by Bernice Elizabeth Green
Brooklyn NY (November 2, 2023) – The Bed-Stuy Alive! Collective Committee celebrated its Tohma Faulkner Community Awards ceremony event with an emotional salute to the community’s best, last Saturday morning, October 28.
The Annual Bed-Stuy Alive! celebration prestigious event generally highlights individuals and organizations reflective of the values, convictions and leadership model of the late dynamic Tohma Y. Faulkner, a shero in the annals of Brooklyn community service, an activist, and a trailblazer. The Bed-Stuy Alive! initiative grew out of her thoughts, as a way of celebrating every aspect of the history and people of her community. The Trailblazer Awards are named in her honor. A portion of Decatur Street has been co-named Tohma Y. Faulkner Way, as a means of keeping her legacy alive with a showcase of the people and organizations who are driving the movement to keep the community on beat and thriving.
This year’s showcase, the 19th, was an emotional, rousing and call-to-action morning event, as described by Stephanie Faulkner Brabham, Tohma’s sister, who is the Bed-Stuy Alive! 2023 chair. “The project is designed to promote neighborhood pride and the community’s cultural richness, unique heritage, and diversity of the residents who live in Bedford-Stuyvesant,” Ms. Faulkner told Our Time Press in a telephone interview, this week. “The event is designed to bring champions together and honor those whose works and deeds are keeping the community alive. The Committee and I, each year, are honored that we can carry on the mission of those who came before us. We recognize that the intergenerational component is most important, especially now. During the awards, we share the stories of those leaders, rising from Bedford-Stuyvesant who have created a path for others to follow or to learn from, and to the younger generations who are making their own way creating their own paths. Tohma would be proud of this evolving unity of spirit captured in the essence of these awards. The committee is proud of the shared mission of different entities, individuals and organizations to keep our neighborhood alive. The awards are a step one and we are working up to 1,000. It’s about building. It’s about process.”
Following the theme “Building Bridges: One Step at a Time,” this year’s celebration went deeper into the project mission with an immersion into home, heritage, family, and friendship in its recognition of community “heroes” who live the mission, and who are creating wealth at the same time. Our Time Press is proud to announce that co-founders David Mark Greaves and Bernice Elizabeth Green were among the honored Trailblazers, who included Ronald K. Brown, Founder of Evidence Dance Theatre, for arts and culture; community champions The Black Veterans of Social Justice, represented at the event by the distinguished founder Job Mashariki, dynamic leader Lynette Lewis-Rogers, President of the Brownstoners of Bedford-Stuyvesant, Inc., for community service; The Bridge Street Development Corporation (Gregory Anderson), for community service; entrepreneurs Titus Mitchell (Bed-Stuy Burger) and Ursallie Smith (Rococo Design); the very popular LaVonne Gatson, Parent Coordinator of Boys & Girls H.S., for an outstanding educator, and dynamic community organizer/leader Andrea Ishmael of Research and Service H.S. for Youth Achievement.
As in previous years, the awards event also highlighted “lifelong learning”. This year’s honorees were stellar examples of those among us in the Bedford-Stuyvesant community who count their Bedford-Stuyvesant families, teachers, schools, and youth experiences as part of the process that brought them to where they are today.
The ceremony took place in the lobby of the Restoration Complex, at 1368 Fulton Street. Vendors showcased their wares and their Bedford-Stuyvesant spirit outdoors, that day, from 12 noon to 5:00 p.m., on Fulton Street: Harriet Tubman Blvd, between Marcy and Brooklyn Avenues.
In addition to the Bed-Stuy Alive! Committee members, the event included an array of community icons as hosts and/or performers, among them the queenly hosts: Honorable Annette M. Robinson, the elegant Peggy Alston, representing the BSA Committee, the regal Dr. Kim Best, President, 79th Precinct Clergy Council (delivering the invocation and closing prayer), and supportive Sade Faulkner Brabham; the cultural artists including, the lovely singer Jasmin Song, and an Evidence dance selection, as moving Tributes to the Ancestors, and the Phantazia String Players of the Noel Pointer family of student performing artists. The distinguished Chief Baba Neil Clarke delivered scholarly remarks, The Libation, and, from his family of drummers, a salute to the ancestors, the honorees, and the audience.
A highlight of the event was the poignant words of Sharonnie Perry, the powerful long-time community activist and organizer, and, as the Amsterdam News described, “a staple in the heart of Bedford Stuyvesant”. Ms. Perry was awarded the “Modern Historian Award”, earlier this year, by Cong. Hakeem Jeffries and the African American Clergy. She also is a former Director of Community Relations at One Brooklyn Health, serving under the LaRay Brown. Ms. Perry, using current examples of the community under attack, spoke directly to what happens when efforts to keep our communities alive lose momentum and the roles we all should play in the quest to blaze trails.
Our Time Press has invited its brother and sister honorees to share words about their trailblazing roles to our readers, for the purpose of highlighting the importance of the Bed-Stuy Alive! annual missions, as it moves into its 20th year. We are happy to begin this series with the words of the youngest trailblazer, Ms. Andrea Ishmael.
In a special note, Bernice and David/DBG Media are most grateful, in addition to Ms. Faulkner, to Brenda Fryson, co-chair of the Bed-Stuy Alive Committee, Evelyn Collier of Community Board 3, Renee Gregory, Margie Fletcher, Marilyn Reid, Gail Gaines, and community representative Sandra Williams for their constant support and encouragement of our work.
A special thanks to Sade Faulkner Brabham who assisted in the development of this article for Our Time Press.