Friday, November 4, 2016

The Black Lady Theatre’s Restoration

In the pioneer spirit of barn-raising, The Black Lady Theatre at 750 Nostrand Avenue in Brooklyn is being renovated. Leading the extensive rehabilitation are Clarence Jr. 2X and Omar Hardy, the father and son team who dedicate themselves to realizing the wishes of the deceased Supreme Court Judge John L. Phillips.

The theater encompasses much of the 5,325 s.f. lot. The 500-seat theater space is located in the basement where carpenters have recently installed a new wooden stage. The balcony and lobby are on the first floor and the conference area is on the second floor. Omar Hardy explained “the plan is to build two additional floors. The roof will hold a garden and an event space.”

This project comes together through a friends-helping-friends construction process. Mark “The Builder” Douglas is the Construction Manager. Douglas is a licensed and insured electrical contractor who secures the subcontractors. Douglas explains, “The objective is to uplift our people to be self-sufficient. Professionalism, being on time, and qualified are essential.” Douglas brought on Sheldon Douglas who is a Carpenter and CSGN Contracting’s Johnny E. Robayo, a glass and façade contractor. It is Robayo’s installation of the glass front that achieves the visual impact of the rebirth of “The Black Lady”.

Given the low level of financing, the team has relied heavily on volunteer labor. For example, Omar’s younger brothers Devon and Isaiah Howard do “soup to nuts…from site preparation to finishing.”

The marketing firm Open House New York promoted the grand re-opening weekend October 15-16, 2016 free of charge. Standing in front of the gleaming glass doors that reveal many murals in the lobby, Mark Douglas estimates the work will be completed by December 2016. To mark this milestone, the Hardys and Douglas are in preliminary discussion with the producer of “Oz Comes to Brooklyn”. Douglas gives the last Sunday in December as the tentative performance date.

“I was born for this task and my father always wanted to do business with his family,” muses Omar Hardy. He believes getting to this point where the public can see the theater is coming back to life is due to “remaining on our square and staying true to the mission.”

The complete development team includes Clarence Jr. 2X Hardy, Omar Hardy, the Administrator Christie Williams, the Construction Manager Mark Douglas, and Byron Wilson. Wilson does not state his title. Rather, Wilson explains his plan to “establish renewable energy technologies that take the premises off the grid.” Wilson estimates the cost amounting to $10,000.

Further, Wilson intends to use smart building procedures. He plans to set up solar canopies and an aquaponic greenhouse that grows food. Wilson asserts, “This will be a farm-to-table operation where we sell to local bodegas. The acquaponic greenhouse uses the waste of Tilapia fish. The fish itself will not be sold for consumption.”

Between April and October 2016, the team has accomplished clearing the theater of rubbish. “We’ve filled 20 containers with trash. We financed the carting company’s services through fundraisers. One hundred bags of rubbish were picked up by the NYC Sanitation Department, explains Hardy.

This reporter had a sit-down interview with Omar Hardy October 27, 2016. In preparation of the meeting, records within NYC Finance Department, Building Department and the Environmental Protection Department on the premises were reviewed.

Q: Has your organization contacted Brooklyn Community District Office no. 8 to request to make a presentation before the community or to just leave event notices at community board meetings?

Hardy: Information drop off would be done through Zulika Bumpus (another team member).  I’m not sure whether the event notice was left at the district office or at a general meeting. I recognize that I should present to the community what is happening at The Black Lady Theatre.”
Note: Zulika Bumpus was contacted by telephone and email October 27, 2016 to inquire about outreach to local high schools, houses of worship, and Brooklyn Community District Office no. 8. Bumpus explained on the telephone that she was leaving for an event and has not answered the email.

Q: Have you contacted any local houses of worship to notify them about the rehabilitation occurring at the theater?

Hardy: We haven’t had contact with the local houses of worship. As far as having them know about the rehab, No. We’ve reached out to individuals, organizations, and anyone who I believe who should know. I’ve been thinking in terms of after the construction is completed and the place is ready for rental.

