When Vincentian Charles Thompson left his homeland in October 1990, he never dreamed he would become the unofficial “mayor” of his block in a section of Brooklyn that is predominantly Hispanic.
Thompson, 50, presides over his block in the East New York section of Brooklyn that borders Queens. Most Vincentians in Brooklyn reside in the Crown Heights, East Flatbush, Flatbush and Canarsie sections. A few lives in the Brownsville and East New York sections.
About 99 percent of residents in Thompson’s neighborhood, referred to as “Hispanic Country,” originate from Latin America or the Spanish-speaking Caribbean.
On his block, 61 Obrien Place, between Grant and Nichols avenues, Thompson is the lone Vincentian. A Trinidadian resides a few houses away from Thompson’s; the other residents are from, among other places, the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, Ecuador and Costa Rica.
Thompson – a bus operator with New York’s Metropolitan Transit Authority for the past 15 years and an Adjunct Professor in Mathematics at Advanced Software Analysis (ASA) College, downtown Brooklyn, since 2005 – said he is called on to do almost everything for block residents.
“I love it, we get along very well,” said Thompson, who has been living on the block since 2001, in a Caribbean Life interview. “They give me lots of love and respect – from the youngest to the oldest.
“I can say they appointed me the leader of the block,” added the tireless Thompson, who served in the U.S. Army from 1991-94, as a canon crew man, attaining the rank of specialist, equivalent to corporal, in the pay grade of E4 (Enlisted 4).
“Anything they want to get done from the city or anywhere, they will come to me and ask for my opinion, and (I) take on the responsibility,” continued Thompson, who also worked as a New York City public school teacher from 2000-04 while driving city buses full time, referring to block residents.
Recently, he organized his block’s first party, attracting Hispanic residents in the neighborhood.
“The block party was successful,” he said. “There were many people, and they were all well fed. There were lots to eat and drink.
“Instead of each household doing its own thing, I asked each to do something – one did rice and peas and beans; the other did salad; another did drinks; others did the meat, and so on,” added Thompson, who, over the years, has made every effort to know every resident on the block. “Everyone did what they had to do, and it was beautiful.”
Visitors were amazed to see Thompson at work at the block party, as residents dined on barbecued spare ribs, chicken, fish and hot dog ; played dominoes and cards; and danced to salsa, meringue, bachata and cumbia music.
“I have never had any problems with any of my neighbors,” said Thompson proudly, stating that he actually “happened to live in this neighborhood by default.”
He said his current house was first owned by his eldest brother, George, who died in 2001. On George’s death, Thompson said he was appointed administrator of his estate; and, five years later, he purchased the house from the estate.
Thompson attributed his diligence primarily to his late parents, Christabel and David “Spare Rope” Thompson, and community spiritedness to his hometown, Chateaubelair.
He was the main goal keeper for the Petit Bordel Secondary School in the Chateaubelair Football Championship in the early 1980s, and was the only player of 20 selected from the 1980 championship for the national youth football trials.
In addition, Thompson said he pioneered basketball tourneys in his hometown and its environs in 1983.
Before migrating to New York, Thompson said he “worked alongside my mother as a young man, trafficking (agricultural produce and livestock) back and forth to Trinidad every week.
“And seeing my father campaigning for his party helped prepare me to be doing two high-demanding jobs and still have time to do community work,” said Thompson, stating that his dad was a zealous People’s Political Party (PPP), then New Democratic Party (NDP), supporter.
David Thompson was on the opposite side of the political fence from his cousins, John and Jerrol Thompson, who represented the St. Vincent Labor Party (SVLP) and the incumbent Unity Labor Party (ULP), respectively.
Charles Thompson said he will continue working hard in upgrading his block, thanking his Vincentian heritage for his tenacity.
He holds a Master of Science degree in education, with concentration in mathematics, from Brooklyn College, City University of New York.