“Theos ein a gape ” (“God is lo ve ”), 1 John 4:8
June 2008 Volume 1, Issue 2
Radi cal Li vin g Christia n Comm unity / ww w.radi ca llivi ng ny c.c om / pho ne 212. 444.2701
Living in Bed-Stuy Spec i al Fe at ures: • Events Calendar • Hospitality & Shirts
By Jaso n & Vo nett a Stor ba kke n What do Carl Sagan, Spike Lee, Lena Horne, Jackie Gleason and Jay-Z have in common? They are all natives of the Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood of Brooklyn, New York. In fact, Spike Lee filmed every frame of his movie “Do the Right Thing” in Bed-Stuy and Dave Chappelle hosted his wildly popular “Block Party” here. Bed-Stuy clearly has it going on and is currently in the midst of what many are calling a renaissance. In this issue’s Living in Bed-Stuy we take a look at our neighborhood’s social and cultural history from the travesty of the late 17th century to the promise of the early 21st century.
Feat ured A rt ic le s: Living in Bed-Stuy
Images of Hope
Mustard Seed House
Eat the Book
The original inhabitants of the region were Nayack and Canarsee Native Americans. By the 1680s, after a pogrom of systematic murder and displacement,
the Dutch had taken control of Brooklyn from the Native Americans, and soon thereafter the British wrested control from them. In the early 1800s, soon after the Revolutionary War, the Village of Bedford was surrounded by farmland. In 1838, the Bedford became home to Weeksville, one of the oldest free black communities in the United States. Today Weeksville is preserved as a historical site. By the late 19th century, with the advent of trolley cars, Bed-Stuy became a residential neighborhood that primarily housed people who worked in Manhattan. Also during that time, brownstone row houses (think Cosby Show) replaced many of the wooden frame houses. (See LIVING, Page 5)
Guerilla Theater as prophetic expression The prophets of the Holy Scriptures often performed guerilla theater to get their message to penetrate the hard hearts of an unrepentant people. Jeremiah wore a yoke of wood, and then of iron, to express the gravity of Israel’s impending exile in Babylon. Isaiah walked naked and barefoot for three years as a witness to the coming slavery of Israel. Ezekiel baked bread on human excrement as a sign to his people that they would eat defiled food when driven into exile. Today, in rural and urban settings across the nation, a new breed of prophets
are using guerilla theater and other tactics to rouse the conscience of a people numbed by empire. In New York City (which happens to be in the Empire State), a handful of Jesus’ followers have begun dumpster diving as a way to get free grub and as a way to point to the unnecessary waste of this nation. While restaurants, delis, and grocery stores throw out tons of good food every day, there are approximately 1.3 million New Yorkers across the five boroughs that rely on emergency food programs to put food on the table for their families. (See GUERILLA, Page 2)
Radical Living meets Harlem House By Greg Ha ls tead In April our community was invited to fellowship with the Bruderhof community at their Harlem House. The evening of fellowship was a blessing to the ten or so of us who attended. During that weekend we were hosting Jenny and Brooke, who are part of an intentional community in San Diego called Ecclesia Collective, and it was a double blessing to have them participate in our gathering communities. The gathering started with a time of fellowship. We discussed their Rule of Life, the peace tradition in the Christian faith, and life in community. We then shared a common meal in their dining hall. More than twenty of us sat around three tables. As dinner was cleared, the chairs were set in a circle around the large room and a discussion was started with general questions about what it means to live in Christian community. Conversation swayed between learning about current efforts to connect with our neighbors and efforts to connect with each other within our respective houses in Christian fellowship. We also discussed the peculiarities that present themselves while living in an urban environment despite originally coming from a variety of economic, ethnic, and environmental backgrounds. The conversation centered on finding space and time to spend with God in a bustling metropolis. The conversation was followed by a time of song accompanied by piano and djembe, Radical Living experienced a fresh breath of the beautiful harmonies their group was able to bring together. The Spirit flowed through the words and melodies, and our time together ended joyfully in prayer and an invitation for the Bruderhof group to come to Bed-Stuy to visit us in the near future.