In all, the Q and A session was driven by 13 questions. It was revealed the development team’s community outreach was limited due to the decision to postpone community outreach until after the construction is complete. They have not communicated with Crown Heights North Association (CHNA). This organization has a successful track record of historic landmark district designation. Given the artistic and historic value of this theater, developing a strategic alliance with CHNA would be prudent. From April 2016 to October 2016, the work consisted of site preparation, painting, glass front installation, and floor tiling.  Hardy could not say which floor would be 75% complete by December 31, 2016.

The types of trades that have been on site, at any given time include security (provided by a private company and internal surveillance), electricians, carpenters, and a plumber.

New York City agency research uncovered two critical conditions: 750 Nostrand Avenue block 1240 lot 38 was part of an assignment of a tax lien, document date April 30, 2016, where Party 1 is Bank of New York Mellon and Party 2 Bank of New York Mellon. A Tax Lien Sale Certificate was entered into record August 10, 2016. Mr. Hardy acknowledges “the tax issue needs to be handled. It is part of the reason for his focus on completing key rehabilitation areas.

“Opening the doors to the community is critical [because] it permits us offering programs to the community that generate revenue,” may be a guiding mantra that Omar Hardy keeps in the forefront of his mind. In view of the in rem action, it behooves this committed team to direct its legal counsel to respond to the property vesting action.

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Saturday, May 2, 2015

Uncovering the Treasures in Brooklyn

PRESS RELEASE                 For Immediate Release

Contact: Akosua Albritton

347 881 6509

Uncovering the Treasures in Brooklyn

New York, NY - May 1, 2015 - The Omamiwinini called parts of it “Canarsie” and

“Makeepaca”.  The Dutch called parts of it “Boswyck” and “Nieuw Utrecht” in Nieuw

Netherlands.  Today, it’s known as Brooklyn, a place where African and African-Americans have thrived since the 1600s.

Yes, African-Americans have thrived in Brooklyn.  In fact, an article, in the July 14, 1895

New York Times reads, ”…As soon as negro men amass a comfortable fortune, they

move from this city across the East River because they can find in Brooklyn more economical and satisfactory investment…”  

Brooklyn Treasures Uncovered© aims to satisfy the curious about Black Brooklyn.  Brooklyn Treasures Uncovered© reveals the contributions that Africans and African-Americans have made to the development of Brooklyn, USA.  These contributions include founding towns, operating African Free Schools, and running for the US President’s office.

Brooklyn Treasures Uncovered© is a program consisting of 17 talks, five neighborhood walks, and visits to places of interest throughout the borough.  It displays the historic residential patterns of African-Americans in Brooklyn.  It has received excellent reviews by 11 evaluators and at Brooklyn Christian Center.

 _____                    _________                 ________       _______

Akosua Albritton, a trained urban planner, points to designing the first travel brochure for central Brooklyn, Bedford-Stuyvesant? Yes!, The Guide to the Places and Events in and around our Bustling Community, in 1998, as the starting point for her academic dig into this borough.  “Bedford-Stuyvesant has murals, an outdoor pool, two amphitheaters, and tennis courts as well as being surrounded by Fort Greene, Williamsburg, and Crown Heights that have their own cultural capital”, explains Ms. Albritton.  The publishing of the brochure qualified Ms. Albritton to be selected one of four adjunct professors to draft a syllabus and itinerary for a new summer seminar called History of Blacks in Brooklyn for The College of New Rochelle in 2000.  In 2012, she spun off a Facebook page, also called Brooklyn Treasures Uncovered© and 17 presentation topics.

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Pig Town in Flatbush
Courtesy of the Brooklyn Public Library

Colored School no.1, 51 Edward Street
Courtesy of New York Public Library

Courtney Washington in his Boutique
Courtesy of

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Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Quite Off The Tech Topic: Reproductive Rights

There is an emerging woman's health organization that has an exhaustive survey to determine the kinds of services it should offer to women.  Of course, respondents are queried about their position on termination of pregnancy.

