Brett Yormark, BSE Global CEO, Announces New Program Awarding Tickets to Barclays Center for Children Completing BPL’s Summer Reading Challenge
Brooklyn, NY–Nearly 500 supporters gathered at Barclays Center last night to raise funds for Brooklyn Public Library (BPL) and to recognize Brooklyn’s leaders in business, sports and literature.
“In addition to raising funds for our collections and services, the gala provides Brooklyn Public Library the opportunity to recognize organizations and individuals emblematic of Brooklyn’s innovative and creative spirit,” said Linda E. Johnson, Brooklyn Public Library President and CEO. “Award-winning author, educator, and publisher Kwame Alexander is a champion for children’s literature in Brooklyn and around the world. Ample Hills founders Brian Smith and Jackie Cuscuna are a testament to the tenacity of small businesses, opening 14 shops since 2011 and celebrating the communities they serve in every flavor. The Barclays Center and Brooklyn Nets have inspired the borough with the power of sports, and in the process supported the Library and local community-based organizations. We are delighted to honor all of their accomplishments.”
The Barclays Center and Brooklyn Nets were honored along with Newbery Award winning author and educator, Kwame Alexander, who grew up in the Crown Heights neighborhood. Jackie Cuscuna and Brian Smith were also honored. They are the husband-and-wife team behind Ample Hills Creamery, the Brooklyn-based ice cream shop, named the number one ice cream shop in the country by the Food Network.
BSE CEO Brett Yormark—who oversees the business enterprise that manages and controls the Brooklyn Nets, Barclays Center and other sports and entertainment venues—accepted the award on behalf of the Barclays Center. In his remarks, he announced a special initiative to provide two free tickets to a Barclays Center event to every child who completes Brooklyn Public Library’s summer reading challenge.
“We are honored to be recognized by the Brooklyn Public Library, one of our borough’s pre-eminent cultural institutions,” said Yormark. “Hosting the Gala aligns perfectly with Barclays Center’s mission of bolstering other key Brooklyn organizations and we are proud to continue that support by partnering on the summer reading challenge.”
Opened in 2012, Barclays Center hosts an extensive variety of events, including the Brooklyn Nets, premier concerts, major professional boxing cards, top college basketball, family shows and the New York Islanders. The Nets relocated from New Jersey upon the opening of the arena, and have reached the postseason four times since moving to the borough. In all of its community efforts, BSE Global aims to inspire lives through the spirit and the power of sports and entertainment.
Furthermore, the Brooklyn Nets and Barclays Center have partnered with Brooklyn Public Library on a number of literacy initiatives including Team Up To Read, a program to support children ages 5 to 9 as they work to become strong readers.
Kwame Alexander is a poet, educator and the award-winning, New York Times bestselling author of 32 books. A regular contributor to NPR’s Morning Edition, Alexander is the recipient of numerous awards, including The Coretta Scott King Author Honor, the 2017 Inaugural Pat Conroy Legacy Award and three NAACP Image Award nominations. In partnership with Follett Book Fairs, he created the #AllBooksForAllKids initiative to bring more diverse books into school libraries. In 2018, he opened the Barbara E. Alexander Memorial Library and Health Clinic as part of LEAP for Ghana, an international literacy program he co-founded. Kwame is the founding editor of Versify, an imprint of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt that aims to change the world one word at a time.
“It is certainly incredible to travel the world and be recognized and rewarded for your talents, but it is quite a special thing to be recognized by your neighborhood, by the streets that watched you flirt with flame and become a manchild in the promised land, by your people. Thank you Brooklyn Public Library for this honor,” Alexander said.
Ample Hills Creamery is a Brooklyn-based ice cream company that was founded in 2011 by husband-and-wife duo Brian Smith and Jackie Cuscuna. The name comes from Walt Whitman’s “Crossing Brooklyn Ferry,” a poem that speaks to the connection of people over time, generations bound together by a place. Today, Ample Hills Creamery has grown to more than 13 scoop shops, and Brian and Jackie have maintained the same goal for each one—to create a local spot that brings joy to the neighborhood and its residents.
“We have lived in Brooklyn for almost 30 years now, and have raised our two children here. We have spent countless hours with our kids at the library. And when we opened our first shop just a few blocks from the main branch, our primary focus was not ice cream, but community, building a place like the Brooklyn Public Library where people gather, where life happens. It's the thrill of our lives to be honored by the library,” said Brian Smith and Jackie Cuscuna.
Baratunde Thurston, a trustee of Brooklyn Public Library and Emmy-nominated futurist comedian, writer and cultural critic, served as host for the evening. Thurston helped re-launch The Daily Show with Trevor Noah, co-founded Cultivated Wit and the About Race podcast, and wrote the New York Times bestseller How To Be Black. He is the host of the iHeartMedia podcast Spit and is a highly sought-after public speaker, television personality, and thought leader who has been part of noteworthy institutions such as Fast Company, TED, the MIT Media Lab, and The Onion.
Special guests included Brooklyn Borough President Eric L. Adams who presented the award to Ample Hills Creamery. Jacqueline Woodson. Woodson, the National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature, presented the award to Kwame Alexander. Woodson is the author of the New York Times bestselling memoir, Brown Girl Dreaming, which was awarded the National Book Award in Young People’s Literature in 2014. She is the four-time winner of the Newbery Medal.
Guests were entertained by musical performers from Antigone in Ferguson. Antigone in Ferguson is a groundbreaking project, developed by Theater of War Productions and co-produced with Brooklyn Public Library, which fuses dramatic readings by acclaimed actors of Sophocles’ Antigone with live choral music performed by a diverse choir, including police officers, activists, youth, teachers, and concerned citizens from St. Louis, Missouri and New York City, culminating in powerful, healing discussions about race and social justice.
Funds raised at the event will support Brooklyn Public Library’s collections and programs. With 59 branches in neighborhoods throughout Brooklyn, BPL interacted with members of the community over 9 million times in 2018. BPL offers classes for new Americans, hosts polling sites on election day and offer services for early literacy, career building, technology training, and more—all for free. In addition, the Library welcomes leading thinkers, writers, artists and policy makers throughout the year including U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor and award-winning author Isabel Allende.
In addition, BPL is now engaged in its most ambitious program in over half a century to upgrade and enhance its branches as well adding outposts around the borough—now numbering over 300—extending collections and services beyond the branches to other locations, including jails, senior centers, and homeless shelters.
Previous BPL gala honorees includes Clive Davis, Eliot Feld, Roz Chast, Alan Dershowitz, Max Roach, Maurice Sendak, Lena Horne, Wendy Wasserstein and Betty Comden; attorneys David Boies and Ted Olson; Nick Gravante and Dr. Janet Yellen.
About Brooklyn Public Library
About Brooklyn Public Library Brooklyn Public Library (BPL) is an independent library system for the 2.6 million residents of Brooklyn. It is the fifth largest library system in the United States with 59 neighborhood libraries located throughout the borough. BPL offers free programs and services for all ages and stages of life, including a large selection of books in more than 30 languages, author talks, literacy programs and public computers. BPL’s eResources, such as eBooks and eVideos, catalog information and free homework help, are available to customers of all ages 24 hours a day at our website: https://www.bklynlibrary.org/