Families United for Racial and Economic Equality (FUREE) is a member led Brooklyn-based multiracial program of Fifth Avenue Committee (FAC) led by mostly women of color. We organize and unite low-income families to build power to fight against systems of oppression so that the work of all people is valued and all of us have the right and ability to decide and live out our own destinies. We use direct action, leadership development, community organizing and political education to win the changes our members seek. Our guiding principle is that those directly affected by the policies we are seeking to change should lead the organization because they are the true experts.
At FUREE, we bring together people with common problems, to work together, grow together and come up with solutions for a better community. Our core values are:
Collective Decision Making & Community Power
Leadership Development & Self Determination
Political Education & Equality for ALL
Supporting Women of Color Leadership & Uplifting Youth Voices
Fifth Avenue Committee (FAC) is a community organization in South Brooklyn that advances economic and social justice by building vibrant, diverse communities where residents have genuine opportunities to achieve their goals, as well as the power to shape the community’s future. FAC is a nationally-recognized nonprofit community development corporation formed in 1978 that works to transform the lives of over 5,000 low- and moderate-income New Yorkers annually so that we can all live and work with dignity and respect while making our community more equitable, sustainable, inclusive, and just. To achieve our mission, FAC develops and manages affordable housing and community facilities, creates economic opportunities and ensures access to economic stability, organizes residents and workers, offers student-centered adult education, and combats displacement caused by gentrification.
FUREE was founded in 2001 when a group of 15 women decided to organize for access to education and training for people on public assistance. Our first major victory came in 2003 when the New York City Council overrode a mayoral veto and passed Local Law 23, the Access to Training and Education Law.
In 2015, FUREE began a process of merging with Fifth Avenue Committee (FAC) in order to preserve its ability to organize communities of color in the face of reduced staff capacity and fiscal uncertainty. FAC is a community development corporation in South Brooklyn that advances economic and social justice by building vibrant, diverse communities where residents have genuine opportunities to achieve their goals, as well as the power to shape the community’s future. Formed in 1978, FAC works to transform the lives of over 5,500 low- and moderate-income New Yorkers annually so that we can all live and work with dignity and respect while making our community more equitable, sustainable, inclusive, and just.The merger was completed in early 2016 and since then, FUREE has increased its activity and presence throughout Brooklyn as well as expanded its member-base and programming.
Today FUREE continues to organize low-income and working-class families, to build community power and win systemic changes in our neighborhoods and across New York City. We understand that our campaigns are connected to a broader struggle to confront economic inequality and racism.
Office: 718 852 2960
Cell: 646 678 2546
Shatia (Tia) is a Bed-Stuy native and resident whose life passion is maintaining the legacy and culture of communities of color through activism in social, food and environmental justice. Her role as mother and wife has led her towards a path of intentional radicalism with the hopes that she can raise her children to champion the causes they find important to them. In 2014 she was hired as the Lead organizer for FUREE and shortly thereafter, promoted to Program Coordinator. In this role, Tia wears many hats, including the development and oversight of all FUREE campaigns and programs.
In her free time, you can probably find Tia gardening, camping/hiking, working on her growing collection of dead animals, or some random, potentially dangerous adventure that’s sure to add grey hairs to her husband’s head. Shatia loves to travel and share stories, is an avid baker and experimenter in the kitchen as well as a dabbler in the art of homemade jam.
Office: 718 852 2960
Cell: 917 704 6994
Michael Higgins Jr. is a member turned organizer at FUREE. Michael first came to FUREE through its Youth Program and is a native of the Fort Greene area of Brooklyn. Michael first joined the Accountable Development campaign, before engaging more deeply in work around public housing. He now does organizing within FUREE members around environmental justice, civic participation and further inclusion of public housing in the greater housing justice movement in New York City. Michael’s interests include housing rights, from tenant rights and access to affordability housing, to rezoning and development issues and city governance over areas such as education and public housing.
Office: 718 852 2960
Cell: 646 322 7121
FUREE is a place where people can help to make change. It’s also an education in people, politics, and life in the city for people like me who hook up with the group.
Lehman Weichselbaum – FUREE member
FUREE is a family. A FUREEous organization that never backs down. A powerful organization that gets the job done with a loud voice. We fight back and people of power fear us.
Diana Smith – FUREE member
Our lives are a battlefield on which is fought a continuous war between the forces that are pledged to confirm our humanity and those determined to dismantle it…
Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o
Peace cannot exist without justice, justice cannot exist without fairness, fairness cannot exist without development, development cannot exist without democracy, democracy cannot exist without respect for the identity and worth of cultures and peoples.
Carrie Gadsden has been a resident of Gowanus Houses for 15 years. She became aware of FUREE through our work on Participatory Budgeting and the relief efforts after Super Storm Sandy. Afterwards, she decided to join FUREE as a member and also became the Sergent of Arms on the Gowanus Resident Association for one term. Carrie graduated from the State University of Buffalo with a Bachelors degree and Long Island University with a Masters Degree, both in business, she is now a retired mother and doting grandmother.
