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Mark Winston Griffith

Oral history interview conducted by Matthew Birkhold

July 27, 2017

Call number: 2016.027.1.20

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BIRKHOLD: My name is, is Matt Birkhold. This is July 27th, 2017. I am here at 375 Stuyvesant Avenue with Mark Winston Griffith, executive director of the Brooklyn Movement Center, doing part two of his oral history for the Voices of Crown Heights Oral History Project with Brooklyn Historical Society. Mark, due to a recording error on my behalf in part one, I have to ask you to go back to our very first question. You were born on [date redacted for privacy], 1963, in New York Hospital, into a home at 282 New York Avenue, between St. Johns and Lincoln Place.

GRIFFITH: Correct.

BIRKHOLD: And I, I, I'd like to know about your first memories of, of, of Crown Heights and Brooklyn, of the block.


GRIFFITH: Sure. And it's interesting, my -- I mean, I think my memories are sort of evenly divided between Brooklyn and Queens; the dividing line being in 1971 when my family moved to Queens. But prior to that, I have very strong, very fond memories of living at 282 New York Avenue, which is a, I believe, three-story brick townhouse -- three or four stories. My family lived -- what I remember is that my family lived on the ground floor and what I guess is called the first floor. There was a living room in front and then what we called the small room in the middle, and then there was a kitchen in the back. And we had 2:00a nice-sized backyard. My father owned the property, and he -- I guess my parents, I should say, owned the property-- and they rented the, the top floor to other folks. And I remember that being the home where I just had a lot of fun and felt a lot of security and felt very rooted in the neighborhood. I remember playing outside all the time. I mean, that block was essentially my playground. I mean, we used to go to -- we used to go to -- what's the name of the park? -- to -- oh God. [laughter] The one next to the Children's Museum.

BIRKHOLD: Is that Brower Park?

GRIFFITH: Right. We used to go to Brower Park every now and then, which was 3:00just a few blocks away. But, that block -- the, the sidewalk, I should say, was my playground. So we used to play tag, used to race, we used to ride my bike, we used to ride go-karts. We had very good friends in our next neighbors, the Goodriches, who were also a Jamaican family, like us. Although I think all of the kids there were actually born in Jamaica, if I'm not mistaken, and then came to Brooklyn. There was Garth and Godfrey and Pat and Jackie. I remember all of them, and I think there may have been one more sibling in there. And they, again, they were like our best friends. I remember Miss Weeks, who -- an older woman who lived on the block. I remember Poochie, who lived -- was it Poochie or Butchie? No, it was Poochie who lived across the street, who was my 4:00brother's friend. And I remember, you know, New York Avenue being a place where we felt safe. And in fact, one of the reasons why we ended up leaving New York Avenue is because there was a, a like, a shootout on the corner of New York and Lincoln, and my mother got scared-- though that the neighborhood was going south-- and got my father to load us up and move us to Queens. But I never felt -- I never felt unsafe there. And that house was also a block away from Eastern 5:00Parkway, so I remember the Labor Day Parade. I remember, you know, going to Labor Day Parade and hanging out with my father there, and I remember Eastern Parkway. I remember the presence of Hasidic Jews not too far away. And there was -- you know, there was never any conversation -- I never -- I never -- I don't remember any conversation or any so-called beef between Blacks and Jews back then. [clears throat] Excuse me. Or at least it doesn't -- it's not something that has stayed with me. I just remember the long robes and the black hats and all that, and that just being a feature of, of, of my neighborhood. So, you know, I also associated that neighborhood with I guess the civic activism of my parents, and I felt very tied and connected to the surrounding 6:00area, because both my parents worked for the city, and my mother worked for an organization -- she worked for a couple different organizations, but one of them was called Model Cities. My father also worked for Model Cities. And Model Cities was a federal program, if I'm not mistaken. It was part of the War on Poverty, but I think it, it sort of was funneled through city agencies, if I'm not mistaken. And my mother worked for Model Cities. My father worked -- like, during the summer, he did some work with Model Cities. And my brother and sister ended up going to camp in Model Cities camps, which were -- essentially took low- and moderate-income kids from the quote-unquote "inner city" and took them to college campuses for a summer of enrichment, I guess you can call it. 7:00And so I have very fond memories of, of that. And again, this sense of being connected to the neighborhood and this sense of -- and I don't know -- I don't think anyone ever used the term back then, but of self-determination and community empowerment. And this sense that what my parents were doing, while not explicitly and overtly political, was part of a sort of Black self-determination movement that was rooted in my neighborhood, and again, was part of the political and cultural environment -- and air that I breathed, quite frankly. And I think that always -- I think that in-- I don't want to use the 8:00word infected me, but it got inside of me. And my parents were not necessarily overtly or, you know, openly radical or political or anything. But I think that because of the conversations-- because this was happening in the '60s and early '70s, that, that, you know-- the Civil Rights Movement, the Black Power movement, the March on Washington, Model Cities, which was a War on Poverty program, all left me with a sense of responsibility to my surrounding community and really endowed me with -- I -- what I regard as my political and cultural 9:00consciousness as I grew up. So yeah, so all of that I associate with 282 New York Avenue.

BIRKHOLD: And are places like the New Muse and The East a part of the association?

GRIFFITH: Right. Most definitely. So, right, so the Muse museum on -- what is it, Bedford Avenue, where--? There was a -- yeah, I think it was on Bedford Avenue. It was the second -- first and second floor? I don't-- I'm trying to remember. The thing about it is, my mother was working in an office right around the corner, and so I remember going there. I don't know if it was for a childcare program or whatever, but my mother would bring me to work with her sometimes where I would be there. And so, The East-- I didn't know the name at the time, but the cultural extensions of The East were part of my family as 10:00well, in the sense that my -- you know. At the time, Al Vann was -- loomed prominently; in the sense that he had started something called the Afro-American Teachers Association that factored very significantly in the Ocean Hill--Brownsville decentralization struggle and the strikes that happened. And in fact, my uncle, my Uncle Neilson, Hugh Neilson Griffith, who was in the Board of Education-- my father was in the Board of Education, my aunts and uncles were in the Board of Education-- my uncle ended up starting, or leading the chapter Afro-American Teachers Association in Queens. And so, you know, all of that factored very significantly in my life. You know, Bedford-Stuyvesant 11:00Restoration was a couple blocks away, and I had uncles -- I had an uncle who was on the board there. My father used to do -- was also -- he's a truant officer by day and an artist by night, or at least he was. He's still alive, but he's retired. And he used to have art shows at Bed-Stuy Restoration. And I remember going to -- you know, seeing art in Restoration and remember, you know, seeing pictures of Bobby Kennedy in Restoration, and so I had a -- I had a sense of community development tied to community empowerment. But again, all those were things that sort of washed through my life. So while I didn't know the name of 12:00The East at the time, it was a part of my life and the institutions I attended; whether it be the New Muse, whether it be the Brooklyn Children's Museum, whether it was going to Lincoln Park, Lincoln Terrace Park off of Eastern Parkway, whether it was going to Pratt Institute during the summers, whether it was -- you know. I went to PS 138, which is a couple of blocks away from my house, but it was also bused. My brother and sister and I were also bused to other schools. So I had a connection to the neighborhood but also-- very vividly remembering, you know, racial division and racial segregation and attempts to fight against that and attempts to sort of gain voice and power, 13:00really, among Black folks in Central Brooklyn. That all was a very big part of my life.

