StoryCorps for bringing the experience to Crown Heights. If you or someone you know would like to participate in StoryCorps, there is StoryBooth in lower Manhattan that is open to the public. Please visit the StoryCorps website here to sign up and share your story.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Busy in Crown Heights - Mural Painting and Night Out Against Crime

Crown Heights Mediation Center staff have been active in the community participating in a myriad of projects. Last week, we collaborated on a community painting of an anti-gun violence mural on Brooklyn Avenue and Propect Place. Youth from across Brooklyn have been learning about gun violence all summer and planning for this mural. Last Tuesday, they invited the entire community to participate in painting and join in spreading their message. Many other people and organizations have been working to turn this mural into a reality including: Assemblyman Karim Camara, American Friends Service Committee, New Yorkers Against Gun Violence, Groundswell Community Mural Project, and the Damon S. Allen Foundation. Stop by the to see the progress the youth are making on the mural!
See other blog entries about the event and project:
Also on August 4th, Mediation Center Staff spent the second half of the day in Brower Park as part of the 77th Precinct's Community Council's Annual Night Out Against Crime. Attendees enjoyed facepainting, temporary tattoos, and resource referrals. Those that came out to Brower Park also had the opportunity to take part in music and dancing, a barbecue, a fashion show, and other live entertainment. Thank you to everyone who made this day possible.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Greenpoint Youth Court Graduation

On July 30th, the Mediation Center held a celebration in honor of the first class of the Greenpoint Youth Court. These young people have been working since December to train and hear cases of low level infractions committed by their peers. They have developed leadership skills, public speaking skills, and been ambassadors to their peers and classmates. During the graduation ceremony, Deputy Inspector Fulton, Commanding Officer of 94th Precinct, addressed the graduates, the current youth court members in training, and the many family and friends attending the ceremony. He stressed the tenacity of this group and praised their diligence in getting through the struggles of being the first class. The evening's guest speaker was Judge Eileen Koretz, Supervising Judge for the Criminal Court of the City of New York. From 1997 until her appointment as Supervising Judge, she was the Presiding Judge at the Midtown Community Court, the first successful problem-solving, community-focused, court in the United States. She spoke to the youth court members about the importance of being part of the problem-solving court system and how their role as youth court members contribute to helping their community and a broader society. Congratulations to all the graduates and our youth court participants!

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Anti-Gun Violence Community Mural Painting Day

The Mediation Center has been for working for the past three years with a committee of Crown Heights leaders to address the social factors that lead to gun violence in our community. Simultaneously a group of young adults have been working with Assemblyman Camara to address this issue. This summer we've partnered together with the American Friends Service Committee, New Yorkers Against Gun Violence, Groundswell Community Mural Project, and the Damon S. Allen Foundation to work with 16 youth and 2 artists to create this mural on the Alternate Learning Center wall. The group is currently in the process of working collaboratively to design the mural. Are you interested in getting to know the young people and other partners? Want to see what it's really like to paint a community mural? Join us on Tuesday, August 4th from 11:00am-1:00pm for a community painting day!
  • Event: Anti-gun Violence Mural Painting
  • Date: August 4th, 2009
  • Time: 11:00am-1:00pm
  • Location: Alternate Learning Center Brooklyn Avenue and Prospect Place (Close to the Brooklyn Children's Museum)

Youth Court set to visit Brooklyn Criminal Court


The Greenpoint Youth Court is taking a field trip to visit the Brooklyn Criminal Court and learn about our judicial system from the Honorable John Wilson, Judge, and Court officer Christopher Conroy. Blacks and Jews in Conversation, Inc., along with the Mediation Center have sponsored this opportunity, where youth court members will find out what criminal process and procedure look like in a Brooklyn courtroom. The visit will take place on July 23rd from 3:30pm to 6:00pm at the Brooklyn Criminal Court, 320 Jay Street. For more inforamation about this excursion, contact Eleanor Anderson at 718-773-6886.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Graduation a Wild Success

On Tuesday evening, June 30th, nineteen community members graduated the Leadership Training Institute of the Crown Heights Community Mediation Center. The event was attended by over 60 community leaders, friends, and family members. The graduates were recognized with citations, certificates, and representatives from the following elected officials: New York State Senator Eric Adams, State Assemblyman Karim Camara, New York City Council Members Albert Vann, Letitia James, Lewis A. Fidler, Kendall B. Stewart, David I. Weprin, Darlene Mealy, Mathieu Eugene, Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz, and Kings County District Attorney Charles J. Hynes.

