Inspiring Brooklyn's Future with Its Past

February 22, 2013





Weeksville Mural in Crown Heights

It’s the last Friday of February—a month we’ve dedicated to honoring our partner nonprofit organizations and the essential services they provide that are making Brooklyn better throughout.

And for many Brooklynites, there is no greater service than those that teach, mentor, guide, and motivate. So last but certainly not least, we are spreading our Brooklyn Love for the organizations of our Education & Youth Achievement Fund, particularly those that help tell the story of our borough as we also honor Black History Month.

Through their work, Brooklyn Community Foundation donors are truly investing in opportunity for all. These organizations play vital roles both in and out of the classroom, working to see that every Brooklynite has access to quality education and academic success. They’re also forming the next generation of leaders, creating advocates and activists, and connecting young people with strong role models.


Many of these organizations are utilizing our borough's history and past Brooklynites’ role in shaping the communities we have today to encourage young people to follow in their bold footsteps. Like in Crown Heights, where time and transformations have been pruned away to reveal a critical centerpiece of Brooklyn history.

Rediscovered in 1968, Weeksville was the first free African American settlement in New York State, dating back to 1838. Established on a plot of land purchased by its namesake James Weeks, the village roughly fit in the borders of present day Fulton Street, East New York Avenue, Ralph Avenue and Troy Avenue. It had its own school (now PS 243), churches, cemetery, and one of the first African-American newspapers, the Freedman's Torchlight.

Over time as Brooklyn grew and populations shifted, Weeksville was absorbed into Crown Heights, and its story was nearly forgotten. But with the ingenuity and determination of historians, city planners, and community leaders like the late Joan Maynard, the area today has been reestablished as a center of Black history and culture anchored around the surviving Hunterfly Road Houses (pictured above).

With Brooklyn Community Foundation support, the Weeksville Heritage Center will open the new 19,000 sq ft Education and Cultural Arts Building in 2013, featuring school programs, visual and performing arts, research resources, tours, and a recording studio for oral histories, to serve 40,000+ visitors throughout the year. 

Weeksville’s most important role yet may be to engage and inspire the young residents of the massive Kingsborough public housing complex, located across the street, with the story of their community’s founders.

To help, we established the Joan Maynard/James Weeks Scholarship, to provide a graduating high school senior living in the Kingsborough Houses with financial aid as they pursue higher education and strike out as leaders in their community. 

Watch the story of the most recent Maynard/Weeks scholarship recipient, now a senior at NYU.

As we close Black History Month over the next week, we encourage you to connect with one of Brooklyn’s past and to invest in its future by becoming a supporter of our Education & Youth Achievement Fund.


Remembering Richard Murphy
Last week New York City lost one of its greatest advocates for children. Richard Murphy, former NYC Youth Services Commissioner under Mayor Dinkins, passed away Thursday at age 68. Read his obituary from the New York Times as well as an article on the legacy he created with the Beacon Centers Program.

Ways You Can Do Good Right Here

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This Sunday, Barcade in Williamsburg will be raising funds for the Brooklyn Community Foundation through their annual Brooklyn Underground Chilli Extravaganza! The festivities kick off at 3pm, and a $10 donation gets you all-you-can-eat chilli! Barcade is located at 388 Union Avenue near the Metropolitan Avenue G.



Looking to Give Back? Follow @VolunteerBklyn
Now you can use Twitter to discover great local volunteer opportunities every day! Simply follow the new official account of our Do Good Right Here volunteer initiative at