The Sound and the FUREE

Image Courtesy of FUREE.

Image Courtesy of FUREE.

In Brooklyn, New York, there is a force fighting structural racism, classism and sexism. Families United for Racial and Economic Equality (FUREE) organizes low-income Black and Latino working families and youth, so that together they can build power to change the system. FUREE is Brooklyn-based, multiracial, and made up of women, youth, and their families in low-income communities.

FUREE’s member-led campaigns focus on supporting community-led economic development, small business, protecting low-income housing, as well as fighting against policies and zoning that create gentrification. The organization holds to the truth that “all people’s work is valued and all of us have the right and economic means to decide and live out our own destinies.”

What makes FUREE unique is their commitment to grassroots member-based organizing. As stated in their mission, “our guiding principle is that those directly affected by the policies we are seeking to change should lead the organization.” FUREE makes this happen by having active board members, a strong youth organizing program, leadership development and member strategy sessions.

Since 2004, FUREE has been organizing in Downtown Brooklyn, pushing back against the new zoning laws. Under Michael Bloomberg as Mayor, the city planning commission passed a rezoning plan for Downtown Brooklyn, which has had crushing effects for the residents who lived, shopped and owned businesses in the Fulton Mall area. The rezoning has led to the subsidizing of a number of new high rise luxury housing, causing increased gentrification in the area, pushing out residents and local business that have been part of the fabric of the community for years.

Image Courtesy of FUREE.

Image Courtesy of FUREE.

A local business owner explains the project is “driving up rents beyond $200 a square foot,” making it impossible for him to remain when his lease comes up for renewal in a year. Further, “the loss of smaller stores may drive out the current clientele, which is largely Black.”

Members of FUREE are facing the issue head on and pushing back. Through marches, protests and legal battles, the campaigns held on to part of their community, winning two battles against eminent domain. One location (Duffield Street) was a historical station of the Underground Railroad that has been saved from demolition. Second, the campaign has won relocation assistance to those families who were evicted through the rezoning transition.

“You don’t need an army. You don’t need to know important, influential people. You don’t even need to be rich to leave a mark on history and make change happen!” –FUREE member

Some Place like Home is a documentary that features the work and organizing of FUREE members in the struggle against rezoning and gentrification in Downtown Brooklyn. (Trailer on youtube here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Cal5ruOOSX4)

The youth of the community are an important part of this organization. FUREEous Youth, the program for young people aged 14 – 24, creates a safe for youth. They can participate in trainings, learn about organizing, and build campaigns around issues that address concerns they see in their own communities. They become members by participating in grassroots organizing together, coalition building and training for leadership development. Current board members of FUREE have been previous FUREEous Youth members.

Members of FUREE work for stronger Brooklyn that refuses to be pushed out by incoming residents with higher income. FUREE organizes to increase the engagement of voters in low income communities with the goal of building power to change policy and to connect residents to their elected representatives. They continue to work on preserving and protecting public housing, and to insist on fair and just treatment for its residents.

Watch out Bill Deblasio, Brooklyn residents are organized!

By Jolene Halzen 

Masters Candidate in Nonprofit Management at the New School

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1 Comment

  1. Alexandria Bellivan

     /  October 30, 2014

    This is AWESOME! Thank you for sharing this brief summary. It’s so liberating and exciting to learn about new organizations that are fighting for something together as a community. I’d definitely like to look into this a little more especially for my youth that have expressed interest in organizing and just wishing they can feel connected to their community.

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