Our Time Press

When Tomorrow Comes: Young Brooklynites and the New Normal!

[Photo credit] The Green-Collar Economy: How One Solution Can Fix Our Two Biggest
Problems by Van Jones

East Flatbush, Bed-Stuy, Bushwick and East New York are home to Black Futurists. See how
they’re leading us!

Let us say: “We want to ensure that those communities that were locked out of the
last century’s pollution-based economy will be locked into the new clean and green
economy. We know that we don’t have any throwaway children or neighborhoods
either. All of creation is precious and sacred. And we are all in this together.”
― Van Jones, The Green-Collar Economy: How One Solution Can Fix Our Two Biggest

By Morgan Powell

Welcome to the world of Dwaine Lee (environmentally friendly construction contractor), Dara Cooper (health and wellness educator), Melissa Danielle (fresh produce businesswoman), MC Presice (tree advocate/ “hood-as-paradise” visionary) and Krishna Omolade (food co-op finance manager) as we dance into 2014!  These five accomplished change-makers offer today’s Brooklyn a vision for our best future.  A historic year begins.  It’s also the Fiftieth Anniversary of Black Brooklyn’s confrontation with 1964’s World’s Fair bias before a vast world media we can now read through.  As we celebrate emerging solutions to pressing societal challenges, Dr. Brian Purnell’s book, Fighting Jim Crow in the County of Kings: The Congress of Racial Equality in Brooklyn, serves history.  It turns out that modern conceptions of community well-being are anchored in local benchmarks from the near and distant past.  You know this if you’re availing yourself of the rich offerings on local successes at the Dionne Mack-Harvin African-American Heritage Center (Macon Library, 361 Lewis Avenue, 718-573-5606).


Dwaine Lee’s bringing nearly a decade of expertise to the development of a new East Flatbush Community Farm.  He’s organized the construction and upgrading of many green roofs, cool roofs, garden capital improvements and more.  Now he wants to improve his life-long neighborhood.  This self-styled “green contractor” has made his mark at the New York Horticultural Society, the Center for Bioregional Living and further afield.  He seeks to re-purpose a large parcel of state-owned land on Clarkson Avenue to reconnect local Caribbean-Americans (and all neighbors) with their fresh produce traditions.  Get involved by e-mailing him at dwaine929@gmail.com.

Melissa Danielle is a third-generation Bed-Stuy resident who runs BedStuyBounty.com where she distributes seasonal, organic, local and ethically produced foods from 462 Halsey Community Garden and a commercial space.  Bed-Stuy Bounty runs on Wholeshare.com, making it easy for people to purchase bulk items at wholesale prices as a group. Members log into their group’s site and place individual orders that are grouped together. Members shop for themselves and only pay for what they order, with the option of splitting larger bulk items with each other.  Melissa—who is a national personality in her role as regional Outdoor Afro leader— offers insights, coaching, consulting and storytelling for food, wellness and ecology.  Contact Melissa to learn more at hellodarling@melissamail.net.

MC Presice (Rashid Littlejohn) is a tree advocate and apostle of ecological sustainability in Bushwick.  This 31 year old visionary insists it’s time to create and implement a “ghetto dream” because “everyone’s not going to make it out of the hood.  It’s time to make all the places we live beautiful.  Everyone’s not going to be a sports star or rapper or a singer.  We need a new dream…and it’s got to include my neighbors in the projects.  Every class in every school in the hood needs to turn out [winners].”  Bed-Stuy’s Von King Park saw him rap his all-around green message at the Project Green event on Arbor Day 2013.  Along with two lifelong friends, he’s much more than talk.  See the great work they are doing together under the name GCAMP at http://mygreencampaign.blogspot.com/.

Krishna Omolade is bringing Corbin Hill Food Project to his native Brooklyn beginning with East New York and branching out as this article went to print!  This Director of Operations and Finance helps the many large and small gears of an expanding local fresh produce system run.  Corbin Hill connects low- and moderate-income New Yorkers with the nutrient-packed freshly harvested upstate fruits and vegetables they need to thrive.  Learn more at www.corbinhillfoodproject.org.

            Dara Cooper directs the recently reorganized NYC Food and Fitness Partnership out of Bedford-Stuyvesant Restoration Corporation.  Through farmers’ markets, health education, free fitness events and more, this partnership works to address local food- and health-access issues. Recent sponsorships have included: the Black Farmers and Urban Gardener’s Conference at Boys and Girls High School, and festive programs (with the Brooklyn Alliance for Safer Streets) like the Thanksgiving Day Run/Walk at Von King Park, as well as a Christmastime bike ride of spectacular Bed-Stuy holiday lights along Macon and other streets with free Citibikes!  2014 will see continued monthly Healthy Shopping Tours at Foodtown on Fulton Street and a possible collaboration with Corbin Hill Food Project.  This new partnership would deliver the freshest New York State-grown fruits and veggies to a large network of central Brooklyn Head Start programs.  Excitement is building here because produce contains peak nutritional value closest to the date it’s picked!   Dara can be reached at 718-636-6964 or dcooper@restorationplaza.org.

Each of these younger adults is breaking through a set of obsolete ideas now called the-way-the-world-is.  Their ideas and projects generate a more life-affirming society as we meet the worsening environmental crisis.  Green for All founder Van Jones recently laid out his own lucid vision summarized here: Most of the historians I know—who are awesome—are African-Americans and other people of color.  But most of the futurists are white.  There’s something wrong.  We’re missing each other.  We’ve got to be able to do what Dr. King said and articulate a future that’s worth fighting for.  Dr. King wasn’t only talking about the crimes of the past or critiquing the present.  He said “I have a dream”.  That’s about a future.  Can you imagine a situation where you have to go to [NYCHA housing developments] to see innovation, to see genius, to see things being invented and created that are not happening anywhere else in the world because we delivered the skills, tools and technologies to those communities?  We have to be bold because the world is changing that fast.

Morgan Powell is a horticulturist and landscape designer.  He’s also a blogger at Outdoor Afro.

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