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Eleanor J. Bader

Eleanor J. Bader is a teacher, writer, and activist. She writes the monthly Stoking Fire column on, and also contributes to,, The Progressive and other progressive, feminist publications and blogs.

Watchin’ the Detectives—And the Rest of the Officers, Too

While various past watchdog efforts have targeted police brutality, Police Reform Organizing Project founder Robert Gangi says that the new group is the first "to focus on policy and the harm being caused to individuals and communities on a day-to-day basis.”


It’s barely 8:30 on a Wednesday morning and 33 seventh grade boys and girls—students at the Holy Trinity School in Whitestone, Queens—are enthusiastically filing into theater class.

AWAAM Under Fire

When playwright John Guare penned Six Degrees of Separation in 1990, he demonstrated the tenuous trail separating Person A from Person B. Now, “six degrees of separation” has been extended beyond the individual to encompass community organizations working in Arab and Muslim communities.

Middle School Initiative Challenges Education as Usual

When Placida Rodriguez’s two sons were approaching middle school age, she knew that she didn’t want them to attend their neighborhood junior high.

Debra Sweet, the Woman Behind World Can’t Wait

When someone tells you she’s been an activist her whole life, it’s usually hyperbole. But not 56 year-old Debra Sweet.

The Brooklyn Young Mother’s Collective Counters Stereotypes About Teen Parenthood

When Benita Miller, the 37 year-old founder of the Brooklyn Young Mother’s Collective, was growing up in Detroit, she didn’t know anyone who’d spent time in foster care. “People just took kids in,” she says.

Emergency Food Programs Feed Brooklyn's Hungry

Hunger and poverty are on the rise in every corner of the globe and the causes—weather calamities, the conversion of corn to ethanol, spikes in housing and healthcare costs—are increasingly earning banner headlines. According to the BBC, 100 million people are at risk of starvation and it is therefore no surprise that food riots have erupted in nations as diverse as Burkina Faso, Haiti, Mexico, Uzbekistan and Yemen.

Williamsburg Writer Opens Dialogue on Tough Issues

Williamsburg writer and activist Jennifer Baumgardner likes to discuss things that others shy away from. Her last book, Look Both Ways (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2007) addressed bisexuality. Her latest, Abortion & Life, came out in September of this year from Akashic Books.

Local Retailers Sing Recession Blues

If you're not convinced that the economic downturn is a crisis writ large, walk down any commercial street in Brooklyn and count the vacant storefronts or signs advertising 70%-off sales.

New York Abortion Fund Expands Women’s Choices

In the first months of 2008, the New York Abortion Access Fund (NYAAF) was feeling so flush that the Board sent a letter to every women’s health center in New York State offering financial help.

Brooklyn Supports a Public Option, and Beyond

If you tuned in to pretty much any TV news program in August you undoubtedly saw an unprecedented array of people carping about President Obama’s health care reform proposal. Some compared BHO to Hitler; others ranted about alleged “death panels” and the euthanizing of Granny and Gramps.

A View from Ocean Parkway

Growing up in Detroit during the Great Depression, renowned folk artist Malcah Zeldis didn’t think her dream of becoming a painter would ever be realized. And for decades it wasn’t—until she set up shop in Brooklyn.

HANNE TIERNEY: Promoting Theater Without Actors

Hanne Tierney, an East German-born Jane of many artistic trades, describes herself as a “typical autodidact, an eclectic and insatiable reader.” Her wide-ranging interests are evident in her work.

The Fixers’ Collective; Repairing the World, One Lamp at a Time

Growing up, my dad fixed things. All kinds of things, all the time. Broken clocks, torn boots, a radio that played only static—no matter the object, nine times out of 10 he’d go to the cellar of our tiny four-room house and return hours later with a smile on his face, eager to present the once-rent object for our approval.

Bringing the Tent of Abraham to the Jewish Poor

They call it a modern-day “tent of Abraham,” a series of four cost-free restaurants—three in Brooklyn and one in Queens—where indigent Jews in need of kosher meals can sit at small, cloth-covered tables and be served by waiters five nights a week.

Brooklyn Food Coalition Helps Gardens Grow

Imagine the concrete jungle recast as a place where farms sit next to tenements and empty lots become oases of flower plots, fruit trees, and vegetable patches. It seems far-fetched, I know.

