NWBCCC Bids Farewell to Karen Washington at Bronx People’s Festival
By DAVID GREENE
More than 300 Bronxites turned out for a day of learning, planning and healing, as dozens of local organizations converged on the Mary Mitchell Center, located in 2007 Mapes Avenue in the Crotona section of the Bronx, for “The Bronx People’s Festival” on Saturday, October 23, 2021.
Participating groups included Mothers on The Move, Banana Kelly Community Improvement Association, Laborers International Union of North America, The Point, The Northwest Bronx Community & Clergy Coalition (NWBCCC), the Bronx Cooperative Development Initiative and others. The various groups were on hand to provide guests with assistance, as well as free gifts, as they shared ideas on how to help address various issues facing Bronxites today and in the years to come. .
The event was also a farewell to longtime attorney and former NWBCCC Board Chair Karen Washington, who moved with her family to Georgia. According to her website, Washington had a day job and retired as a physical therapist in 2014, which many may not have known, judging by the number of hours she put in. community activism. Her website goes on to say that after her retirement, she became part owner of the Rise & Root organic farm in Chester, New York.
Washington told the crowd at the People’s Festival: “So I say goodbye to you. I’m not going to say goodbye, because I’m still going to farm upstate, Rising Root Farm is my farm, so if you get the chance, come check it out. We are four women, three are LGBQ women, two of us are women of color, and we work and stand up for justice. Washington continued, “So thank you so much for allowing me to be in your community, for allowing me to be part of you, for allowing me to pass on my wisdom to the next generation.”
After 37 years in the Bronx, with many hours spent on the front lines of protests, fighting budget cuts or local injustices, Washington later said Norwood News, “I’m going to be with my family in Georgia. I will continue my food justice work while I’m in Georgia, but COVID has just put a different perspective on what’s important in life, and family is important, and I miss my family, and I think I need to dedicate more time and effort to family.”
Washington concluded, “The community has my whole life, all the time, so it’s bittersweet. I’ll keep in touch.” She added that she will return to the Bronx for special events in the future.
On the day of the festival, State Senator Gustavo Rivera (SD 33) was touring the various tables set up and talking to voters, when he said Norwood News, “It’s a great meeting – about 30 different Bronx organizations bringing together a bunch of community ideas on how to solve real problems for real Bronxites.”
The senator noted that groups like MEKONG, the NWBCCC and the Mary Mitchell Center, which hosted the day’s event, were all in his district and added that he was constantly working with them, while other groups were from other parts of the Bronx and the city, and he was meeting many of them for the first time.
Rivera concluded, “The goal here is to discuss what is really going on in the Bronx and to take ideas from community members who are impacted by these things, and how to find solutions for them. And my job here is to listen, to engage with community organizations, and to figure out how we can really solve these problems together.
Retiring from Washington, Rivera said, “I’ve known her for as long as I’ve been in the Legislature. I have known her for 11 years and she is an incredible human gem and community asset who has lived in the Bronx for a long time and is committed to changing the Bronx and empowering Bronxites.
Rivera added: “It has been her life’s work and I will miss her very much because besides being as great as she is as an advocate for the community, she is also just a sweet human being, like you don’t. I can’t find much. she’ll miss me; she is great!”
Meanwhile, educator Sara Moore and students from local Fanny Lou Hamer Freedom High School were busy tending their table, promoting school events and encouraging visitors to design and paint their own ‘Bronx’. Rocks”, simple rocks that guests were encouraged to paint with magic markers.
At the same time, members of the Healing Drumming Circle and Brooklyn’s Healing Drum Collective were busy signing up guests. Member Patrice Ejuwa said of the festival, “I think it’s a great event, and it’s good that they have different opportunities for people to be involved in the process.”
Regarding his own program, Ejuwa explained that the members do not drum for the crowd but rather encourage visitors to drum and offer “sound massage” to others as a way to relax. Ejuwa added, “People drummed using massage tables and said it was very liberating; They loved it! Two people fell asleep, so that was cool.
The Bronx People’s Festival is part of a larger 30-year goal set by organizers, The Bronx People’s Platform, which seeks to find solutions to issues such as health care, food insecurity, energy, labour, education and housing. People wishing to obtain additional information can connect to the site: https://linktr.ee/bxpower.
Karen Washington’s website can be found here: About me — Karen Washington (karenthefarmer.com)