BIRKHOLD: Okay. And, and, and your grandmother lived in the neighborhood, so you spent a lot of time on Dean Street, too, didn't you?

GRIFFITH: Right, right. Right, so my, my house was at 282, again, New York Avenue, between Lincoln and St. Johns, and my grandmother's house, which is where I live now, was -- well, is, I should say, on Dean Street between New York and Nostrand. And my grandmother moved there in the early '50s. Her sister actually moved to the house next door in the late '40s, and her brother lived in the other house on the other side of the street. So what you had were three 14:00Jamaican homeowners; none of whom, I think, had more than a sixth-grade education, all who had gone from Jamaica, then worked on the Panama Canal. My grandmother was a seamstress, along with her sister. My grandmother's brother was a sailor. Somehow, you know, they moved from Jamaica to Panama during the building of the Canal, then moved to Harlem, and by the late '40s had started to come to Brooklyn. So they-- their, their migration pattern, I think, follows that of a lot of Caribbean folks at that time. And I think that was a big part 15:00of -- my grandmother moving to that block in, I believe, 1952 or 1953 -- was probably a big part of why my father ended up moving to that neighborhood as well. And so, that trek, which is -- it can't be more than, what, a half mile maybe between my Dean Street home and what in many ways was a second home on -- sorry, my New York Avenue home and what was in many ways a second home on Dean Street, I knew very well. In fact, I remember -- you know, we can look it up, but one of the-- New York's biggest snowstorms happened on, on or around February sixth, probably in 1966, '7, '8, '9, somewhere around there. And I 16:00remember packing up all this stuff on a sled and my parents pulling me on a sled in the snow from New York Avenue to Dean Street for my birthday party; a very distinct memory of that. And so Dean Street was like -- it was more than a second home. It was -- it, it, it was where -- it was a family gathering spot too. Because my uncle, my father's brother-- this is my father's mother, and his brother-- had four children. I'm one of three. My brother's six years older than me and my sister's five years older than me. And my uncle had children who -- he had four children; one of whom was my age, one of whom was my sister's age, and a child in the middle, and then a younger one. But we all 17:00were contemporaries, we were peers, we were not just family, we were friends, and we grew up with one another in, in this house. My parents would go away on the weekends, and my grandmother would, would -- you know, she would -- we would stay with my grandmother. And it's remarkable when I think of it -- I was just talking to my sister about this recently -- because my grandmother ended up leaving the home to my father, and my father ended up selling the house to me. So I live there now. And so there's a room that we call the family room. It's where my wife and my two, and my two kids and I, we watch TV, we hang out, they play games in there. That was my grandmother's bedroom, and in that room, all 18:00of us -- and when I say all of us, I'm meaning my grandmother, my brother and sister and I, and my four cousins, we all slept in that, in that one room at night. So you're talking eight people. [laughter] It's, it's really -- it's really quite fascinating when I think of it, but eight people slept in that bedroom, because although my grandmother lived in this big house, she used, she used the, the, the ground floor and the parlor floor, and then she rented the top two floors as board-- it was a boarding house. Everyone -- you know, people upst-- they didn't have their own bathroom. There was a common bathroom in the hallway, and they each had individual rooms. I think there might have been one kitchen on the top floor, but really it was more a boarding house than anything else. So we were all -- you know, we had this big house, but we were all 19:00confined to this small room when we, when we slept. And it just -- it just tells you how we just used space differently, had a different appreciation for it. My grandmother, my sister, and two cousins, the four of them would sleep in what is a double bed. My brother and cousin and I would sleep in a -- essentially a daybed that -- two little -- two single beds that were shoved together. And then my younger cousin, he came around seven years after I was born, he was in a crib in there. So yeah, I, I have -- you know, going to Dean Street meant the best fried chicken that was on the planet that my grandmother made. It meant early morning, you know, sunny-side up eggs. We each got cereal 20:00in these little boxes, in the little Kellogg's boxes. They had -- I think they had, what, the six-pack or the eight-pack, where you each would break one open. I remember one small glass of orange juice and one small glass of milk; all consumed in my kitchen, in my grandmother's kitchen. And we would -- I think we would eat in two shifts around a table in that kitchen. And that kitchen now, for most -- for all intents and purposes, doesn't exist. We dismantled it and built a new one. Hold on for a sec. I thought I heard someone come in.

[Interview interrupted.]

