Walk Leader: Alonzo Jones Jr. and the Brownsville Community Justice Center
Text by: Stacey Anderson
Photographs by: Audrey Williams
Alonzo Jones Jr., 20 years old and born and raised in Brownsville, Brooklyn, organized and led this Jane’s Walk because he wanted to help overcome the tarnished image the media paints of his community. Although it covers less than two square miles, Brownsville appears frequently in the news: “#1 with bullets:, “murder capital of New York” and “where optimism feels out of reach” have been some recent headlines.
As Alonzo explains, “Leading the walk allowed me to share our history with other youth, so now, when they go out and talk about Brownsville, they can tell a different story.” He researched the walk thoroughly, by reading books and websites but mainly by talking to community elders, “because not only did they know the history, they had lived it.”
A man known as Uncle Roy provided him with a lot of information.
“He has been an entrepreneur in the community for as long as I can remember. He could talk about the past, present and future of Brownsville because he sees it every day and has conversations with everyone who walks by. After I talked to him, I altered my route a lot. Initially, I was only going to take people to places I knew, but Uncle Roy made me want to dig deeper and discover some new places.”
The first stop along the two-hour route was the Stone Avenue branch of the Brooklyn Public Library, which just celebrated its 100th birthday. In 1914, Brownsville’s main library was so popular it became overcrowded, and the city opened this second branch dedicated to children’s books. It was the first children’s library in the world. Many walkers had not been aware of this fact, including a woman who lived just two blocks away and passed by the building every day.