When it comes to Central Brooklyn, the work never ends for Mark Winston Griffith.
Over the last 20 years, Griffith has started a neighborhood non-profit, led progressive advocacy groups, helped found a community credit union, and even ran for city council.
Over the last six months, the 47-year-old community organizer has been quietly laying the groundwork for an organization he hopes will inspire a renewed spirit of activism and service throughout Bed-Stuy and Crown Heights.
“There’s a pent-up frustration that people feel in this area,” said Griffith. “A sense of powerlessness.”
Set to launch this month, The Brooklyn Movement Center will aim to align residents around some of the biggest issues facing Central Brooklyn, giving them the tools and organizational support to effectively address them.
And the timing seems appropriate for such an organization. Bed-Stuy continues to confront a host of challenges, including likely school closures, crime and other ongoing public safety issues.
“We have pressure points around which people can organize and restore a sense of power,” Griffith said. “We have an opportunity to create fundamental change in the neighborhood.”
The key to this change, Griffith believes, will be in the Movement Center’s ability to train a new generation of leaders and activists within the community. While a strong fire in the belly is needed, said Griffith, people also need the skills required to build and sustain the long-term campaigns.
Griffith is surely no stranger to this kind of work in Bed-Stuy and Crown Heights. Born and raised in the neighborhood, he helped found the Central Brooklyn Partnership in 1989 and the Central Brooklyn Credit Union a few years after.
For years Griffith also helped run The Drum Major Institute and Neighborhood Economic Development Advocacy Project, two groups devoted to economic justice.
Despite his decades of experience, however, the Movement Center still faces financial hurdles. While Griffith would like to have a dedicated office space and paid staff by the end of this year, the Movement Center has raised only about $10,000 to date.
While the Movement Center has been in talks with several foundations about funding and is gearing up for a series of fundraisers and individual giving campaigns, Griffith acknowledged the difficulties that an organization for social change faces.
“It’s easy to support a candidate that we can touch and feel and pin our hopes on,” said Griffith. “It’s much more difficult to pin our hopes on ourselves.”