GRIFFITH: It's -- right. So I, I guess the point is, is that while we lived on New York Avenue, because my mother, my grandmother lived on Dean Street, I think 21:00it just deepened our connection to that area, to North Crown Heights. And it always made me feel -- even after we moved, I always felt a deep connection to the neighborhood. And, you know, even after we went to Queens, I don't think it's a coincidence that all of us -- my brother, my sister, and I, and my father -- all ended up moving back to Brooklyn. I was the only one who moved back to Crown Heights, but that's less -- I mean, I think everyone wanted to be back in brownstone Brooklyn. My father -- after my parents got divorced in the late '80s -- I was an adult when they got divorced -- and my father moved to my 22:00grandmother's house. He lived on the top floor. By then -- by that time I was already in the house. I had -- after I graduated from Brown, I came directly -- I never -- I never put my bags back in Queens, in the house in Queens. I moved directly back to -- I should say back to Brooklyn. I never lived in that house before, in Dean Street. But I had a sense that -- by my senior year, I didn't know exactly what I wanted to do, but my -- and I think I said this before -- all my friends and colleagues, you know, they were all going to, you know, planning to be doctors, lawyers, engineers, and I was a part of protests that 23:00occurred on campus and was a big part of the leadership, and had a sense that I had a -- I didn't know exactly what I wanted to do, but I knew I wanted to be a part of some form of organizing and political and social change. And I ended up moving back to Brooklyn, and it's funny because I moved -- I asked my grandmother if I could move into her house before I even had a sense of what I wanted to do for a living. In many ways, where I wanted to live was more important than what I did. And where I lived in some ways was equivalent to what I did. I wanted to be rooted in community. I wanted to be a part of something that meant more than just where I laid my head. I wanted to be a part of a sense of history. And while, you know, I, I actually lived in Queens 24:00longer than I lived in Brooklyn; Brooklyn for me was that sense of history. It had that sense of political strength, and I wanted, and I wanted to reclaim that in my life, and I wanted to reclaim the-- I don't know, sort of-- like, a political destiny, if you will. And so while I didn't know what I would do for a living, I knew that it had to, it had to all emanate from Central Brooklyn, from Crown Heights, from the place of my birth. And that's why I moved back. And within a few, you know, short months, I wanted to work for an elected -- I wanted to, ironically, work for Al Vann, the same man who factored prominently in my family's political life and the man who I would later run against for city 25:00council, but I wanted to, I wanted to work for him. That didn't work out. I mean, I never even got an interview, never really gave me the time of day. And I -- but I ended up-- I just, sort of by force of will, got involved politically-- ended up volun-- doing some volunteer work, and then was recognized by a guy named Clarence Norman, who was the assemblyman for that -- for -- actually, for the area where I lived -- and I ended up working for him. And, you know, that started me really on my path to working in Central Brooklyn. And, when you do neighborhood-based work, you know, rightly or wrongly, legitimacy plays a large part. And what I mean by that is: If you do community 26:00organizing, many people will sort of delineate their bona fides by talking about how long they've lived there or, you know, whether their parents are from there, or how many generations they've been there, or how long they've been in a particular house. And it's not something that I'm particularly proud of, because I think it can be used in a somewhat cynical way, but being there helped me -- being there and being in a house that was owned by my family helped me establish some immediate credentials in Central Brooklyn, personally and professionally. And that was important to me as well. And this is something that I, I guess I could have done in Queens but I wanted to do in Brooklyn, so. 27:00Again, coming back to Brooklyn was, consciously and unconsciously, a big part of who I wanted to be professionally; even though I wasn't al-- even though I moved to different positions within it. For most of my professional life, I have worked in Central Brooklyn in one way or another.

BIRKHOLD: Okay. In our previous discussion, Mark, you, you, you had shared a great deal of that work in Central Brooklyn, and we left off, the Central Brooklyn Partnership and credit union had gone into receivership in 2000. Now, what did you do after that?

GRIFFITH: Did you -- by the way, did we capture the different positions, the different jobs I did in Crown Heights?

BIRKHOLD: Yes, yes. Up to that point.

GRIFFITH: All right. So we have that already, that's all already on record?



GRIFFITH: Okay, okay. So the question is, again, the receiv-- what did I, did I do after that?

BIRKHOLD: Yeah, after, after the credit union.

GRIFFITH: So in 1997, the Central Brooklyn Federal Credit Union went into what was called conservatorship, or otherwise known as receivership, which is when the federal government essentially comes and takes control. I was on -- I was never on staff of the credit union; I was always on the board of the credit union. And so, what the federal government did was; they came in, they immediately made plans to sell the building they were -- we were in, they essentially fired most of the staff. The board was essentially dismissed, but 29:00we maintained a relationship -- that is, the board maintained a relationship, I in particular maintained a relationship -- with the regulators, the people from NCUA, the National Credit Union Administration, who, who are, who are running the institution at that time. And so while I wasn't on staff there, I was still the executive director of the Central Brooklyn Partnership. They had no jurisdiction over that. And in fact, when -- because we shared -- because we were all sort of an integrated organization; the Central Brooklyn Partnership and the Central Brooklyn Federal Credit Union-- what the federal government did was they literally built a wall in the middle of the lobby of the credit union and put the Central Brooklyn Partnership behind a wall in a corner [laughter] in the building. So, you know, it was a really, it was a really -- for me 30:00professionally, it was probably the most -- it was the biggest challenge of my professional career. So much of my identity had been wrapped up in that credit union. And so what I did in many ways -- the Central Brooklyn Partnership was a way for that identity and for that mission to continue. They could take away the credit union, but they couldn't take away the Central Brooklyn Partnership. So between nineteen ninety-- I mean, I -- the Central Brooklyn Partnership started in 1991. We started the Central Brooklyn Federal Credit Union in 1993. By ni-- early 1998, the Central Brooklyn Partnership was alone again, essentially. And so, up until I would say -- I think it was 2002, I ran the 31:00Central Brooklyn Partnership. And the Central Brooklyn Partnership consisted of-- was, was a, an economic justice organizing body. We, we ran a youth program that, that did what we called financial literacy work, but also organized young people around local economic justice issues. We ran something called the Sisters Lending Circle, which is a group of low- and moderate -- women who were on public assistance. This was around the time of welfare reform, quote-unquote. And we -- women who were on public assistance, they became -- they joined, essentially, a sou-sou. They joined this financial collective where they jointly saved and then received loans that they used to 32:00smart -- to start microenterprises that they used to move off of public assistance. We also started organizing street vendors in Central Brooklyn. So for many years, on Fulton Street, between Bedford Avenue and I guess a little bit past New York, there were more -- on any given day, there were up to or more than 100 street vendors who set up shop in front of the retail establishments on both sides, on the north and south sides of Fulton Street. And these folks were mostly Caribbean and/or North and East African, mostly Muslim -- the Africans 33:00were mostly Muslim. In fact, most of the, the, the Muslim vendors attended At-Taqwa, the, the mosque that is on the corner of Bedford and, and Fulton Street. And at that time, the -- you know, that -- I can trace -- you can really -- well, yeah. I would say [clears throat] -- excuse me -- some of the beginnings of what is currently the wave of gentrification coming through Central Brooklyn, you can tie directly back to efforts at that time to remove those vendors from Fulton Street. And those efforts were led by the ch-- the Brooklyn chamber of commerce, along with Bed-Stuy Restoration, along with the 34:00assemblywoman-- at the time was-- Annette Robinson, and others, who just felt as though-- this was, this was just before the Fulton Street BID, the Bed-Stuy BID began-- but it was, it was, it was thought that these, these vendors represented something that was unseemly and dirty and they got in the way of the improvements that Fulton Street were, was due. The improvements that Fulton Street were due -- was due, sorry. And so they -- the, the City, along -- yeah, it was the City, along with these institutions, decided that they were going to have to move the vendors, and we got involved in organizing them. Getting them to elect representatives who spoke on their own behalf and resisted the attempts to push them off of Fulton Street. We realized very early on that those efforts 35:00were probably going to fail, and so what we did was we set up an alternative. We got the city to set up a, an alternative market, a cooperative market. They gave us the space, but we had to pay rent on that space. It was -- the space was owned, actually, by Bed-Stuy-- Bed-Stuy Restoration, who really didn't want us there. You know, they were pressured by the City. It was an open lot that's no-- that they've since built on, but it was on the corner of Albany and Fulton Street. And Bed-Stuy Restoration was like, "Oh hell no, we don't want these people [laughter] on," you know, "on our property, and once they get there, we're not going to be able to get them off." Which, you know, in retrospect was, was not far from the truth, actually. I mean, they had a difficult time. Because after, after, you know, we worked with them to relocate to that spot on 36:00Fulton Street -- which they didn't want to go to. They, they felt like it was the beginning of their [clears throat] -- excuse me -- economic death and of their independence, which it was, and we all recognized that this was not the best thing. But we had seen markets in Harlem and in Flatbush that actually were doing quite well, but we didn't get the same terms and conditions. We didn't own the property; we had to pay rent. And so we were never -- the, the -- in many ways, the, the market was set up to fail. We had -- not only did we have to pay rent, we had to pay for a toilet, portable toilets, we had to pay for security, we had to, you know, end up putting barbed wire over the thing because people were breaking into the market. And it became a really difficult place to manage. So, without going too far into that [clears throat] -- excuse 37:00me -- that is what the Central Brooklyn Partnership was, was involved with as well. I ended up leaving the Central Brooklyn Partnership I guess, yeah, in 2002. By that time I had gotten married, and, you know, had been with Central Brooklyn for 11 years and was really ready to start a new chapter in my life. And so I had actually been trying to leave the Central Brooklyn Partnership for a long time. Finally was able to do it. We hired a new executive director. And I think the Central Brooklyn Partnership ended up living for like maybe another two years, and then it ended up just quietly folding. Not -- you know, it didn't go out of business, they just -- I think the, the sense of mission had been lost and they very quietly and very orderly shut the institution down. And there concluded my, my, my connection to the Central Brooklyn Partnership. So 38:00after I left the Central Brooklyn Partnership, I ended up -- what did I do at that point? I did a few things. I -- well, I started -- I was continuing to freelance-write. I was a columnist for the Gotham Gazette and did some other writing gigs and was making a living on my writing. It was a hustle, but I was, I was doing that. And then w-- and then received a couple of fellowships, one of which was from OSI and the other one was from the Rockefeller Foundation.