Radical Living at Harlem House in April 2008 The Bruderhof community, now called Church Communities International, has a history that goes back at least 75 years. Their Christ-centered communes range in size from ten to several hundred people. They are Anabaptist in nature, similar to the Hutterites, and actively engage in issues of social justice. Since our initial meeting several of us returned to their home to attend a NY Faith & Justice fellowship, which many of our members regularly participate in. May the glory be God’s and the Spirit continue to work through all of us as we learn from each other and grow in Jesus’ grace. To learn more about the Bruderhof community, visit www.churchcommunities.org. Greg Halstead is a founding member of Radical Living. He is a dual-language teacher at a public school in Brooklyn. Before moving to NYC, he spent two years as a Peace Corps volunteer in Bulgaria.
Guerilla, from Page 1 Another example of guerilla tactics employed by Christ’s followers can be seen in the subway system. Some years back, during Giuliani’s regime, NYC launched an intense campaign against the city’s most vulnerable poor. Posters in the subway state, “Give to charity, just not here,” and in March the city began calling on its residents to call 311 if they see a homeless person. Some radicals began placing stickers that read, “’Give to the one who begs from you,’ Jesus (Matt. 5:42),” on the city’s posters as a way to counter the unjust system that works to further disassociate the haves from the have-nots.
Followers of Christ are longing for justice and mercy, and they are finding creative ways to raise awareness of issues and to meet people’s needs. We’d like to hear what ways (guerilla or otherwise) Jesus’ followers in your area are challenging the system and serving their neighbors. Send your stories/experiences/ideas regarding guerilla theater, prophetic action, and social justice to email@example.com with the word “guerilla” in the subject line. Stories will be published in the next issue.
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Kalabash Food Co-op Community food helps build a h ealth y community By Aliss a Moore For the last several months on Saturday afternoon you could walk into 123 Tompkins Avenue in Bed-Stuy and, among the plethora of activist literature and the hodgepodge décor, find rows of cardboard boxes brimming with organic fruits and vegetables. Each box, packed by a food co-oper, contained a variety of produce, including strawberries, bananas, carrots, blueberries, greens, yams, and an assortment of other delicious, fairly traded food. Kalabash Food Co-op, located in Bed-Stuy, has provided the neighborhood with locally grown, organic produce since 2006, although, since April, it has been on hiatus to reconsider its organizational structure. (The co-op’s Saturday pick-ups and membership orientations are temporarily on hold.) Kalabash melds well at 123 Tompkins Avenue, also known as 123 Community Space, where four other organizations (A New World In Our Hearts, Freegan Bike Workshop, Misled Youth Network, and the Anarchist Black Cross) meet to serve the community in various ways. Bed-Stuy is home to one of the largest concentrations of African Americans in the country. Thus, Kalabash represents not only an approach to alternative food access, it also addresses economic and food justice issues. Driven by its vision to provide “affordable and ecologically responsible organic food and produce” and to “inspire self-empowerment, self-determination and mutual support throughout the African Diaspora,” the Kalabash Food Co-op has experienced various levels of activity over the past several years. Most recently Kalabash was operating on a bi-monthly ordering schedule with produce pick up on every other Saturday and boxes ranging from twenty to thirty dollars. Those interested in membership were asked to attend a mandatory orientation where they put down a fifty-dollar refundable deposit and signed up to be on one of several committees that oversee a certain aspect of the co-op’s operation. Attempting to serve neighborhoods that are not typically exposed to organic produce at bulk prices, Kalabash has received at least one grant encouraging their efforts to make organic food accessible to everyone. Organic food is said to reduce the amount of toxic chemicals, additives, and colorings ingested, and to
The name “Kalabash,” also called the African bottle gourd, was one of the first cultivated plants in the world. increase the amount of beneficial vitamins, minerals, essential fatty acids and antioxidants consumed. Particularly relevant to low and moderate income neighborhoods where individuals are often susceptible to malnutrition and preventable food related illnesses, organic food appears to have the potential to lower the risk of cancer, coronary heart disease, allergies, and hyperactivity in children. The Kalabash Food Co-op is a much-needed organization in our community. The length of their hiatus is unspecified. In a letter carefully penned to its seventy plus members, it stated that their intention during the hiatus is to use this time to reevaluate the structure and the delegation of responsibility at the co-op. The letter is signed by the six board members and is respectful of its supporters promising to continue to grow membership in the Brooklyn neighborhood of Bedford-Stuyvesant and to educate individuals on the benefits of buying and eating organic. For more information about the Kalabash Food Cooperative and its future operations please e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. Also check out 123 Community Space at http://123communityspace.org/. Alissa Moore studied theater at Skidmore College and fine art in Italia. She is a founding member of Radical Living, and teaches an art class in the neighborhood. She is a freegan who thoroughly enjoys urban foraging.
