The Magnolia Tree Earth Center of Bedford-Stuyvesant: A Neighborhood Institution
In my position as President and CEO of our borough's community foundation, I have the rare opportunity to shine a spotlight on organizations doing incredible work across Brooklyn—and I am pleased to share the story of one such organization from the neighborhood I have called home for many years, The Magnolia Tree Earth Center of Bedford-Stuyvesant.
The Magnolia Tree Earth Center of Bedford-Stuyvesant was founded in 1972 by Hattie Carthan, who was among the nation’s first African-American community-based environmental activists. A resident of Bedford-Stuyvesant, Mrs. Carthan led efforts to save and landmark the magnificent Magnolia tree for which the Center is named. To this day, this Magnolia tree remains New York City's only living landmark.
As a long-standing Black-led and founded community-based organization, the Magnolia Tree Earth Center represents both the history and the future of Bedford-Stuyvesant. Their mission is centered around increasing community awareness of ecological, horticultural, and environmental concerns while introducing local youth to careers in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) to foster urban beautification, earth stewardship, and community sustainability.
After more than fifty years of serving Brooklyn, the Magnolia Tree Earth Center is at risk of losing its space: two of its three brownstones are in disrepair and need to be resurfaced. The Center is rallying the community to address these urgent building repairs that will allow them to continue to provide programming in Bedford-Stuyvesant, a neighborhood that has experienced critical upheaval at the hands of cost of living increases and gentrification. As the Center’s Board Chair Wayne Devonish shared with me, their goal is to breathe new life into their work “so that this center can last for another fifty, or one hundred fifty, years.”
As Brooklyn’s community foundation, we recognize how critical it is that we preserve and honor Black spaces in the borough such as the Magnolia Tree Earth Center for generations to come.
To learn more about the Magnolia Tree Earth Center’s history and ongoing projects, visit their website and watch the video below:
Funder Briefing: Magnolia Tree Earth Center of Bedford-Stuyvesant Briefing | April 17, 2023 from Brooklyn Community Foundation on Vimeo.