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.
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 ext. 201
Cell: 646 678 2546
Michael Higgins Jr. is a member turned organizer at FUREE and 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 to rezoning and development issues, and city governance over areas such as education and public housing.
Office: 718 852 2960 ext. 202
Cell: 917 704 6994
Frantasia (Fran) Fryer is a former FUREEous Youth Leader who’s been recently hired as FUREE’s new Youth organizer. Originally from Charlotte, North Carolina she moved to Brooklyn with her family in 2012 and since then has been dedicated to fighting for fair and equal housing rights. Frantasia is a poet and artist who truly believes using the arts is a powerful way to help young people learn, grow and communicate in their own way through their own voices.
She is the creator and producer of the monthly FUREEous Youth Art House [FYAH] open mic series launched in January 2017, that has been successful in opening dialogue across different races, ages and political affiliations. In this first year of the series alone it has highlighted, explored and unpacked a wide range of topics and issues that impact our communities and society as a whole.
Fran is involved in a number of social justice movements but when she’s not fighting the good fight you can find her reading, writing, nerding out on Harry Potter or comics, and dabbling in technology.
Office: 718 852 2960 ext. 203
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 of Directors in 2005. 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. Randy was the proud father of three and grandfather of three. He was a retired postal worker, and a founder the International Brotherhood of African-American Postal Workers. Randy was 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.
Lorena Watler was a long time supporter and member of FUREE who worked on the Accountable Development campaign around the rezoning of Downtown Brooklyn. She is shown here with helping give a tour of Downtown along Bridge Street as businesses along the once thriving corridor began to close.
A native of Panama, Celina was a long term FUREE leader as a member of the Board of Directors, Treasurer and interim Executive Director. A resident of Fort Greene in Ingersoll Houses, Celina was instrumental in the growth of FUREE’s involvement in the development of Downtown Brooklyn and in public housing. She was very attached to the FUREE name and fought for its preservation as FUREE became a program of the Fifth Avenue Committee. She was known for her short stature but booming voice and her trademark Panama hat. She stands here with other FUREE members at Fort Greene Old Timers Day in Commodore Barry Park in blue with her hat.
Read an excerpt from this op-ed below and its entirety in the link above.
On September 26th, FUREE and Turning the Tide climate justice initiative members testified at a Federal hearing regarding a proposed settlement for two Federal cases, the U.S. and Baez cases, both against the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA). The settlements address unmet lead & mold abatements in NYCHA, lack of timely repairs, lack of provision of adequate heat & water, functioning elevators, uncontrolled pest infestations, and fraudulent inspections whereby the City of New York (via NYCHA, NYC’s largest landlord) admits to numerous housing-code, environmental and human-rights violations disproportionately impacting the health and safety of hundreds of thousands of low-income residents, in particular children and seniors of color. As the hours passed, we listened to story after story of how NYCHA’s failure to provide adequate repairs and remediation to address lead, mold, water leaks, sewage backups, vermin, and broken boilers, elevators, doors, mailboxes and windows is causing severe consequences to both the mental and physical health of public housing residents.
Within the terms of a proposed settlement, the City of New York has committed to pay $2 billion for false reports of work inspections on lead-paint and mold remediation, in addition to other essential maintenance failures. While we, as residents of and advocates for public housing, greatly appreciated the opportunity to testify in court and thank Judge William Pauley and the office of the attorney general for their patience and understanding in listening to the multiple painful stories of NYCHA residents pleading for help, we left the Federal Courthouse adamant that more action must be taken to address this health and housing rights crisis impacting nearly one out of every 14 New Yorkers who lives in public housing.
In short, we believe that any NYCHA initiative that does not directly lead to improved living conditions in residents’ apartments in NYCHA’s existing portfolio must cease until this crisis is resolved.
We are joined by legendary activist Mike Roselle to talk about the state of the Earth in the face of Climate Change and what the Environmental movement has been doing wrong.
Michael Higgins then joins us from FUREE (Families United for Racial and Economic Equality) who talks about the massive March Against Gentrification in Brooklyn this weekend. Segment starts at 31:00.
Author and playwright Mo Beasley, and visual artist and poet Frantasia Fryer tell us about the organization Families United for Racial and Economic Equality (FUREE), which is devoted to advocating for housing rights, social justice rights, and economic rights for the borough as well as providing arts opportunities for Brooklyn youth. They also comment on the recent student walk-out against gun violence.
In case you missed it, our own FUREE Steering Committee Chair Monica Underwood and colleague and community organizer Karen Blondel were recently invited onto BRIC TV’s 112BK to talk about the recent news about public housing.
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!).