Wednesday, August 24, 2016


The Brownsville Community Justice Center's
Sounds of Brownsville music program was recently given the opportunity to collaborate with the Mayor's Office of Criminal Justice to create an anti violence EP that offered youth perspective and input on reducing violence in the community of Brownsville. The EP featured five songs which included both singers and rappers. Each song was written by SOB participants and featured original beats. During the project participants of SOB were given the opportunity to record their final tracks at a professional recording studio in Manhattan, NY.

SOB participant Jahmein Williford (Jah Bass) practices some engineering techniques during the recording session. 

Sounds of Brownsville members show off some untapped talents.

Participants presented the project at the Mayor's Office of Criminal Justice. MOCJ staff sat down and listened to the final recordings that would be featured on the EP and gave some positive feedback.

Participants meet and discuss a featured song.

The EP release party kicked off on July 14th, 2016 at the Belmont Plaza in Brownsville. Youth were surprised with gift bags filled with SOB face towels, headphones, key chains and the final EP.  SOB artists entered the Belmont Plaza on a red carpet greeted by security. Guests enjoyed performances and special greetings from staff at the Mayor's office of Criminal Justice. The participants were celebrated in style with an open juice bar, yummy appetizers, and white couches in the VIP section.

Belmont Plaza with a few embellishments.
Two Sounds of Brownsville Artist Saquan (middle) Jahmein (Right) entering the release party.

Launch party open juice bar as servers pose.

Sounds of Brownsville's EP was entitled "Real In the Ville". Songs featured include: The Best, Get It Together, Stronger, Need Somebody and Kings and Queens. In addition to a few songs being performed, the release party also featured some performances by new Sounds of Brownsville artist and participants from the Brownsville Leadership Project.

                                               SOB's Live Performance

The artists of Sounds of Brownsville were truly celebrated. The occasion really highlighted how hard they worked and the talent they all possess. We are extremely proud and look forward to many more exciting releases from the Sounds of Brownsville participants! Check out the Sounds of Brownsville soundcloud to hear the whole EP!!

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Justice Community PLUS Crown Heights and Bed-Stuy Gear’d up and ready for this Work!

As the Justice Community Plus (JCP) program comes to a close, Bed-Stuy and Crown Heights participants are armed with the work readiness skills needed for their internships and future jobs...and have to gear to show it!

Our JCP Participant Cody is ready to handle business!
Throughout the six month course of JCP, participants get to meet, learn, and grow together through classes and workshops focusing on their communities, employment, and various other pro social topics and skills.  However, during the second phase of JCP, there’s a heavy focus on work readiness skills and activities to prepare our young people to successfully venture out into the workforce. 

Participants got the opportunity to visit the organization Career Gear and receive free professional clothing for interviewing and other related employment usage.
Over the course of two months, JCP participants have explored and participated in workshops to introduce and expand skills sets in goal setting, resume preparation, mock interviewing, and work place etiquette.   Each participant worked individually as well as collectively to build on their skills to get themselves ready for their internship phase.  
And like the old saying goes, once you know the part, it’s time to look the part….

It looks like our young people are Gear’d up to tackle their futures!

Special thank you to Career Gear and S.O.S. Bed-Stuy and Crown Heights for their support and participation!

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Brownsville Youth Court Blazes The Path For Restorative Justice In Brownsville!

This past week, the Brownsville Youth Court began blazing the path for restorative justice practices in Brownsville! The Youth Court, comprised of 11 young people between the ages of 14 and 18, conducted community circles at Van Dyke Community Center and Langston Hughes Community Center. The Youth Court facilitated these circles with middle school youth, during after-school programming at each community center.

                     Youth Court members and youth at Van Dyke in the circle process!

The Youth Court members introduced the concept of circle practice to their younger participants, explaining that this is a space where one person speaks at a time, honestly and openly, while everyone else listens respectfully. Each person brings their own unique sense of self and experiences to the circle, contributing in their own way to the group’s shared truth. They explained how the talking piece goes around the circle, the guidelines for the conversation, and introduced their own individual opening and closing ceremonies to open and close the space. As the discussions unfolded, participants shared their hopes, dreams and fears for their own individual futures and the future of Brownsville. 

    Youth Court members and youth at Langston Hughes participate in a circle activity.

