by KEISHEL A. WILLIAMS
Change is constant and this summer in Brooklyn has forced me to reflect on the innumerable changes this borough has undertaken in recent years, much like myself. As one of the most recognized places in the world, Brooklyn has created a strong imprint culminating from the savory mix of cultures you can find here. Its growth from the crime-ridden cautionary tale to the gentrified hipster town that it is morphing into has been met with polarized opinions from the natives. I found that my life has emulated this movement and growth of Brooklyn and like this resilient borough I too intend to make my mark in this world.
Growing up in Crown Heights Brooklyn – home of the Jews, Caribbeans and African-Americans – I am constantly fascinated by the rapid development of our borough. Although there is a strong resistance to many of the changes due to racial and political undertones of these developments, not all the changes should be met with disdain. For example, Brower Park. Brower Park was my stomping ground but also the spot for many nefarious activities in the 90s. At night I used to sit by the window listening to the gunshots ring out over in the park as rivaling gangs squared off. Gang members affiliated with the known Bloods were regulars at Brower, some I knew through playing basketball. I wonder where they are today? Now the park carries a different, much safer tone. Even my former apartment across the street from Brower, once managed by old ladies of a Shirley Chisholm association, is now a fancy dwelling for gentrifiers.
There were some other bold changes in the park too: The second playground now hosts a skate park. The field area where summer concerts were once held and Caribbean men would play football (soccer) on Sundays, is now a dog park. And the summer basketball tournaments are no longer played there. How do I fit into this narrative? In an area that now bleeds with hegemonic changes, how do I ensure that my dreams are still fulfilled, my family is still happy and safe and my voice is not lost?
By building a LEGACY.
As a black community, we spend too much time living in the present and not preparing for the future. When the wave of changes rolls in, we are never ready for them. We don’t spend enough time thinking about the kind of legacy we would leave when we depart this earth. As a youth, I lived and breathe Brower Park. Recently my younger brother who is now nineteen and 6’1 started frequenting that park as well and on one of his first trips to the basketball court, he told me that he was approached by some men who wanted to know who he was. As he mentioned my name, the men made an excited rise and spoke of me like I was “a long lost brother,” [sic]he said. He seemed impressed by his older sister’s positive reputation and that made me proud. Without actively trying, I began the trajectory of leaving my mark in a community that I love dearly. I have grown and changed much since my days as a youth playing basketball and spending all my summer days in that park and so has the area. As the community became more refined, so did I. And now I actively spend time creating a platform where I can leave a strong legacy for youths like my brother. We are bombarded with information daily that gives us the resources needed to help us on this legacy building mission: create more businesses, build wealth, create spaces for our youths to learn and grow positively so they too can contribute to society in the future, treat each other well. Don’t mourn the changes around you but instead make it work for you and live every day with the aim of leaving your mark on this world.
“How do I fit into this narrative? In an area that now bleeds with hegemonic changes, how do I ensure that my dreams are still fulfilled, my family is still happy and safe and my voice is not lost? By building a LEGACY.
” —Keishel A. Williams
Images taken in BROWER PARK, BROOKLYN N.Y
By Tonya Collins.
Wrap Maxi Skirt – Aeropostale
Drop Needle Bralette – Aeropostale
Shoes – DSW