Images of Hope By Me li n da Fa ust Photos b y Pa tric k Ko lts Patrick Kolts, a NYC-based photographer (and a friend of Radical Living), sent these images to Agape Times during his trip to Kenya. These photos were taken in a building called Social Hall in the town of Nyahururu during the recent political upheaval. About 150 displaced persons were staying there. The photos were taken during a worship and later a prayer service. Patrick returned from Kenya with several gigabytes of stories, people, and memories-in photographic form. He intended to "capture God's glory in the beauty of everyday life of His creation." Yet he did not anticipate the unrest brewing in Kenya that would explode after the elections. Perhaps a bit hesitantly, he followed through with his plan to spend a month (which ultimately led to several months) with family friends to take a break from life in NYC. He wrote on his webpage, "I want to go to Nyahururu to live intentionally. I want to go to Nyahururu to be real. I want to go to Nyahururu because I know God can do more with my gifts than I can do myself" (www.patrickkolts.com). He came back (thankfully!), successful in Christ.
Patrick asks that we pray for 1) an abundant crop yield in the upcoming year to feed the community and provide economic sustenance, and 2) education for the Kenyan church, to deepen children and adults' understanding of Christ and the world. To see more images visit www.patrickkolts.com.
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Living , from Page 1 Radical Living Christian Community may be a new plant in Bed-Stuy, but the pot that contains us (the brownstone house) is over a hundred years old. In fact, Bed-Stuy has more brownstone houses than any other neighborhood in New York City. By the mid-20th century the face of Bed-Stuy was again changing. Urban families, who could afford it, were moving to the suburbs and those left behind either joined the civil rights movement or, like most, remained marginalized due to an unjust social system that has yet to be rectified. In 1967, New York Senators Jacob Javits and Robert Kennedy founded the Bedford-Stuyvesant Restoration Corp., the nation’s first community development corporation. Although Sens. Javits and Kennedy gave the final push, it was local activists who had the vision of the Restoration Corp. and who have kept it going for over forty years. Throughout the last few decades of the century, BedStuy was plagued by the crack epidemic and gang violence. The slogan was, and occasionally still is, “Do or die Bed-Stuy.” There has been much change in the neighborhood since the turn of the 21st century.
Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn, NY. 1939 Photo by Joe Schwartz
Today the neighborhood consists primarily of African Americans, Hasidic Jews and West Indians. There is an ever-increasing influx of Hispanics, white folks from middle America, and people from a wide range of economic and ethnic backgrounds. There is a variety of restaurants and cafes, many storefront and historic churches, active block associations, a food co-op, and vibrant community organizations that make our neighborhood thrive. If music is your thing, there is an annual Universal Hip Hop Parade, a load of great block parties in the summer (both Hart and Pulaski Streets have great block parties),
and music venues where you can shmooze with local artists such as Dead Prez and Mos Def. Simply put, Bed-Stuy is beautiful and so are its residents. The culture and rich identity of the neighborhood are a blessing to those who live here as well as to those who visit. As God redeems his creation he often begins by renewing individual lives, families and communities. Radical Living loves its neighborhood and is honored that God planted us here. Jason and Vonetta Storbakken are cofounders of Radical Living. They are celebrating their one-year wedding anniversary in June and expecting their first child in August. Jason has lived in Bed-Stuy for five years and Vonetta has lived here since she was twelve years old.
Bedford-Stuyvesant Timeline Nayack and Canarsie Indians inhabit region Pre-1600s
Weeksville is founded 1838
Advent of trolley cars
RFK founds Bed-Stuy Restoration Corp.
Radical Living is planted
Late 19th c.
The Mustard Seed House New monasti cism in Seattle By Eliacín Rosario-Cruz Come on in, and let us put the kettle on for tea, or grind some coffee for a cup of joe. If you came through our main door, very likely you were welcomed by Bonnie, our friendly golden retriever, and by Catie, our adorable five-year-old communitarian. You're asking what's that smell? That's the smell of a delicious bean and ham soup that Tom is cooking (don’t you worry my vegetarian friends, we will have a veggie version as well). Christine and Ricci are in the garden plotting what to plant next (plotting, get it?). I bet Anneke is coming home soon from visiting one of her many friends in town. Little Gabriel, who is fifteen-months-old is playing in the swing, or in the mud. Peter and Eliacín are probably planning the next armchair revolution. Welcome to the Mustard Seed House. The Mustard Seed House (MSH) is a small expression of Christ-centered community in Seattle, Washington. MSH is what I, Eliacín, like to call a Liberated Space—that is, God's Liberated Space. By the grace of God we have the opportunity to live in a physical space in which we try to live out the values of God's new society. If you ask us to describe ourselves, we will say that we are a group of people trying to follow God in the way of Jesus as a new kind of family. There are eight of us who live in the house. We have many, many friends and fellow communitarians who do not live in the house yet are part of the life at MSH. Like any family, we have people from different ages in the house--all the way from a wise sage who is seventy-two years old to a cute very active fifteen-month-old. Our spirituality is partially rooted in ancient Celtic Christianity, with rhythms of work, prayer, hospitality, celebrations, and relationships. We prefer to be rather than perform. Therefore, we are not big on programs. We honor one another by being present and taking our relationships very seriously. We consider our house a crossroads, a center for the cross-pollination of ideas, and a place of hospitality for fellow pilgrims. We share different responsibilities and expenses around the house. We eat together and include a spiritual element to our gatherings. On any given day you can find some of us chatting over coffee or working in our garden, which provides about 50 percent of the fruits and vegetables we consume. The core families get together frequently during the week to pray, check on each other, plan workdays, work on the garden, drink tea, talk about books, spirituality, Celtic Christianity, world events, and just hang out.
Eliacín and Gabriel in the garden. There you go, a brief description of the Mustard Seed House. It is brief, because we do not like to toot our own horn - there are many brothers and sisters all around the world liberating spaces and living the reality of God's dream in their communities. Ours is just one among many. If you want to know more, or if you find yourself in Seattle, let us know. I bet Catie and Bonnie will welcome you at the door. We'll put on a kettle for tea or brew some coffee, and we'll chat. Eliacín and his wife Ricci with their two adorable kids are communitarians at the Mustard Seed House. They are community catalysts at Mustard Seed Associates (www.msainfo.org), a network of communities of Jesus' followers, whom are committed to anticipate the future, decode the culture, and convey the Kingdom of God. To learn more about their community, visit their website: www.mustardseedhouse.wordpress.com.
Rhythms of joy at the Mustard Seed House.