GRIFFITH: Well, it's been changed now. It used to be Open Society Institute. It's now OSF, the Open Society Foundation, which essentially, it was a foundation started by George Soros. And I received fellowship from there, and 39:00again, one from the Rockefeller Foundation, and along with my writing, it sort of enabled me to, to make a living, and to make a living in journalism. And that, in connection with the writing I was doing around community development and around economic justice -- you know, at the time I left the Central Brooklyn Partnership, we had begun to do some work around, some organizing and advocacy around-- what was emerging to be, as-- predatory lending. What we were, what we were finding in the early 2000s was that banks were knowingly and willingly, like, inducing people to take on these very risky, very high-cost loans. And 40:00there, there began to sprout up like this whole cottage industry around stripping the equity out of the homes of folks in Central Brooklyn, through different things. Something called deed theft-- different, again, exotic mortgage instruments, all these different scams that were sprouting up, and the banks were -- the mainstream banks were a big part of it. And so we began to report on that; I began to do some writing around that stuff. Was also -- had been writing around community investment for a long time. And then began to kind of chronicle -- you know, when we started the Central Brooklyn Partnership, it was about fighting community disinvestment, this idea that banks were doing business in our neighborhood but were not making loans to people there. That's why we started the credit union. By the early 2000s, the late 1990s, early 41:002000s, the narrative had shifted. Now banks were doing brisk business in our neighborhood, as well as other financial institutions. Except now these loans were high priced. And it wasn't just mortgages; it was other forms of -- it was forms of consumer lending as well. And you had Rent-A-Centers and you had payday loans and you had these, these rapid refund loans that tax places were issuing. And they were all sort of targeting low- and moderate-income Black neighborhoods. And so I began to write about that, and I -- and then I went to work for something called -- what was at that time was called NEDAP, the Neighborhood Economic Development Advocacy Project. It has since changed its 42:00name to the New Economy Project. And that was one of probably the foremost financial justice organizations in New York City. I was there for two years, where I served as the co-director, and where I continued to write on these issues. And my writing gained -- got the attention of a woman by the name of Andrea Batista Schlesinger, who at the time was running something called the Drum Major Institute for Public Policy. And she ended up recruiting a bunch of folks to serve as, as fellows. It was me, Majora Carter, Andrew Friedman. That is Majora Carter from Sustainable South Bronx, Andrew Freidman, who was at the time with Make the Road by Walking, now with the Center for Popular Democracy, 43:00as well as a couple of other people. Oh, I forgot the other -- names of some of the other folks. But we were all people who were front-line organizers, but also people who were able to write on policy. But after a period of time it became obvious that I was the only one who was really serious about writing, and so the Drum Major Institute for Public Policy invited me to join the staff there as a full-time economic justice fellow. So that's what I did. I wrote articles, I did research, I wrote policy papers, did editorials on economic justice. And my beat in many ways was the financial -- was predatory lending, the financial meltdown. And was a part of a wave of people who foretold the 44:00economic crisis, wrote about it in real time, and then, you know, critiqued the government after, after the bailout. And so I did that, and then after a few years -- after a couple years, I became the, the acting executive director after the executive director left. And it was during that time when I decided I wanted to run for public office.

BIRKHOLD: When you said you became executive director, of the Drum Major--?

