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Victory: Possessing the Land

Jeremiah 33: 6-9

“ ‘Nevertheless, I will bring health and healing to it; I will heal my people and will let them enjoy abundant peace and security. I will bring Mott Haven-Port Morris, South Bronx from captivity and will rebuild them as they were before. I will cleanse them from all the sin they have committed against me and will forgive all their sins of rebellion against me. Then [the H.E.Arts Center] will bring me renown, joy, praise and honor before all nations on earth that hear of all the good things I do for it; and they will be in awe and will tremble at the abundant prosperity and peace I provide for it.’


Crossover/Possess the Land by Embassy Worship


Happy Eight Day of Thanks Everyone!


Today I give thanks for Victory and the ability to possess the land. After twelve long years of South Bronx United fighting to get the former Lincoln Recovery Center to transform it into HEArts, a holistic community center that will focus on the pillars of health, education, and the arts, we have finally won the battle.

Today, we were supposed to have a press conference with the original owners of the land, Health & Hospital Corporation, NYC Mayor's office and their liaison, the Economic Development Corporation (EDC), to announce our win of the Request for Proposal and our contractual agreement for my organization to lease the land.


In August 2022, the EDC representative came to the South Bronx to hear our community’s concerns and desires for the Former Lincoln Recovery Center space. They had no idea how my organization and community turn out for the things we want. Just as the Israelites marched around Jericho, sending the tribe of Judah (praise) first as a strategy to possess the land, we too decided to march around the former Lincoln Recovery center to meet the EDC representative, sending our praise team first. We had pleneros and drummers blasting the war cry that we wanted Hearts and that it belonged to the community. We danced and marched and praised until the blessing of victory was released in the spirit to us.


The EDC representatives stood in amazement as over 150 plus community members, in the same t-shirts, on one accord marched to them by drums and victory chants and let them know that we meant business about getting that building for our community center. One of the EDC representatives of Latino decent joined us, as we danced to the drums of the pleneros. When we were done our entrance to the meeting, we all sat and began to share our thoughts about what we wanted to see in the building. We also asked the EDC questions about their intentions for the RFP, and how we would get the building.


From August to October, the EDC was developing an RFP that almost identically reflected my organizations’ feasibility study and the years of community envisioning session we did to determine what we wanted the building to be. In October, the RFP was released to the public to apply with a January 2023 deadline.


On January 2023, my organization submitted our 200 plus paged RFP application and “anxiously” waited for their reply. For the next several months, the EDC would send us clarifying application questions that we’d have to submit to them. The EDC even arranged an in-person meeting to ask more clarifying questions and to meet my organization’s complete team for the HEArts projects. I remember sitting in the in-person meeting declaring to the EDC team and everyone around the room that my team was not going home to the South Bronx to tell our community that we had received an answer of “no” from the EDC. I let them know that we would step over them in the hierarchy until we got to someone that would say “yes” that we could have the building.


Several months later, they contacted us and said that we had officially won the RFP application.


Victory!


We crossed over!!! Now, we can finally possess the land.


The next phase of possessing the land will entail raising the funds in the vein of $40 M to repair the former Lincoln Recovery Center building and bring it up to building code. We almost have half of that money and are putting the rest of our “ducks in a row,” to have the center up and running by late 2025/early 2026.


Let me just be clear that the war is not over. We have just won a significant battle to possess the land but the war still rages. Why?


For years, New York City gave property to people and developers for $1 and sometimes still gives adjacent land for parking lots to developers for free. But somehow, when Black and Brown people are on the same mission for self-determination and to uplift our communities, the same "deals" and gestures are never given to us. We fight and toil, relentlessly, to achieve the same and sometimes less than similar outcomes. According to our Request for Proposal, we could only lease the building for 99 years and had to accept it "as is." This deal is similar to a slave master who wants to keep a choke hold on the necks of its slaves and never allow them to advance. The city and property owners can always "lord over us" during this 99-year period of lease.

Can you imagine an organization and the community spending 99 years pouring our hearts and soul into making this community center a success? We will give our blood, sweat and tears to this effort. Then after 99 years, when all is great and perfected with this center, the city and original owners will take it back and claim that they can now steward the property. (I’m shaking my head and giving a side-eye right now!)


I’m also snitching that the original owners abandoned the property for over twelve years, allowing it to accrue $10 Million in damages from pipes bursting, mold, and from exposure to the elements from windows being completely left open. We, the community, get the building "as is" and have to pay for the owner's $10M of abandonment, neglect and negligence. In this "deal," no one is making this city entity accountable for the $10M in damages and for abandoning the community at its pinnacle of need. (Explain how that is reasonable or a just deal!)


Nonetheless, as our community has always had to bear the brunt of this type of neglect and still develop ways to succeed, we will do it again. Relentlessly, we will pursue and possess the land.


My organization's desire is to buy the land and place it under our community land trust such that the community would own and steward the property forever. It may seem a little impossible right now because we saw what the RFP states. But God! He already declared that our word to possess the land was from Jeremiah chapter 33. The land belonged to us and God was going to restore it. I’m also sure that God will reveal strategies to the masterminds we have on my team. We will figure out a way to allow us to own the space before our 99-year lease is complete.


Today, as I give thanks for victory and possessing the land, I invite you to donate, https://www.southbronxunite.org/donate, to the two of my organizations, South Bronx Unite and the Mott Haven-Port Morris Community Land Stewards Inc., for all of the amazing work that we do concerning equity in the spheres of racial, social and environmental justice.

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