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Joy Chatel Sounded Alarm to Preserve Downtown Brooklyn’s Rich Black History

Surrounded by close family and friends after a battle with respiratory disease, Joy “Mama Joy” Chatel passed peacefully at Methodist Hospital in Brooklyn, NY. “Mama Joy is now an ancestor,” said her daughter Shawné Lee.

Joy Chatel
Joy Chatel

Most known for her tireless activism in the community, Mama Joy left behind a legacy of triumphs. In 2007, she succeeded in preserving her home against a NYC Economic Development Agency plan to destroy her home via eminent domain. The EDC wanted to demolish the historic site to create a micro-park and underground parking lot. Because of Moma Joy’s fierce advocacy, the home of prominent Abolitionists Thomas and Harriet Truesdell will survive for everyone.

Mama Joy was a member of FUREE since 2004 and elected to the board in 2009, taking a special interest in unfair zoning and irresponsible development. Over the years, she’s held the office of Title I chair and PTA President in Brooklyn’s districts 13 and 22 and received countless awards in advocacy and leadership.

“I continue to be inspired and energized by Mama Joy’s selfless dedication to Brooklyn’s Underground Railroad history,” said Public Advocate Letitia James. “I will strive to carry her spirit onward.”

She is survived by her mother, 3 children, 1 brother, 1 sister, 13 grandchildren 4 great-grandchildren, and numerous uncles, aunts & cousins. Her love also extended to include the entire African-American community that was blessed with her years as a powerful matriarch with an infectious love for family and young people. Her spirit extends to all of humanity. She would often say that the history of 227 Abolitionist Place was not hers, but belonged to the whole world and it was her wish to share it.

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