Tag: Brooklyn

John Bunn, Wrongfully Incarcerated for 17 Years, Says Learning to Read Saved Him – Now He Builds Libraries in Prisons

John Bunn leads a class at Ember Charter School in Brooklyn.
John Bunn leads a class at Ember Charter School in Brooklyn. (photo via cnn.com)

by Alexandra King via cnn.com

The first book John Bunn fell in love with, curled up in his cell at a maximum-security prison in upstate New York, was Sister Souljah‘s novel “The Coldest Winter Ever.”

In the book, a maternal woman advocates for the improvement of her black community in Brooklyn as she watches the people she loves suffer from the consequences of incarceration, violence and a seemingly endless cycle of poverty. “I related to that book on so many levels,” Bunn says.

Bunn knows more than most what it’s like to face injustice. Arrested and imprisoned as an adolescent in New York City, he spent 17 years in jail for a crime he didn’t commit and a further decade on parole, fighting for his exoneration. In that time, he battled, among others, the courts, police investigators, PTSD and the challenges of illiteracy. He was 16 before he could read and write.

Today Bunn is 41 and a free man at last, mentoring at-risk young people and advocating for the power of reading through his own program that brings books to prisons.

In many ways, his own story sounds straight out of a Sister Souljah book. Except that Bunn, who survived years of wrongful incarceration with his humanity intact, is determined to write the next chapter himself.

The arrest

Bunn’s ordeal began on August 14, 1991, when he was sitting in the kitchen of his mother’s apartment in Crown Heights, Brooklyn. It was 90 degrees in the shade and the AC was broken. Outside he could hear hip-hop music playing from passing cars and the thwack of basketballs on pavement as kids made their way to the courts. Bunn’s mother, Maureen, was making pancakes, his two-year-old sister, India, cooing in her high chair.

Bunn, 14 years old and out of school for the summer, was ready for a typical day of playing ball and demonstrating his famous back flips in and around the four-block radius between the apartment on Ralph Street (his mom) and the house on St Marks (his grandma). Those four blocks, snug between the love of the two women who raised him, were his whole world.

John Bunn, 14, at home in Crown Heights, Brooklyn.
John Bunn, 14, at home in Crown Heights, Brooklyn.

But then, a bang on the door. It was the police. “They wanted to take me down to the police station for questioning,” Bunn recalls now, sitting in that same small apartment festooned with family photos, nearly three decades later. He was taken to Brooklyn’s 77th precinct, put in a room and handcuffed to a pole.

“The interrogation was led by a detective by the name of Louis Scarcella. And he was threatening me, telling me that I was never coming home if I wouldn’t tell him what he wanted to know. He also told me that they already had beat up my co-defendant, that they had slammed his head into a wall and they already had him,” he recalls.

The co-defendant? A 17-year-old Brooklyn boy named Rosean Hargrave. Bunn knew Hargrave “from the block,” although he and the older boy were never more than acquaintances. But, as he soon found out, they were both now suspected of the same crime:

The killing of an off-duty Rikers Island corrections officer named Rolando Neischer. “I kept telling them, “No, I didn’t have any knowledge of it,” Bunn recalls. But Detective Scarcella, who worked in the Brooklyn North homicide unit for years before retiring in 1999, told the young John he did not believe him.

Bunn’s eyes fill with tears as he describes the moment he was placed in a police lineup with “grown men.” As an adult, Bunn, a slight man with a gentle disposition and a shy smile, stands only 5 feet 6 inches. At 14, he estimates he was no taller than 5-foot-2. He was so much smaller than the adults he was lined up with that the detectives had to improvise. They brought in stools so the lineup could be done sitting down. Bunn did what he was told. He sat down and held up a number.

A couple of minutes later, Scarcella came back into the room. “He told me, ‘It was my lucky day,’ that I got picked,” Bunn says, grimacing. “Ever since then, I’ve been fighting to prove my innocence,” he says, wiping his face and adjusting his hat.

On the front of his baseball cap, in bold white letters, are the words, “WRONGFULLY CONVICTED. On the side, “VICTIMS OF DETECTIVE LOUIS SCARCELLA.”

