Greg Jackson, the founding director of our Brownsville Partnership, often invited those interested in the neighborhood into his car for a drive around Brownsville, Brooklyn. He loved to show off his neighborhood, a place that he relentlessly worked to improve.
Through those tours, his leadership of the Partnership, his day to day work helping neighbors and especially through coaching two generations of young people at the Brownsville Recreation Center, Greg shared his vision of Brownsville. He often referenced the “real” Brownsville. Greg grew up in a place that was a proud and caring “village” where neighbors pulled together to help each other and the neighborhood along. Greg knew that spirit still lived in Brownsville, despite years of increasing poverty and violence. He devoted himself to keeping the memory of the real Brownsville alive.
The Brownsville that Greg knew as a child was a Jewish-Italian-African American neighborhood lined with tenement buildings, movie theaters, delicatessens and furniture stores. Then, as it does now, it meant something to be from Brownsville. Brownsville residents were tough, loyal and enterprising. Greg described regular “rent parties” where neighbors chipped in to help out those who had lost a job or fallen ill, and how residents literally pooled their pennies in collection jars at local stores to build the Brownsville Boys Club (which later became the Brownsville Recreation Center) to invest in the future of their young people.
Greg’s determination to restore hope and progress to Brownsville did not end with his sudden death in May 2012. The Brownsville Partnership will host the first HOPE Summit this week, a forum that will bring together Brownsville residents and friends to begin a year of transformation through a series of monthly planning and problem solving events. In Greg’s honor we will map out what it will take to make Brownsville a safer, healthier and more prosperous neighborhood. We’ll look at the immediate and long-term physical and economic development needs and opportunities, surface local solutions to the community’s challenges, identify what new resources will be needed to improve housing, schools, jobs and health; and determine what Brownsville residents can do for themselves through better coordination and collaboration. We’ll be quoting Greg throughout, especially his conviction that hope is inside Brownsville.
The Brownsville Partnership and the Municipal Art Society are jointly hosting the Summit on Saturday, Feb. 23, 2013 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Van Dyke Community Center, located 392 Blake Ave, Brooklyn.
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