Rev. James Blakely's Housing Fund

$4,060 of $50,000 goal

Raised by 80 people in 20 months
As cited in The Daily Beast , "This eviction will live in infamy."

James Blakely, a 98-year-old black U.S. Navy veteran of the Dec. 7, 1941 Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor—lives with his wife Bonita in a studio apartment on Bergen Street in Bedford Stuyvesant that he claims was given to him rent free six years ago.

And he will be evicted unless he pays rental arrears of $24,130.

“In December of 1941 I got bombed by the Japanese,” says Blakely, wearing his USS St. Louis hat in his apartment. “This Christmas I’m facing eviction by the Black Veterans for Social Justice. Boy oh boy, what a difference 76 years makes.”

This, so that Bed Stuy can have more gentrification, even at the expense of a black American hero who survived Pearl Harbor, and who also served in combat aboard three different battleships in World War II in some of the fiercest battles in the Pacific theater.

According to The NY Daily News , The furnished apartment was arranged with the help of the nonprofit Black Veterans for Social Justice.

Blakely says he was told he’d never have to pay a dime for the apartment, decorated with red drapes, white walls and blue bedspread.

It seemed at the time that the ordained Baptist minister’s prayers had been answered.

Now, though, Rev. Blakely suspects his eviction is linked to the pending sale of the rent-stabilized Brooklyn building to a Manhattan developer.

A hearing for the case has been set for Brooklyn Housing Court on Jan. 4, four days before Blakely’s 98th birthday.

In the meantime, the war vet is left fretting over the prospect of losing his home.

“I lay down at night and don’t know if I’ll have a place to lay down tomorrow night. It’s not a pleasant feeling,” said Blakely.

“This is home. It’s a place to live, sleep and cook. I just want my one-bedroom apartment. That’s not a lot to ask.”

He paused. “Where would I go if I’m kicked out of here?” 

PLEASE NOTE: The campaign goal was set at $50,000 to cover 3 years of market stabilized rent for a studio in Brooklyn (approx $1200 monthly), in addition to the balance in cash for new furnishings and day-to-day living expenses.

100% of the proceeds for Rev. Blakely will go to him and his wife Bonita directly, and we have been in touch with a personally known, reputable landlord in Brooklyn to secure a new apartment for the Blakelys.

Contact has also been made with The Blakelys, and they are now aware of this endeavor on their behalf.

Updates on progress are be posted as they're achieved.
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Hi everyone,

I just wanted to take a moment to say thank you all so much for your generous support. Campaign activity had started to slow down some, so things got quiet here for a bit, but over the past couple of days support has resurged. You are appreciated.

Your kindness is especially appreciated by Reverend Blakely and Bonita. Though I didn't know them personally, I was moved to create this campaign upon reading about their circumstances. Since starting this campaign, I have been in touch with them several times, and they are aware of me and my efforts on their behalf.

As such, the funds are being withdrawn in my name, but as stated in a previous update, I will be delivering them to the Reverend and Bonita directly via wire transfer. As also mentioned in previous updates, I've been in touch with a former landlord, Dave Denis of NT Management.

NT has many properties throughout Brooklyn. In particular, he has a studio apartment on standby in the event that the eviction proceedings are finalized.

More updates to come!
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Hi all,

Good news - the Ruptly news agency reached out in hopes of covering this story. Hopefully this goes some distance on Rev. Blakely and Bonita's behalf.

With Bonita's permission I put them in touch.

"Hello Kenny, my name is Polina I am producer for RUPTLY Video Agency ( www.ruptly.tv) we have heard a story of Rev. James Blakely and we would like to film a story about it. I thought since you created a Gofundme campaign may be you could be the right person who can help to get in touch with Mr. Blakely, we were planning on covering the court hearing on January 4th , so i will be traveling from DC on that day. I would appreciate any information that can help."
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FYI, I reached out to Denis Hamill who wrote the original article, in hopes of connecting with the Blakely's. See my outreach below (obviously my ph# is removed for privacy):

Hi Denis,

I reached out to you via Twitter, but hadn't heard back from you so I'm trying you here.

I read your recent article in The Daily Beast, and I was moved to help. I've set up a GoFundMe and in just under 2 days it has already surpassed $2,500 (at the time of this email). And it looks like the momentum is continuing.

I wanted to connect with you in hopes of getting in touch with Rev. James Blakely, and to put the word out that a solution is in the works. In addition to raising funds, I've reached out to a former landlord whom I like and trust, and who has a large inventory of apartments throughout Brooklyn. The good news there is that he has a studio that would likely suit the Blakely's. So, at this point it's simply a matter of meeting the fundraising target.

Please feel free to get in touch with me via email or at (XXX) XXX-XXXX.

Kenny Hargrove
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Hi all,

A supporter reached out to me with the following message, and I thought it would be a good idea to post it along with my response.

I want to be very clear about my intentions in creating this campaign, where the money is going, and the efforts thus far to contact Rev. Blakely and create a sustainable plan of action that will put whatever funding is raised to the best use possible.

Please see below for an exchange between Dana and myself:

"I would very much like to support this campaign but I’m unclear as to who is organizing it and whether or not I can be guaranteed that this money will be used in one way or another to ensure that the Reverend will have a place to live. Can you supply bit more information? Again, I would very much like to contribute so long as I am clear on the plan to help him. Even if the goal is not completely reached. Thank you very much for any information you can provide."

"Hi Dana,

Thanks for reaching out and for your concern for Rev. Blakely. I don't blame you for being unsure - you don't know me and people do some messed up things.

Just to be clear, I do not know Rev. Blakely personally. But I am a former Bed Stuy resident and am familiar with and can get in touch with his landlord, The Black Veterans for Social Justice. I'm looking to connect with them ASAP so they can put me in touch with him.

I've also reached out to the writer of the original article on him in The Daily Beast, Dennis Hammil, so hopefully he can be of some help.

Finally, I've reached out to my old landlord, David Dennis of NT management in Brooklyn. He has a large inventory of apartments, and he already has one lined up for Rev. Blakely now. It's just a matter of hopefully raising the funds and getting them to Rev. Blakely.

Between his current landlord, our neighbors in Bed-Stuy, and Dennis Hammil, I imagine that we can track him down to deliver the funds.

Warm regards,
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$4,060 of $50,000 goal

Raised by 80 people in 20 months
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