Bed-Stuy Solidarity: Masks, Activities Bag Giveaway

While parts of Brooklyn went up in literal flames from the protests in the name of George Floyd, other parts came together this Sunday in solidarity and carried on their months-long battle against the coronavirus.

Community Board 3 (CB3) in collaboration with the Bridge Street Development Corporation held a giveaway of youth activity materials and safety packs for children, grades kindergarten through 8 at Bedford-Stuyvesant’s Restoration Plaza on Fulton Street and Marcy Avenue.

Inside the giveaway bags were free personal protective equipment (PPE) masks, arts and supplies, snacks, hand sanitizer, bottled water, and more knick-knacks that were donated to the youth.

“We are always in the position of looking to give back to the neighborhood of Bedford Stuyvesant,” said CB3’s District Manager Henry Butler, who’s running for 56th Assembly Democratic District Leader in the Democratic primary. “We are really the first source of active resources for residents. We wanted to stay actively engaged even during this pandemic.”

Community Board 3 District Manager Henry Butler at the giveaway event fo Bed-Stuy youths. Photo by Ariama Long

He said as a parent of younger children, it’s been challenging keeping his kids engaged while sheltering in place. 

CB3’s youth and education committee, headed by Oma Holloway, came up with the idea of giveaway bags to help give other kids something interesting to do. 

“Families need some extra support so this is our effort to say, ‘we hear you, we’re with you,’ most of us are parents or educators. So a coloring book, a snack, but with hand sanitizer, you know. Plus, information about the census,” said Holloway.

The committee also still employs a handful of Summer Youth Employment Program (SYEP) interns that were already in place before the outbreak threatened the program with budget cuts. They receive internship credit and small stipends for activities like civic engagement and food distribution. 

Photo by Ariama Long

They mainly helped pack and pass out bags on Sunday, and stopped briefly to discuss the protests affecting their communities.  

Messiah Barha, a 16-year-old black male, said that he’s experienced racial profiling on a few occasions and has also attended some of the Black Lives Matter rallies at his old school, M.S. 035 Stephen Decatur. He said most recently, he and his associate were stopped for jaywalking, in which findings in 2019 revealed Blacks and Hispanics were disproportionately ticketed.

“They pushed us against the wall and they pat us down, asked if we had any weapons, and we didn’t,” said Barha about his experience with the police. “I was a little scared because it was nighttime and things could happen and there was nobody outside. But I was calm. I know that like when you get loud or start disrespecting them [the police] they get aggressive.”

He doesn’t approve of the current violence present at some protests at all. 

Shantell Jackman, a youth organizer for MYBASE (Motivated Youth Believing in All Self Empowerment) Task Force, also disapproves of using violence in the community to destroy businesses or steal, and is anti-brutality not anti-police. “Our voices will never be heard,” she said, “They already think we animals in how George [Floyd] was treated, and now we act like animals. This is a drag.” 

Assemblywoman Tremaine Wright (D-Bedford-Stuyvesant, Northern Crown Heights), currently running for the District 25 State Senate seat. Photo by Ariama Long.

Assemblywoman Tremaine Wright (D-Bedford-Stuyvesant, Northern Crown Heights), currently running for the District 25 State Senate seat, emphasized peaceful protests but acknowledged that people were justified in their anger. She greeted and spoke with families on Restoration Plaza as retired former  Assemblymember Annette M. Robinson helped hand out flyers and materials across from her.  

“The protest we had yesterday in Bedford Stuyvesant, I’m going to refer to as a successful protest,” said Wright about her participation. “I really want to make sure that people are empowered and we hear them. As legislators, this is our time to act.”

This particular protest, of which there were several in a matter of days that were organized or not, included Sharina Clark of the Black Lives Matter collective. It went down Fulton Street and up Stuyvesant and Marcy Avenues. 

“People are upset, they’re angry. They’re frustrated, they’re tired. Honor it, they’re not imagining this or living in a bubble,” said Wright, “We have to stop pretending that this is something people are just responding to in this moment. This is something people have been responding to in this country for years, and so show it all.” 

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