Graduates represented a diverse subsection of the community, varying in age, race, and religion. Janelle Welch, one graduate who spoke at the ceremony, described how the program had benefited members. "[It] honed our skills in networking, coalition building, grant writing, media strategies and event planning to name a few, and even more importantly we learned how to work together despite our racial, religious and social backgrounds to help a community in need." These leaders helped to re-energize Crown Heights' annual Family Day Picnic by bringing together entertainers and organizations to serve the community. Throughout the Institute, members also participated in other community projects, including attending Shabbat dinners at the Wasser household, recording their personal histories through the help of StoryCorps, and learning about diversity with the Anti-Defamation League. Another graduate, Ari Kievman, described "the remarkable way" that the program "fostered cohesion in the group, cohesion both in formulating the end-goal and the process of attaining it. [He] saw how [graduates'] very differences can be used to the advantage of having more perspectives and out-of-the-box thinking."
Attendees at the graduation were amazed at the level of cooperation and understanding that existed amongst the Leadership Training Institute members. Odelia Doco, photographer for collive.com, had never been to the Mediation Center before but was inspired by all that she saw. Her article about the event can be found here.

The graduation was also an opportunity for the opening of a new photography exhibit, "Crown Heights: Between Memory and Belief." Hanan Ohayon, the photographer and Mediation Center AmeriCorps member, took pictures of Crown Heights, its landscape, places, and people. Feel free to stop by the Mediation Center any time to view these beautiful pieces of artwork.
A special thank you to all those who came out to the event and continue to support the Crown Heights Community Mediation Center. Congratulations to our graduates!

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

No More Guns!

On Monday, the Crown Heights Community Mediation Center hosted over a dozen young people, eager to spend their summer painting a mural denouncing gun violence in their community. The students heard from community residents whose family members had been victims of gun violence, and learned how devastating the experience is. Debbie Griffin-Daza recounted how her cousin was shot and killed in Crown Heights. Robin Lyde told the young people how her son was killed and how her life was changed and turned upside down . This type of violence continues in the community. Only two weeks ago, Jeramie Kane, a Correction Officer was killed on Nostrand Avenue. Numerous organizations including Groundswell Community Mural Project, American Friends Service Committee, the Damon S. Allen Foundation, and Assemblyman Karim Camara are coordinating to make this project a reality.
During this meeting, in addition to talking to family members of gun violence victims, the young people met with the lead artist, Joe Matunis, and Assistant Artist, Crystal Bruno, and began brainstorming ideas for the mural. Jason Scott Jones, an independent Videographer, is also filming the project.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Make Talk Work Video Winner!

Congratulations to Bailey's Cafe, winner of the Honorable Mention award of the 2009 Make Talk Work International Video Competition! This competition, sponsored by the JAMS Foundation, and CUNY Dispute Resolution Consortium at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, was a video project designed to increase public awareness of dispute resolution through the use of short 60 second videos. The videos demonstrate how creative visual messages focusing on how to better understand and manage conflicts, differences, and misunderstandings can be of value for people around the world.

A special congratulations to Stephanie Kaytel, graduate of Paul Robeson High School's technology program, and creator of "Make Talk Work." Take a look:

Bailey's cafe is a center for educational and cultural activity. It's goals are to provide youth with an opportunity to connect to positive adults and peers; provide youth and seniors with outlets for creative expression; support good health and nutrition; and to provide meaningful community service opportunities.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Crown Heights Celebrates Together at 15th Annual Family Day Picnic

On Sunday June 7th, 3,000 residents of Crown Heights joined together for a Crown Heights tradition - a full day of celebration at the 15th Annual Family Day Picnic at Lefferts Park.