GRIFFITH: Of the Drum Major Institute for Public Policy. Right. Acting director, really. On two different occasions, if I remember correctly. And ended up -- you know, it's fun, because I'd gotten to a point in my life where -- you know, by this time -- this was nineteen-- 2008, 2009 -- and by this time, I had been an activist, an organizer, a writer, advocate for 25 years now, 45:00almost -- yeah, almost 25 years. And I used to work for an elected official, and at that time, in many ways, became very cynical of the political electoral process. I kind of swore to myself that I would never run for office. And then I got to a certain age where I actually felt more than qualified and saw some of the people who were being elected to office and said, "We can do better than this." And really got to a point in my life too where I felt like I had acquired all these skills and experience and training and insight and connections and social capital, and I needed -- I wanted to use it in a different way, and I wanted to use it in a way that -- you know. I had been with this think tank for a while, had been with the New Economy Project, and 46:00those places kind of took me out of Central Brooklyn. I wanted to go back to Central Brooklyn. And so I ended up running for office as a way to kind of -- to get back, in some ways, to grassroots organizing, but in a way that took advantage of everything I had learned up until that point. So when I got into the race it was --

BIRKHOLD: The race for what? Which office?

GRIFFITH: Race for city council. The 36th city council district, which was parts of Crown Heights and Bedford-Stuyvesant. And it was a, it was an open seat because of term limits. Al Vann as well as all the -- many other city council as well, as well, members, as well as the mayor, had to leave. And so I got into the race, and at least, what, six other people got into the race. And 47:00somewhere, I believe at the beginning of 2009 -- end of 2008, beginning of 2009 -- Bloomberg led an effort to overturn term limits, and what that ended up doing is essentially giving, giving a lot of city council people, including Al Vann, the ability to run again. And, you know, I was -- I remember being at a Community Board 3 meeting and hearing Al Vann announce to everyone that he never was -- he never liked term limits and that once they overturned term limits that he was going to run again. And I remember saying to myself, "Oh man, I'm going to have to run against this dude," who was, you know, in many ways my hero. 48:00And, and I can also remember, like, a palpable groan occur in the board, in the Board 3 meeting, because you know, all these, all the people in that room were essentially his constituents and his supporters, and I think that they -- I think everyone by that time had had a fair amount of Al Vann fatigue. I think many of us felt like he had retired while on the job. And in fact, there was actually a City Limits article where the, their -- it was a cover story and the, and the story was, whatev-- "Whatever happened to Al Vann?" And it was a story about how this man went from this huge progressive icon to someone who was pretty quiet. And so that, that sort of captured, I think, what a lot of people 49:00felt, and I think that once he said that, people knew that they were going to have to support him, they were going to be obligated to support him on some level, but damn, couldn't we just have a little bit of new blood? I don't know. Maybe I'm -- I was projecting. But that was -- that's how I interpreted it, at least. And so I would -- you know, I think had I not been at that Board 3 meeting or had I thought that Al Vann sort of reluctantly stayed in the race or something, I may not have run, but what that demonstrated for me at that point was just how, how clueless I thought he was and how he just didn't get it and how sad it was that this man who had been in office as an assemblyman and as a city council for up to that point almost 40 years had like -- really had not 50:00built what I thought was a, a, a pipeline of new leadership, political leadership in, in Central Brooklyn. And that this person who was all about challenging power, challenging the status quo, had just, you know, become the status quo. I mean, it's what George Orwell wrote about in Animal Farm, you know, that the things that we used to rail against, we now have become. And that is what he symbolized to me, and because of that, I was like, "You know what? Hell, I'm going to run anyway." And, you know, that running -- me running was a fateful choice for a lot of different reasons. One is because I think that it inspired the resentment of a lot of Central Brooklyn insiders. You 51:00know, the Restorations of the world saw that as a challenge to their authority and their legacy. You know. I actually had, you know, Colvin Grannum tell me at the time, he was like, "Look, you know, I used to like -- I used to drive a car for Al Vann." You know? I mean, this man is like my political godfather, you know. And people like Al Vann were a big part of helping to build Restoration and Bridge Street, where he was before, and places like Vannguard, Economic Development organization, and Vanguard Independent Democrats. And so the fact that I was running was really an affront to them. And what made it worse is my buddy and partner in the Central Brooklyn Federal Credit Union, 52:00Errol Louis, was a journalist -- is a journalist -- and was writing for the Daily News at the time, and he wrote this, he wrote this article in the Daily News which said something about, like -- essentially calling Al Vann a loser, you know. And I wouldn't have written an article like that; I thought it was very disrespectful. [laughter] But I think, you know, I think not only was Errol expressing how he felt, I think he also felt like he was helping to support me. And that's what really turned a lot of people against my race, because they felt like I was a part of dissing Al Vann. So that's one significant part of it. You know, I ended up doing really well. There were eight of us in the race, and I think I lost to Al Vann -- I think he got 3,000 votes; I got like 2,500 or something like that. And all -- and everyone else, including Robert Cornegy and 53:00other folks, got 800 votes or less. So we ended up doing really well and really put, I think, the -- you know, the old guard on notice. And I think people assumed in the next race, I was the heir apparent, you know, that I was a frontrunner if I -- in 2013. And in fact there was all this talk of, of -- because I live on Dean Street, which is a few blocks in the city council district, of them actually redistricting me out so that I could not [laughter] run in that district. I don't know if that's true or not. But anyway, what it also -- what that race also did was: It inspired me and it made me realize that we put all this time and energy into electoral politics, and that everything comes to -- you know, we talk about campaigns in community organizing, in 54:00community organizing, but with electoral campaigns, a campaign begins on a day and it ends on the day of the election. And then everyone -- you know, from that point the candidate goes from -- he goes from the candidate to the elected official. And up until that point, the candidate is doing everything to please his constituents. At the point he gets elected, it's almost the opposite. We become the, the supplicants of the elected official, and the elected official no longer sees him- or herself as talking about change or changing the status quo but really as a standard bearer of the status quo. And all -- you know, I raised hundreds of thousands of dollars during that campaign, and all of it 55:00vaporized on the day of the election. And had I been elected, a lot of that organizing would have ended right there. And I had -- the people who were on my campaign were incredible organizers. That's why we did so well. I mean, you know, I think I was a decent candidate, but it really was those people who were knocking on doors and forced me t-- and I went door to door. And we, you know, we had literally -- we knocked on the door of probably around 12,000 people. And it just -- it inspires, like, wow, this is the power of community organizing, and it's a shame it has to happen around electoral election, because this is what people get excited about, this is where the money goes, and so that's what inspired me to, with other people, start a conversation around starting the, the Brooklyn Movement Center. Because I thought that -- you know, 56:00you looked around in New York City and you saw where community organizing was happening, it wasn't happening for the most part in Central Brooklyn, and there were very few Black-run organizations that were doing organizing and were building power for people -- for low- and moderate-income and Black folks. And so the role of the Brooklyn Movement Center in many ways was to do, to, to finish the business that that, that that campaign had started, and to fulfill the promise that that campaign had started; which was to really challenge the status quo, to build power, and to, to be a force as -- as we saw Central Brooklyn changing very rapidly, be a force for resistance in the face of some of that change. Yeah, so that's, that's why that, that race was so important, 57:00because had I not run for city council and had I not lost, I don't -- I'm pretty sure I wouldn't be running the Brooklyn Movement Center today.