As my knowledge and understanding of life and existence increase, so does my perspective on the purpose of birth and the legal wranglings surrounding "choice" and "right to life".  At this point in my life, I'm at the following state of consciousness:

To have sex is an agreement a woman and man make unless either is forced into it.  Both know that unprotected sex can result in pregnancy. I know that the spark of life occurs at conception.  I don't know when the ori comes into the growing body.  I believe termination of pregnancy is a serious matter on an ancestral level.  A woman must make the choice to stop or foster the growth and live with this decision.  The dominating culture doesn't teach people the ancestral aspect of life and has people argue over whether God is in disfavor of abortion when the issue is permitting an ancestor(s) to materialize just as you had the chance to do so.

At another point my state of consciousness will probably be different.

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Saturday, February 8, 2014

Predictions or Knowing the Trend

All Time 10s is a video shorts series that can be accessed through YouTube.  One upload is entitled "10 Amazing Predictions That Actually Came True".  The predictions revolve around electronic innovations. These predictions don't surprise me. Evidently, these men--Jules Verne, Mark Twain, Roger Ebert, John Watkins---were familiar with the existing precursors.  It was a matter of understanding the sequence of events or natural course of action to which the general public isn't privy.  In other words, it's a matter of insider privileges.

I find the introduction of "electronic innovations" appear to flow backwards into the consumer market. For example, if televisions and radio preceded computers, it would make more sense to have introduced arm-held devices with phone, video, and office applications, thereafter.  Instead, to make more money, the big floor-model TV, was replaced with a miniature nightstand-size TV.  Decades later, the widescreen TV is brought to the market. Similarly, the beeper is introduced after people had grown accustomed to telephones. The beeper is overtaken by the small cellphone, which was overtaken by the cellphone with web access, to be overtaken by tablets. I suggest the answer is sustaining the gravy train via Big-Box or e-commerce. 

Why were tablets introduced in the late 90s, knowing people had been accustomed to large screens from viewing movies in theaters and from floor model televisions since the 20s?  It's quite a cognitive jolt to go from widescreens  to viewing 3-inch screens. Again, it's the gravy train.

Keeping the gravy train running is at the expense of people, though. The issue that slow adapters may have to innovation is that much innovation is physically uncomfortable. For example, a worker has a desktop at the job where she's used to a large screen and a reliable keyboard but her boss wants her to switch to a Blackberry, an iPhone or other handheld device so she's "mobily" accessible.  Had the worker been given a tablet or Netbook device the transition would have been less jarring.

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Monday, February 3, 2014

Riding a Tablet for a Buck and a Half

Riding a Tablet for a Buck and a Half 

By Akosua K. Albritton

Call me a techno fool but I got pulled into the commercials and magazine ads when it came to the tablets.  For years, I kept a tablet on my wish list but never went into a big box like Best Buy to get the skinny on my options.

It seemed iPad Air (about $500) and iPad Mini (about $400) were pulling the consumer strings but I wasn't forking over the "four or five bucks" to own a piece of heaven.  I guess the ostrich in me stuck her head and neck deep deep into Terra Firma.  To cement my misconceptions, my experience with a Kindle had me wanting my tried and true desktop.  Yeah, the big screens on the desktop have me hooked.  I don't want to squint and love the dependability of the keyboard.  The Kindle I handled gave me Internet access but the screen narrowed my Facebook experience.

Then, I saw the Amazon Kindle Fire HDX 8.9 priced at about $380; Microsoft Surface Pro at $900; and the LG G Pad (talk about comeuppance with Apple) at $320.  Still the tablet stayed on the wish list because different tablets had differing functions.  I want one that let's me work on the fly but I wasn't doing my old tech journalist research to uncover it.

Quite recently, I came upon a man named Jermaine Jones sitting at a corner table of a large cafeteria.  It looked like he was set up to watch DVDs but once in front of his table, before me was  an array of compact tech gadgets.  There was an ASUS 16G Tablet. He purchased it at a Walgreen's for $150 (Hey, isn't Walgreens a pharmacy?).  There was a cookie-shaped CLEAR Voyager Mobile 4G Wi-Fi.  Jermaine explained that since CLEAR had been bought out, the device was no longer on the market and now, consumers had to buy mobile Internet access by the gigabyte.  I couldn't conceive of how the average web surfer could estimate his Wi-Fi needs in lots of gigabytes.  This cherished piece gave him 24-hour mobile access to the Internet using the monthly contract price structure.  He paid $50 for the cookie-shaped CLEAR Voyager Wi-Fi and $50 a month for the service. The third piece on his table was an It wireless bluetooth portable speaker which can be used with cellphones, tablets, and MP3 players.  He paid $30 for it. All items used an USB charger.

