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Faces in the ‘Hood#3

January 5, 2009

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What’s your name? my name is abdur rahman

 

How long did you live in the area?  I lived in fort greene/clinton hill area for over 22 years and still have family plus life long friends in the area…

 

What did you like most about growing up in the area? what I liked most about growing up in the area was the family oriented community that we enjoy…it made me feel like I was “home” like I belonged here…not like some other neighborhoods where you feel like an outsider.. to me it’s a neighborhood where everyone knew you by your first & last name…that’s the type of closeness that we have here…this also made for our friends and family members who were not from our neighborhood to have a sense of “wow, this is a really cool place to visit” a break away from their everyday hustle & bustle…a semi-vacation away from all that they wanted to escape from…to take that feeling back with them to their neighborhood to share their stories of how they felt the love & sense of family orientated community whenever they would come to visit..

 

 What did you like the least? What I liked least about the neighborhood was the distance we felt when it came to the proper communication between the policy makers, the NYPD, those decisions makers in our community…when I say proper communication I mean the fact that they were not seen in our neighborhood talking with us, listening to us, being a part of what was transpiring here…instead only showing up afterwards to claim credit for the changes that took place…with the exception of Roger Greene, who was an assembly man in our district…father of Khalid Greene one of the kids in the neighborhood who grew up with us…who eventually became a scout for the NJ Nets NBA basketball team. Given a little focused attention & communication look at how far it could take us…

 

 What are the changes you’ve seen in the ‘hood over the years?  The changes that I have seen in the neighborhood over the years has been varying, from real estate development, our neighbors moving out, to new neighbors from different parts of the country/world moving in…the sense of the big city coming to Brooklyn…You would see more yellow taxi’s dropping people off from Manhattan, where before most often it seemed as if yellow taxi’s never would take a fare if you were going into Brooklyn…Changing businesses from restaurants, to lounges to bars are also some of the changes that have taken place…With that you also felt the need to communicate in different ways to become more effective…making everyone step out of their comfort zones…Which is good, but everyone is different in their ways of accepting change…

 

 How do you feel about these changes?  How do I feel about these changes? I feel that overall change is good. I also feel that the transition from our once quiet family oriented neighborhood into a hustling & bustling mini-metropolis has happened so rapidly over the past few years…Which has pleasantly surprised some & has shocked others…especially those who have been used to what they have grown fond of over their time here…

 

 What changes would you like to see in the future?  What changes would I like to see in the future is more involvement/inclusion with the community…there needs to be an established community organization that is here to allow for a forum for those community members voices to be heard…we need to be able to voice our opinion for what our vision of the neighborhood is… Take for instance, the kids that are growing up with outdated libraries, parks, no place to go after-school to learn about science & technology, computers, photography…we need place to go for the kids in order for them to stay off the streets…

 

 Have you ever felt unsafe in the neighborhood?  Have I ever felt unsafe in the neighborhood, no I have never felt unsafe in my neighborhood…I knew most of the people here or if I didn’t a passerby would always make eye contact & smile or say hello…we need more smiles & more hello’s… this helps to break down any non-communicated barriers in one’s heads/thoughts…

 

 How much did you hear the term “Murder Ave” when you were growing up?  Man listen, I don’t even think I have heard that term more than 4-5 times in my whole duration living here…when I first heard it I was like…Who’s trying to invent some new stuff and put it on us, where are they coming from with this?! That’s not us so please don’t try to put that on us or define us by it. That’s not what we were about at all…

 

What are your fondest memories of the hood?  I would say there were some cool block parties, where we would shut down an entire block allowing all of the kids to run free & share in the fun& games, music & food that was there…What this did for each and everyone of us was to reestablish that bond of family in the community…We would again get to see the smiling faces & people getting to reconnect with those who may have moved out of the neighborhood…knowing that there were annual block parties, those that moved on would always come back to share in the fun with the rest of us..

 

 How do you feel about the gentrification of the area?  I feel that it is a part of our life in this country/world…It’s a part of change, it is a way of life that we must understand because it is not going to stop here, nor has it begun here…We have to understand that we have a big role in what’s going on in this neighborhood now, with the way in which we have set the example for how a neighborhood should work… We should see it as we did something to be proud of, our parents did something they should be proud of, as well our kids will do the same when it is their turn. I do believe that we set the tone & wish that more of us get the chance soon to become owners of our own homes/condos/brownstones instead of only renting…how we make that change, is by understanding change, knowing that it is a constant & the only way that we can be prepared is to think ahead, broaden our vision & believe the we can.. this way we lose the fear & doubt in that we have the ability to do what it takes to not only stay in our neighborhood, but to expand to other neighborhoods well.. call it “pre-gentrification”…

 

So tell me about your experience working at Spike Lee’s store “Spike’s Joint” as a youngster… My experience with Spike Lee came before working at his store, when I was younger I lived on Washington Park which is the same block Spike grew up on…I used to see him on the block with that same distinct Spike Lee walk, he always spoke to all the kids. From there we found out he did movies…so his thing was whenever one of his movies came out, he would do marketing for his own movies. He’d have his own t-shirts, hats, jackets, so when the movies came out, he’d take us to different theaters to sell the merchandise…Monday through Friday was school & on the weekends we’d make our little money the legal way w/ Spike Lee. We did “Do the Right Thing”, “Mo’ Betta’ Blues”, “Malcolm X”, so on & so forth…

 

At that point I was attending Brooklyn Tech, when “Malcolm X” came out, I started working at the store ‘Spikes Joint’…so the experience w/ working with Spike & his people was a chance to meet people in the film industry who came to Brooklyn…a lot of these people were coming to Brooklyn for the 1st time! Coming from out of town, out of state, most people came to New York City w/ the intention of only seeing Manhattan and would really be surprised that Spike’s Joint was in Brooklyn. People from all over the country and world came to the store so it gave us a chance to interact and also broaden our eyes. You’re meeting film makers, people who work in other facets of the film industry, it gave us a chance to reach out and learn about what was going on around us.

 

I gotta give a big up to Mike Ellis who gave me my first opportunity to work on a film…one of my mentors. My first movie that I worked on w/ Spike was “Clockers”…I got a chance to be a production assistant,,it was filmed in Gowanus. I went on to work on movies from Girl 6 to Barry Levinson’s Sleepers. I worked my way from assistant to production manager to production coordinator then went on to work w/ the hottest music video director at the time Hype Williams…from one creative mind w/ith Spike to working for another with Hype.

 

 How many neighborhood kids did Spike employ in the store? Aww man, the whole store was neighborhood kids…like fifteen of us up in there! We got our checks, our clothes which were fly at the time…cats wanted hook-ups, we took care of the love when we could! It felt good to be apart of that because it made everyone else feel like they were apart of it.

 

Any ending thoughts?  From Biggie, Amerie, Arrested Development, Mary J.Blige to John Legend, the list is long of artists who’ve shot their videos using the beauty of this neighborhood as the background. We come from this beauty…this is what we were given so we appreciate what were given..it makes us understand a lot more not just in terms of location but in terms of ourselves… I mean you put a camera out there & it can make someplace look larger than life …but in real life this was always our “someplace”.

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