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Group gathering indefinitely for Black lives

BROOKLYN, NY — Since the death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis Police Department officers on May 25 there have been continued protests across America.  Stretching from Seattle to New York City, thousands of people are taking to the streets to demand the defunding of their local police departments and pleading for justice for Black lives.

In between the large protests, there’s been a small but mighty and consistent meeting called the McCarren Gathering.  The Gathering has continued for 131 nights.  Each night community members meet and sit on the same grassy grounds nestled inside McCarren Park in Brooklyn, New York.  The location may be the same but each night itself is different.

photo taken from behind a tree to see the group sitting on the floor from a distance
Photo by Malick Mercier/Ithaca Week

Over the summer McCarren Gathering hosted various topics that ranged from self-care Sundays to youth activist nights.

Regina, who co-organized the youth activist nights, explained that herself and another organizer tried to teach the history of racism in a way that young children could grasp at this point in their lives; so that they wouldn’t have to have an epiphany when they were older because their school didn’t educate them on racial justice.

“We really approached it [by thinking] ‘how do we break down this really difficult topic for kids?’ and if we went back 10 or 15 or so years — how would we want to be taught about this?,” explained Regina.  She added that this translated into uncovering the meanings of key terms to the movement such as racism, prejudice, and intolerance.

She said that one of her favorite nights was “where we incorporated [one of the group leader’s] Monday moments in history.  We shared history about a youth revolt that happened in the 1960s and we used that to really inspire the kids to protest themselves.”  Although it was up to the parents and children whether or not they took to the streets, the Gathering welcomed and made space for different acts of protest for the children — such as putting a sign in their bedroom window.

little kids holding signs in support of black lives matter reading 'we are all beautiful,' 'bml' and 'blm'
Credit: @mccarrengathering / Instagram

Devin, one of the McCarren Gathering organizers, explained that the themed nights have come to a halt. “We used to have very intense programming for awhile,” he said.

Devin noted a list of activities ranging from live music nights to poetry night. “We as organizers had to sort of pull back on that because the stress of organizing kind of removed our power to speak to the movement I think and you don’t want to overtax.”

They’ve kept some programming and made Wednesdays de-escalation night, when they focus on safety tactics and training; but for nights that don’t have a set agenda, they choose a prompt and allow for small group discussions surrounding it.  They then invite individuals from those smaller groups to share key takeaways with the larger group.

For the 131st night, the topics were housing and gentrification  People came up, grabbed the mic, and spoke their piece. They shared their stories of watching Brooklyn evolve, and their issues with the way housing has been addressed throughout New York City.

One person stood up and had different ideas from those of the group. They noted defunding of the police as a fad that went out of style, and said that they didn’t agree with raising taxes on the rich alone. They also said they didn’t feel that white people not moving into areas being gentrified would do anything. They were applauded seemingly because the group is open to welcoming people and their voices to the space but Devin challenged them because the Gathering will always be for Black liberation and the defunding and dismantling of the police.

The McCarren Gathering will continue nightly at 7 p.m.

close up image of 'black lives matter' sign strapped to bike
Photo by Malick Mercier/Ithaca Week
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