The hat, he adds, “speaks for itself.” Continue reading “John Bunn, Wrongfully Incarcerated for 17 Years, Says Learning to Read Saved Him – Now He Builds Libraries in Prisons”

“Betty: They Say I’m Different” Documentary About Funk Music Pioneer Betty Davis to Premiere at Red Bull Music Festival in NY

The trailblazing funk singer, bandleader and producer Betty Davis dropped out of public for decades. A new documentary, “Betty: They Say I’m Different,” tells her story. (Credit: Robert Brenner)

For a few short years in the 1970s, no one made funk as raw as Betty Davis did. She sang bluntly about sex on her own terms, demanding satisfaction with feral yowls and rasps, her voice slicing across the grooves that she wrote and honed as her own bandleader and producer. Her stage clothes were shiny, skimpy, futuristic fantasies; her Afro was formidable.

A major label, Island, geared up a big national push for her third album, “Nasty Gal,” in 1975. But mainstream radio didn’t embrace her, and Island rejected her follow-up recordings. Not long afterward, she completely dropped out of public view for decades.

Ms. Davis’s voice now — speaking, not singing — resurfaces in Betty: They Say I’m Different,” an impressionistic documentary that will have its United States theatrical premiere on Wednesday at the Billie Holiday Theater in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn, as part of the Red Bull Music Festival. The film includes glimpses of virtually the only known concert footage of Ms. Davis in her lascivious, head-turning prime, performing at a 1976 French rock festival. The present-day Ms. Davis is shown mostly from behind and heard in voice-over, though there is one poignant close-up of her face.

This month Ms. Davis, 72, gave a rare interview by telephone from her home near Pittsburgh to talk about the film and her music. After years of entreaties from and conversations with its director, Phil Cox, and producer, Damon Smith, she agreed to cooperate on “Betty: They Say I’m Different” because, she said, “I figured it would be better to have them cover me when I was alive than when I was dead.”

Mr. Cox said, via Skype from England, “Betty doesn’t want sympathy, and she’s found her own space now. To me, that is just as interesting as that woman she was in the 1970s. It’s the antithesis of the age we live in, where everybody wants to be on social media all the time.”

Ms. Davis has longtime fans from the ’70s and newer ones who have discovered her in reissues and through hip-hop samples. They have clung to a catalog and a persona that were musically bold, verbally shocking and entirely self-created. Long before the current era of explicit lyrics, Ms. Davis was cackling through songs like “Nasty Gal” — “You said I love you every way but your way/And my way was too dirty for you” — and “He Was a Big Freak,” which boasts, “I used to whip him/I used to beat him/Oh, he used to dig it.” She still won’t reveal who was, or whether there was, a real-life model for songs like those.

“I wrote about love, really, and all the levels of love,” she said. That emphatically included sexuality. “When I was writing about it, nobody was writing about it. But now everybody’s writing about it. It’s like a cliché.”

Ms. Davis was born Betty Mabry in Durham, North Carolina, in 1945, and she grew up there and in Pittsburgh. She headed to New York City in the early 1960s, when she was 17, and enrolled at the Fashion Institute of Technology. She supported herself as a model and a club manager; she reveled in the city’s night life, meeting figures like Andy Warhol, Sly Stone, Eric Clapton and Jimi Hendrix.

Continue reading ““Betty: They Say I’m Different” Documentary About Funk Music Pioneer Betty Davis to Premiere at Red Bull Music Festival in NY”

Meet Glenn Alan and Cynthia Gordy, the Team Celebrating and Identifying Black-Owned Businesses in Brooklyn

Glenn Alan and Cynthia Gordy, the duo behind Instagram’s “Black Owned Brooklyn” (Paul Stremple/BKLYNER)

by Paul Stremple via bklyner.com

Last week, our list of black-owned coffeeshops generated an enormous reader response. Even Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams got in on the action launching a Tour, pledging to visit all of the shops mentioned, shining a light on local businesses.

This is how we met Cynthia Gordy and Glenn Alan – two Brooklyn residents who had launched their own project to celebrate and document the black-owned businesses of Brooklyn. They’d been kicking the idea around since last summer, at least, but about eight weeks ago, Cynthia and Glenn launched Black Owned Brooklyn, an Instagram (and website) dedicated to curating and cataloging exemplary black-owned businesses throughout the borough.

Calling the project “love letters to Brooklyn’s people, places and products,” the two spend a few hours each Saturday seeking out new black-owned businesses to highlight, from handmade clothes to carry-out food, swanky bars to vegan cafés.

