The 'dancing crossing guard' Esther Bishop. Photo: Jessy Edwards for BK Reader

Nothing will stop crossing guard Esther Bishop from dancing.

Not the rain, not the snow. Not an anonymous call to the precinct saying the mother-of-five tried to throw herself in front of a car. Not complaints that she uses headphones on the job. Not the fact she’s been moved from post to post to post.

Nothing and nobody is going to stand between her and what she was made to do, she told BK Reader this week from her current post in Bed-Stuy, at Saratoga Ave and Bainbridge Street.

“With God’s will I plan to stay here in this post, and I plan to stay a crossing guard until I retire, and I plan on not retiring until I’m about 80,” she laughs through her grills, braids swinging.

“I wanna keep dancing, I love being a crossing guard, and only way I’m going to to do different is if God move me. But man will not move me, in Jesus’ name.”

Blessing the people

Bishop has been at her current post for three months, where she can be seen every weekday outside P.S./I.S. 137 grooving, grinning, and guiding kids and neighbors across the road.

She has an easy nature, and makes the kids laugh. When the school bus drives past, it honks, and she pauses to call out, “How you doing, God bless you!”

But the last 13 years of being a crossing guard haven’t always been so breezy for Bishop. Due to the fact she can’t stop dancing, she’s ruffled some feathers, and that’s seen her moved from place to place.

“They try and intimidate me not to dance,” she said.

In the past 13 years, she said she’s had multiple Command Disciplines — or CDs — from bosses at the NYPD, and has been shifted all over Brooklyn, including recently being moved away from a crossing right near her house on Herkimer Street.

Bishop said, over the years, the techniques of trying to stop her dancing have mutated. At first she was simply told not to dance, then she was told not to hug and chat with people, and now she gets moved whenever someone complains about her using headphones.

But she says she truly can’t stop and doesn’t want to.

“It’s this spark in me and I know that Jesus gave it to me. It’s a gift,” she said. “Psalms 149 and 150: it says dance, dance in public, dance in private, rejoice. When you dance you are breaking spiritual strongholds, the people are being blessed.”

Dancing from birth

Bishop grew up in Bed-Stuy, and had the movement bug since she was a little girl, when her mom would take her to church and she would dance.

She remembers trying to force her family into dance battles after school, and her mother telling her off for trying to dance all day.

When Bishop had the house to herself she would saunter through the rooms, twinkling her fingers, trying to get all the dance out before everyone else got home. She’s the only one in the family who loves to move.

“I just always had it inside of me to dance, I’m telling you. Have you ever just had something compelling you? I could not get it out of my system. I tried to really get it out.”

Grooving on the job

She remembers when she first felt the need to dance on her initial crossing guard job in Midwood.

She tried to keep it minimal, but her supervisor noticed and told her to stop. When she didn’t stop, he came up with a plan. “He looked at me and said, ‘I know how to stop you dancing. So he put me out on Coney Island Avenue.”

Bishop was shaken. She cried, and went home and prayed to God, begging to be taken off Coney Island Avenue and promising not to dance again, because she feared losing her job.

The ‘dancing crossing guard’ Esther Bishop. Photo: Jessy Edwards for BK Reader

After two days off work, praying, she went back to work on Coney Island Avenue, an area with a strong Orthodox Jewish community. After a few days back, a man walked past her and did a little boogie.

“He said, ‘We know who you are, you need to dance,'” Bishop recalls. She couldn’t help herself, she danced.

She says she remembers someone opening a window and calling out, “Give us them happy feet!” Others at the crossing started dancing too, including some from the Jewish community.

After that, the dancing crossing guard became a welcome fixture on Coney Island Avenue. She said an Orthodox news outlet came and interviewed her, and she made close friendships in the Jewish community, to the point she was invited for dinner and children would often bring her little treats and water on the job.

“You’re talking about the sweetest people,” Bishop said. Not only that, members of the community told her what she suspected: that God had sent her to dance.

Shaking it off

Despite the challenges Bishop has faced through her compulsion to dance on the job, she says she understands.

“If people don’t understand something, you shouldn’t be offended by it. You cannot expect everyone to like everything you do.”

She’s laughed through people accusing her of being on drugs (she says she doesn’t drink and has never ever smoked marijuana). She’s “humbled herself” time after time when she’s been moved stations.

‘Dancing crossing guard’ Esther Bishop. Photo: Jessy Edwards for BK Reader

What does offend her is an anonymous call to the precinct suggesting she doesn’t cross the children. “The one thing I do is cross everybody.”

Now, Bishop wants to take a stand. With communities going through pain with gun violence, hunger, robberies, she says no one should be worried about her dancing. Recently, she made a stand: no more moving.

She wants to stay put at Saratoga Ave and Bainbridge Street, where she can bless her community for years to come, she said.

“I wanna watch the kids grow,” she said. “I wanna be that crossing guard who the child says, ‘She was uplifting to me, I remember her.’

“This is for me, this is what I love to do, I wouldn’t trade it for nothing.”

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Jessy Edwards

Jessy Edwards is a freelance 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.

Join the Conversation

31

  1. Let her dance i grew up in the neighborhood where she is currently assigned im going to make it my business not only to thank her personally for the work she’s done in the communities she’s worked but im going to dance with her as well Monday morning 10/18/21. If dancing is a firing offense for a crossing guard ????? Then what’s the penalty for police officers driving through red lights on sidewalks and texting while on the job???

