Monique Waterman wasn’t familiar with the term “conflict resolution” when she was 11 years old, but that’s when she began practicing it.
It was her brother, Herbert, who taught her the importance of “talking things out,” rather than getting involved in so much of the negativity that surrounded her when she was growing up in what she calls the “challenging” neighborhood of East Flatbush.
“He protected me,” says Waterman, and so did her single mom — who worked three jobs — and her grandparents.
Waterman learned early on that, “It takes a village,” and that’s why she founded East Flatbush Village. The not-for-profit is committed to providing support and information to the neighborhood. Today, it is Waterman who teaches others how to deal with conflict and adversity. She’s been in the same community for 36 years, raising four children with her husband, Eric, whom she met when they both attended sixth grade at Meyer Levin Junior High School. Her mom, brother, and other family members went to that same school, and today, the Woman of Distinction brings some of her programs to its doors.
East Flatbush Village seeks to combat violence by offering recreational activities and educational tools. It enriches the community with after-school programs, arts and cultural happenings, sports, yoga and meditation classes, and the mandatory involvement of parents. Resources are provided to the entire family, because this is what is needed to repair the community, Waterman says. When she works with young people, the goal is to train them to become leaders, as they are the ones who will eventually take over the foundation, and keep it going. It’s already happening. Waterman mentions one student who came to the program and now serves on its board. That, she says, is a source of pride.
“When I am out and about in the community, it gives me great pleasure to see the youth that came through my programs,” says Waterman. “They are very respectful, and often reflect on the memories we shared. I am always humbled by their respect and appreciation.”
She is grateful that her family is very supportive of this endeavor.
“My husband is the reason why I can balance my everyday life,” she says. “He is my confidant, best friend, and support.”
Her mother and her father-in-law are also there to help with the children. Her biggest obstacle these days is the foundation’s limited funding. There is always more to do to customize the needs of the neighborhood.
Waterman began her civic engagement by creating a scholarship fund in 2003. She has served as president of the E. 29th Block Association, and coordinated block clean-up programs. Awards she has earned include “40 under 40” from Caribbean Life, and the Shirley Chisholm Women of Distinction Award from Council Member Jumaane Williams’s office.
She was nominated for this award by Nicole Robinson Etienne, who serves on the board of East Flatbush Village. She calls Waterman “an entrepreneur with a community focus, and a super mom and role model to young girls and boys in Central Brooklyn.”
Together, they work to enrich the lives of children and families.
Neighborhood: East Flatbush.
Occupation: Executive director, chief executive officer, and founder.
East Flatbush Village, Inc.
Claim to fame: Being a mother, wife, and community influencer.
Favorite Brooklyn Place and why: East Flatbush, because my experiences in my neighborhood have shaped who I am today.
Woman you admire and why: My mother, Yvonne Chandler, who worked three jobs and raised me.
Motto:“Be the mentor you needed!