The extensive Restorative Practice training that the Youth Court members completed was evident based on their abilities to keep the attention of the participants and to encourage them to speak freely, setting the example by respecting each other and speaking freely themselves. These discussions set the bar high for restorative practices in Brownsville and demonstrated that simple communication and conversation with youth in our community can lead to powerful youth-led community change in Brownsville! 

   Youth Court members and participants closing a circle at Langston Hughes!

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Brownsville Community Justice Center: BCJC and Brooklyn Defender Services hosts Re-Entry Town Hall

On April 28th several organizations from around the NYC metropolitan area gathered here in Brownsville to take part in a Re-Entry Town Hall as a part of National Re-Entry Week
Sir Isaac Newton once said “We build too many walls and not enough bridges.”  All too often, societal barriers and new opportunities become life-long blockades that seem insurmountable for individuals who have had contact with the criminal justice system in this country.  Although efforts, in the realm of criminal justice reform have been the a focal point of much needed change, we as a community must take every opportunity to create pathways that not only open doors but stabilize the foundation on which those doors stand. 
Brooklyn Defender Services in Collaboration with the Brownsville Community Justice Center sought to create a space for dialogue, resources and empowerment for our returning citizens. The goal of the townhall was to ensure that formerly incarcerated individuals and their families have access to a wealth of information and support services that ultimately would afford them with an opportunity to re-acclimate back into their respective communities.  Topics ranged from finding housing to applying for Certificates of Relief/Good Conduct   
Members of the community asked poignant questions about navigating the various systems upon being released.  Additionally, Powerful presentations were given by a host of community partners including Fortune Society who is a leader in serving the community by providing housing, employment services, education programs and a plethora of other needs-based supports. Lawrence Harris of Green City Force shared a compelling personal testimony about returning home after serving 14 years in prison. “I took advantage of the community-based organizations and resources that were made available to me and Green City Force was the first organization to give me a shot!”  Lawrence is currently helping to re-build communities. He brought a group of youth corps members that he now mentors through Green City’s energy efficiency project.  Derek Slaughter of the NY Commission on Human Rights discussed the importance of combatting discriminatory practices in employment, housing, economic status and other public arenas. Jasmine Bowie and Felicia Henry of the Brownsville Community Justice Center presented on working with incarcerated youth and re-entry programs. Reverend Eddie Karim Legislative Aid to Assemblywoman Latrice Walker delivered words of encouragement and wisdom to our community.

This town hall is one step to building a “bridge” between returning citizens and home!

Monday, May 9, 2016

United Nations staff visit the Brownsville Community Justice Center By Zoe Mentel

Small, visible and tangible wins:
Getting a community and law enforcement agencies to think differently about the criminal justice system

Brownsville, Brooklyn is only 6.5 miles from the UN Secretariat building, but it feels like a world away. Though it abuts Crown Heights and Bedford-Stuyvesant, gentrification and an influx of economic development have not extended to Brownsville, a 2-square mile trapezoid of land that hosts the highest concentration of public housing in the City of New York.  Though it is a vibrant community of long-time residents, Brownsville is known more for its high homicide rate than for its shops, restaurants and local businesses.
One 27 April, a delegation from DPKO’s Office of Rule of Law and Security Institutions (OROLSI) visited the Brownsville Community Justice Center.  Over the next three to five years, the Center will establish a community court, with a full time judge who will engage in four key areas: diversion programmes; alternatives to incarceration and confinement; prisoner re-entry; and “crossover youth”, young people who have been involved with multiple state institutions, such as foster care and the criminal justice system.
“We don’t use the word ‘court’ in our name,” explained Director James Brodick, “We call it a ‘Community Justice Center’.  For most people, going to court means something bad has happened in your life.  We will have a court eventually, but court shouldn’t be the main reason or the only reason you come here.”  Now five years old, the Justice Center is already providing a range of services – from legal aid to youth programming – to more than 1,000 residents per year. 
Three of the DPKO staff members who visited Brownsville are justice experts from the Criminal Law and Judicial Advisory Service (CLJAS), which supports more than 670 justice and corrections advisers deployed to 12 peace operations globally.  They were seeking to learn of new practices, including trust-building with criminal justice institutions, that could be transferred or applied to post-conflict settings. 
One unique feature of the Justice Center is that none of its staff come from a legal background.  As Director Brodick explained, “Of course, once we have the court open, we will have lawyers on staff.  […]In this start-up phase, we need people who can simply ask the question, ‘How can we do our jobs better?  How do you get people to think differently about the criminal justice system?’”  The 25 full-time staff members based in Brownsville include community mediators, social workers, case workers and even an anthropologist – some of whom come from within the neighbourhood itself.
It was notable that the planning and establishment of the new court is likely to take 7-10 years, with much of that time being dedicated to building trust with the community and mobilizing resources from the local government..  This timeline would prove challenging for a peace operation, whose whole lifespan could be less than that.  The Justice Center explained that Brownsville is a community that feels it has not been well served by the justice system.  Going in and “dropping in” a court, in an area that already has a high concentration of police, as well as a detention facility, may not be well received by the community.  Years of conducting outreach and garnering local buy-in is required for a court to be accepted and, ultimately, successful.
The Center focuses on small, visible and tangible wins, such as a parking lot near the subway tracks that had become a crime hot-spot.  Through the Center’s advocacy and support, the parking lot now hosts a farmer’s market – the second highest grossing in the city – every Friday, Saturday and Sunday during the spring and summer months. 

