Brooklyn Insights 2020 Participant Brayan Pagoada
Brooklyn Insights 2020 created a space for radical listening, which acknowledges that people are the experts of their own experience and creates an environment of curiosity, openness, and empathy. Participants were encouraged to be fully present with one another, withholding judgment and resisting the urge to offer feedback or fixes in the moment. Community members came without expectation of what the sessions would entail, and by the end of the conversations shared that they felt heard, understood, and seen.
Though the topics and the participant groups were unique, the sessions centered around the same guiding questions, which identified systemic inequities—specifically driven by racism—that permeate policies and institutions in every aspect of life. As we have seen time and time again, these inequities are exacerbated during times of crisis, creating even more disparities in communities that have been underinvested in.
Through the voices of our community members, we can see and hear what is affecting their well-being and what is needed for them to not only be well, but to thrive. The barriers identified below exist on a continuum, with participants indicating that they are often compounded, which makes overcoming them even more difficult.
➭ Access to Community Resources and Resource Distribution
“Food was politicized during COVID-19.”
– Pastor Gilford Monrose, 67th Precinct Clergy Council
Context: Food pantries operated by faith-based organizations partnered together to create a resource list so that the local community could see and have access to food seven days a week. When distributing they also provided other services through partner organizations like mental health screenings etc. Many were approached by elected officials to assist with giving out food for one day but this giving was not connected to any long term service or without the partnership in the community.
"Ageism is the last and oldest “ism”! We must render it extinct.”
– Francie, Griot Circle
Context: LGBTQ elders sharing some of the barriers to service and the misconception about elders needs. In this next stage of life, many elders feel forgotten, and it takes a lot of effort to access services.
“I just be in a war zone all the time. And like [I'm] just, trying to survive this war zone.”
- Alex, Youth Activist & Organizer
Context: Hardships of the stay-at-home order for communities that were already marginalized. Inability to access technology, through computers at the library, since school is out accessing meals with low income and that violence that existed in these neighborhoods continue because circumstances have worsened instead of changing.
➭ Prioritizing Productivity Over Well-Being
“Radical listening includes empathy and from this place we can make art.”
- Jeanette, Groundswell
Context: Sharing that many youth are trying to process what is happening, while being told by school and work to carry on as normal and be productive in crisis. However, through the act of radical listening, students were able to share and process their experiences and feelings during the pandemic and use them as a starting point to inspire their artistic voice.
“The narrative of social distancing versus physical distancing has really affected our collective mental health.”
- Ashni, Minka Brooklyn
Context: Wellness practitioner sharing the power that words have on the way we move during this time. The words “social distancing” have created an additional layer of isolation that is affecting the collective mental health and makes resolution for this issue out of the hands of the individual. Whereas “physical distancing” allows a person to take responsibility for their contact and is an actionable request.
➭ Generational and Communal Trauma
"Stories is my form of history.”
– Orquidia, ViBE Theater
Context: Surviving and healing family trauma. In many black families we do not hear the stories of the trauma and the healing. It is through the sharing of the stories we learn our history.
“It really does take the village, and we are the village — and we need to come together as such for the community.”
- Tina, Betances Health Centers
Context: Health center worker sharing that to fully serve the community, organizations must partner to create wellness programs that meet the needs of the community. Since the pandemic, the biggest lesson has been that the community does not only function between the hours of 9:00am -5:00pm and to really meet the needs it requires the ability to think outside the box and meet them where they are.
“I felt like I needed permission for grace.”
- Samora, The Alex House Project
Context: Organization leader sharing that many community-based organizations have not closed but shifted how services are being provided and as a result have been working through the crisis at 100% The opportunity for a moment to catch their breath seemed unattainable. But as many of these front-line workers shared, a moment of rest and grace allowed them to continue to work on the community’s behalf.
➭ Deep Inequities in Education of Youth of Color and Youth with Disabilities
"If I had a Black woman as a teacher, who appreciated my potential and strength as a young woman, we would be able to understand that you don’t have to be older to water those roots.”
- Camryn, ViBE Theater
Context: Participant shared the lack of representation in her everyday school life. Black girls are not able to see themselves as leaders because it is not represented in the leadership in schools or even in the classroom. That the strength of black girls at a young age are misconstrued as a negative and many young women are penalized for expressing who they are.
“Move at the speed of trust."
- Diana, Extreme Kids & Crew
Context: Staff member sharing the difficulties that remote school has created for children with disabilities who are now being asked to adjust to this new way of learning that does not really work for them. The need to slow down and really investigate alternative solutions is a lesson in the trust that these communities have built with caretakers and students.
➭ Language Barriers & Access to Credible Information
"I am surprised at the fact that the information regarding the vaccine is occurring in such a disorganized manner.”
- Yuchen, The Center for Family Life
Context: On this call there was great concern from people in immigrant communities about the lack of information shared about the vaccine. There was also a lack of preparedness to share information using the example of Sunset Park being a community where 79% are immigrants with English not being their primary language and centers being created with no language translation or contingency in order to share information with the community.
➭ Self-Determination in Parenting
"I am angry to have my daughter (newborn) at this time. I live in fear that the decisions I make for my family can cause repercussions because of the system of racism."
- Lakima, The Alex House Project
Context: Young black parents sharing their fear of being penalized for decisions they make for their families and how agencies like Administration for Children Services (ACS) have been weaponized to instill fear in parents of color. Examples of cases being brought against young black parents included not showing up for a remote day of school however, the internet was down or their family decided that they needed a mental health day. Young parents shared they live in fear that the decisions that they make for their families can lead to separation as a result of a racially-biased system.