History of the Brownstoners of Bedford-Stuyvesant
The Brownstoners of Bedford-Stuyvesant, Inc. was organized in 1978 by a small group of friends and neighbors who wanted to make a contribution to their great community. The founding members included George Glee, Jr., Bernard McDonald, Reginald Shell, Brenda Fryson, Gloria Green and Clarence Jones. They organized the Brownstoners as a civic organization that would attract people from all walks of life who were willing to roll up their sleeves and become part of the vibrant network of residents who were waging a fierce battle for the survival of this community.
In those days, urban renewal meant urban destruction and displacement, and people all over the neighborhood were determined to hold onto Bedford-Stuyvesant’s magnificent housing stock. Yet young people and families were leaving in alarming numbers, shaken by relentless negative media publicity about the neighborhood; poor and unresponsive public services, and the banking institutions policy of redlining. They were leaving the homes, apartment buildings and commercial properties that their parents and grandparents, those first generations of African Americans from the South and the Caribbean, had labored to acquire. This circumstance became the basis for the Brownstoners first major initiative…to stop the fight by actively encouraging disillusioned residents and those who had already left to “Come on Home to Bed-Stuy.” The annual house tour was the means to that end. This event helped to reshape the media’s concept of the community, and the way it reported on our daily lives. It sparked renewed pride in people who still lived here. It encouraged thousands of African Americans, young and not so young, to become part of a thriving and welcoming community.
The goal of helping to revitalize the community through building a strong home ownership based was only the beginning. Our major service projects have consistently focused on education, economic development, housing and community activism. The Brownstoners is a “hands-on” organization that maximizes its resources through the wealth of skills that our members freely share. Our tradition of “taking’ it to the streets” is a strategy that has reached every corner of this community through initiatives such as our tax lien outreach project and voter registration drives. We have entered the twenty first century with the voices of those community leaders who kept Bedford-Stuyvesant alive still ringing in our ears. We intended to keep the fire under their legacy.
Decades later, our motto, “Come on Home to Bed-Stuy,” is even more relevant. For the Brownstoners, “Home” is a spiritual place for the next generation of children of the African Diaspora, as well as for those families that make Bedford-Stuyvesant a jewel of diversity among New York’s sparkling mosaic of neighborhoods, each with its own rich culture.