As one drives down Pitkin Avenue to Mother Gaston Boulevard, it is difficult not to notice the brightly coloured murals dotting the neighbourhood’s blocks.  These murals represent different themes – community safety and cohesion, civic responsibility  and youth empowerment – that tell a different story of Brownsville, one not defined by crime data but by resilience, strength and hope for the future

Monday, April 4, 2016

Brownsville Girls Collaborative Retreat!

On March 11th, the ladies of the Brownsville Girls Collaborative ventured to Huguenot, New York for their annul Sisterhood Retreat. Mother Nature granted us with warm temperatures, clear blue skies and fresh crisp air, the perfect elements for team building and sisterly relations. The ladies had an opportunity to engage in many team building activities, a low ropes confidence course and some even mustered up the courage to brave the rock climbing wall. 

In addition to all of the team building activities, a major highlight of the trip was watching each young lady complete their first phase of RITES of Passage. The ladies are officially in the caterpillar stage of their sisterhood journey which represents new birth, and new foundations. It is also a symbol of good luck in the early phase of new actions. The Brownsville Girls Collaborative participants definitely had an amazing time bonding, gaining new experiences and growing as young women leaders! Please enjoy all of the pictures from the weekend festivities.

Everybody say cheese The Brownsville Girls Collaborative takes one big group picture before take off.

Cool Cabin Vibes

Our first activity of the night was a camp fire and s'more making.

Sisterly Bonding

Brownsville Sisters Keepers ended the night with an official induction into the program. Congratulation ladies on completing your first phase of Rites of Passage. 

Amazing Morning Views, right outside of our cabin!


Rocky Top is the name of our cabin!

We're up bright & early for breakfast at the dining cabin.

The ladies are taking a group pic before the fun begins

Look at my dab.

Lizzie, Lisa & Keyani.

Hi Krystal! Our facilitator for the day is giving us a run down of all the cool activities we will be engaging in.

Our first team building activity of the day. We engaged in a fun brainteaser called 13 steps. This game really challenged our girls to work together through listening, paying attention  and extreme teamwork.

Team work makes the dream work!

Success! Together, the girls figured out the maze. 

In this activity, the girls were challenged to work together. One group could "hear", but not "see" and the other could  "see" but not "hear". They had to work together to lead one team member to the goldmine. 

Thinking of a master plan on how to execute this activity.

This game of Dragon Tails, a rendition of capture the flag, was super intense!

Our last team builder of the day, which focused on team work, communication and trust. Our leaders did an amazing job!

In the low rope confidence course, the girls learned the essence of  teamwork and truly supporting your sister.

''Spotters are you ready?"...In this picture, the BGC are in position to spot for their team member as they take on the challenge of making it across the low ropes. 

Our leaders preparing to climb.

Get ready, get set, CLIMB!

Victory Pose!

One of the leaders working hard to make it to the top of the rock!

Even one of our staff members took a jab at it. Go Ashley!

And now were exhausted from our full day of activities!

Until next time Huguenot. Thanks for an amazing stay!