Gordy, 36, grew up in Philly but has spent the last three years living in Bed-Stuy, by way of Harlem and D.C. Alan grew up in the Bronx, then found himself living in Harlem once he was on his own. A few years back, all his uptown friends seemed to migrate to Brooklyn, so he made his way across the East River as well, and has spent the last couple years in Crown Heights.

Surprisingly, given its polish and professionalism, Black Owned Brooklyn is a side project for the very busy Gordy and Alan. Wanting to not only to catalog and celebrate the businesses they love, they were also looking for a creative outlet outside of their nine-to-five work. Alan, a project manager in the fashion industry, does the excellent photography for the posts, while Gordy, a former journalist who works in marketing, writes the copy and tells the stories for each place they feature.

Many of the posts so far have been focused around Crown Heights and Bed-Stuy, which makes sense—it’s where the creators live and it’s where they know. But as the following of their Instagram grows, they’re excited to branch out to new neighborhoods and types of businesses.

Moving between restaurants and retail, plant-shops and bars, the two are conscious to keep a mix of everyday and elevated, affordable and splashy, making sure they appeal to all types of Brooklynites. One of their first posts was about Jemz, a “quiet, inconspicuous” spot they knew and loved.

As Brooklyn communities, and especially communities of color, see a major influx of new residents, supporting local businesses is a key part of keeping some sense of community, of culture. “When I say residents, I don’t just mean black residents,” Gordy stresses. The guide is for everyone, especially those increasingly concerned about how and where they spend their money, who they support.

“I think that is what’s most important: conscious consumption,” says Alan. “Yes, it’s Black Owned Brooklyn, but it’s local—it’s about the neighborhood.”

No matter where they take things, it’s not likely they’ll run out of material anytime soon. Each business owner they interview has another recommendation to make, and readers are shouting out their favorite spots as well.

“People were hungry for this,” said Gordy, who is happy to learn more about the borough she and Alan call home. It’s made them more intentional, more aware of their neighborhoods, they said, as they go through their days and interact with local businesses.

“It’s not a well that ever runs dry,” said Gordy.

To read full article, go to: https://bklyner.com/black-owned-brooklyn/

Target Adds Melissa Butler’s Black-owned and Vegan Beauty Brand, The Lip Bar, to its Shelves

Target to carry Melissa Butler's The Lip Bar in stores. (Melissa Butler) thegrio.com
Target to carry Melissa Butler’s The Lip Bar in stores. (Melissa Butler)

by Nekea Valentine via thegrio.com

According to Allure, Target has partnered with the Black-owned beauty brand, The Lip Bar, and will launch their line of vegan and cruelty-free products this spring. Melissa Butler, a former Wall Street financial analyst, is the founder of the brand after spending years frustrated and dissatisfied with the lack of representation for black women in the beauty industry.

Butler states, “Everyone deserves to have representation. Without it, we are left seeking validation.”

Butler also states in the initial stages of her building her brand, The Lip Bar, she pitched it to Shark Tank. The sharks decided to pass on what is now a business she says is worth nearly half a million dollars.

(image via allure.com)

The 30-year old Detroit native’s brand has skyrocketed since starting The Lip Bar in 2012 out of her own kitchen in Brooklyn, NY. Fast forward to 2018 and the entire line is already available in 44 Target stores and will be available in 100 more stores this May.

Target launched the line with two exclusive shades: Unimpressed, a liquid matte lip color, and Baddie, a lip gloss. Lipstick lovers can also choose from The Lip Bar’s Cream Lipstick ($12), which is full of moisturizing ingredients like shea butter, coconut oil, avocado oil and vitamin E or the Liquid Matte Collection ($13) with almond oil to keep your pucker moist.

Finally, there’s the line of lip glosses ($14) which are organic, nourishing and provide a slight glaze for a touch of glamour.

Butler pledges: “Everything we do at The Lip Bar is about empowering women to be their best selves. We give representation to the underserved so that every girl has the privilege of being socially accepted as beautiful. And in in my free time, I mentor young women in the inner city of Detroit (my hometown) to show them that they are better than their surroundings and to prove that they don’t have to be a product of their environment.”

Source: https://thegrio.com/2018/02/15/target-sell-black-owned-beauty-brand-lip-bar/

T’yanna Wallace, Daughter of Late Rapper Notorious B.I.G., Opens Brooklyn Boutique “Notoriouss”

Notoriouss owner T’yanna Wallace (photo via Instagram)

via thegrio.com

T’yanna Wallace, the daughter of the luminary Notorious B.I.G., has just opened her first brick and mortar clothing store.

