Whether you think Biggie Smalls‘ “Juicy” was the best rap song to date, or not, you must admit, the phrase, “spread love, it’s the Brooklyn way,” put the borough on the map. Recorded in 1993, the song is considered by Rolling Stone and The Source magazines as one of the greatest hip-hop songs of all times. Since then, the phrase has become a staple in the borough, continues to be used in music and is even part of the decor in some of your favorite Brooklyn shops and restaurants.
But when it comes to spreading love, what exactly does the Brooklyn way suggest?
Carol, currently a resident of Carroll Gardens, grew up in Coney Island and shared with us fond memories of spreading love in her former tight-knit neighborhood. “As a kid, I saw everyone looking out for one another in Coney Island,” she said. “We played games together as a group – red-light green-light and coco-levio. Parents in the neighborhood treated all the children like their own – sharing meals and things. They also disciplined us, then brought us to our parents.”
“What’s nice is the smile that comes over someone’s face when they recognized you from the neighborhood,” agreed Chris, a Crown Heights resident. “Or when you run into someone who realizes you too are from Brooklyn. There’s a feeling of familiarity, an acknowledged comfort zone.”
Judy was born in Brooklyn and her entire family lives here. She feels very comfortable in the borough and loves it more than any other place in the world. She can make the comparison because she has traveled quite a bit — nationally and internationally. Judy has lived in several Brooklyn neighborhoods, Williamsburg, Bedford Stuyvesant, Canarsie, and Crown Heights.
“I stay amazed by the borough’s size and beauty. Everything is very conveniently located and accessible. If you take a ride on the B41 bus, you can travel from one end of Brooklyn to the other. You can ride from Cadman Plaza West in Downtown Brooklyn to Kings Plaza in Marine Park,” said Judy. “I would occasionally take the bus home from work just to experience the different neighborhoods.”
Mike, on the other hand, loves the ladies from Brooklyn. He moved to East Flatbush from Virginia when he was a young teen. “Brooklyn females are strong, sexy, and smart,” he said. Mike finds it hard to settle down with just one woman because he has so much love to share.
“Spreading love, the Brooklyn way, comes to mind every time I interact with people in Brooklyn,” said Anecia, a resident of Crown Heights. “In other boroughs people drive everywhere. Driving in your private car can be isolating. Here we generally walk or take public transportation. Without the protective armor of a vehicle, residents can freely connect with others and have great conversations and adventures.”
For Brooklynite Tarik, he details Brooklyn restaurants as the epitome of love. “For me, love means good food. If I say, I love you like cooked food — I really love you,” he said.
Brooklyn is a foodie’s paradise. Where else in the world can you enjoy Nathan’s hot dogs, Peter Luger’s steaks, Tom’s cherry lime ricky, Junior’s strawberry cheesecake, L&B Spumoni Gardens’ pizza, and Brooklyn Fare’s vegetable maki rolls – all in the same week?
“Brooklyn has variety,” says Kwame, who grew up in Crown Heights but is now a Jamaica, Queens resident. “I was born in Brooklyn and find other boroughs more segregated. People in other areas don’t like each other, so they live far away from each other — not so much in Brooklyn.”
There are several cultural groups living together harmoniously in densely populated Brooklyn. According to Census Data, 38% of Brooklyn residents are foreign born speaking numerous languages including: Spanish, Mandarin, Cantonese, Russian, Yiddish, Arabic, French, Creole, Italian, Hebrew, Amharic, and Urdu.
“Many neighborhoods in Brooklyn have gone through or are going through gentrification,” says Shanelle.
Shanelle lived in Williamsburg during the 1990s before the area became known for its hipsters, coffee shops, and bars. Shanelle who now lives in Hempstead believes, “Spreading love the Brooklyn way, simply means recognizing ALL of the people who were here and are here now. Making sure that ALL residents are properly fed, housed, educated, and employed.”
Opal from Prospect Heights agrees with Shanelle. Gentrification is not simply renovating and improving a neighborhood but the systematic removal of low income people from their homes.
“Place the thousands of Brooklyn homeless families in affordable homes (not shelters) instead of constructing more and more luxury condos and high rises. Let’s take care of our mothers and babies – that’s humane – that’s spreading love,” declares Opal.
Carl recently moved to Brooklyn three years ago from California and he quickly fell in love with the borough. “This place is so cultural,” he said. Carl looks forward to Thursday night Salsa at the Brooklyn Museum, the Japanese Garden at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden, Dance Africa at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, Judaic heritage at the Brooklyn Jewish Children’s Museum, Puccini’s Il Tabarro at Brooklyn Repertory Opera, and a host of other interesting happenings at the Brooklyn Historical Society. Carl says he can experience the whole world, right here in Brooklyn.
Simon is a Brooklynite studying to become a deacon. Brooklyn is known as the borough of churches. But, more correctly, it is the borough of churches, temples, mosques, synagogues, and other religious institutions. Brooklyn represents religious diversity and freedom. And that is why Simon believes, Brooklyn will take the lead in the fight against Trump’s executive order banning travel from seven Muslim countries — Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Syria, Sudan and Yemen. How is that for spreading love, the Brooklyn way?
“Do you want to spread love?,” asks Beatrice, born in Bed-Stuy. “Then give back to this great borough.”
Valentine’s Day is coming up. If you’re single with nothing to do, Beatrice says “don’t waste time being sad, get busy.” You can volunteer at a senior center, mentor a child, work with a local group or politician, or raise funds for a worthy Brooklyn cause. Take Beatrice’s advise, “you never know, you might meet someone nice by doing something nice.”
“Boy do I want to move back to Brooklyn, ” said Karen, who was born in Bed-Stuy but currently lives in the Bronx. “Believe it, or not, we would leave our doors unlocked and run back and forth, in and out of neighbors’ houses. We respected our elders, even the few “bad kids.””
One thing is for sure, people really love Brooklyn, and what one loves, one must take care of. So if we want to make Brooklyn greater, together we can find unique ways to spread love. With all the confusion, divisive politics, and fake news/alternative facts coming out of Washington these days, Brooklynites must continue to live in harmony and peace knowing that stereotyping and finger pointing are harmful.
We will consciously and consistently share the best parts of our cultures by fostering a sense of community in our neighborhoods, visiting different places of worship, inviting new neighbors over for a meal, learning about holidays and celebrations of other cultures, traveling and visiting other neighborhoods and countries, listening to different genres of music, and taking the time to talk with, and learn about each other and our customs, while keeping an open mind.
As Christopher George Latore Wallace, a.k.a The Notorious B.I.G. urges, “spread love, it’s the Brooklyn way.” This quote is more relevant today than ever before.