Katy Golvala


Paul Bassett


Last week, one of the classiest parties of the year went down in Bushwick. There were twinkling lights, masquerade masks, and a feast that included gumbo and jambalaya.

And, most importantly, there was dancing. Lots and lots of dancing.

On June 28th, the Roundtable Senior Center hosted its annual blowout. For this year’s theme, “Masquerade on Bourbon Street,” the fifth floor of the center was transformed into a scene straight out of New Orleans. Tickets were free, though guests were encouraged to contribute a ten dollar donation to support the senior center. The event was completely sold out, with 120 people showing up to party.

“We had some line dancing and, at one point, I did a Michael Jackson tribute and they had a soul train line going,” said DJ GQ, who was responsible for providing the soundtrack for the evening.

The evening came together thanks, in large part, to the work of Ivory Bowens, the Director at Roundtable. Ms. Bowens’ gentle demeanor could put anyone at ease, and she has made a career out of caring for others. She started out working at a daycare in Bushwick, where she has lived for twenty years. Today, in her role as director at Roundtable, she’s in charge of making sure the center runs smoothly, which is no easy task. Roundtable is open five days a week, serves three meals a day, and offers daily classes in line dance, Zumba, painting, yoga, and chair aerobics (just to name a few).

More than anything, Roundtable enables seniors in the area to continue living actively, which, Ms. Bowens explains, is crucial to maintaining a high quality of life in older age.

“[It] is so meaningful to live a good life. A complete life,” says Bowens.

Ivory Bowens, Director, Roundtable Senior Center

Ms. Bowens wasn’t the only star of the evening. Every year, the seniors at Roundtable vote in a royal court, much like at a high school prom. On this evening, Joanne Swaine and Willie Sowell were elected King and Queen of Roundtable. As part of their duties for the year, they’ll serve as go-to volunteers and leaders at the senior center.

It’s not hard to see how either won their titles.

“I’m honored to be queen,” Ms. Swaine told Bushwick Daily.

When asked why she thinks she got elected, she replied, “Cause I’m very popular and I’m a lovely person.”

Ms. Swaine has an unstoppable energy about her. As the event wrapped up, she didn’t show any signs of slowing down. She continued to bounce around the room, bidding goodbye to other guests, stopping to pose in last minute pictures, and helping to clean up the space.

Joanne Swain, “Masquerade on Bourbon Street,” Roundtable Senior Center

Mr. Sowell is a bit more laid back, but no less charming. In fact, we were almost unsure whether we’d get the chance to talk to him at all, given the never-ending flow of people who wanted to take a picture with him. But, just before he left, Bushwick Daily was finally able to catch up with him and ask for his reaction to being elected king.

“Does it come with a salary?” he quipped.

After a woman nearby immediately scolded Mr. Sowell for his response, he added, “I’m honored, and one of the things I’m looking forward to doing is helping people that need help.”

Willie Sowell, “Masquerade on Bourbon Street,” Roundtable Senior Center

Bushwick Daily also got the chance to talk with Barbara Jackson, Vice President of Roundtable and a key organizer of the evening’s event. She’s an active part of the Roundtable community and spends a lot of her time at the center.

“I’m here more than I’m home,” said Ms. Jackson.

She also notes that, as Bushwick continues to change, people should remember that the seniors in the neighborhood and places like Roundtable are part of that community. When asked what she would like to say to younger, newer Bushwick residents, Ms. Jackson had just one request.

“Come and participate with us. Come hang out.”

Barbara Jackson (first from left) and others at the “Masquerade on Bourbon Street,” Roundtable Senior Center

Roundtable Senior Center is one of eight Riseboro senior centers located throughout Brooklyn. To find out how you can get involved working with seniors in and around the neighborhood, contact the director at any of the Riseboro centers.

And a special shout-out to any painters in Bushwick: Roundtable is currently looking for a new painting instructor. The position is paid. For more details, call the Roundtable Senior Center at 718-443-1903.

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