Monica Underwood is a Brooklyn native and has lived in Wyckoff Gardens for 35 years. She is the mother of 3 children and 9 grandchildren and out of that 9, 8 are males (and some play basketball)! She is a widow and has also lost a child (daughter) but continues to stand strong in her faith. She wants to see her community organized as one powerful force because the fight ahead of us all is a big one. Monica wants to be a strong influence for her grandchildren. When she first came to FUREE, she saw people fighting for the same goals and it gave her a warm feeling to see how strong we are as people.
“My feelings are STRONG, REACHING OUR GOALS AND SHOWING THE WORLD WE ARE A STRONG GROUP OF PEOPLE.”
Cherry Shiver was born in North Carolina and migrated to New York City in 1958, she has lived in Wyckoff Gardens for 43 years, has 6 children and 13 grandchildren! When she came to FUREE for the first time she was drawn to the leadership academy teaching skills building. She is so happy to now be a part of the NEW FUREE LEADERSHIP TEAM to put us as a whole back on the map.
“I say IF WE STAND TOGETHER WE WILL BE A STRONG AND POWERFUL PEOPLE. LET THE MEDIA START TO KNOW OUR NAME AND ACCOMPLISHMENTS.”
Beverly Corbin, mother of 5 children and six grandchildren, has lived in Wyckoff Gardens for 31 years. Beverly is a long time FUREE member, and her youngest child was basically raised at FUREE. She has been with the organization for all the ups and downs and is thrilled to see FUREE doing great, much needed work. She believes that in a time that is so hard for young black men and women, we need to show them that they have power. They are other destiny of their lives. “We as older people need to understand when it is time to pass the baton on to them. That is why the we have to make the youth group strong.”
Randy was elected onto FUREE’s Board in 2005—this is his 3rd Board term. He first got involved to support his wife, Jewel, a child care provider who is active on the child care campaign. After attending several meetings, he became actively involved in child care campaign, and along with Jewel has been an important leader in FUREE ever since. Randy is the proud father of three and grandfather of three. He is a retired postal worker, and a founder the International Brotherhood of African-American Postal Workers. Randy is also a Vietnam veteran.
Sandra was a native New Yorker and a family day care provider in her Bedford-Stuyvesant community for six years. She worked with youth for 25 years throughout New York State and California. She has one grown daughter, Kimberly, and two grandchildren, Nicole and Kwame, after whom her child care center is named. She has been an active and vocal leader of FUREE for over six years and voted as the permanent Co-Chair of FUREE by the Board of Directors in May of 2011.
Nashaun Garrett was a long time activist and member of FUREE who loudly and proudly protested against the speculative and irresponsible development in Downtown Brooklyn.
Nashaun’s energy, intellegence and dedication was highly valued and a great asset to our work for social and economic justice. He was loved and respected by those who knew him.
Joy Chatel was a FUREE leader and former Board Member. She is survived by her 3 children, her brother and sister, 13 grandchildren, 4 great grandchildren as well as countless others that affectionately know her as Mama Joy.
The keeper of 227 Duffield Street, Mama Joy fought brave battles against the Bloomberg administration and millionaire developers to keep the history of anti-slavery organizing from being erased from the Fulton Mall area. Mama Joy organized many people, elected officials and organizations to understand the importance of the abolitionist movement in Downtown Brooklyn thus savingher home from eminent domain and winning the renaming of the street to Abolitionist Place.
Mama Joy joined FUREE in 2004, became a leader in FUREE’s Accountable Development Campaign and elected to the board in May of 2009. Her special interest in unfair zoning and responsible development was not just about keeping her home but also from her heart’s longing to maintain the social and cultural fabric of Downtown Brooklyn. The 2004 Downtown Brooklyn rezoning plan resulted in a boom of luxury-dominated development and the massive displacement of low income and working class people of color as well as mom and pop stores.
Some of FUREE’s campaigns and programs are city-wide in partnership with our allies and coalition members but our main base and focus is right here in Brooklyn. Currently the majority of our membership live in the Fort Greene/Downtown and Boerum Hill/Gowanus areas of Brooklyn, while our office is nestled conveniently between the two areas at 388 Atlantic Avenue.
Do you live outside of these areas? We are always looking to expand our base, increase our numbers and grow our strength! Please contact us if you are interested in getting involved and have an idea or campaign you would like to introduce.
Change takes collective power and FUREE welcomes all levels of involvement. Want to become a member, volunteer or ally? Give us a call, shoot us an email or stop by our office!
Want to donate? You can do that too! You can donate via our “donate” button conveniently set up on every page of our website! You can also send a check or money order to our office address (while we appreciate the green, we try to avoid cash!).