Just three years short of a half-century from when Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated — on what would be Dr. King’s 86th birthday — we’re taking a look at some of Brooklyn’s revolutionary community groups who keep his legacy alive through their work toward equality and diversity.
King’s legacy holds special significance in New York, a city so diverse it “should have destroyed itself long ago, from panic or fire or rioting or failure of some vital supply line in its circulatory system,” according to E.B. White’s Here Is New York.
With some of the most polyglot zip codes in the world, Brooklyn is bursting with different cultures. While the Black Lives Matter movement inspires hashtag activism as well as in-the-flesh protests across America, these community organizations work on a more local level, helping to ensure that all the borough’s many peoples are given equal rights and treatment.
Dr. King would be proud.
Citywide but Brooklyn-based and -focused, nonprofit agency CAMBA (which is not actually an acronym) helps more than 35,000 people annually through its extensive network of homeless and drop-in shelters, HIV/AIDS services, and job-placement programs. Operating since 1977, this single network has been improving Brooklynites’ lives for decades through the vital creation of affordable housing and through legal services — programs which are hardly glamorous and yet life changing for many.
Another time-proven Kings County change-maker is Brooklyn-Queens NOW, a coalition of women’s rights activists who have done everything from working to (and succeeding at) saving the Brooklyn College Women’s Center, helping win statewide legislation criminalizing female circumcision — “which was occurring in Brooklyn,” according to the group’s website — and, currently, lobbying and defending women’s rights in courts and at health clinics.
The Brooklyn branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) was chartered in 1920, holding one of its first meetings at the Brooklyn Academy of Music in regards to the Anti-Lynching Bill. Today, the group works to help raise assistance and awareness for those living with AIDS, especially in the most hard-hit black communities, and is working on cultivating its recent resurgence of young members.
Another group following in Martin Luther King Jr.’s equality-minded footsteps include Little Essentials, which brings donated baby items to children living in poverty.
BRIC Arts is the borough’s largest supplier of free cultural programming, responsible for the annual summer concert series Celebrate Brooklyn! in Prospect Park as well as year-round artist incubator programs and exhibits at its Fort Greene space. Through its extensive public programming, the organization truly permeates the borough with free or inexpensive arts opportunities.
Red Hook Community Farm
The Red Hook Community Farm has grown more than 20,000 pounds of produce in a year with the help of the community and the Added Value Farms initiative. A hub of greenery in a formerly industrial neighborhood, the farm was cultivated in an abandoned baseball field by an upstate farmer and the help of his local volunteers.
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