Friends of Wingate Park, a volunteer non-profit organization in Flatbush, Brooklyn formed in 2011 primarily to engage Brooklyn youth in activities aimed at maintaining a healthy physical environment, is today in the vanguard of the citywide effort to stem gun- and gang-violence.
Friends of Wingate Park targets youth and families of Crown Heights, East Flatbush, Brownsville, East New York, Bedford Stuyvesant and Canarsie in the effort to create a “One Brooklyn” identity, according to Jamaican-born Vivia Morgan, the group’s founder and president.
Friends of Wingate Park builds community activism by “bringing neighbors together in an effort to drive out negative influences and create positive, free, fun, healthy programs for the community at large, so as to build a stronger Brooklyn,” Morgan told Caribbean Life.
In addition to the group’s initial focus on identifying, expanding and making physical improvements to their parks and neighborhoods in ways that would more adequately cater to the needs of community groups, the elderly, toddlers and the handicapped, Morgan says.
Besides issues of housing, parenting, jobs and immigration, the organization today has as a top item on its agenda: ”addressing critical issues such gun- and gang-violence and incarceration,” Morgan adds, citing a recent trip to Borough Hall two weeks ago to engage the new borough president in the effort, as testimony of Friends of Wingate Park’s comitment to the effort.
The April 16 visit was also sanctioned by Morgan’s employer, Local 79 General Building and Construction Laborers Union, which lent its support to the community effort by sending Apprenticeship Coordinator Wendy Webb as their representative at the Stop Gun/Gang Violence Forum at Borough Hall. Webb outlined the union’s recruitment process for candidates interested in joining its apprenticeship class for April 17, 2014.
Assistant Commissioner Kevin O’Connor had a message for parents, urging them to monitor their children’s social activities and warned them about the potential danger in visiting places notorious for harboring gang activities. Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams referred to a video he created on ways to combat gun violence, which he said could be found on youtube.com.
Friends of Wingate Park is working with Community Board 9, area schools, the Office of the Brooklyn District Attorney and the 71st Precinct Community Council Affairs Unit “to strengthen and uplift the community,” Morgan said. It is seeking to engage the support of Unions and local businesses to offer internship and apprenticeship opportunities to its volunteers, she added.
Friends of Wingate Park is also working with Councilman Eugene and Community Board 9 on the renovation of the Wingate Park playground, Morgan said, adding: “I am asking (other) City Council members to help.”
Meanwhile, Councilman Eugene, a member of the Council’s Youth Committee said he would work hard to implement programs and support the efforts of Friends of Wingate Park to heighten awareness about the danger of gun- and gang-violence.
As a member of Local 79 and the first Jamaican-American female organizer for the Laborers’ Eastern Region Organizing Fund (LEROF), her colleagues say Morgan “is a strong advocate for unionizing projects.”
For the past three years members of Laborers’ Local 79 have been volunteering at the annual “It’s My Park Day” clean-up sponsored by Friends of Wingate Park at the intersecton of Rutland Road and Brooklyn Avenue. This year’s event will be held on Saturday, June 21, from 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. Morgan extends the usual invitation to neighbors “to come out and help beautify our park,” she told Caribbean Life.
By supporting our unions so we can create jobs for our apprentices and members. With the strong support of the Building Construction Trades and Mason Tenders District Council we will be able to assist more youth finding career opportunities and employment, she added..
The mission of Friends of Wingate Park is to contribute to park stewardship and build a stronger community, “through neighbors working together to beautify and upkeep Wingate Park as a valuable resource.”
Negative influences, crime, gangs, and illicit drug use dominate Wingate Park. There are limited positive opportunities for the youth in order to draw them away from negative influence. In addition, there is little genuine contact between neighbors from diverse backgrounds to work together.