For the last quarter century, The Brotherhood-Sister Sol has been working in Harlem to support youth through art and after school programs. But their role has expanded greatly during the COVID-19 pandemic, which has hit Black and Brown communities the hardest.
The organization has grown since March from a social justice youth organization to distributing thousands of dollars worth of food, becoming a source on which, many rely on order to survive. They’ve worked with Grow NYC, a fellow non-profit working to improve the quality of life for residents.
Over this 10-month time frame, volunteers have handed out over 350,000 food supplies, and they have no plans of slowing down.
Dec. 30 marked the last distribution of the year, and as bags of onions, jars of spaghetti sauce, crackers, and more where hauled from a delivery truck, organizers have come to terms with the fact that their vital services will be needed the foreseeable future, even with the arrival of the Pfizer vaccine.
“The community needs it. At this point we don’t see an end to the program. The need has gotten so much greater. Sometimes you don’t always see it because I think New York, more than other places, is more intricate, so you will have folks who are pretty wealthy living next to folks who are truly living in poverty. I think sometimes in a place like this people can be a little bit invisible,” said Rahsan-Rahsan Lindsay, co-chair of The Brotherhood-Sister Sol board.
These distributions have become a scheduled, weekly occurrence that many in the neighborhood line up for days in advance. It is not uncommon to see a trail of grocery carriages left unattended on sidewalks, which serve as unofficial markers for a person’s place in line.
Carts and bags will appear hours and even days before a distribution takes place, speaking to the high demand for necessities during this unprecedented time. Each week the organization serves over 400 families.
“When the city shut down we asked them what they needed. They identified three things: technology for remote learning, financial assistance, and food. So that’s why we started doing this in the third week of March to respond to a need. Now the line runs around the block, we can’t feed everybody who needs it, but we do our best,” John Dumey, director of development, told amNewYork Metro.
Members of The Brotherhood-Sister Sol also aided youth who needed electronic school supplies for at home learning. While they do cater to their young members, volunteers emphasized that they help everyone in need, including those who simply gather on line for much needed food no matter if it is the person’s first time or their 100th time visiting them.