Friday, October 26, 2012

CHCMC Event Update

October has been a busy month for the Crown Heights Community Mediation Center! We completed our rennovations and are preparing to open our doors to clients again this coming Monday, October 29th. This past weekend we had two events to help organize and beautify our neighborhood-- read more about it in our reports below.

S.O.S. C.A.N. "Clergy Breakfast"

The Clergy Action Network is back in action!

Last Saturday, October 20th, 30 members of the Save Our Streets Clergy Action Network (S.O.S. C.A.N.) met at the Bethany United Methodist church over a continental breakfast and an agenda that included sections on “connecting,” “learning,” and “doing.” S.O.S. clergy liaison Reverend Kevin Jones (pictured below) thanked the attendees for their work thus far, and then called for further action.

“Pastors, our neighborhood youth need us!” he said. “There is a tremendous need for faith-based leaders to join forces to Save Our Streets. You’ve shown your good faith by showing up at this breakfast, now come stand beside us on our clergy walks, pray with us at our shooting responses, speak to your young people about peaceful living, sit with us and think of ways that you and your congregation can help prevent gun violence.”

Rev. Jones reported on last week’s clergy rally at a neighborhood corner plagued by a spike in gun violence. He also spoke about clergy participation in a recent F.A.I.T.H. (Fathers Alive In The Hood) organized march of black men standing together as community role models. These efforts are an important way to show the community that the clergy do not just “preach to four walls,” he said, but rather that they, and God, care about the realities of the streets.

The C.A.N. members then heard from other powerful community organizers; Pastor Matthew Godwin spoke of his experiences in the biweekly clergy walks, and two young men appealed to the clergy to conduct evening programs that would make churches a safe haven for neighborhood youth. Later, Pastor Carolyn Frasier (pictured, left) shared the way God has influenced her to extend her pastoring beyond Sunday worship. Rev. Frasier recently turned that intention into action when Bible Faith hosted a prayer response to stand against the increased gun violence in their area along with 10 other pastors and their congregations. 

More inspiring community organizing experiences were exchanged as Rev. David Brawley spoke of his leadership in East Brooklyn Congregations, which organizes local citizens to hold the government and police accountable to the community. Finally, Dr. Cheryl Anthony led the group in a closing prayer, thanking God for giving us the power to help our community move away from gun violence and toward a better future.
To follow up on their intentions to better the community, several members signed up to be trained in conflict resolution and mediation techniques. Marlon Peterson, the associate director at CHCMC, agreed to lead a workshop at a date and time TBA. Several others signed up to covenant with S.O.S. C.A.N. in prayer and all expressed sincere interest in making a change in our neighborhood. 

"It's My Park Day" 2012

CHCMC's new Americorps members, Toluwalashe Davies and Pete Martin report back after spending a Saturday afternoon at Brower Park for this year's "It's My Park Day:" 

Brower Park is a true community park, as we found out when we turned out for "It’s My Park Day" this past Saturday, October 20. The event, organized by Friends of Brower Park, brought community members together to clean up the park, plant grass and flowers, and get to know each other. The beautiful weather enabled us to get a lot of raking and planting done, and there was a strong, shared sense of belonging. Everyone was friendly with each other, and there were a lot of positive interactions and teamwork. Since it was our first time at the event we didn’t know what to expect, but we enjoyed ourselves immensely as we got our hands dirty raking leaves, planting daffodils, and learning how to best use a shovel to dig the earth. Nobody had warned us that our muscles would be sore afterwards, but we were happy anyway to have put all our might into our duties for the day!

While there, we met many people who came out to help beautify their park just because they wanted to. We met nine-year-olds who wanted to help plant daffodils, a young girl who likes to sing and loves the earth and its worms, a lawyer who lives near the park and likes to give back to the community, an older lady who thought one of us looked a lot like a cousin of hers, and Phil, who is in charge of Friends of Brower Park. There were about 30 high school students, all helping with the clean-up and the flower planting, and they made the day fun, playing with each other while getting the work done. There were also a lot of adults there, leading by example, and showing the youth that activism does not end at a certain age. Crown Heights is indeed an amazing community of people who trying to make their neighborhood a better place, one daffodil at a time.

Shooting Response TODAY!

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Meet Make It Happen! and its founder, Brandon Gibson

Interview with Brandon Gibson
Avodah Americorps Member Ariana Siegel sat down with Brandon Gibson to talk about Make It Happen! an OVC (Office of Victims of Crime) funded program run in partnership with the Center for Court Innovation's Domestic Violence department. 

AS: So, tell us about “Make It Happen!”
BG: Make it happen is a program geared towards helping young men of color between the ages of 16 and 24 overcome experiences with violence, and succeed in spite of those experiences.
The program consists of two main components: individual sessions and group meetings. The individual sessions occur before the group first meets. In the individual sessions I work on forming a trusting relationship with the participant, and from there we talk about their past, my past, what their goals are, how they want to go about obtaining those goals. Then when the group gets together, we meet specifically to talk about issues relating to manhood, identity, community, gender equality and other relevant social issues.