The day began with a parade down Empire Boulevard. Families then had the opportunity to eat and play together during the picnic. Activities and entertainment included face painting by the local youth volunteers, horseback rides, moon bounces, martial arts demonstrations, and puppet shows. The Leadership Training Institute worked hard to organize performers, resources, and volunteers for the fair. Willard Hawkins, one of the Leadership Training Institute members, was "overwhelmed" at Family Day Picnic, seeing people interact in a way that normally does not happen in Crown Heights.

Enjoy a slideshow of the event, made by Mediation Center AmeriCorps member Hanan Ohayon.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Mark Your Calendars for the 15th Annual Family Day Picnic


The Leadership Training Institute is working in collaboration with the 71st Precinct Community Council to plan this year's Family Day Picnic. This is a Crown Heights tradition where people from all across the community come together to celebrate one another and spend a fun day with playing on rides, eating food, enjoying entertainment, and gathering information from local organizations. Make sure to mark your calendars for Sunday, June 7th, and come to Lefferts Park between 12:00pm and 5:00pm to join in!

Monday, May 11, 2009

"You Empower People"

The Crown Heights Community Mediation Center is beginning to highlight some phenomenal members of this community.
Dorothy Jean Bembry-Guet is an active Crown Heights community member, a Leadership Training Institute participant, a union 1199 delegate, a tenant organizer, a mother, a grandmother, and a New York University graduate. She moved to Brooklyn from Georgia and has lived in the community since 1968. She has a passion for working with people and improving the community. Our staff member Rebecca Steinfeld had a chance to sit down and interview Dorothy.

Dorothy spoke about everything from the richly diverse Crown Heights community that is not reflected in the media, to the importance of not over-committing yourself, to her involvement in the Brooklyn Tenants Union lobbying in Albany for more tenant friendly laws. While talking about her work lobbying for change, Dorothy spoke about the importance of teaching people that they do have the power improve their lives. She said, "You train members of the community that they have this power. You empower people. It's so amazing what you can do. People just don't know the power that they have. It doesn't have to be violent. It doesn't have to be nasty. But the voter, the citizen, they really are in control if they just utilize their power."

You can listen to more of Dorothy's inspiring words here in an edited version of her interview:

Friday, May 8, 2009

AmeriCorps Week of Service is here!

Get Things Done!  Join AmeriCorps.  Go to AmeriCorps.gov
AmeriCorps week of service is celebrated May 9th-16th this year. AmeriCorps is a national service program that gives adults of all ages and backgrounds the opportunity to commit to community service through a network of partnerships with local and national nonprofit groups. This is a week to highlight and recognize the work done by AmeriCorps members. Individuals and organizations have planned events around the country to celebrate national service. Tomorrow, Saturday May 9, 2009, a local Americorps week kick off will take place from 9:00 am - 5:00 pm at Thomas Jefferson Park. This event will include a celebration to start off a day of service. Mayor Bloomberg and Governor Patterson are expected to attend. This is a great week to take some time to think about how you can contribute to your community by giving of your time and energy.

The Mediation Center is tremendously grateful to its amazing AmeriCorps volunteers. A special thank you to all our wonderful AmeriCorps members: Elizabeth Delmonte, Mollie Spevack, Rebecca Steinfeld, Adam Wasser, Toneise Holmes, and Reverend Ken Bogan. Without you, we would not be able to accomplish the work we do in the community.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Truancy Intervention Program Soars

The Mediation Center coordinates the Truancy Intervention Program (TIP) at Ebbets Field Middle School 352. This year, Cathy Barker has recruited almost 50 students to participate in the program. We help students stay on the right track at school, making sure their attendance level is up to par and that they are functioning well academically. We do this by working individually with students, teachers, and parents, and acting as advocates. This year, Cathy worked with students individually to make sure the rising 8th graders can go to the high schools of their choice next year. Now, 27 out of 30 students have been accepted into their first or second choice schools. She is continuing to work with students on their exit projects, classroom behavior, and attendance records. Thanks Cathy for all your hard work.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Imani Garden gearing up for another season


