Written by Nathifa King | Edited by Kayla Swindell
Video Credit: Jamal “Mystery” Brooks Photo Credits: Jamal “Mystery” Brooks | Kayla Swindell
The hustle and bustle of bodies preparing for the evening’s event was met with early appearances of community folk wanting to get an early start before the event. The atmosphere radiated with eagerness and excitement and as the crowd intensified, making sure that everything was set for the evening at hand, ignited anticipated feelings of hope by the Brownsville Shines team and their volunteers. This was the very reason for the event.
As Brooklyn Borough President, Antonio Reynoso concludes his first year in office, his commitment in making physical appearances throughout the neighborhoods of Brooklyn stands. One of his stops was at Exousia Cathedral’s (located on 693 Ralph Avenue between Sutter Avenue & East New York Avenues) “Brownsville Shines” Christmas tree lighting event, on December 9, 2022. He addressed the crowd of underserved community members in a traditional soapbox style presentation with the festive backdrop behind him. Accompanying him were Missionary Bishop – Dr. Lester Bradford and Executive Director of HealthJox Foundation, Inc. – Dewry DuRoi Bradford. BP Reynoso gave encouraging words to the onlookers. He stated, “And we all know that the way that we are going to be able to make it passed this and to move onto the future in a positive way, is gonna be working together and taking care of each other… cause if we can’t take care of each other, no one is going to take care of us.” After going through a brief explanation of how Brooklynites can work together, he ended his speech with a quote from one of the greatest poets to ever touch the borough of Brooklyn – the Notorious B.I.G: “Remember to spread love, it’s the Brooklyn way.”
Next up, gracing the stage, was international mezzo-soprano opera signer Lucia Bradford, who ran with the vision of Bishop Bradford and officially became the launcher of “Brownsville Shines” ten years ago. With her leading, singing group Tehillah Zamar sang traditional Christmas carols and the voices of men, women and children alike joined in from the crowd. The caroling ignited reminiscing feelings of favorite childhood holiday tunes as hot chocolate and festive treats were also passed around. Guest performances by guitar artist Anaiah Williams and singers Kim Harley and Aisha Williams ensued, which kept the musical momentum going. There truly were feelings of Christmas cheer in the air, as those in need anticipated the presents and giveaways that were prepared for them.
The order of the evening was structured where community members lined up and entered the lower auditorium of the church building, five families at a time. This year, 2022 was different from previous years. With the partnering of HealthJox Foundation, Inc., Brownsville Shines was able to provide more toys, coats and household items for all ages with the tremendous amount of donations received. Toys for Tots, Uncle Chase Foundation and countless others donated items in abundance. Lead by the tree lighting President – Taniesha Bradford, donors were encouraged to drop off, mail and setup for pick-up: new/gently used coats & clothing; new/gently used sneakers & footwear; new toys. Families from nearby shelters were invited to come and receive containers of cooked food and traditional holiday beverages complete with a smile and a hug. Additional donations were collected from Fenix Community Fridge, who donated canned and dry goods for the event. Pastor Denese Hall’s nonprofit – Clothed with Love, provided book bags and coats. Nathasha Adams and daughter – Fadee Model gathered much needed coats from friends and family members. Claudia Lyons and her company – Keep This Link, and Leolene Hinds Ministries also provided coats and apparel as well. Community Leader – Johnnymae Robinson and her team assisted with allocating coats and apparel to families at the event. This was a great example of unified, community driven leaders and passionate individuals coming together for the greater good of the community. Sosa Rincom (T.O.P Marketing Group) provide free android phones and ten dollar tablets with unlimited talk/text/data for qualified attendees. Movie celebrity, philanthropist, and humanitarian – Sergio “Gio” Delavicci also showed up to express his heart for community by participating in distributing donations while getting up-close and personal with community folk.
The closing of the event was conducted by Missionary Bishop – Dr. Lester Bradford, where he addressed the crowd by encouraging them to be a “Light” in the community. During his riveting speech, he delved into the history of Brownsville, Brooklyn. He expressed empathy for the pain that community members have been experiencing throughout the years; mentioning that this is the reason for Brownsville Shines. He presented the fact (after extensive research) that Brownsville was occupied by the Dutch when it was just farm land in the 1800’s and its steeped history of crime ever since the 1900’s. As time went on, he also outlined that there were major contract murders sweeping this part of Brooklyn in the 1930’s. This labeled Brownsville as “Murder Incorporated“. Crime continued as the Black & Brown Americans began moving in with little governmental support. This totally exacerbated the poverty and crime in the community. Bishop Bradford made it clear, in his words, “Brownsville will not be a permanent ghetto.” He said a powerful prayer for the community and all its members and finally ended with a declaration, “Brownsville is going to rise and come out of the darkness into the marvelous light of Christ. Brownsville will prosper… Brownsville will shine!” His last statement was more of a shout and a command… “PUT ON THE LIGHTS!” And with that, the Christmas tree illuminated with its bright star crowned atop the tree.
“Brownsville Shines” truly was an epic event that captured the hearts of everyone that showed up. This community outreach event was nothing short of “Amazing.” “Mission Accomplished” are the words being expressed by the leadership team which includes the tenacious leadership of Exousia Cathedral: Pastor Janette Bradford, Pastor Derrick Swindell, Pastor Kayla Swindell, Pastor Constance Wright and Pastor Andrae Bradford.
Video Recap of “Brownsville Shines”:
Community Affairs Leader-Detective Gary Allen, Officer Nickita Beckford & The 73rd Precinct
Brooklyn Borough Hall
Deacon Trevor Walker, Pastor Andrae Bradford, and Jamal “Mystery” Brooks – Sight and Sound Ministries – Exousia Cathedral Deacon Jose Augustine – Maintenance Committee Exousia Cathedral
Deaconess Ingrid Halley and Deaconess Jinill Thompson – Exousia Cathedral Catering Team
Faithful Exousia Cathedral Members