AS: How was Make It Happen! created?
BG: The Crown Heights Mediation Center wanted to expand their services for young men of color. These are services that will help them get over the pain and trauma of their circumstance, whether it be physical violence, mental abuse, or socio-economic, institutional violence—which is extremely apparent in the lives of these young African-American men.
Some of the most harmful violence experienced by young men of color is institutional violence. I believe that Black men have lived in large part, and died in large part due to policies that have adversely affected our community. All of these things that sent myriad fathers, sons, nephews, cousins away to jail for minor offenses, you know: the crack epidemic, and the war on drugs. If it were not for those policies I don’t think we would be in the shape that we’re in today.
So there is a need to expose young Black men to an alternative life. Not necessarily leading them down the road to being millionaires, but just being happy. Just being at peace. Understanding who they are. Understanding the world in which they live, and how to navigate it, because it’s a very different journey for them than for people who don’t look like them.

AS: How do you go about exposing them to an alternative lifestyle? What are the steps?
BG: The first step is building relationships. You really have to look at this work as building relationships, building trust, being transparent. You have to be intentional if you want to build relationships with participants. And once you build a healthy relationship, what comes along with it by default is trust. It’s safety that one feels, a level of openness. That’s what we try to foster with MIH.

AS: How long have been doing this now?
BG: About 5 months. This is all brand new. The pilot group was 5 weeks long; we recruited 10 guys and had a group meeting once every week. [The participants] would meet with me one-on-one whenever they wanted to and we would deal with issues of trauma, not in an official therapeutic capacity, but just mentoring and setting goals. The entry point of Make It Happen, the way we grab their attention, is success. Helping them to succeed by getting jobs, job development, training, education. Helping them learn about how to have healthy relationships, how to have self-control, gender issues, all of that.

AS: How would you rate your progress so far?
BG: The pilot group went great. After only 5 weeks we have success stories. We have one guy who already got his GED after having a felony drug case. He wants to be an entrepreneur so we’re putting him into a program called “Defy Ventures” that will teach him about business and ultimately fund the business that he starts. Another young man who dropped out of college after meeting with us and being exposed, he’s enrolling back into school. He didn’t have a job but he’s employed as a nurse’s assistant because he wants to be a doctor. We have another young guy who… was shot more times than anyone in the city and survived. He has not been arrested over the past month or two, which is huge for this young man, and he’s also in a GED program. Another guy is enrolled in NYU’s high school law program.

AS: Does the program look the way you originally envisioned it would?
BG: It’s not where I imagined it yet, but that’s good because that means that we have room to grow. I want to see the participants of Make It Happen running the program, where these guys are the ones recruiting their friends on the street, they’re the ones running the workshops, they’re the ones mentoring, they’re the ones doing the community organizing. I think I should just be there in a supervisory capacity. They should be taking ownership of the program, because it’s theirs. 

AS: Have you started the recruitment process for the next cohort?
BG: Yes. We’re looking for guys who want to make it happen. Who want to succeed and don’t know how to right now, but want to. You may not know what success means for you, but you have to be open to hearing about it. Maybe it’s going to school, getting a job, not going to jail next week, tired of getting arrested every other week. And we want to help you achieve those goals. Ages 16 to 24.

AS: What drew you to this work? What motivates you to keep going?
BG: I spent some time in that finance world but I always felt kind of guilty because I was doing so well, and a lot of people who look like me, young men in particular, were not. So I felt a pull do to this work, a “calling,” if you will.
Also, I recently read Steve Jobs’ auto-biography. He grew up in a very lower-middle class home, a family that didn’t have much, and he had trouble in school. And his parents decided to save up every penny they could to move into a better neighborhood, for him to go to a better school. So they moved into a neighborhood where Steve Jobs was able to meet a major software engineer named Steve Wozniak—who created the first Apple Computer.
So I look at that story and I get angry because I ask myself the question: I wonder how many Steve Jobs there are in the projects, in the jails, on the couch doing nothing? And if they just had a chance to be exposed, what could they become? That’s one of the drives for me: the potential and the possibilities of these young men. And that’s what really drives me to do what I do.

For more information on Make It Happen! or to join or refer someone to the program, contact Brandon Gibson at or call 646-943-0074

Friday, October 19, 2012

Clergy Breakfast this Saturday

This Saturday, S.O.S. C.A.N. will hold a clergy breakfast  at The Bethany United Methodist church. 

At the breakfast we will recognize and appreciate clergy members' contributions to the fight against gun violence.  A young community organizer will come to speak about how he mobilized pastors in Brownsville and East New York to build the Nehemiah low income housing development, among other initiatives. The Clergy Action Network will also share some pertinent information with attendees that will transform neighborhoods and houses of worship. Finally, participants will discuss the importance doing something not simply for the sake of doing it, but for the sake of adding value to communities and congregations.

For more information contact S.O.S. clergy liason Reverend Kevin Jones at 917-837-2032 or 

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Prayer Changes Things!

The Brooklyn Crown Heights Houses of Worship will gather together in unity to pray for peace and the end of gun violence in our community.

"Prayer Changes Things" Event
October 16th 2012 @ 6PM
Bible Faith Ministry
1368 St Johns Place

Join us as we pray together for CHANGE