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Talkin’ Bout A “ Revolution ” “Eat the bo ok, ” Eze kie l 3 :3
By Jason Storbakken Our book club, Eat the Book (see: Ezek. 3:3), began almost at the inception of Radical Living. Greg, a goateed, flamehaired fella fresh from serving in the Peace Corps in Bulgaria, was visiting our just-starting community and over lunch he asked if I’d like to read a book with him— Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s classic “Life Together.” He moved in, as did others, and we started a book club. We’re now eating another book. On average six to eight of us meet every other Thursday and, in all honesty, we read pretty slowly. You could say we thoroughly digest each book. It also isn’t uncommon for us to talk about other topics completely unrelated to the book for the bulk of the meeting. Yet the book is often, if not always, the catalyst for our conversation and it gives us a good reason to get together. We recently read Shane Claiborne’s “Irresistible Revolution” (that’s a picture of the book to your right). He’s got a new book out, “Jesus for President,” but some of us (like me) hadn’t read this one yet. In December about half of our community attended a NY Faith & Justice (see Page 2) meeting to talk with others about community and peace and to listen to Shane talk about radical peace activism. It was a great meeting; we made some friends and were encouraged by the Spirit’s presence.
Since then our housemate Alissa has become our liaison to Faith & Justice and keeps our community informed about their wonderful happenings. Shane’s book details his journey in Christ. He begins his story as a youth in East Tennessee who falls in love with Jesus. He shares his experiences from Bible College, which includes protesting with the homeless as well as lip-syncing in a school musical directed by Rich Mullins. He also describes his visit to Mother Theresa in Calcutta and his life at The Simple Way, an intentional community he helped create in Philly. His story is so wonderful that it prompted one woman at the Faith & Justice meeting to ask him, “What about people like me who can’t go to Calcutta to work with lepers or to Iraq to protest war?” Shane implied that subtle expressions of love and humility are often just as radical as overt action. If you haven’t yet read this book, definitely give it a read and see for yourself if you can resist the revolution!
A few radicals in winter ’07 with Shane after a NY Faith & Justice meeting at All Angels Church in Manhattan. (L. to R. Vonetta, Jason, Shane, Shakir, Greg, Alissa, Melinda.)
To learn more about Shane, his books, and the community in Philly where he lives, visit: www.thesimpleway.org.
“So I ate it and it tasted as s weet as ho ney i n my mout h!” Ezekiel 3: 3
Hospitality Room “D o n ot forge t to e n ter tai n stra nger s , for by so d oing s ome pe ople ha ve e nter tai ned angel s with ou t knowi ng i t.” He bre ws 1 3:2 Th e h ospi tali ty r oom a t Radi cal Livi ng h as hos ted a v arie ty of fol ks si nce i ts i nc ep ti on. Fri end s a nd fa mil y of h ouse me mbe rs hav e c om e a nd g one , a nd s o h ave sai n ts , s tra ng ers , and possi ble a ngel s. W e’ve h ad vi si tors fr om othe r i nten ti on al c om m uni tie s a nd , i n Ma rc h, tw o fel las fr om Kan sa s Ci ty n a med Ma tt a nd Dave l and ed on ou r p or c h.
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Radical T-Shirts Now yo u t oo ca n re pr ese nt Br oo kly n a nd show s u ppo rt fo r t he lit tle revolu ti on brew i ng i n the Bi g A pple! T he Ra di cal Tees a re 1 00 pe rce nt cot to n, fai rly tra de d T-s hi rt s. All pr ofit s go t owa rd C hr ist -ce nt ere d soc ial ju st ice wo rk i n the Bed fo r d-S tu yves a nt ne ig hbor hood of Broo kl y n, Ne w Y or k.
