One America - Brooklyn Unity Campaign

Program: Brooklyn Unity Campaign, Brooklyn, NY
Contact(s): Howard Golden, Borough President: (718) 802-3909
Purpose: To unite Brooklyn's diverse ethnic communities in a sustained program of dialogue, action and change for lasting improvements in intergroup relations

Background Program Operations Outcomes


Brooklyn Borough President Howard Golden created the Brooklyn Unity Campaign in 1988 in order to increase communication among Brooklyn's multiethnic citizens. According to the borough president's office, the 2.5 million residents of Brooklyn represent 93 ethnic groups and 150 nationalities and live in relative isolation, knowing little about their neighbors' historical experiences, values and traditions. The Brooklyn Unity Campaign, run entirely out of the borough president's office, was designed to honor diversity while addressing specific obstacles to effective intergroup relations. The campaign's effort to achieve racial and ethnic unity reflects a belief in honest dialogue as a means for promoting positive changes in the community.

Program Operations

The Unity Campaign sponsors several programs. The Unity Speaker Series holds forums on issues such as affirmative action, black-Jewish relations, police-community relations, welfare reform, immigration policy, youth and racism, and origins of extremism. Past speakers have included author Jim Sleeper, Townson State Professor Dr. Howard Ehrlich, Kenneth Stern of the American Jewish Committee and Wayne Winborn of the National Conference. The School Partnership Program convenes groups of students from diverse backgrounds to examine their cultural traditions and encounters with bias, and it creates ideas to reverse these trends. In a new program conducted by the campaign, members of the borough president's office lead seminars in Brooklyn's middle schools with an eye towards holding honest conversations on race. The Crown Heights Coalition, established during a period of significant tension, produced a plan for meeting economic and service needs while improving police coverage, cultural interaction and opportunities for youth.

Outcomes and Significant Accomplishments

Several thousand people participate in the campaign every year. It affects almost 400 people alone through the School Partnership Program and the middle school seminars, while close to 600 people participate through the Unity Awards Program and the Unity Speaker Series. The Unity Awards Program gives public recognition to exemplary efforts by grassroots citizens who promote positive relations in Brooklyn. Awards in 1998 went to the Union Church Community Basketball Association, John Ericsson Junior High School, Carolyn Howard, the PTA president of Brooklyn school district 23, and Khadijah Matin, a founding member of the Crown Heights Coalition. Events held by the campaign throughout the year highlight the traditions of Brooklyn's diverse communities, while periodic summit conferences on education, culture, business, clergy and police leaders address current needs in racial and ethnic affairs. Participants in the program return to their respective institutions and communities to share insights, build coalitions or address specific intergroup concerns.

Promising Practices - North East

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