Brooklyn's Story, In Its Own Words

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Photo by: Marc Fader

Magic doesn’t live on Pitkin Avenue—at least not according to 7-year-old Jediael Fraser. But for 12-year-old Ashley Verlack, summer is synonymous with “the air conditioned Brooklyn Museum.” And for Mildred Park, living in Brooklyn means, “We’re not required to travel far to visit the world.”

All three are past participants in the New York Writing Coalition, a 10-year effort to, according to founder and director Aaron Zimmerman, allow “create opportunities for formerly voiceless members of society to be heard through the art of writing.” People in prison or recently released, the homeless and those who once were, veterans, the disabled, seniors and children are some of the people whom the project have worked with.

This Friday, the coalition is celebrating its first decade with free workshops in all five boroughs—flash mob workshops on the 7 train and Staten Island Ferry, and other sessions in Prospect Park, Coney Island and elsewhere. At 7 p.m., there'll be a reading at the Micro Museum at 123 Smith Street in Brooklyn. And some participants will join the Brooklyn Lit Crawl the following day.

Here's some recent work the NYWC has published featuring Brooklyn:

Dear Brooklyn
by Mildred Park

This is a belated love letter to a place that’s been my home for most of my long life. When I returned to New York City in 1952, you welcomed me. I heard cheering Brooklyn Dodgers fans who had won another pennant and as a newcomer, I asked, “Why are they so excited?”

I became a jubilant Dodger fan later and spent many afternoons yelling in Ebbets Field bleachers for Jackie Robinson and Roy Campanella. Even when I deserted you for Manhattan and the Bronx I still visited friends for parties and other festivities. Coney Island and the Cyclone Roller Coaster were one of my early habitats, and the Empire Rollerdome witnessed many knee and elbow scrapes from falls as I tried to skate. Central Park was replaced by Prospect Park when I returned to Brooklyn in 1960. And I’ve spent much more time at the Grand Army Plaza branch library than the 42nd Street one. You are where I entered college at Brooklyn College after a long subway ride to the end of the line. Fulton Street replaced Lenox Avenue and I found a job on Jay Street instead of Park Row. Buses replaced subways for my daily commute. Flatbush, Crown Heights, Park Slope, Fort Greene and Clinton Hill all housed me. Bedford Stuyvesant, Carroll Gardens, Brownsville and many others have sheltered and entertained my friends, family and co-workers. I miss you when I leave you, complain about the high rise buildings being erected which change your small town residential appearance, but realize that change is necessary. We can find all kinds of ethnic foods in our supermarkets and neighborhood restaurants. We’re not required to travel far to visit the world. It’s at our doorstep or stoop. Cosmo Brooklyn, that’s you.

Summer
Ashley Varlack , Age 12

The purr of my SUV
Click! The door slams shut.
Hi Aunt Lokeia!
The electric sound of the TV turning on
“Whatever it takes…” The theme song for
Degrassi, and gore
the murder scene of Supernatural.
The air conditioned Brooklyn Museum
Dashing D, Nail Salon
Home
Mechanics shop
home again.

Magic’s Address
Jediael Fraser, Age 7

Magic doesn’t live on Pitkin Avenue
Neither does it live on a street that’s brand new.
Not in a hotel, a motel, or even a zoo.
It doesn’t live with me
So, by chance, does it live with you?
At the end of a rainbow, inside a cloud
Or maybe with a Magician inside this big ‘word’ crowd?
In Texas, Utah or Italy?
I don’t think it lives anywhere.
It shouldn’t. Magic is, and should be, free!