Something’s Moving in Central Brooklyn…

The Brooklyn Movement Center: Provocateurs of the People

A tiny burst of energy is enough to get any ball rolling, but it takes an acceleration of force to keep it moving.

In Central Brooklyn, a movement has just kicked off by a handful of Bed-Stuy residents. The group is known as the Brooklyn Movement Center, and they are a coalition of some really smart, really motivated regular folks who seek to build the capacity of their community around organizing and campaigning for social justice.

So yes, BMC officially is on the move! But like with any new movement, it requires the fuel of the people to keep it going.

What makes BMC different than any other group of community organizers? #1. It’s membership-based; and #2. Its focus is not so much on driving advocacy, but instead on giving residents the instructions, practice and tools to learn to drive themselves.

“We’re trying to build power,” said Mark Winston Griffith, BMC’s co-founder and executive director.  “But the power will not exist in the staff or the board. It will exist in the membership. That’s how we’re different.

“When you talk about community development, it’s usually very staff-driven, board-driven; they don’t necessarily consider their membership to be the leaders of their organization. We find out from residents which issues are of greatest importance to them, and then we help to build campaigns around those issues, so that we are helping them create their own social change,” said Griffith, a former faculty member of the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism.

A Central Brooklyn native, Griffith is the former executive director and Senior Fellow for Economic Justice at the Drum Major Institute for Public Policy, and the former co-director of the Neighborhood Economic Development Advocacy Project.

Today, Griffith has moved his focus and energy full-time toward helping build capacity for Central Brooklyn residents in the neighborhoods of Bedford-Stuyvesant and Crown Heights. And now, after close to a year of planning, BMC has gone live.

Griffith's focus for BMC right now is on building its membership base to help keep the movement going.

By the summer, BMC will begin its next task, which is organizing parents around education issues, encouraging them to become more active in their schools, while empowering them with the tools to drive a progressive education reform agenda, both locally and citywide.

“Education is our first policy issue right now. But we do recognize that there are other issues that are important to folks specifically in Central Brooklyn, such as food justice,” said Anthonine Pierre, lead community organizer, who also works full-time at BMC. “What’s good about the work that we’re doing around education is that there are a whole bunch of other issues tied into education that really have to do with quality of life—something everyone has a stake in.”

Anthonine Pierre came to BMC from the Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer’s office where she was the community liaison responsible for Central and West Harlem. Prior to that, Pierre was a youth organizer with the Children’s Defense Fund and Prospect Park Alliance. 

According to Pierre, it’s important that in all of their outreach to parents, that the organization starts from where the parents are: BMC will offer trainings on things like how to get a petition going, form a board or write to local elected officials. But, those trainings will be based on the issues that are most important to them— what their aspirations are for their children, their schools, and how they want to go about changing it.

This summer, look for BMC at block parties, conducting video surveys, and talking to residents about what they care about.

“Then we’ll take all of that information, build a consensus and do follow up,” Pierre said. “So it’s expanding people’s imagination, but also giving them hard skills. But most importantly, just listening to them.”

Marly Pierre-Louis, BMC’s full-time communications organizer, added, “We want to be an incubator for activism and connect people with who they need to be connected with and build organizational skills."

Pierre-Louis is a graduate student studying Urban Planning at Hunter College and a full time mommy to BMC's junior employee, Sekani. Prior to coming to BMC, she served as the Social Media Marketing intern for PCI Media Impact and a member of the Coordinating Committee for the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement.

For BMC, Pierre-Louis plans to launch a comprehensive social networking platform that gets residents comfortable with blogging and writing and speaking and tweeting about what it is they want, expect and feel that they have a right to in their own neighborhoods.

“One of the pillars of this entire movement is communications and how we use it,” she said. “We want to be very smart about technology and use it in a way that we put in as few filters as possible between their voices so that they can function as citizen journalists, so that they can tell their story and have it go directly from their mouths to the public. It should be visceral, really real.”

Griffith said his group is prepared for a long process:

“We harbor no illusions that this may take years; It’s a long process, and it’s going to be a lot of hard work. And that’s why everyone and their grandmother is not doing it right now,” he said. “But we’re prepared for it. We’re ready.”

