Volunteers, elected officials, and migrants joined together in Brooklyn on Sunday to work for a better community and honor of the spirit of Dr. Martin Luther King.
According to locals, newly arrived African migrants have taken to spending time in the local greenspace dubbed Bushwick City Farm at 354 Stockton St.; their work serves as something of a respit from the hardships experienced while in shelter.
With very little assistance aside from a few sandwiches a day, the asylum seekers use the community garden to cook food, wash dishes, and more. On Jan. 14, a long line even formed just outside the fencing as one migrant man cut the hair of his fellow new arrivals.
Recognizing the struggles of the immigrants, Hunger Free America — a nonprofit organization — joined with Repair the World and other volunteers to work in tandem with the migrants on MLK Day weekend in order to both beautify the area for all, while also creating storage space for all in the neighborhood.
“We honor Dr. King’s full legacy by ensuring as many Americans as possible have access to ample, nutritious food, but also by advocating for policies that will wipe out hunger and poverty in America once and for all. In 1968, while fighting for striking sanitation workers, King said: ‘What does it profit a man to be able to eat at an integrated lunch counter if he doesn’t have enough money to buy a hamburger?’ King was crystal clear that economic rights and civil rights must go hand-in-hand,” Hunger Free America CEO Joel Berg said.
Volunteers erected cabinets onto the fencing so the newest residents would have a place to store their utensils for cooking while migrants scrubbed clean a sink in the area that had become clogged with leaves and twigs. Both parties also rolled up their sleeves and got to painting. Working in unison, it became clear that whether they had been in the community for decades or for merely weeks, all involved yearned to make it a safe, communal space for all.
State Attorney General Letitia James and Public Advocate Jumaane Williams also got involved, lending their hands into the hard work at the garden Sunday.
“My faith teaches me that when individuals are hungry, you feed them. When they are thirsty, you give them water. And if they are strangers, you welcome them,” James told amNewYork Metro, sharing that while she would usually spend this time in church she felt this was an equally important way to spend the MLK weekend. “I’m here on a Sunday morning because I can’t think of a better way to exhibit my faith.”
Public Advocate Williams agreed. Meeting with the newest New Yorkers, he said volunteer efforts like these illustrating Martin Luther King’s Legacy.
“As we’re celebrating Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King’s birthday, there is no better weekend to be showing how we can use this moment to provide the best of humanity. I think everybody knows that we’re in a moment of tough stuff, but how we respond is up to us,” Williams said.
Although many of the migrants do not yet have a grasp of the English language, they did not let these barriers prevent them from teaming up or from forming strong friendships. Both native and new New Yorkers could be observed smiling and laughing together as they worked and even took selfies together, exemplifying Martin Luther King’s message of acceptance over half a century since his death.