Today, Brooklyn Community Foundation and its Crown Heights Advisory Council announced the 11 projects that will receive $100,000 collectively through the Foundation’s new Neighborhood Strength initiative. Focusing on Brooklyn’s Crown Heights neighborhood in this first year, the Foundation will provide individual grants ranging from $5,000 to $15,000 that bolster the work of neighborhood residents, nonprofits, and community groups addressing critical local concerns.
This is the Foundation’s first resident-led grantmaking program, designed to build a new model that brings together a diverse committee of neighborhood residents and community leaders to discuss local challenges, identify areas for funding, and recommend support for projects through a competitive grant program.
“We want to applaud the outstanding work of our Crown Heights Advisory Council who have taught us so much about the importance of empowering communities to decide how and where local investments should be made,” said Brooklyn Community Foundation President and CEO Cecilia Clarke. “Change must be led and sustained by those closest to the challenge. Thanks to residents’ efforts, we are setting an important example for how philanthropies and communities can come together to make a lasting difference.”
Earlier this year, Council members determined four key Crown Heights’ priorities for the 2015-2016 grant program: Housing Rights, Cross-Cultural Relationships, Youth Opportunities, and Policing. A request for project proposals in July sought applications from individuals, nonprofits, and organizations in Crown Heights addressing these areas, particularly those with experience serving long-standing residents. Nearly 50 applications were received, and funding decisions were made by the Council with the guidance of Brooklyn Community Foundation staff.
The 2015-16 Crown Heights Advisory Council members are Rabbi Eli Cohen (Crown Heights Central JCC), Amy Ellenbogen (Crown Heights Mediation Center), Ashley Harris (resident & youth leader), Jason Scott Jones (resident), Donna Mossman (Crown Heights Tenant Union), Amilcar Priestley (The Afrolatin@ Project), Regine Roumain (Haiti Cultural Exchange), Hanne Tierney (Five Myles Gallery), and Keith White (business owner).
The Neighborhood Strength initiative was developed as a result of the Foundation's Brooklyn Insights community engagement project. Over 1,000 residents across the borough helped inform a comprehensive new strategy for the Foundation focused on Brooklyn’s Neighborhoods, Youth and Nonprofits. The Foundation chose to launch this model neighborhood grant program in Crown Heights upon moving its headquarters there in 2014, and plans to expand its Neighborhood Strength initiative to additional communities in the coming years.
Neighborhood Strength: 2015-16 Crown Heights Grant Recipients
The Brooklyn Clergy Action Network was established with the goal of mobilizing faith leaders and the community to end gun violence in low and moderate-income communities in Brooklyn. A $10,000 grant will be used to establish a mentorship program for 12 to 17-year-old males designed to reduce and prevent violence by training them in methods of communication as an alternative to violence.
Brooklyn Hi-Art! Machine is a collaborative public art project that explores art-making as a community-building tool. A $5,000 grant will be used to create and distribute an accessible guide to tenants’ rights to assist long-time residents being pushed out of their homes.
The Brooklyn Movement Center, a Black-led organizing nonprofit, trains and mobilizes Central Brooklynites to lead local and city-wide policy campaigns to end abusive policing. A $15,000 grant will be used for police accountability organizing and legislative advocacy in Crown Heights that mobilizes local stakeholders, creates alternative community safety approaches, and conducts know-your-rights and leadership trainings.
Global Kids’ mission is to educate and inspire underserved youth to become successful students, global citizens, and community leaders. A $10,000 grant will be used for the Human Rights Activist Project in three Crown Heights public schools to empower youth to advocate for community and global issues through interactive workshops on community organizing, social action, digital and social media, policy, and root causes.
NYC Coalition for Educational Justice is a parent-led movement that seeks to affect policy change and create a more equitable educational system. A $10,000 grant will support local parent engagement around the Department of Education's Community Schools Initiative, which will bring over a million dollars in new resources to three Crown Heights schools.
Progress Playbook designs customized learning experiences for entrepreneurs so that they can accomplish their business goals. A $5,000 grant will provide 10 Crown Heights youth with a three-month entrepreneur training program, through which each will develop a comprehensive business plan. Three plans selected by community members will receive financial and technical assistance to launch or expand their business within Crown Heights.
Resident Simone Leigh is receiving a $5,000 grant to support an innovative series of drumming classes and workshops for black women and girls in Crown Heights, which seeks to build bridges across cultures and communities and provide a nurturing environment where participants can relax, learn new skills, exercise, and connect in a non-competitive way.
UHAB organizes tenants to fight poor living conditions in buildings neglected or abandoned by landlords; in 2013, three UHAB-organized tenant associations formed the Crown Heights Tenants Union. A $15,000 grant will support their focus on ending bad living conditions, illegal displacement, and loss of rent-regulated housing in Crown Heights by bolstering tenant and neighborhood power.
Weeksville Heritage Center is an historic site museum and community cultural center that preserves the legacy of the original Weeksville community founded in 1838 – one of the first and most prolific free African American communities in the United States. A $10,000 grant will support a performance project featuring new oral histories and collaborations with local performing artists and teens to mark the 25th anniversary of the 1991 Crown Heights Riots. Weeksville will also host a community dinner for residents of its immediate vicinity.
Young Movement provides research, advocacy, and partnerships on socio-economic issues like financial literacy and employment alternatives for young adults. A $5,000 grant will support the Weeksville Entrepreneurship Project to train 10 young adults from the Weeksville section of Crown Heights in tools to find and create sustainable solutions to employment, financial, and health disparities in Weeksville.
The Youth Farm is a one-acre farm on the Wingate Campus that grows approximately 15,000 pounds of fresh, culturally relevant crops for the Crown Heights community each year. A $10,000 grant will support a year-round youth program, an advanced organic farming training program for adults, and a paid summer youth employment program.
About Brooklyn Community Foundation
Brooklyn Community Foundation is on a mission to spark lasting social change, mobilizing people, capital, and expertise for a fair and just Brooklyn. Since its founding in 2009, the Foundation and its donors have provided over $20 million in grants to more than 300 nonprofits throughout the borough, bolstering vital programs and services while responding to urgent community needs and opportunities. In 2014, following a six-month borough wide community engagement project, Brooklyn Insights, the Foundation unveiled a new strategic action plan focused on youth, neighborhood strength, nonprofit capacity, and racial justice. Learn more at www.BrooklynCommunityFoundation.org.
Liane Stegmaier, Director of Communications