    1. Let her Dance let her Boogie to the beat as long as she is keeping the children safe that’s all that matters. That’s what we need in the World today Happy People. Stay Happy and Blessed Ms Bishop

    2. Everybody knows Ms Esther For dancing I mean you can literally drive down Herkimer and see her dancing while doing her job. Not one accident has occurred so why is it offending you

  2. The articles are really great and often very well inspiring. Why the dancing school crossing guard is moved and harassed is beyond me. When people do something others are threatened. She brings joy and in today’s world we need joy and love. I say keep dancing. I want to go and see her.

  3. What is this America’s GotTakent? She looks like Stepin Ferchit! She looks like a clown in the street and one that drivers don’t know what to expect as they drive by. How is this clown still allowed on the street? She’s more concerned with hey Elaine Benes (Seinfeld) spastic gyrations than crossing kids. Jeez!

    1. Why does her dancing offend you so? Perhaps you’re missing a little joy in your life. Try it, I dare you and if you don’t feel good afterwards don’t do it again. But please find something that makes you feel as good as she does while dancing. Blessings to you!

    2. I love it .. her dancing doesn’t harm anyone ! Even the jews appreciated it. People complaining, need to dance more n stress less .. maybe then u will love wt u do !!! Keep on dancing . One day while crossing the st , I’m going 2 dance with her.

  4. Being a former professional dancer I fully understand her need to dance. For some people not being able to dance is almost like not being able to breathe. If she is always mindful of her job, most importantly always crossing people safely, being courteous to all and still manage to bring a smile and joy to someone’s day, bless her. I applaud her creativity and bravery.

  5. I saw her all the time on Herkimer. She makes me smile. I ask God to give me that Spirit of Boldness. She dances for a reason. God has granted her the Spirit of Joy!!!!!!!!!!

  6. Hi this IS ESTHER BISHOP THANK YOU SO MUCH REALLY NEEDED TO GET THAT OUT GOD BLESS YOU IAM 51 YEARS OLD BORN FEBRUARY 19 1970

    1. God Bless you! I read your story and it reminded me of a crossing guard I had when I was in JHS, that was 21 years ago and I still remember her. Keep on dancing and keep your spirit.

    2. It’s truly a blessing when you can put a smile on people faces, keep on dancing some will like it some won’t, you will still be Esther either way . Stay blessed

    3. Your story made me cry. In this chaotic world, we all can use a little dancing joy. You uplifted me in Midtown, Atlanta GA.

  7. I love see her it brighten my morning so full of life and energy she is truly blessed I would drive down Herkimer just to see her moves keep dancing

  8. I used to see her on my way to work driving on Atlantic Avenue and now I see her when I’m driving down Saratoga Avenue. She puts a smile on my face each workday morning and I’m sure the school children’s faces as well!

  9. Step in Fetchit??? REALLY?? Go get re educated. With all the negative going on out there this is what you come up with.?Stay Golden sister!

  10. I drive Pass her and will be having a Bad day and I’ll see her dancing & think to myself if her day started off bad she dances it off … Let her dance she’s doing her job in the most creative way. & I love when I get to see her still dancing after all this time

  11. Hey I feel that she not doing nothing wrong I think u’ll should just leave her alone an let her put smile on people faces go on girl ur the best god bless

  12. About 10 years ago, she was on Atlantic and Saratoga during the summer. I vowed to dance with her and my kids. A few days later I did just that. SHE WAS AWESOME WITH US!! I wondered what happen to her over the years and then I saw her this year on Atlantic and Rockaway. This bought me such joy!!! Lover her spirit and energy!! Keep dancing!!! We love it and you!!! Now you are a few blocks from me. Can’t wait to drive by!!

  13. Love her! I met her at a family dollar and ask her what type of music she listens to and she said only gospel.

  14. I grew up with her when she lived in Flatbush with her family. She is the nicest and most caring person I ever met and I’m happy an article was written to show that.

  15. FIRST Of ALL !KNOWLEDGE IS INFORMATION,UNDERSTANDING IS COMPREHENSION BUT WISDOM IS APPLICABLE THAT’s WHY WISDOM IS SUPREME CAUSE YOU CAN KNOW SOMETHING BUT NOT UNDERSTAND IT ,YOU CAN UNDERSTAND IT And NOT APPLY IT SO NOTHING IS COMPLETE UNTIL IT BECOMES WISDOM WISDOM IS KNOWLEDGE UNDERSTOOD APPLIED THAT WHY WISDOM IS MORE IMPORTANT THAN KNOWLEDGE wink !! I love her energy and This is exactly what these kids need to see positive energy. Xoxo

  16. This article was beautiful to read. As a special educator, I understand how important all stakeholders are in the healthy development of our students. Let her dance in peace and continue to uplift her community! WE NEED IT!

  17. They need to leave that blessings alone.. She has been doing it for years and it actually puts smiles on people’s face . I have seen her she’s doing her job in a fun way the kids love it so what’s the problem?? Everyone today has so much going on to see that positive energy is amazing.. Keep dancing girl God gave you two feet use them girl…

  18. This is so inspiring, anyone can dance to a beat and be great. Dancing is definitely a stress free environment where it is non-judge mental, and as a dancer for 22 years and a professional director of a dance company based in 3 states, I applaud Ms. Esther and keep being powerful, strong, happy, but more importantly great.

  19. I remember Esther. I went to Public School 5 on Hancock st in bedstuy. I remember her always dancing. That was in the 70s/80s. Keep dancing Esther!!!!!

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