Matt and Da ve arri ved i n NYC wi th n othin g m or e tha n a r ound trip b us ti c ke t a nd a de sire to s erv e. They sp en t m os t of their sev en -d ay tri p se rvi ng the h omele ss a t th e Bow ery Mi ssi on. They h ad no m one y a nd relied on divine pr ovi den ce to su stain the m . Someh ow the y ca me a cr os s ou r p h one n u mber , g ave a call , a nd ende d u p cra shi ng i n ou r h ospi tal ity room . It i s a bles sing to our c om m uni ty to se rve fa mily , friend s , a nd e spe ciall y stra nger s. I f you a re c on side ring a vi si t to NY C a nd w ould like to ch ec k ou t ou r c om m uni ty, give us a call or s end an e mail . If y ou wan t to s tay over nigh t, we as k a sugge sted d ona ti on of $ 20/ nigh t fr om th ose wh o ca n a fford it, bu t a re equ ally d esi ring to free ly giv e s hel te r to th os e wh o j us t need a place to re s t.
If y ou ’d li ke a Ra di c al L ivi ng T -S hi rt , se nd yo ur name , a d dre ss , q ua ntit y o f shir ts , a nd a s ug ges te d d o nat io n of
Radical Suggestions Riddi m – If you’ve been searching for a world music groove that glorifies God, check out Ar adh na ’s new release A mrit V ani. Visit: w w w. ara dhn amu sic. co m Wor d – The classic “Path of Prayer” by Samuel Chadwick is a call that every believer must heed: Prayer is essential to the Christian walk! Read this book and be reminded that every temple inhabited by God must have fire on the altar. Flick – “Invisible Children” documents the plight of child soldiers in Uganda. Watch this film, get informed, and learn how to help. Visit: ww w.i nvisibl ec hildre n.c o m
fi ft ee n b u cks to:
Radical Living Christian Community 32 Hart Street
* Ma ke c he c ks pay able to Meli nda F au st (ou r tre as ure r ) wi t h “R ad ic al Livi ng” i n the mem o li ne .
Events Calendar Radical Living NYC!
Events will take place at either the Hart House or Pulaski House in Bed-Stuy. Please call, check our website, or email to confirm times.
Potluck – The second Sunday of every month from 7:30 p.m. to 10 p.m. we gather to fellowship over a common meal. The potluck is preceded by a community meeting, which starts at 6 p.m.
Prayer Meeting – Every Friday morning from 6:45 a.m. to 7:45 a.m. we pray for one another, our community, the city and the world.
Bible Study – Every Sunday at 6 p.m., except for the second Sunday of the month, we meet to discuss the Word.
Eat the Book! – Every other Thursday at 8:30 p.m. our bimonthly book club meets to discuss (and digest) a book.
Missions & Ministry – Fourth Wednesday of the month at 7 p.m. we watch a documentary (or invite a speaker), discuss, and pray for friends, family, and others who are in the mission field.
House Concert – Saturday, June 7th, starting at 3 p.m. we are firing up the barbecue. Music performed by The Stovepipes.
ADDRESS: 32 Hart Street Brooklyn, NY 11206
About Us… Web: www.radicallivingnyc.com
Radical Living is an intentional community located in the Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood of Brooklyn, New York. We are a multicultural, intergenerational, and nondenominational community of artists, workers, and students that includes single men and women and a married couple. There are two houses—Hart House and Pulaski House— associated with Radical Living. They are located one block from each other and function as one community with 14 members. In essence we are dedicated to a meditative, prophetic and prayerful life, centered in Christ, engaged in our neighborhood, concerned with social justice, and led by the Holy Spirit.
Radical Living serves its local neighborhood via education initiatives, prayer, and community service activities. If you would like to contribute a story to Agape Times or partner with Radical Living you can call, email, or write us a letter. To make a donation, make checks payable to Melinda Faust (our treasurer) with "Radical Living" in the memo line, and mail to:
Radical Living Christian Community 32 Hart Street Brooklyn, NY 11206
The summer issue of Agape Times, the official zine of Radical Living.