By Wendy B. Schatzman-Sherry
We Are All Brooklyn welcomed more than 30 young leaders from the non-profit sector in Brooklyn into its fellowship program in a recent inauguration at Borough Hall. “Everyone’s energy is one power,” exclaimed Barnabas Shakur, the CEO and founder of the Bed-Stuy Project Re-generation, Inc., and one of the 32 selected as part of the inaugural group of the “We Are All Brooklyn” (WAAB) fellowship program. We Are All Brooklyn, a coalition of more than 50 community and faith-based organizations in Brooklyn, was founded in the aftermath of 9/11 by Rabbi Bob Kaplan (known affectionately to most as Rabbi Bob), director of the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater New York, and Mohammed (Mo) Razvi, head of the Council of Peoples Organization. Razvi and Kaplan, an energetic duo, are visionaries. To further their vision, they set up the WAAB fellowship program to provide leadership development which can advance the next generation of Brooklyn’s young diverse leaders and empower them to become change agents to strengthen Brooklyn. The WAAB fellowship teaches and challenges participants to work together. Ultimately, fellows will learn how to utilize diversity as an asset to themselves, their agencies, their community and Brooklyn. The leaders will formally come together to understand that through building, broadening and strengthening ethnic, cultural and religious ties in Brooklyn, there is far more that unites us as people than divides us. Fellows will learn how they can help communities share resources, manage dynamic tensions and collaborate on solving problems. “It’s important because it creates the opportunity for the new leaders of Brooklyn, who represent incredible diversity, to learn to work with each other on issues surrounding a better quality of life,” said Kaplan. “It also promotes a common vision for all those living in this extremely diverse borough.” Unique to this project is not only the forum for young leaders to network and talk, but also the chance to actually develop and enact change. “This is the chance for individuals to meet people who they wouldn’t otherwise get a chance to meet and share their concerns on resolving and understanding issues, whether it’s about hate crimes, health care issues, political engagement, education or housing issues,” said Razvi. The WAAB fellows will work together to implement projects in Brooklyn. They will sit on committees to organize what’s been dubbed a “Challenge Project.” “All of the projects are practical and hands on and will create new opportunities for building, organizing and giving,” said Kaplan. Rami Nuseir, from the American Mideast Leadership Network, said he applied for the fellowship because he wanted to build experiences. “I’m here to create a large peaceful family right here in New York,” he said. Rozalyn Shepard, a founding member of the Professionals Network Organization, said she applied to the fellowship because she wanted to sharpen her leadership skills. “The training component is something that attracted me to this fellowship. The opening event exceeded my expectations.” Deputy Borough President Yvonne Graham offered remarks to the promising young leaders, stating, “Regardless of who you support in the upcoming presidential election in this country, the young people are making their voices heard and WAAB is ahead of the pack because diversity truly is Brooklyn’s and America’s strength. By strengthening our Borough’s young leaders, we strengthen our borough and our country.” The WAAB fellowship, funded by the Independence Community Foundation is a partnership with CAUSE-NY, a division of the Jewish Community Relations Council and Kingsborough Community College’s Center for Economic and Workforce Development. For more information visit www.waab.org/.