On November 28th, the Crown Heights Community Mediation Center held a special appreciation ceremony to honor Sharon "Ife" Charles, the former Deputy Director of the Mediation Center. Ife has been promoted to work as the Citywide Anti-Violence Coordinator for the Center for Court Innovation where she is helping to start the S.O.S. South Bronx project and the Brownsville Ceasefire program. Ms. Charles dedicated 13 years to the mediation center, during which time she uplifted the Crown Heights community and touched countless lives.
Evidence of her impact could be seen in the large number of people who came to pay tribute to her on Wednesday. As they enjoyed hearty food and wine, guests shared personal stories of their relationships with Ife and wrote notes to her on paper leaves that were appended to a tree blooming with gratitude.
Among the evening's guests were ten youth organizers from our “Youth Organizing to Save Our Streets” program. The Youth Organizers helped run the event, greeting guests, making sure everything ran smoothly, and creating the leaves upon which people wrote notes to Ife. Their positive energy lifted the crowd.
During the formal ceremony Ms. Charles was awarded proclamations of merit issued by the New York City Council Members Christine Quinn, Jumaane Williams and Leticia James, as well as New York State Senator Eric Adams and State Assemblyman Karim Camara for her contributions to the community. Ms. Audre Andrews from the Lincoln Place block association also presented her with a special acknowledgement of her contribution.
Marlon Peterson, deputy director of the Mediation Center, welcomed guests to the event and recalled the support and nurturing that Ife provided him in the years that he has worked here. Amy Ellenbogen, director of the Mediation Center, shared a story about a time when Ife stopped in the street to intervene in a conflict between youth, putting her own life in danger. When the youth asked aggressively, “who are you?” Ife pointed to each youth in turn and said, “I’m your mother, and I’m your mother and I’m your mother.”
Indeed, when Ife accepted her awards and called out each of the people who had shown up to support her, she epitomized the way we at the Mediation Center think of her, as the mother of Crown Heights. She will be truly missed at the mediation center, but we congratulate her on continuing on the path of her life’s work.
To read a write up of the event by Greg Berman, Executive Director of the Center for Court Innovation, click here.