Mark Winston-Griffith, Marly Pierre-Louis and Anthonine Pierre are on the move in Central Brooklyn. They are ready to put power behind their words to empower the community.

But first, they need the power of the community.

“We are here; we are the ear,” said Pierre-Louis. “Speak to us; tell us what’s going on.”

To learn more about Brooklyn Movement Center, to volunteer or to join, visit their website, or contact Marly Pierre-Louise at mplouis@brooklynmovementcenter.org.

Mark Winston Griffith May 01, 2012 at 04:52 PM
Hi Joe. It seems ironic that you would say you haven't heard a peep from me and that I'm suddenly "resurfacing" after reading an article that explains what I've been doing for the past two years, which has included meeting with hundreds of Central Brooklynites, raising hundreds of thousands of dollars, and building consensus around issues, including education and transportation. You may not have heard my "peep", but others have, and this work has been pretty "public". I might add that throughout 2011 i was the field director for a campaign that sought to sustainably raise money for the MTA and the transportation needs of low-income neighborhoods of color. But the bottom line is that it's not about me. I'm sorry that you've reduced the work and concerns of hundreds of people to the electoral plans of one person. I can tell you definitively that this has nothing to do with whether I run for office or not, just like the previous 25 years of my organizing in Brooklyn and throughout the city had nothing to with running for office. As for the "stated issues" you speak of, the point of the Brooklyn Movement Center to assemble a group of people who are not tied to a particular elected official, and that has the power, sophistication, and communications savvy to make sure things like the transportation travesties you mentioned don't happen on their watch. My challenge to you is to join BMC and work with us to put together a transportation agenda. - Mark Winston Griffith
Joe Gonzalez May 01, 2012 at 08:31 PM
Thank you Mark. I for one hadn't heard a peep from you nor saw or heard your name in anything since the last election & that all I had to go on. That said, please tell the community three things: One, what happened to all that money you raised for the MTA as described above. Two, what are you planning to do about the three specific transit problems in BedStuy I identified above, starting with the MTA's recent removal of the Nostrand Avenue & Fulton Street subway token booth? Three, are you planning another try at elected public office--and if yes please identify said office.
Black Jack Johnson May 02, 2012 at 01:07 PM
Wow! It is amazing how you regularly log on to complain about something or someone, but when you are actually extended an opportunity to do more than sit on the sidelines and tell everyone else what they should be doing, you sidestep. Mr. Griffith offered you an opportunity to actually do something for a change instead of whine and complain. Instead of asking him what he is doing, my question is what are you doing?
Joe Gonzalez May 04, 2012 at 02:16 PM
@ Black Jack Johnson AND Mark Griffith; It IS a fair question as concerns (1) where did the money raised go; (2) if Mr. Griffith is running for Public Office and (3) I identified three specific transportation issues, namely the proposed curtailment of G train service to five stations, the stopping of the B54 bus from running on Fulton street and the closing & removal of the token booth at Nostand and Fulton Street's A train station. Please answer the above THREE questions.You stated you raised money--WHERE DID IT GO?
Mark Winston Griffith June 06, 2012 at 01:32 PM
First, Joe, no 'm not running. I didn't respond before because I was on the verge of making a public announcement to that effect. Secondly, you misunderstood my comments about my transportation work. I was part of a campaign called MOVE NY that was trying to establish a system - like congestion pricing - in which congestion would be mitigated, air quality would be improved, and cars going into Manhattan would help pay for transportation improvements outside of Manhattan. So there is no "money" for me to account for, especially since our traffic pricing plan never got sufficient political support. The money I was talking about raising would have been for the City and its transportation system, not the organization I was working with. Thirdly, I trust that the Brooklyn Movement Center will eventually get to tackle transportation issues and I just joined the board of an organization that is doing transportation organizing across the city. The BMC has its hands full with education right not and our office hasn't even been open for 4 months yet, so give us a moment before we can start addressing the myriad of issues that need to be addressed in this community. So, now that I've answered your questions, when are you going address my question? The BMC is membership run, which means that the energy and ideas come from YOU. Why don't get in contact with us and make a commitment to working with us on the very transportation issues you say you care about? 718 771-7000


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