BIRKHOLD: Okay. Thank you. Can you talk a bit about Brooklyn Movement Center, what it -- its programming, what it does, its challenges?

GRIFFITH: Yes, yes. [clears throat] Excuse me. In many ways, you can draw a line from the Brooklyn Movement Center all the way back to the Central Brooklyn Partnership. Many of the same things are there; that is, when we talk about Central Brooklyn, we talked about Central Brooklyn back then obviously as Central Brooklyn Partnership, and we always -- we looked at Black Brooklyn. And Black -- you know, back then it was Bed-Stuy, Crown Heights, the surrounding area, and that's what it is for the Brooklyn Movement Center. But the Brooklyn Movement Center is different in a sense that it focuses mostly on social justice 58:00community organizing, it's multi-issue, and it is membership-based. And to me, that is one of the most important aspects of it. When you look at a lot of community organizations in Central Brooklyn, or just throughout the city, what you find are mostly service organizations that are not accountable to anyone. And to me, accountability is critical to building a viable community organizing body, to revitalizing neighborhood, to getting people involved in, in, in reviving this notion of a functioning civic democracy. You have to have some built-in accountability. And so the Brooklyn Movement Center, one, is -- sees itself as we want to be like a Black version of, of Community Voices Heard, of 59:00Make the Road New York, of these community organizing groups that have built a base of power. We want to -- we want to build a base of low- and moderate-income Black folks and other folks in Central Brooklyn who in many ways have, have -- feel like they have lost control of their destiny through the, through displacement and very rapid gentrification. And so the, the ingredients are direct-action organizing, which means that you are using disruptive tactics, rapid response, and actions and confrontation to bring people together, to 60:00mobilize people, and to challenge the status quo. We do this around several different issues, and many of these issues are defined -- are really brought together by people who have -- Well, the bottom line is, we are organizing around issues where people have a -- where feel some sense of urgency and are directly impacted and have some self-interest around it. So for instance, we started organizing around education very early on, because there was this sense that in Central Brooklyn, particularly Community School District 16, had sort of lost its way and that parents were not actively involved in controlling the agenda of District 16 and of -- and improving the lives of their children here. So we organized parents in District 16. Very early on, we started doing debates 61:00with elected officials who were running for office. Very early on, we created a -- sort of a digital and virtual sort of town hall through our website and communications. Very early on, we started organizing around anti-- around street harassment issues, and so we started something called No Disrespect, which is a collective of mostly women who are fighting patriarchy and, and unwelcome advances and sexualized advances on the streets of, of Brooklyn, Central Brooklyn and beyond. We very early on started organizing around police 62:00brutality, and so we have a police accountability working group, as well. We are now doing work -- we very early on started doing work around food justice and food sovereignty, and so now organizing a food co-op. And more recently started organizing around environmental justice -- and sort of -- and are building campaigns around protecting the environmental integrity of Central Brooklyn; making sure that we are energy-secure, making sure that we can have the resiliency and wherewithal to fight the effects of climate change and excessive heat here in Central Brooklyn, which is a heat island. And so we do all these things. We started something called Brooklyn Deep, which helped me and other people sort of exercise our, our journalism interest and communication 63:00interest. And so this is a citizen journalism, investigative reporting, and storytelling platform for people in Central Brooklyn. So all of that comes together under the roof of the Brooklyn Movement Center. And you asked about its challenges. I mean, the challenges are kind of baked into [laughter] the foundation of the organization; in that we're a nonprofit, and as a nonprofit, as, as, as an institution that tries to function within the nonprofit industrial complex, we have to fight for foundation dollars, and we have to -- and we're subject to the whims of foundations. [clears throat] Excuse me. And while we're a membership-based organization and try to take our cues from our members, inevitably we have to respond to the whims of foundations and the economy and 64:00what people consider to be sort of the sexy issues of the day, unfortunately. And so raising money is a big challenge for us. The fact that we're community organizing, there's not a lot of money that supports community organizing. The fact that we are local. There's not a lot of-- So you look at organizations like Make the Road or Community Voices Heard; these organizations started off locally, but they're not only citywide, they have branches in some instances across the country. And that's what foundations are looking to support. So we've had to very aggressively -- we have member dues, we very aggressively do grassroots fundraising. We raise a significant portion of our budget outside of foundations. And it's difficult. It just -- it's a hard hustle. You know, 65:00it's difficult to spend so much time and resources just on raising money, because it really, at the end of the day, takes you away from your primary mission and your focus. And it has you -- it, it, it, it, it-- Instead of focusing on-- all the time-- your, your agenda, you end up focusing on just your very survival. And it can be a very demoralizing and debilitating way to, to, to run an organization and to do business. And we're trying to break out of this cycle. You know, right now we're at a budget of about $300,000, and that budget, while it keeps our doors open, it doesn't give us the ability to hire several organizers. We need good organizers who are going to lead our campaigns, and without that, it's just very difficult to do business. So those 66:00are the challenges; those are some of the aspirations. I think that because we opened our doors as sort of gentrification started to pick up steam, it has really affected our mission, and it has -- really in many ways, the survival of the Brooklyn Movement Center in many ways is now becoming indistinguishable from the survival of the Black community here in, in Central Brooklyn. So we're very conscious of that. I mean, even our very membership. We have no problem bringing in members, but the members who we bring in are overwhelmingly -- or I should say the people who are attracted to our organization are increasingly overwhelmingly White and middle-class and newcomers. And we have to very aggressively go out and recruit black and brown folks, low- and moderate-income 67:00people, long-term residents, because there are people who are politicized and are quote-unquote "progressive" for whom, you know, Brooklyn Movement Center pushes all their buttons. But for a lot of other folks, we've got to prove ourselves. We've got to go in there and show how this is going to make their -- improve the quality of their lives, that it's not just like the politically sexy thing to do, but this is a part of their survival here. So, you know, that's the real -- that's the, that's the case we have to make if we're going to survive here as an organization. Because we have core members, we have solidarity members, and our core members are people who are most directly impacted by the issues we work on. And it's this -- these core members who that is, that is our core base. That -- without them, then we really should not be 68:00out here doing this work.

