Honor Creates Choices for Others

When I first started volunteering at a food pantry, I remember homeless people would ask if I had another flavor of soup, or if any pumpernickel bread came in this week.  I thought 'wow, the audacity of these people getting free stuff and asking for choices'.  Seeing people with smartphones and food stamps and judging them, offering to buy someone fruit but they wanted chips or soda and looking down on them for that.  

Fast forward almost ten years now, I've learned that one of the best gifts you can give someone is dignity and respect. When you love and honor someone you give them choices. I don't tell my wife what to enjoy to what to be successful at, I learn about what her dreams and passions are and try to support her in them, even if they aren't mine. Meeting neighbors on the streets of BK or in residential camps here in OC, I see so many people TELLING others what they should do, or who they should become, how they should talk and dress and act.

We see it so evidently in the neighborhoods that we call under-privileged but they really are under-resourced.  We take away families choices on where to live, what jobs are available, what schools and parks their kids have access to, what types of businesses and cultural (and religious?) institutions are available. We remove choices from children and deny them their dignity. Then we tell them "why don't you make the right choices in life and earn your dignity?"

We can work to restore dignity by actually serving with the under-resourced communities.  That is why we love partnering with Brooklyn Teen Challenge in Clinton Hill, a residential program for youth and adults recovering from addiction.  Teen Challenge operates a food pantry and soup kitchen directly at their facilities and incorporates serving their neighbors as part of their addiction recovery program.  By serving alongside brothers and sisters that we might not normally associate with, we are breaking the bondage of stigma and shame, and most of all, forces us to get off our high horses.  Come join us and see how it really is more blessed to give than to receive; you'll get to know your neighbors, and yourself, a little bit better.

-Darrell Cheng 

Panelists from the 13th Screening

Many of you have asked about our panelists from our screening of the documentary 13th over the weekend, so we want to share their mini-bios. They were incredible and we hope to host a part 2 of this panel, so we can glean more from their wisdom and experience about the issues of race, justice, community development, education and mass incarceration. If you'd like to connect with any of our panelists, or book them for speaking engagements, please email us.

Jim St. Germain: Jim is a speaker, and author of the memoir a Stone of Hope (available for pre-order), and founder of Plot Youth. Originally from Haiti, he grew up in Crown Heights, and was arrested more than a dozen times. Instead of prison, he ended up in a boys home for rehabilitation. Jim is now an advocate, a father, a mentor, and also served on the task force for the Obama Administration on mass incarceration. 

Dequi kioni-sadiki: Dequi is a counselor at Landmark in Chelsea, as well as a human/prisoner rights activist. She married a formerly incarcerated man, who was a Black Panther and POW during civil rights movement. She leads several initiatives in NYC. Dequi is a mama, grandma, freedom fighter and peacemaker.

Ismael Nazario: Ismael was formerly incarcerated at Rikers, and his story is featured in the PBS documentary, Rikers. He is an advocate, a father, a mentor, speaker, and leads mentoring initiatives in NYC. 

Marion Hayes: Marion is an ordained minister, and Prison Chaplain at Rikers Island, who works as an executive in Lower Manhattan. God gave her a burden for mass incarceration, and she began serving in jails, following her, and her husband's, time in seminary.

Stacey Touissant: Stacey is an NYC history expert, especially concerning the slave trade, issues of race and justice. Stacey is also a business woman and entreprenuer, who started Inside Out Tours six years ago. Offering tours of New York, such as the Underground Railroad and Slavery Tour, the Walking Gospel Tour and more, Stacey and her team educate people about the history of NYC. She's also a mama, and dedicated justice worker.

Cedric Johnson: Cedric is a professor at Wesley Theological Seminary in NYC, and wrote a book called Race, Religion and Resilience in the Neoliberal Age, and is knowledgable about the issues we face as a nation. He also works with community developers and church planters in NYC through Redeemer's City to City. He is an advocate, speaker, husband and father. Cedric and his wife, and their three children are planting a church in Crown Heights, Brooklyn.

Volunteer Opportunities Available

Brooklyn Teen Challenge: Serve kids and families in Brooklyn through a food pantry. Click here to serve!

Chelsea Kids Club: Serve kids in the projects in Chelsea through encouragement, fun and friendship. Click here to serve!

Covenant House: Serve young mothers with children, and help them to navigate life and overcome obstacles. Our special Mother's Day Event is coming up! Click here to serve!

NYC Rescue Mission Connecting Circles: For women only - Wall alongside women dealing with real life issues, and looking to grow and overcome the past. Click here to serve!

NYC Rescue Mission Dinner Service: Serve and connect with Residents at the Mission over dinner. Click here to serve!

Bailey Holt House: In partnership with Liberty Church, this is a Bible study for our friends at the Bailey Holt House, a home for residents with HIV/AIDS, who want to grow in their faith. Click here to serve!

Brooklyn Community Center: Building Better Broadcasters - We're looking for a new venue to host this youth mentorship opportunity. If you have a location, please let us know. Click here to serve!

13th Documentary Screening + Panel Discussion

The United States has 5% of the global population, and 25% of the prison population. With the rise of mass incarceration in our nation, we have seen devastating effects on communities, families, and individuals. We want to do something about that. 

On Sunday, June 11th, we’re hosting a screening of the documentary 13th, followed by a panel to discuss the issue and offer tangible next steps toward helping our communities. We hope this will not only raise awareness about the issue of mass incarceration, but educate and empower attendees as well. 

We’d love for you to join us at the Alamo Drafthouse in downtown Brooklyn. The screening is completely free, with food and drinks optional for purchase. We hope you’ll come out, and bring friends, as we grow together and serve our communities.


Human Trafficking Awareness Month

Human Trafficking Awareness Month

January is quite a month in 2017 – we celebrated the life and legacy of one of our heroes, Martin Luther King, Jr. We are hopeful for a peaceful transfer of power from President Barak Obama to our current President Elect. The website Backpage was recently held accountable for the trafficking of women and children on their site, which was a huge win. We still have a long way to go, but every small win is worth celebrating. On that note, this month is Human Trafficking Awareness Month.

Globally, human trafficking is the fastest growing crime in our world. Billions of dollars contribute to the buying and selling and exploitation of women, children, and even men. 

Three Ways to Engage in Your Community

Three Ways to Engage in Your Community

We often hear how complicated it feels to get involved in a city. Websites are difficult to navigate; information is difficult to find; city meetings for the community are not always promoted to the actual neighbors they serve; how will my voice, my vote, my presence make a difference anyway?

Your voice matters. Your presence in your neighborhood matters. Decision makers in our cities actually care what you think, and we’ve learned that they are willing to listen to the people, if the people show up to their stuff. So, let’s help you find all the stuff! 

A New Website For Liberty City

A New Website For Liberty City

Over the last six months, we’ve been doing a little soul searching: Who are we? What is our role in the urban context? How can listen well to our neighbors, and rise up to meet needs on a personal and systemic scale? What is our focus?

We’ve made decisions that we believe will help us move forward and serve with strength. We’re focusing on five key areas: Youth, Education, Anti-Human Trafficking, Mass Incarceration and Civic Engagement. Our work, our resources and our time will be focused specifically and strategically on these areas.