This past Sunday, community members gathered after services at the Lady of Charity RC Church to talk about the Imani Garden, located on Schenectady Ave. between Dean and Pacific Streets. Members of Green Phoenix Permaculture facilitated a meeting where church members and others interested came together to plan the coming year of activities in the garden, learn about health, and eat some deliciously nutritious food! Imhotep's Health Food Restaurant and Ital Shak catered the meeting, and members of Green Phoenix Permaculture made smoothies. Marlene Saunders spoke to the group about proper nutrition, and we learned about the history of the garden and Permaculture, a system of designing agricultural systems that mimic the relationships found in natural ecology. The afternoon ended with some relaxing fun in the garden, including facepainting! If you live in the area, please, stop by. There are ten veggetable beds and a beautiful outdoor space to take advantage of. The garden will be open to the public every Sunday afternoon, 2:00pm-4:00pm. For more information about this wonderful community resource, contact Rupert Poole at rpoole@nyrp.org or 646-346-3332. He works for the New York Restoration Project (the organization that owns the garden). You can also contact Greg Todd, member of Green Phoenix Permaculture at gn.todd@verizon.net or 718-496-5139.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Brooklyn Unity Showcase This Weekend!

Shirely Dor and Kathleen Riley, two members of our Leadership Training Institute, have been working hard with the 71st Precinct to organize a dance performance during the Unity Showcase Festival. They have arranged a group of students from PS 241 to perform a dance and step act from 3:30-4:00pm on the main parks department stage.

The Unity Showcase Festival will run all day, from 11:00am-5:00pm and will include other performances, rides and games, food, and more! Come on down to Prospect Park this Sunday to experience the diversity of Brooklyn and support our leaders. To see the flyer larger, click here or for more information, call Detective Nihill at 718-675-7521.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Helping Seniors Facing Homelessness

DOROT is an organization that strives to enhance the lives of the elderly in the greater New York metropolitan area. DOROT hosts over 35 programs and services for seniors, caregivers, volunteers, and professionals. One important service they provide is the Homelessness Prevention Program, a transitional residence in Manhattan. This location offers safe, temporary housing, meals, counseling, and assistance in finding a permanent home.
The program is available to seniors 60 or older who are homeless or facing homelessness. An interview with a DOROT social worker is required to qualify. If you know someone who can benefit from this information, or to find out more, call the Homelessness Prevention Program at (212) 666-2000.

Crown Heights Recipe: Creole Gumbo

The Mediation Center Staff spoke to Lydia Hinton, a long-time community member, about her experiences with food in Crown Heights and her family's favorite recipe: Creole Gumbo. Lydia's family comes from North Carolina and St. Kitts in the British West Indies. Much of the food from those areas is similar, she explained, but cooked or seasoned differently. Taking food from different locations, like New Orleans, Lydia's family members friendly compete and try to out-cook each other, adding different flavors and spices to make their own food distinctive. She makes her Creole Gumbo only a few times a year, as it serves quite a crowd. Lydia also stressed that you can substitute many of the ingredients based on your tastes and requirements. Those who don't eat shellfish can use any thick white fleshed fish instead, such as halibut, flounder, or carp. If making such substitutions, you don't need to cook the gumbo as long. Cooks can also use different types of rice (brown, basmati, etc.) based on their tastes. Here's her recipe, enjoy!
Creole Gumbo

Serves a large crowd

Ingredients:
2-3 dozen female crabs, remove shell and split
3 pounds of extra large shrimp, split (you can also use a pound and a half of prawns)
5 pounds of lobster tails
3-4 smoked turkey sausages, cut into cubes
10-12 chicken thighs, cut up and deboned
3 stalks celery
1 medium bok choy, whole bunch
5 carrots, cut up
2-3 medium green onion, sliced or diced
2 pounds of okra, chop ends off and cube
2 large cans stewed tomatoes, chopped
10 stalks of fresh corn or 5 cans
1 tablespoon of celery seed
4-6 chicken bullion cubes

Directions:
1. Mix the vegetables with celery seed and bullion cubes in a large pot
2. Season with salt and pepper to taste and add 4 quarts of water. Cook over a medium heat until carrots are slightly tender, about 45 minutes.
3. Add the meat and cook another 15 minutes.
4. Add the seafood to the stock and cook for an additional 20 minutes.
6. Check to make sure meat is all cooked through. Season to taste and serve over rice with your hot sauce of choice.