Since slavery, Brooklynites have resisted racism.
Enslaved people literally stole themselves when they put their bodies on the line for freedom and ran away.
In modern times, Brooklynites put their bodies on the line to fight poverty, employment discrimination, infrequent trash collection, and police brutality. In 1963, millions of tax dollars funded the construction of Downstate Medical Center in East Flatbush. Discrimination denied Black residents work. Members of the Brooklyn chapter of the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) and a dozen of Brooklyn’s most prominent Black ministers organized protests to demand an end to racial discrimination in the unions. Hundreds of protesters were arrested. The mayor and the city’s union leaders agreed to sponsor job training programs. Protest leaders were frustrated. They had risked injury and imprisonment so that Black Brooklynites could attain good-paying jobs, and the compromise rang hollow.
When trash piled up in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn CORE petitioned the city for more services. The area would be cleaner, the city replied, if the residents knew how to use trash cans properly. Brooklyn CORE fought back. Its members followed a garbage truck, collecting the trash it failed to pick up. They brought the excess garbage to Borough Hall and dumped it on the steps. They paraded with signs that read “No taxation without sanitation.” The city increased the number of garbage pickups in Bedford-Stuyvesant.
Racism persists. Brooklynites continue to put their bodies on the line to fight systemic racism. They demand structural changes in law enforcement institutions. They go to jail to promote justice.
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