On Saturday, December 12, the Brotherhood Crusade filled a large section of the Crenshaw District with car-lines of people, spanning from Crenshaw Blvd. and 39th St., and stretching down Crenshaw (Brenda Marsh-Mitchell Square) and around the entire block, hoping to receive much-needed food, toys, and resources at Brotherhood Crusade’s annual Navidad en el Bario, or Christmas in the Neighborhood event. Brotherhood’s administrators and staff, along with select community volunteers, gave their time to help out community members-in-need, serving up to an estimated 3,000 families.
Charisse Bremond Weaver, president and CEO of the Brotherhood Crusade, reflected on the importance of giving during the pandemic. “We are here at our annual Christmas in the neighborhood, Navidad en el Bario, providing food baskets, toys, forty-dollar gift cards, and PPEs to families who are struggling right now. COVID-19 has impacted so many of our families in our communities; this is one of the ways that we give back every year. So, we’re just thankful … thankful that the Brotherhood Crusade could be here,” said Bremond Weaver.
“This is the best thing I can do this Saturday Morning is to hand out food to people who need it,” said Dion Wright, a Brotherhood Crusade staff member, who says he loves giving back to his community. “I’ve been up and at it, gathering food since 4:00 a.m.” As another helper backed bags of food, he reflected on where he first learned about giving. “When I was young, we would do these food giveaways at my church, First AME. Growing in the church we did this all the time,” he said. Not only did the helpers start early, they all brought such optimism with them.
“This is important. It’s important to give back to the community. I’m a proponent for service-learning. So, this is just a small token of our appreciation to the community,” said Leatrice Moore, Grid Program director for Brotherhood Crusade. The organization is a non-profit that provides various resources for the community, with an emphasis and focus on the at-risk youth. “Mentoring, tutoring, providing extra-curricular activities, and making sure the arts are a part of their lives. We’re just a huge proponent of changing the lives of young people and the communities they live in.”
Otesha Bremond answered this way when asked what inspires her to do for people she doesn’t even know. “Do I need a reason to take care of my people?” she asked. She mentions that there are so many opportunities out there to help people. “I know the Brotherhood Crusade puts this event on every year, so I know it something I can contribute my time to. It’s a good cause; we are feeding people, giving them toys, and PPEs … we’re doing it all,” she said. When asked what she wanted to say to those receiving the resources. “Thank you for trusting us with your life, your family, with your community. [The Brotherhood Crusade] has been here 50-plus years, and we ain’t going nowhere.”
With the DJ bumpin’ the music like the Taste of Soul festival, Nakia Brazier danced, prepared bags, and passed them out without missing a beat. In the process, she reflected on the role reversal, ironically being a recipient of the toys herself, earlier in her life, and now being able to give back. “For me, it’s not just about being out here to give something, but about giving to these youth who are me when I was a kid. So, it’s really important to me, making sure I put love and intention into every bag that I touch, every car that I give them to. This is more than a job; I’m living my purpose,” she said.
Leo Cablayan YouthSource Center, director of Employment Services, and his colleagues felt the spirit of giving. “This is Navidad en el Bario. We’re giving gifts and food to everyone in the community. COVID may be getting people down but it’s not knocking us out. It’s a great opportunity for us to come down and show the community how important they are to us,” said Cablayan. Despite the personal challenges, volunteers braved through to give their time to others.
“We have to give. Receiving good food is important; this is how we live. It’s equally important for your spirit and your health,” said Heather Hutt, State director and Sr. Advisor to Kamala Harris. Hutt and her family have been long-time supporters of the event, but due to COVID restrictions, volunteering was limited this year. She wished the people driving in the long lines best wishes and also thought about the event’s organizers. “I just want to thank Charisse, and Danny, Jr., Danny, Sr. Thank you all.”
Entrepreneur and CNN and NPR political analyst, Angela Rye, and Buffalo Wild Wings restaurateur and philanthropist, Karim Webb, took a break from their busy schedules to spend their Saturday morning helping with the traffic flow and passing out gift bags during the Navidad en el Bario event.
“It’s always a pleasure to partner with the Brotherhood Crusade with the work Charisse and Stacey do; I just wouldn’t be anywhere else, and to be able to serve the community during this time with COVID and the economic crisis that is happening, especially in Black and Brown communities. It’s the perfect thing to do. We want to ensure that people have a wonderful holiday season and make the most out of what has been a really difficult year,” Rye shared.
Webb reflected on his experience at the event and what motivated him to support it. “We’re all in this thing together. There are so many people struggling through COVID and what we’re all dealing with financially, and the insecurity of the times. Those of us who can, should,” he said. Born and raised in Southern California, Webb says he inherited his philanthropic heart from his parents, who were always involved in acts of community improvement and benevolence. When asked what he wanted to say to the people he connected with, those waiting patiently in the long car-lines. “God bless you. Thanks for showing up and giving us the opportunity to serve … engaging with the Brotherhood Crusade. And God willing, in some shape or form, you will pay it forward.”
According to Stacy Hill-Williams, executive vice president of Brotherhood Crusade, and coordinator of the event, due to COVID-19 restrictions, volunteers were limited; 98 percent of those working the event were Brotherhood Crusade staff, who happily served the community with smiles and optimism. “We couldn’t do this work without our staff and volunteers. We were up to midnight, making these bags and making this possible for everyone in our community. But a labor of love; it’s never a problem for my people. Anytime we can give back to our community, giving food and toys, especially in this pandemic; I’m glad Brotherhood Crusade, the Sentinel, and all our sponsors could help to make this happen,” Hill-Williams said.
She spoke emotionally about her staff, tearing up. “Brotherhood Crusade staff. For all the love and the commitment that you put out … I love you guys and we couldn’t do it without the team.”
Hill-Williams and Weaver thanked all the sponsors who gave and supported the event or gave donations, including the L.A. City Council, and all who came together to help mend the spirits of the community.
“Lots of partners we’re grateful for. All the partners who have been supporting the Brotherhood Crusade over the years. Our COVID-19 Emergency Relief Fund, it has been incredible. Not only today, but we have been able to give away $300,000 financially to families, as well as being able to provide Chrome Tablets to our students,” said Bremond Weaver. She says it wouldn’t happen if not for the support of the sponsors, partners, Los Angeles Public Officials, and volunteers who have helped the Brotherhood Crusade to keep moving forward in the organization’s mission, despite the COVID-19 pandemic.
One man in the line took time to speak to the workers. “Thank you! God Bless you! This is so wonderful and we are so thankful!” he said as the workers placed food and various items into his car. “It means everything to me; I have two families to care for and I’m out of work. So, whatever you guys are doing for us, thank you Brotherhood Crusade, thank you Danny [Bakewell]! Thank you, thank you!”
This story has been updated for the digital version of the LA Sentinel newspaper
Photo Gallery below (Images E. Mesiyah McGinnis /LA Sentinel