BIRKHOLD: Okay. Thank you, thank you.


BIRKHOLD: Kind of switching gears a little bit. What do you think of -- what do you think of Crown Heights today?

GRIFFITH: It's funny because, you know, we, we traffic in this language around neighborhood, and we've become -- I shouldn't say we've become; we've always been -- almost tribal in our work, right? Crown Heights -- yes, it's a neighborhood, but in many ways it's a real estate distinction. When I was growing up, many people considered where I lived Bedford-Stuyvesant. They considered the area between, bordered between Atlantic Avenue and Eastern Parkway as, as Bedford-Stuyvesant. So when I think of Crown Heights, I'm always 69:00conscious of the fact that, one, there is no, there is no one single Crown Heights. You go north, you go south, you go east and west, and you find a lot of different pockets, a lot of different neighborhoods, a lot of different struggles. You know. My block, Dean Street, particularly now, is probably more middle-class than a lot of other parts of Crown Heights; particularly as you go east, it becomes less, less affluent. I mean, I -- it's not like Dean Street is affluent; let me take that back. [laughter] It just becomes less working-class, less working- and middle-class. It struggles more. You go to the other side of Eastern Parkway, you know, you, you, you've got a pocket of Hasidic Jews that 70:00we, that quite frankly I rarely encounter in Crown Heights. And so much of the narrative of Crown Heights is this tension between -- the supposed tension between Blacks and Jews, which not only do I not experience, but even the people who live up there, [laughter] you know, I don't think there's the tension that people speak about. So it's hard to, to make some kind of blanket statement about Crown Heights. I think if I was to make general statements about Crown Heights, I would say that politically, the same is true of Crown Heights as was true of it back when I started organizing: That is when you -- in some ways, Crown Heights is the poor stepchild to Bedford-Stuyvesant. Bedford-Stuyvesant gets more attention, has more civic and political identity that's identified, it 71:00gets more foundation support and money, it's seen in historical terms as being sort of a counterweight to Harlem in a way that Crown Heights is not. Crown Heights is a little sleepier. It's a lot -- it's more low-key. And I think as a result, gentrification has happened there more quietly than it has in, in, in Bedford-Stuyvesant, but it has, has happened no less ferociously than it has in, in, in Bedford-Stuyvesant. I love Crown Heights. It's a place that I -- where I love bringing up my family. I think it has a really good balance of all the different things I've talked about. Up to this point, it's been a very 72:00economically diverse area. I think its housing stock is second to none; it's just beautiful. I think the -- I think -- I've always, I've always-- What's always resonated with me is that economic diversity has meant that you have people who have been poor and struggling; you have a, a, a, a working, a gritty working class; you have an aspiring middle class there. And it all just gives this power to the neighborhood that invigorates me every time I walk down the streets. And culturally, when you talk about the mixture of African American and Caribbean culture, I think it's, it's really -- the, the, the immigrant energy that pulses through Crown Heights and East Flatbush is, is a part of my 73:00DNA, you know. Literally, that was my grandmother, and it's why I moved back here, because, you know, on any given night I can, I can, I can walk, you know, 200 yards and get jerk chicken. You know? That means something [laughter] to me. So, you know, I lived on a block that -- where for years I would see people moving on, and they would like complain -- and this is including my wife -- would complain that, like, Nostrand Avenue is falling apart. I mean, you know, and I -- look, I, I must admit that part of my early efforts in, in the early 2000s, late -- shucks, going back to late '80s to start a food co-op -- was a recognition that there were poor food choices on Nostrand Avenue and other commercial strips. I still feel that way to a certain extent, but I'm also 74:00conscious of, like -- of, you know, I used to be part of an organization called the Crown Heights Neighborhood Improvement Association, so it begs the question: Who are we making the improvements for? What are we making improvements for? And so, there's this trepidation that comes with being a part of the upliftment and the empowerment and the improvement of a neighborhood, and once that happens, essentially you're just making it ripe for other people. You're raising the -- you're raising the stakes, because property values go up, and so people who have lived here for generations now can cash out and get the payday they never had before, and you can only applaud that and, and be happy for them. It also means that whoever's buying that house -- that is, the people who have 75:00traditionally lived in this neighborhood cannot afford the house that they're selling, and the people who have traditionally lived here cannot afford the rents that they're now charging. And so there's a profound sadness that I feel in looking at the transformation of -- the slow, grinding transformation of, of Crown Heights. And I'm anticipating a moment where I will no longer feel like -- I just will no longer feel at home in the way I used to before. You know? Crown Heights, as long, as long, as well as with Bed-Stuy, was always seen, you know, by the outsiders as a place that was dangerous, and I actually used to embrace that, you know. It made me feel dangerous. It made me feel like, 76:00"Don't fuck with me. I will cut your ass," you know what I'm saying? [laughter] It, it, it, it, it gave me a sense that people respected me and -- and, you know, and even feared me to a certain extent. And I always carried that around with me. That's, that's no longer the case. And obviously you want to live in a safe neighborhood. Shucks, my grandmother was, was mugged a couple of times, you know. So, you know, and I have a family, and so I fear for -- you know, I don't fear for their safety, but -- I fear for their safety in general. I don't fear for their safety walking down the street. So I don't want to sit here and advocate for a dangerous neighborhood, because it has real-life impact on people, but I would be -- I must admit, with the, you know, us seen as being a 77:00more quote-unquote "safe neighborhood," that street toughness and cred goes along with it. And, you know, I think that's a fair tradeoff. But I do miss it, yeah.

BIRKHOLD: Thank you. In 10 years -- I mean, you kind of answered this already -- I mean, what do you think -- how do you think -- in 10 years, what do you think Crown Heights will be like?

