Voices of Lefferts -- Project Background
Voices of Lefferts is a community history project that engages Flatbush-Prospect Lefferts Gardens residents in community dialogue, writing, publishing, and oral history. Inspired by the Federal Writers’ Project, Voices of Lefferts provides a platform for residents to conduct oral histories, participate in free writing workshops, write their own stories, attend public readings and conversations about local history, culture, and common concerns, and publish their writing in Voices of Lefferts: The Flatbush-PLG Community Writing Journal.
With the support of two consecutive Humanities New York Action Grants, Voices of Lefferts took up residence at Grace Reformed Church in 2017 to offer free writing workshops, and partnered with Greenlight Bookstore for author readings and the Brooklyn Public Library’s Brooklyn Collection to archive the journal. In 2019, the project held its first oral history training workshop to give residents the tools to obtain local life histories. When COVID hit in early 2020, we pivoted to a virtual format and hosted online writing workshops and conducted oral histories of COVID via Zoom.
The project is entirely community-based and run by volunteers. Our main goal is to engage community members in documenting and preserving our own history in a time of rapid change, development, and displacement. We aim to build skills together to preserve the past, articulate the present, and collectively imagine the future of our neighborhood.
This year, for the first time, we received no grant funding, largely due to higher need across the city and country.
We need funds for:
1- printing a high quality journal that is affordable for all in the community to buy (two issues are currently ready to go, and a workshop that is in progress will produce another)
2- modest stipends to support the time donated by our volunteer coaches, editors, graphic designers, and photographers
3- space rental at Grace Reform Church on Bedford Avenue, where in-person workshops are held.
What does the community say about Voices of Lefferts?
- "This project is deeply rooted in the Flatbush-PLG community and is led and carried out by neighborhood residents. It has a proven track record of creating meaningful community, establishing connections between diverse neighborhood groups, and empowering community members to understand and express the forces of change in the neighborhood. Participating in this project has been nothing short of a transformative experience for me."
- "Voices of Lefferts journals provide an opportunity for community residents to tell their stories in their own words and from their particular perspectives. This is why this initiative should be funded. It is a marker in time - the best and the worst."
- "This project is an absolute gem. As someone who was a writing coach for the last cycle, I was blown away at its ability to bring together a tremendous diversity of residents, who have lived in the neighborhood for a huge range of different time spans, who hold experiential knowledge and generational memory of the diasporic, socioethnic, historic nature of Lefferts Gardens as one of the keystone Black, Caribbean, and multiethnic area of New York, with strong home ownership and community spirit. Voice of Lefferts shores up that spirit. It gets at the heart of what community is, through story-sharing communion, creativity, understanding, and deep empathy. It makes our community connections richer, deeper, wider, stronger, to help us together weather the storms of gentrification, socioeconomic change, Covid, and other upheavals. It is so important that it is becoming part of the DNA of Lefferts, and the city should support it in any way it can."
- “The challenge everyone always talks about in gentrifying neighborhoods is bringing long-time residents together with new arrivals. This is definitely one of the best and most exciting ways I’ve seen it addressed, and it really felt like such a positive, thoughtful space.”
- "I realized that I have a voice because of the workshop, and it has encouraged me—given me confidence."
- "In addition to documenting and preserving our history, this project builds community in the here and now. As people listen to each other, important and often unexpected connections are forged. Expanding the project to include children's lore, music, and the Flatbush African Burial Ground will deepen our understanding of each other and help our neighborhood to cohere as we face difficult times ahead."
- "As a newer resident in the neighborhood this project supports people like me to understand and better appreciate and honor the rich history of our neighborhood. It also helps show the historical impact people of different types of backgrounds have had on our city, which is important for helping all of us ensure that our neighborhood is a place where we all feel safe and valued."
- "A powerful project that puts neighbors new and old in conversation about the community they love."
More background, bios, journals, photography, oral history recordings, and more at: