It shouldn’t be a surprise that Brooklyn adored its favorite sons.
There were kids who grew up on young Steve Rogers and Bucky Barnes stories in the “old neighborhood." Grandmothers would tell their grandchildren and maybe great-grandchildren about how charming Bucky could be, how sweet a guy Steve was. And maybe there was a bit of regret in some stories, with the ladies who went on double dates with Steve and Bucky and ended up with Steve getting ignored or shunted off to the side. Who knew that skinny, scrawny boy would end up being Captain America?
There was the story of quiet Betsy Robinson, who’d actually been sweet on Steve Rogers even then, but she’d been too shy to ever say a word. It didn’t stop her from telling her daughter and granddaughter about how Steve got beat up on her behalf, fending off the attentions of a boy she didn’t like. She told them: "You look for a boy like Steve Rogers, honey. You look for a man who knows how to treat a lady right. Don’t you settle for less.”
Betsy Robinson’s girls took that to heart.
There were stories of how Bucky had looked out for Steve, how the neighborhood knew how to look for Bucky if Steve was getting beat up again. How Bucky had quietly worked his ass off to pay the rent or to get the medical bills paid when Steve got sick. It was Mrs. Brenner who taught Bucky how to make her special chicken noodle soup, which came in handy for all the times Steve fell ill. She also passed on plenty of recipes to Steve himself, who, in her opinion, needed all the feeding up he could get. In return, the boys looked after her children sometimes - four girls and a baby boy, who would all have stories to tell about Bucky and Steve growing up. Steve and Bucky would appear in a popular and classic children’s book series, albeit in a disguised form, written by the youngest girl, who would go on to become a famous children’s book author.
Everyone knew who “Stevie” and “Jimmy” were anyway.
So Brooklyn opened its arms when both Steve Rogers and Bucky Barnes made their respective miraculous returns from the dead.
It must be observed that Sam Wilson - a.k.a. the Falcon and one of the newest Avengers - was considered an adoptive son by Brooklyn, because, of course, everyone knew how he’d helped Cap find Bucky and all his work getting Bucky the healing he needed. Sam eventually figured out that there was no way he was ever going to pay for a drink (coffee or otherwise) in Brooklyn ever again.
There were little kids running around with Falcon-style backpacks too. Sam preened for weeks, while secretly hiding the fact that he teared up the first time.
Bucky has photographic evidence of the tears though. “Putting a little by for our retirement,” he claims, with much of his old mischief back.
Last night I attended a screening of Nelson George’s documentary Brooklyn Boheme. I thoroughly enjoyed the documentary but as I listened to audience members comment, question, and speak about the change that gentrification and corporations have brought to Ft.Green I felt a widespread sentiment of love lost. As if Barclays Arena and structures similar in ideology had robbed the area of what made it special during the 80s and 90s. Disappointment seemed to engulf the atmosphere as people expressed concern that this neighborhood was not spawning the crop of young African American dreamers and doers that it once did.
“I found myself in NY”, those are the words that opened my graduate school admissions essay. I further them with, Brooklyn found me, nursed me and provided me a surrogate home amidst this city that gobbles up and destroys so many hopefuls. I remember the first time I visited Ft.Green/ Clinton Hill in 2009. I told myself I was going to move there, because for once in my life this military brat that developed into an adult with gypsy tendencies that terrorized my parents , felt at home. During the screening I found myself smiling as things and places familiar to me appeared on the screen. Brooklyn Moon has become my lunchtime favorite not because Erykah Badu, Mos Def,and Saul Williams hung out there, but because of their $5 lunch special (I love theSalmon burger and Apple Salad option). The closest I had been to Nelson before tonight was reading his book"Hip Hop America". The closest I had been to Spike before tonight was coincidentally walking up on his car on a downtown Brooklyn side street right outside of my job, where I was reduced to a girlish wave and a sound escaped me that I dare not recreate. Yet I felt them and where they were coming from in the film, I shared similar oilla moments.
I want to expand upon Mr. Nelson mentioning Bed-Stuy as a strong contender to carry on the Brooklyn Black Renaissance torch and I can say confidently that I believe this is so. I am surrounded by prolific, creative, game changing individuals on a regular basis. The type of individuals that after you spend a few hours with them, it leaves you feeling like your undergraduate and graduate educations combined, in addition to your prominent non-profit job just aren’t cutting it. My generation includes photographers like Kweisi Abinsetts, musicians like Jesse Boykins III, film directors like Terrance Nance, jewelry designers like Nyne Lyves, writers like Demetria Lucas, activist like Ngozi Odita – a really impressive crop of young people whose bodies of work are sure to stand time, let alone garner them notoriety that graces introductions of Mr. George and Mr. Lee. It’s still alive, that spirit still dwells down Fulton street, in and out of brownstones, and carries seeds that blossom in the hearts of those visiting or consider Bed-Stuy, Clinton Hill, or Ft. Green home.
It’s a pet peeve of mine when people claim something isn’t there, when the truth is they are just ignorant to its existence. for example, that whole hip hop is dead argument, when there’s artist like Kendrick Lamar, Stalley, Bryant Dope, ASAP Rocky and creating and continuously adding to our beloved art form. Different? Yes. Dead? No. This is not directed at Mr. George, but more so the older women in the audience who boastfully acted as if the 80’s were the end all be all of Brooklyn Black excellence. Let us not forget that time and death have a way of immortalizing people. It is rare that people praise artist for what they are and do during their prime, it is often past the prime that we recognize the genius they were. Sure maybe this Brooklyn Black Awakening isn’t as noticeable or in your face as a theirs was. And was theirs? But never the less, it is here and just as promising. I promise.
Brooklyn Boheme Documentary Teaser, by Diane Paragas and Nelson George
This documentary captures a time in Fort Greene, Brooklyn when influential African-American and Latino-Americans like Spike Lee, Chris Rock and Rosie Perez reign supreme and influence the next generation of tastemakers to come from Brooklyn.
CARTER™ Magazines Editor-In-Chief, Syreeta Gates had the honor of interviewing writer, historian, producer and director Nelson George, who gave our viewers a bit of history about himself and the borough of BROOKLYN… All leading up to the world-premier of his latest film ‘Brooklyn Boheme’ at the 15th Annual Urbanworld Film Festival, this Thursday, September 15th, 8pm at the AMC 34th Street Theater in NYC.