Erik Kantar

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Returning for its fourth year, El Puente in partnership with Assemblywoman Davila, is hosting a free Bushwick & Williamsburg CommUNITY Resource Fair on Saturday, August 24, from 12 p.m. to 4 p.m. at Maria Hernandez Park. More than 50 organizations providing services ranging from free legal counseling to tenant rights will be present. The fair carries a light, family-friendly energy, offering raffles, zumba, music and dance performances, and plenty of activities for the family. The goal to establish event accessibility for all––no matter what one’s economic or citizenship status is.

Speaking on the goals of the resource fair, Assemblywoman Maritza Davila of the 53rd District said, first and foremost: “To give information. Whether it’s a housing application or free legal advice, we will have it in one centralized place where people can feel comfortable, and don’t have to feel intimidated. They could ask questions one-on-one, all while their children are playing. It’s important to feel like a family-oriented place.”

Founded in 1982, El Puente was originally formed to stop the notorious epidemic of violence in the Southside community of Williamsburg, Brooklyn. With a mission “to inspire and nurture leaders for peace and justice,” El Puente has been in lockstep with serving the community’s genuine needs for decades. 

“Back in the ‘70s, ‘80s, ‘90s, it was horrific. There was no way you’d be able to go into Maria Hernandez park without seeing 50 heroin addicts shooting up in the park, let alone have a resource fair,” said Assemblywoman Davila. “This is a sense of us reclaiming our community, but not saying ‘you have a problem.’ We want you to embrace your problems and let you bring your problems to us. We’ll have someone there to help you individually, not a big, formal setting. People like individualized attention.”

Asenhat Gomez, Deputy Director of Programs at El Puente, and the spearhead of organizing efforts for the Community Resource Fair, shed light on the importance of the fair’s date (Sunday, August 24) coinciding with the start of the school year:

“It’s important to kick of the school year with a spirit of unity, to come together for resources but most importantly to provide a space for families to get resources they need. A lot of the events happening in the community are not always accessibility for families. But this particular event is that, where there are people of all ages, and all nationalities, but especially families.”

Owing to the importance of a friendly, family environment, the community fair will also be providing a stage for local young people to showcase their talent:

“Performers are ranging from local middle school students, high school students, adults, and the L Train Brass Band. With a theme of social justice, every skit they do, whether they’re dancing, or singing, is sending out a message and that’s what we’re here to do,” Assemblywoman Davila explained. “We’re here to encourage these young people to not give up on their dreams and to express how they feel because you are going to be a part of this community for the rest of your life. We give them a platform.”

Just as many community members have benefited from this fair in years past, the continuation of positive change in the community will only drive on, as awareness and informing vulnerable locals to free resources are keys to a more unified community, according to the assemblywoman, “There’s nothing political about this. It’s simply about bringing services to the community.”

Ultimately, past the resources, a sense of empowerment is the grand higher purpose, mentioned Gomez: “Give people a space, and give people a voice, because we believe people should have the right to self-determination.”

Cover image courtesy of Ralph Castillo.

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