BED–STUY COMMUNITY LEADERS AND LOCAL OFFICIALS LAUNCH CAMPAIGN TO SAVE THE MAGNOLIA TREE EARTH CENTER
Brooklyn, NY – Community leaders and local officials from Brooklyn and beyond came together to launch a campaign to save the Magnolia Tree Earth Center, a 50-year-old nonprofit that offers environmental, cultural, and community programming in the heart of Bed-Stuy. The Center occupies three landmark brownstone buildings – which, along with the magnificent Magnolia Grandiflora tree in front, were saved by community advocate and environmental activist Hattie Carthan in the 1970’s – that are in urgent need of repairs. The emergency GoFundMe effort re-launched yesterday marks the first step toward revitalizing the Center as a community hub dedicated to social justice, public education, environmental advocacy, and cultural enrichment.
“Saving the Earth Center is a top priority, because the environmental and cultural work of Hattie Carthan cannot be lost; it must be supported and elevated by all of us,” said Wayne Devonish, Chair of the Magnolia Tree Earth Center.
“The Magnolia Tree Earth Center is represents the past and future of Bed-Stuy,” said Council Member Chi Ossé, Chair of the Committee on Cultural Affairs and in whose district the Center resides. “It’s a community hub, a cultural center, and a bastion of Black environmentalism. The number and gravity of the people who showed up and showed out yesterday for the Center demonstrate just how integral it is to the neighborhood and how important it is that we protect and save it. I call on all who care about the environment, our history, and the City of New York to donate what they can to rescue this beacon at the beating heart of Brooklyn.”
“Magnolia Tree Earth Center embodies the strength and beauty of our city’s Black communities, and carries on the mission Hattie Carthan set out with 50 years ago when she established this visionary, community-led environmental justice organization long before climate change and sustainability dominated the conversation,” said Cultural Affairs Commissioner Laurie Cumbo. “In his economic blueprint for the city, Mayor Adams called for us to identify and preserve ‘culture at risk’ in our communities. Magnolia Tree Earth Center is the perfect example of an essential cultural asset dedicated to public education, engagement, and uplift of an underserved community that we could lose permanently if we don’t work together today to save it. Join us!”
“Born out of love for our environment and the joy of community, the Magnolia Tree Earth Center is an important center of education and culture,” said Brooklyn Borough President Antonio Reynoso. “I’m hopeful that our neighbors, in partnership with the City and State, can come together to ensure Brooklynites and visitors from all over can continue to learn about the nature that surrounds us and advocate for the well-being of our environment.”
The Center needs to raise $300,000 to pay for urgently required repairs to the front facade of all three of the brownstones facing Lafayette Avenue. Currently, the deteriorating state of the Center’s façade poses a risk to public safety. Without securing the funding soon, MTEC could risk losing the buildings. In a historically Black community facing upheaval from gentrification, cost of living increases, and other threats, MTEC represents a Black –founded, –owned, and –led institution whose mission is rooted in social justice, self-determination, and land ownership by and for the Bed-Stuy community.
At Thursday’s event, MTEC board chair Wayne Devonish announced the creation of a GoFundMe to raise funds to save the crumbling facades of the Center’s three historic brownstones. Local resident and Wire actor Gbenga Akinnagbe recorded a video calling for support for MTEC. A new exhibition of work by local artist Musa Hixson was also unveiled in the MTEC’s galleries yesterday as part of the Center’s re-invigorated cultural programming. Once the urgently needed repairs are addressed, MTEC can continue to work with its community coalition on the long-term transformation of the Center into a vibrant hub for ecological education and cultural engagement.
Carthan established the Magnolia Tree Earth Center in 1972 with widespread, grassroots support she built through years of community advocacy. She had led an effort to plant 1,500 trees in the surrounding blocks, and created a paid youth corps to maintain the trees and educate residents about their importance to Bed-Stuy. Carthan then led the successful effort to landmark the Magnolia tree – a majestic Magnolia grandiflora remarkable for its size, age, and ability to grow well beyond its normal climate zone – and three brownstones behind it that form the backbone of the Center. MTEC continues to advance her pioneering vision as an environmental activist, advocate for Black land ownership and self-determination, and community-based coalition building that created a lasting legacy in the area and among the people she dedicated her life to serving.
Banner Image: Wayne Devonish (MTEC Chairman) and Laurie Cumbo (NYC DCA). Image Credit – NYCDCA