He had dozens of apps on the ASUS tablet that he downloaded from Google Play.  All apps were free.  He had a GMail account which meant he had access to Google's cloud apps such as Calendar, Wallet, Docs, and Translator. This Walgreen buy had two-way camera shots.

His ease of explaining the gadgets and the apps had me ask Mr. Jones the type of work he did.  He said he was into security and open to other suggestions.  I asked him had he thought about working at an electronics store.  It was obvious that he liked technology and knew how to scour for great and practical tech deals.  No, Mr. Jones hadn't thought about it before.  Sometimes....we need a third party to point out a few of our strengths. 

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Monday, June 17, 2013

Achieving Civil Rights in the Face of Stop & Frisk Abuses

There are pundits who place the US Civil Rights era between the years 1955 and 1968.  This placement suggests the struggle for civil rights for African-Americans and other hyphenated Americans was just a 13-year ordeal.  Is this actually the case?  Can national ancestors such as Mississippi NAACP leader Medgar Evers rest easy, assured that their bloodshed brought franchise, fair deals and justice?

“Much has changed for the better since Mr. Evers’s brutal death 50 years ago—but there is also much we can still learn and put in use from the brave life he lived”, reflects St. Senator Eric Adams (D, WF) 20 SD.  “Certainly, if he were alive today, he would be at the front lines against the abuse of Stop and Frisk…Yes, this City would do well to consider his courage and continue the fight against inequality and injustice that still exist today.”

The Senator speaks with authority regarding the flaws of the NYC Police Department’s procedure officially named Stop, Question and Frisk.  Prior to gaining the NYS Senate seat, he was a NYPD Captain in central Brooklyn. He distinguished his police career by co-founding 100 Blacks in Law Enforcement Who Care with several other peace officers.  Since taking his NYS Senate office in 2006, Adams has kept an eye on NYPD activity.  A visit to his State Senate website reveals his dedicated attention to local police matters.  There is a downloadable 23-slide presentation entitled Stop, Question and Frisk Procedure in the ‘Report’ section.  This slide show gives the objectives of Stop, Question and Frisk; the procedure for carrying it out; and the four scenarios when a police officer can conduct Stop, Question and Frisk.  Using 2009 Center for Constitutional Rights’  findings and statistics, the State Senator makes a strong case that the procedure “has unmerited focus on African-American and Latino youth; the required reporting is not being followed; and the negative impact it has on youths of color’s psyche and criminal record.” The slide show purports “Of the four scenarios when a police officer should execute the practice, the overwhelming scenario is to fulfill quotas or gather names for the NYPD database”.

It appears that Stop, Question and Frisk flies in the face of civil rights. When queried about the realities of Stop Question and Frisk the State Senator posits, “Protecting New Yorkers and protecting their civil rights do not have to be competing interests.  We must give our law enforcement the tools they need to keep us safe.  The abuse of Stop and Frisk is not useful in preventing crime.  In fact, it sours communities against working with police and that means crucial information isn’t shared to stop violence before it can occur.  The practice must be reformed to better meet the necessary standard of reasonable suspicion, to remove discrimination, and to ensure more criminals and fewer innocents are targeted for Stop and Frisk.”  His study and assessment of Stop, Question and Frisk is comparable to Medgar Evers’s work and concerns. Evers was shot in his back the early morning of June 12, 1963.

Currently the front runner in the race for the Brooklyn Borough President’s Office, Adams stands to win the election in September.  Should he win he will not only be New York City’s first African American in the seat and but be the first police officer in several decades.  How will he make his mark as the BP serving all of Brooklyn?  Adam says, “This is a pivotal moment for Brooklyn.  We have become very popular in recent years but that hasn’t meant a better quality of life for everyone.  I want to turn our popularity into prosperity for all.  The BP must have a unifying vision for the borough that brings all Brooklynites together to make Brooklyn the best it can be.”

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