This past summer, we made My Brooklyn available for free to anyone in New York City who wanted to host a house party and discuss the politics of urban development. The campaign, dubbed “My Brooklyn, Our City,” was a great success, and is continuing on a national scale in modified form under a sliding scale fee structure. So do check it out and spread the word!
Why did we do this campaign? Once My Brooklyn was released, people were even more eager than we had imagined to delve into the issues the film raises. The demand for community-based screenings throughout New York City began strong and remains steady over a year after our premiere. People commonly share stories with us about how the film is stoking, and transforming, the local conversation about gentrification. My Brooklyn, Our City grew out of a desire to continue this rich discussion, but give people more guidance and more space to reflect on the questions the film confronts.
My Brooklyn, Our City wouldn’t have been possible without our wonderful partners, including Families United for Racial and Economic Equality (FUREE), Fifth Avenue Committee, Good Jobs New York, Right to the City Alliance, Pratt Area Community Council (PACC), and National Social and Economic Rights Initiative (NESRI). With their help, we designed MBOC around the house party model, and created a facilitation guide for use by house party hosts.
Out of nearly 50 signups, 32 house parties actually took place. Groups ranged from small and intimate to 200 attendees at one Bed Stuy screening. We asked hosts to provide feedback from each party, and here are a few samples, many of which are also posted on our Facebook page (while you’re there, please “like” us!)
Fifth Avenue Committee, the host of a house party with about 40 attendees at Freddy’s Bar in Brooklyn, reported back:
“The crowd was cantankerous after the screening and there was an abundance of profanity. The movie really does touch a chord. We asked folks to make a commitment to do something to address gentrification, and pledges ranged from running for office, to exposing Real Estate PAC’s, to fighting for affordable housing.”
The host of a house party attended by 14 people in Bed-Stuy, a historically black neighborhood in the heart of Brooklyn, reported:
“We discussed our different understandings of gentrification, all the forces and actors that feed it, and the ways that it harms different folks and communities.” The house party concluded with each individual stating something they each intended to do in the future to address gentrification.”
An unexpected house party venue was the Edge luxury condo in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, itself a poster child for the kinds of luxury development that the film portrays displacing older communities. The party took place in the condo’s own screening room:
“We discussed displacement and redlining, the tragedy of the decimation of so many small, minority-owned and local businesses and livelihoods, and the loss of a communal and public arena well suited to the community as well as speculation and collusion. This is a universal story even though the events are specific to downtown Brooklyn.”
FIERCE, which is building the leadership and power of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) youth of color in New York City, hosted a house party and connected the issues raised in the film to those faced by their constituents:
“This was a very powerful film and it sparked up a discussion about gentrification in all over New York City. Gentrification not only hurts residents and business owners but also Queer and Trans Youth of Color who frequent the Christopher Street Piers in the West Village by displacing us from our safe space.”
While not every group committed to action, we were excited that many did, and that this “get involved” aspect of the campaign saw some success. We look forward to seeing how communities across the country adapt this campaign to keep pushing the conversation forward!
My Brooklyn continues to screen nationally – most recently at the amazing Esperanza Peace and Justice Center in San Antonio, TX and to a packed audience at the Cape Ann Community Cinema in Gloucester, MA. There are upcoming screenings in NYC at Hunter College’s Roosevelt House and the CUNY Graduate Center, where Kelly will be interviewed after the screening by New York Magazine contributing editor Mark Jacobson. An updated list of sceenings is always available on our website here.
Thanks, as always, for your energy and support.
Allison & Kelly