Notoriouss, which opened this weekend on Atlantic Avenue in Brooklyn, not only draws from Biggie’s name and branding but from hip-hop as a whole as well as New York City itself, from which Biggie drew a lot of the inspiration for his songs.

On Saturday, people packed the newly opened shop to celebrate not only Wallace’s success but Biggie’s life as family members reminisced about him. Others in attendance included the likes of Jadakiss, Lil Cease, DJ Snuff and DJ Mr. Cee.

“This is a huge, huge, huge monument, huge milestone for her. We’re happy for her, and we’re just excited to be here,” said CJ Wallace, Biggie’s son and T’yanna’s brother.

As for how Wallace is distinguishing herself from her father while still paying tribute to him, CJ Wallace pointed to the spelling of the store: “Two S’s for her individuality. She wanted to do something a little different but still be tied to her father, our father.”

Notoriouss brand clothing has been available online since 2013, but the store in Brooklyn marks the first brick-and-mortar boutique for Wallace.

To see more, go to: https://thegrio.com/2017/12/04/biggies-daughter-opens-brooklyn-boutique-fathers-honor/

Tonya Boyd to Become FDNY’s 1st Black Female Deputy Chief

by Ginger Adams Otis via nydailynews.com

An EMS captain with 21 years on the job will become the first African-American woman in the Fire Department of New York to achieve the rank of deputy chief on Thursday.

Capt. Tonya Boyd, who joined the FDNY’s Emergency Medical Services while in college as a way to make money, said she never dreamed her career would reach such heights. “I’m so excited and I am so blessed,” the EMS officer told the Daily News. “After hearing about the promotion, I couldn’t believe it. I feel like I’ve knocked down a door and opened it for a lot of EMTs just starting on this job,” said Boyd. “African-American women will see someone who looks like them as a deputy chief and they will know more is possible — their careers won’t top out at paramedic or even lieutenant,” said the captain of Station 39 in Brooklyn.

Fire Commissioner Daniel Nigro said Boyd’s success was due to her efforts. “Tonya is not only helping to raise the bar for our ability to provide pre-hospital care, she’s also demonstrating to young women of all backgrounds the incredible rewarding career they can achieve in the FDNY,” Nigro said.

As a young woman growing up in Brooklyn, Boyd, who described herself as “fortysomething,” planned to follow her grandmother into nursing. But a need for cash while in nursing school sent her looking for work — and a cousin suggested she get an EMT license. Thanks to classes offered at Brooklyn College, Boyd passed the state exam. On Jan. 27, 1997, she became an official employee of the FDNY.

It was just after then-Mayor Rudy Giuliani merged the city’s cash-strapped 911 EMS system with the Fire Department — a joining that not everyone in the FDNY embraced.“We were very merger-oriented,” Boyd recalled. “We got through it.” She quickly set her sights on the next challenge — becoming a paramedic. “The FDNY offered a wonderful program that let us go to school from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m.,” Boyd said. “I became a paramedic after about seven years.”

Boyd didn’t stop there, moving on to lieutenant and then captain.But the path from rank-and-file to officer isn’t as clear-cut in EMS as it is on the FDNY’s firefighting side. Firefighters take civil service promotional exams for officer ranks and move up in rank according to a scored hiring list. Only the very top brass are appointed at the discretion of FDNY leadership. In EMS, a civil service promotion exam is only given for lieutenant. Promotions above that rank are awarded by discretionary appointment. With roughly 4,000 employees, EMS is far more diverse in gender and race than the city’s firefighting ranks. Women EMTs and paramedics comprise roughly 35% of the non-officer workforce. Above the rank of lieutenant, there are “only a handful of women who make it to captain, and even fewer to deputy chief,” said lawyer Yetta Kurland.

Boyd’s promotion — the first time in more than 150 years the FDNY will have an African-American woman as a deputy chief — is eagerly anticipated by other women in the agency. She will be the highest-ranking black woman in the entire department, said Regina Wilson, an FDNY firefighter and head of the Vulcan Society, a fraternal organization of African-American fire department employees. “It’s a proud moment for the department to have a woman of color reach such a rank and we hope there will be many more to follow,” the Brooklyn firefighter said.

