They didn’t punk out, and it paid off.

A coalition of Brownsville community organizations stepped up Tuesday night to to tell elected officials exactly what they want: $1.5 million each to fund anti-violence services in the neighborhood — an alternative to traditional policing.

Speaking at a virtual town hall hosted by the Ocean Hill-Brownsville Equity Coalition, Elite Learners founder Camara Jackson told Congresswoman Yvette Clarke, Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams, Assemblywoman Latrice M. Walker, Councilwoman Alicka Ampry-Samuel, Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez and State Senator Zellnor Myrie that Elite Learners, Men Elevating Leadership and Brownsville Think Tank Matters deserve extra funding.

I’m gonna go in. My team is like, ‘Don’t punk out now, give the ask,'” Jackson began, as the elected officials listened in. “As an organization we are asking for $1.5 million each. That would allow us to take this public safety coalition to a whole new level.”

Officials react

Jackson told the audience on the ‘Brownsville Mandate: Reimagining Policing in Our Community’ town hall that they provide crime prevention services on the “toughest blocks” through their violence interrupters, prevent retaliation for shootings through hospital visits to gun-shot victims, run a mobile trauma unit, mental health services and more. These sorts of services —  many run under the Cure Violence public health program — are growing in visibility as an alternative to traditional policing, as racism and giant budgets within the NYPD come under the microscope.

The officials’ response? “Raise the ask.”

Assemblywoman Walker said the issues faced on the ground in Brooklyn were the same seen across New York State. “I would like to ask for an allocation for $1.5 billion for Cure Violence across New York,” she said. 

Congresswoman Clarke said she was also interested in looking into what could be done to raise these types of services at a federal level in Washington. “Me and my staff will look into it,” she said. 

Everyone on this call, we have to stop letting them play us.”

At a more local level, Councilwoman Ampry-Samuel said she was already fighting for allocations like that through the budget, and she was glad to hear the ask being made consistently. “No one wants to fund communities of color, no one wants to fund the communities we represent. It’s a fight like hell,” she said.

In the latest budget process, Ampry-Samuel said she asked for the $1 million paid in overtime to the NYPD Brooklyn North gang unit to be reallocated to violence interruption groups. “Clearly that didn’t happen, but that’s what we were looking for,” she said.

Senator Myrie echoed the fight must go on, saying the community had already been promised more money for anti-violence work, but hadn’t seen it. “Tragedies happen in communities that don’t look like us and the money flows,” he said. “Everyone on this call, we have to stop letting them play us.”

“It felt good”

Afterwards, Jackson said the elected officials’ response to her request was encouraging.

“Our council member and our senator really honed in on the fact we deserve the funding, and we’re doing the work, and if they had the power and ability they would make sure we received it.” 

She said it felt good to hear about these conversations happening at the federal and state levels, but for now, she wanted to make sure the money they needed trickled down to the grassroots. That meant continuing to work to bring attention to Brownsville organizations like her own.

If we get the support of our elected officials, which we have, we’ve got the support of so many levels of government, it’s only a matter of time until we get this money.”

Jessy Edwards

Jessy Edwards is a writer based in Bushwick. Originally from New Zealand, she has written for the BBC, Rolling Stone, NBC New York, CNBC and her hometown newspaper, The Dominion Post, among others.

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  1. Hmmmm, can we see the data that supports the claim that these organizations have been successful in reducing violence in our community? If there is actual evidence, then I would support this. Otherwise this will be yet another money boondoggle.

  2. I was on this call and I am perplexed by the statements made by the local politicians. Councilwoman Samuel voted for the very budget that did away with city funding for programs like Elite Learners. So now she’s saying that she supports their efforts? Come-on. And Assemblywoman Walker seemed like she was on the campaign trail talking about increasing the ask to $1.5 billion. We need to stop placing our hopes and dreams on narcissistic politicians.

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