On January 20, 2017, real estate tycoon and reality TV personality, Donald Trump “took” the oath of office as 45th president of the United States. He ran an extremely divisive campaign focusing on what might separate us: race, religion, gender, ability, and sexual orientation. He bullied his way to the top and won without receiving the popular vote. Today, the world reels from the disruptive “Trump Effect“.
Brooklyn definitely feels the partisan effects of a Trump administration. A few months ago, thousand of protesters marched across the Brooklyn Bridge after Trump announced ending the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program (DACA). Instituted by President Obama, the program offers protections for young immigrants brought into the country illegally as children. Most recently, Brooklynites concerned about the new Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, worry these drastic changes will negatively impact working-class and middle-class families, small business owners, and the economy in general.
Prior to the Trump administration and its policies, gentrification had begun destroying Brooklyn. Newcomers to the neighborhood receive first-class treatment, luxury condos, powerful support, and 25 dollar lattes. The old timers, stuck with high-priced rentals, foreclosures, and feelings of isolation, get pushed to the curb. OurBKSocial, whose brand features the seldom reported positive stories, found the need in 2017, to highlight trending news in Brooklyn.
One such story, included a ” boozy sandwich shop” in Crown Heights at 637 Nostrand Avenue. Summerhill’s owner, Becca Brennan, promoted her new business by creating a fictitious story about the alleged “infamous bullet hole-ridden wall” inside the shop. Neighbors and other Brooklynites, disgusted with Brennan’s lack of sensitivity, cultural knowledge, and marketing savvy, have continued to boycott her establishment.
If having to contend with Brennan and her stereotypes about Brooklyn’s violent past wasn’t enough, two nooses were hung from trees in Prospect Heights. One was found outside the Brooklyn Public Library and the other, near the Brooklyn Museum. Ironically, the exhibition, “The Legacy of Lynching: Confronting Racial Terror in America,” was running at the museum during this time. The sight of a noose is especially disturbing for African-Americans. More than 4,000 hung from trees in the U.S. after 1877 because of racist attacks. NYPD took down the nooses and are still investing the offense.
In Bedford-Stuyvesant, a neighborhood away, Strand Cafe discriminated against black trick-or-treaters during Halloween by not giving them candy. Witnesses watched while white children received treats and black children did not. Unlike Brennan, owners of Strand, addressed the matter immediately. They made a public apology and fired the responsible employee.
The following month, a Black female customer posted a disturbing video on Instagram about DUMBO Kitchen — the post went viral. A racist exchange ensued, “Your manager doesn’t like black people, honey,” said the customer and the employee replied, “everyone in here knows that already!” OurBKSocial reached out to all parties involved. We organized a public forum on Friday, November 17th at DUMBO Kitchen. Neighbors, friends, media, and concerned Brooklynites attended a most productive open dialogue on race, hatred, and a business’ responsibility to its customers.
The questions begs, where do we go from here? French anthropologist Buffon (1707-1788) wrote, “there are in nature only individuals. Races, orders, classes, exist only in imagination. Keeping his quote in mind, let’s move forward in 2018 with a proactive problem solving approach.
We must first acknowledge there is a problem. A problem must be acknowledged as real, before tackling it. We can thank the Trump administration for bringing institutional racism out of the closet. Having a Black President for eight years, convinced many Americans that we had solved our race problem. With the election of Trump, we have observed overt racist attacks by white suprematists. Problem: Racial prejudice exists in Brooklyn.
Next, we need to describe any barriers or constraints that may prevent solving the problem. Barriers: In Summerhill’s case, was it Brennan’s ego, prejudice or lack of customer service experience that led her to ignore locals’ complaints? Or was something else at the root?
Identify solutions to the problem: Here is where creativity comes in. Don’t limited yourself to only one solution. Brainstorm and come up with several solutions. Take into account time restraints, finances required, and people needed to solve the problem. Is scheduling a meeting with the community, politicians, business owners, and developers necessary to address the current issue? Select one or a few doable solutions to the problem.
Then try out the solution(s): In the case of DUMBO Kitchen, OurBKSocial selected to schedule a community dialogue. We immediately reached out to all parties involved through social media. At the forum our founder acted as moderator and set the ground rules – those who want to make a comment, do so in 2 minutes, be respectful, keep an open mind, take a listening stance, and remain flexible.
Attendees offered several great suggestions on how to improve relations with customers and the community. DUMBO Kitchen owners listened and commented. The last step is to strategically evaluate results: DUMBO Kitchen agreed to implement one of the evening’s suggestions immediately and consider using others. OurBKSocial took the led and volunteered to report back to the community on DUMBO Kitchen’s progress in 6 months.
Brooklyn, let’s do better in the New Year using a problem solving mindset with the aim to establish better relations in our beautiful borough.