To read full article, go to: FDNY veteran Tonya Boyd to become first black female deputy chief – NY Daily News

Rap Video on Instagram by #blackgirlsrock in NY Celebrates STEM and Education

For anyone who needs a pick-me-up, a hot beat and some fresh motivation today, watch the treat of a music video below!

Queens Man Patrick Clarke Wins $5M in Lottery Scratchoff from Bodega

Lottery Winner Patrick Clarke (photo via thegrio.com)

article via thegrio.com

Patrick Clarke just won $5 million from the $10 Set for Life lottery scratch off. Clarke bought the winning ticket on December 20 at the Friendly Deli & Grocery on Saratoga Ave. in Brooklyn. “It feels good,” said Clarke. “It means I won’t have to worry so much. There will always be something to worry about, but for once, it won’t be about money.”

He said that he scratched off the winning ticket at his girlfriend’s home and then immediately began to celebrate.“I started laughing and dancing all around the house!” he said. He had to call his mother first before anyone else, because it had been her birthday present of $50 that he had used to purchase two tickets from the store that day. She at first misunderstood, thinking that when he said he “got life” that he meant he was going to prison, which sent her into worry and then confusion when Clarke tried to explain that he had won the lottery.

“At first she didn’t believe me,” Clarke said. “She said ‘stop playing with me.’”Clarke is not sure what he will do with his winnings, but he said that he will likely keep his job at the airport.

To read more, go to: Queens man wins $5M in lottery scratchoff from bodega | theGrio

Tupac Shakur to be Inducted Into Rock And Roll Hall of Fame in 2017

Legendary rapper Tupac Shakur (photo via latimes.com)
Legendary rapper Tupac Shakur (photo via latimes.com)

article by Lori Lakin Hutcherson (follow @lakinhutcherson

According to latimes.com, late rapper Tupac Shakur is among the group of six inductees into  the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.  Along with Shakur, folk singer Joan Baez, British progressive rock band Yes, Seattle grunge band Pearl Jam, English pop-rock group Electric Light Orchestra and pop-rock band Journey were chosen to join the institution for 2017.

In addition, Nile Rodgers, Chic founding member, producer and guitarist, will be inducted as an honoree for the hall’s award for musical excellence.

April 7, 2017 at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn will be where the annual induction ceremony to induct new Hall members is held.  Tickets available to the public will go on sale in January.  The induction speeches and musical performances will be filmed for a highlights special scheduled to run on HBO after the event.

Derrick Deacon of Brooklyn, 58, Awarded $6 Million After Imprisoned 24 Years on Wrongful Murder Conviction

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Derrick Deacon, 58, hugs his attorney Rebecca Freedman, at State Supreme Court after being acquitted for the 1989 robbery and murder of a 16-year-old named Anthony Winn. (JESSE WARD/JESSE WARD FOR NEW YORK DAILY NE)
A Brooklyn man who spent more than 24 years in prison for a murder conviction that was later thrown out by an appeals court has accepted the city’s offer of $6 million to settle his federal lawsuit, the Daily News has learned.

Derrick Deacon was re-tried for the murder in 2013 by the office of then-Brooklyn District Attorney Charles Hynes, and the jury acquitted him after deliberating merely nine minutes.  “Based upon newly discovered evidence which implicated another man as the actual killer, the court vacated Mr. Deacon’s conviction and granted him a new trial,” Nicholas Paolucci, a spokesman for the city Law Department said in a statement.

“We have determined that a settlement of this civil suit is fair and in the best interests of the City.”  Deacon, 61, was convicted of robbing and killing Anthony Wynn in April 1989 inside an East Flatbush building. A key eyewitness who pocketed a $1,000 Crimestoppers reward from the NYPD fingered him as the murderer.

But the case began to unravel in 2001 when a federal informant who had been a member of a violent gang called the Patio Crew gave the feds the name of the real killer. The Appellate Division for the Second Department reversed Deacon’s conviction in 2013, but the D.A.’s office refused to drop the case against him.

“The case should have never been retried and the acquittal after nine minutes was a slap in the face of the D.A.’s office,” his lawyer Glenn Garber said Monday. “This settlement is some level of redemption and compensation for Derrick’s suffering.”

To read more, go to: http://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/brooklyn/brooklyn-man-6m-24-years-wrongfully-prison-article-1.2852913