Southern Brooklyn community board leaders honored local veterans ahead of Veteran’s Day with an annual parade and resource fair in Brownsville on Nov. 5.
Cleopatra Brown, chairperson for Community Board 16 and a veteran herself, created the event in 2019 with the help of Reverend Eddie Karim Jr. of Bright Light Baptist Church and Assemblymember Latrice Walker. She dreamed of honoring vets and helping them find hem find suitable housing and jobs when they returned from service, and conversations about an annual resource fair started in about 2016.
“This was birthed out of my pain and suffering. When I returned to New York [after serving] there were no jobs available. The things that the generation before us had to go through, we had to go through,” Brown told Brooklyn Paper.
Elected officials and community nonprofits that specialize in veteran’s affairs “came out in full force” to support their neighbors this year, Brown said, including Community Boards 3 and 8, Congressmember Yvette Clark, Assemblymembers Latrice Walker and Monique Chandler-Waterman, the U.S. Department for Veterans Service, Black Vets for Social Justice, Bridging Access to Care, and the NY Legal Assistance Group. The organizations offer everything from counseling for vets and their families to assistance finding affordable housing and medical care.
A year after launching the information fair, the veterans parade was added to the event.
Sian Azzinari, a staff attorney in Veterans Practice at NYLAG, attended the event for the first time on Saturday, and spent about hour hours passing out information and meeting with local veterans.
“I was very excited to jump in and meet the people of the community that we serve,” she said. “It was really well put together and I look forward to doing more events like that.”
Many veterans are unaware of the services and assistance available to them through the VA and organizations like NYLAG, she said.
“A lot of veterans don’t know everything they may be entitled to like a discharge upgrade or being able to appeal a VA compensation claim,” Assinari said. “The more information that’s out there the better for everyone. I would urge the community to hold more events like this so that veterans get that information or family members get that information for them.”
Ryan Foley, supervising attorney of the veterans practice for NYLAG, said in-person events are crucial for reconnecting with the community and veterans — especially after the isolation of the last few years.
“A lot of veterans who kind of lost touch with the community resources and places they used to go to are now emerging with a lot of legal issues that they didn’t address during COVID,” he said. “So the importance of these events to really connect with community and being able to share information that every organization can help with is just so important.”
Organizers say that while the routes and participants have changed over the years, they are glad they can keep events running.
“My vision is that every community board in Brooklyn and throughout the whole five boroughs would have a veterans committee and that they would have boots on the ground to service veterans when they return home and a veterans kiosk in every lobby or office of the community boards so they can see what’s available to them,” said Brown. “And have the opportunity to join the committee so that they can be able to assist us, the generation before them, to help the generation that’s after us so that no generation will be left behind.”