GRIFFITH: I think Crown Heights is going to look -- is going to reflect what Brooklyn is going to look like, a lot of Brooklyn and a lot of New York. Because, you know, I think we get a little bit too parochial in our thinking. Yes, there are parts of Brooklyn and New York that are crazy expensive, but there are parts of New York that are actually fairly affordable, you just have to -- you know, you have to drive or take a train further out, you know. And so 78:00I think there will for the foreseeable future still be places for Black folks, low- and moderate-income people to live that are affordable and safe and whatever. I don't think it's going to be Crown Heights and Central Brooklyn. I mean, when I look at my block [clears throat] -- excuse me -- this is a very unscientific estimate, but when I -- for the most of my life I've lived on, on, on Dean Street, there were no White people there. The whitest person may have been my grandmother, who was this very light-skinned Black woman, Jamaican woman, who a lot of people thought was White. But there were no Black folks on, on our block.

BIRKHOLD: Black folks or no White folks?

GRIFFITH: Sorry, there were no White folks. [laughter] There were no White folks on Dean Street for, for as long as I could remember. And then, you know, 79:00somewhere along, somewhere in, I would imagine, in the late '90s or early 2000s, that shifted, that changed, and now I would say, if you look at the last five years, I would say that 80 to 85% of the people who now -- who have bought homes on that block have been White or at least mixed-race. Could even be higher. Like I, I'm struggling to remember the last Black family to buy a house on that block. When I say Black family, like -- I mean, there have been interracial couples and interracial families. So that is, so that is the case. I mean, 80:00renters, there's, there's still a significant amount of Black renters on the block. And there's still a significant amount of Black owners on the block. But I would say, in 10 years, I would say that; the, the, my block and the surrounding area -- I mean, it's obvious, right? It's going to -- it's become, it's going to become whiter. Places like Nostrand Avenue and Franklin Avenue are going to be hipster dives. And a lot of the history that I spoke to in this interview is going to be a faded memory, if that. You know? I mean, even today, you know, Anthonine and I were making a joke about how, like, we run into so few people who are actually from Brooklyn, right? And it's a weird position 81:00to go from, like, what you thought was a contemporary activist to, like, this fucking old man that is spinning these tales, and people are like, "Wow, so tell us about Crown Heights." I mean, you know, somewhere along the line I became, like, this living history, and I don't know how that happened. [laughter] Because I consider myself still a relatively young man. But now I'm like the old motherfucker on the block, you know? [laughter] And people on my block come to me and they're like, "Oh, tell me stories of old Dean Street." It's weird to be in that position. But I guess that's, that's, that's the life that every neighborhood goes through. You know what I'm saying? I mean, the other part of it is I recognize all neighborhoods go through transitions. I mean, I don't like to be on the receiving end of what I feel -- I mean, I feel like people in 82:00many instances are moving because they don't have a choice. So that, I resent. But I also recognize that neighborhoods have to change and evolve. Now one pers-- someone could make the argument: This is not evolution. But I will say that neighborhoods have to change in order to be vibrant, to remain vibrant. So I recognize that, I accept that. So I'm not against change for change's sake, I'm -- I -- what makes me sad is that people have lost a sense of their own personal agency and power and feel like they are, they are being targeted by this wave that they have no control over. That, that's what saddens me more than anything else. So in 10 years I think you're going to -- that's going to deepen. And it will just -- it just will no longer be the neighborhood that I 83:00was -- that I remember, but that's inevitable.

BIRKHOLD: Thank you. Do you have anything else you want to add?

GRIFFITH: I feel like I've spoken a lot.

BIRKHOLD: Yes, [laughter] [inaudible].

GRIFFITH: And I'm very conscious of the fact that I, you know, I talk a lot, and so I want to -- I mean, I know that that's the whole point of this, right, is the oral history, but still. I want to, I want to control myself. If there's anything that you want me to ever expound upon, I'm -- you know. Because, you know, it does take prompting, right, because in this second interview --

BIRKHOLD: I'm going to stop it.

GRIFFITH: Sure. In this second interview, I was ready to --

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Interview Description

Oral History Interview with Mark Winston Griffith

Mark Winston Griffith grew up in the Crown Heights neighborhood of Brooklyn, as well as Queens, as a Black child of second generation Caribbean migrants. Born in 1963, he and his family moved from Crown Heights to Queens and he continued to visit Crown Heights regularly to visit his grandmother. He attended New York City public schools and a boarding school in New Jersey. After graduating from Brown University in 1985 he returned to Brooklyn, where he lived on Dean Street between Nostrand and New York Avenues, and has remained ever since, mainly as an activist and non-profit professional.

In this second of two interviews, Mark Winston Griffith begins by describing his first memories of the Crown Heights neighborhood of Brooklyn and the way in which the neighborhood's Black cultural and political institutions shaped his childhood and his future. Griffith then resumes his description of the Brooklyn Cooperative Federal Credit Union before discussing his career as a journalist, his run for city council in 2009-2010, and his role in founding Brooklyn Movement Center in 2012. He describes Brooklyn Movement Center as the culmination of his experiences in Crown Heights and the Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood of Brooklyn. Griffith then expresses his concern over gentrification. In closing, he considers what the future of Crown Heights might look like. Interview conducted by Matthew Birkhold.

This collection includes oral histories conducted by Brooklyn Historical Society (BHS), Brooklyn Movement Center, and Weeksville Heritage Center beginning in 2016 and collected and arranged by BHS in 2017. Each organization's interviews form a series within the collection. This oral history is one in the BHS series. The assembled collection was part of broader programming efforts by the three organizations to commemorate and examine the transforming Crown Heights neighborhood of Brooklyn a quarter-century after the August 1991 conflicts and unrest sometimes called "the Crown Heights riot." The oral history collection features a broad range of narrators; educators, community organizers, activists, entrepreneurs, artists, bloggers, and longtime neighborhood residents, who describe the changes they have observed in their neighborhood over decades.


Griffith, Mark Winston, Oral history interview conducted by Matthew Birkhold, July 27, 2017, Voices of Crown Heights oral histories, 2016.027.1.20; Brooklyn Historical Society.


  • Brooklyn Cooperative Federal Credit Union (Brooklyn, New York, N.Y.)
  • Brooklyn Movement Center (Brooklyn, New York, N.Y.)
  • Central Brooklyn Partnership (Brooklyn, New York, N.Y.)
  • Griffith, Mark Winston
  • Vann, Albert


  • African Americans
  • Caribbean Americans
  • Community activists
  • Community banks
  • Community development corporations
  • Community identity
  • Community organizing
  • Neighborhoods
  • Political participation
  • Politics and government
  • Social movements


  • Bedford-Stuyvesant (New York, N.Y.)
  • Brooklyn (New York, N.Y.)
  • Crown Heights (New York, N.Y.)
  • Queens (New York, N.Y.)


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Voices of Crown Heights oral histories