NEGES Foundation: Building a Brooklyn Bridge to Haiti

When Lisel Burns, clergy leader emeritus of the Brooklyn Society for- Ethical Culture (BSEC), first visited Haiti in the mid-1990's she knew she was visiting the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere. But penury wasn’t the only thing she noticed.

Sunset Park Women’s Cooperative Says SI SE PUEDE!

Ask 21-year-old Cristina about the most horrible experience she’s had as a domestic worker and her answer is immediate. “This one lady made me clean the floor of a whole apartment on my hands and knees. There was a mop right there, but she wouldn’t let me use it.”

A Gift for All Seasons

Anyone who’s reared a child will tell you that parenthood is full of challenges and anxiety. And that’s if the child is healthy. If there are problems of any kind, worries multiply.

Brooklyn by the Numbers

Gretchen Maneval, a relative newcomer to the Borough of Churches, is fascinated by the who-what-when-where-why-and-how of her adopted city. As the Executive Director of the five-year-old Center for the Study of Brooklyn, the Pennsylvania native quickly rattles off statistics.

Brooklyn Business Proves That HOM is Where the Heart Is

When Salvatore Forte turned 30, he decided it was time to make a list of things he wanted to do before he kicked the proverbial bucket. On the roster: get a dog, go skydiving, and give back to the community.

SEEDING LOCALLY Brooklyn Community Foundation

Marilyn Gelber, President of the 18-month-old Brooklyn Community Foundation (BCF), knows an uphill struggle when she sees one. “The world of foundations and philanthropies is midtown-Manhattan centric,” she says matter-of-factly. “A study by the Foundation Center, released several years ago, found that 89.7 percent of all grants given in New York City go to Manhattan-based organizations.”

SISTERS FIGHT to End Harassment in Schools

They’re called Sisters in Strength (SIS) and the seven teenagers—ages 17 to 19—sitting around the conference table are eager to talk.

When Parents are Upstate...

“I’d like there to be a Children of Promise in every community with high incarceration rates,” Sharon Content says. “Parents constantly tell us how appreciative they are that we respect the parent-child relationship despite the fact that an adult is in jail.”

Redemption in Bushwick

Eugene Gadsden usually speaks haltingly, but ask him about the indignities facing “canners”—the approximately 10,000 New Yorkers who support themselves by picking aluminum cans and glass and plastic bottles off city streets—and he becomes loud and impassioned.

No Place to Sleep

Staff at the Fort Greene Strategic Neighborhood Action Partnership, a. k. a. Fort Greene SNAP, have already warned me that residents of the Auburn Family Residence might be afraid to talk to me about conditions in the enormous, 10-story homeless shelter located between the Cumberland Family Health Center and the Walt Whitman public housing complex off Myrtle Avenue.

Long Island’s Wages of Sin

When 51-year-old domestic worker Samireh, an undocumented immigrant from Indonesia, wandered into a Nassau County Dunkin Donuts wearing little more than a towel back in 2007, she brought needed attention to the plight of thousands of underpaid and exploited household employees, the people who labor behind the scenes to keep American enterprise afloat.

Poets Before Profits

It’s the first day of classes at Urban Word NYC’s Brooklyn site. Rain is falling hard, in sheets rather than drops, and walking outdoors requires puddle jumping or wading across small rivers.

Music that Picks You Up

Both the outpatient dialysis unit and the inpatient pediatric wing at SUNY Downstate Medical Center in Flatbush are packed, and the bleeps and blips of electronic moni

Footsteps into a New Life

When Chana was in her teens, she told her mother that she wanted to go to college. Her mom’s response was immediate and vitriolic. “She told me she’d have me locked me up in a psych ward if I applied,” she recalls.

Court of No Return

By all accounts, Brooklyn’s Housing Court is the worst run, most overcrowded, and chaotic landlord-tenant court in the five boroughs,  and horrendous conditions have prompted pro-tenant attorneys and community-based social justice organizations to mobilize to improve its functioning.

In the Archives of Interference

At first glance, the Interference Archive in Gowanus looks like a typical small library. But when founder Josh MacPhee welcomes visitors and urges them to rifle through materials chronicling the last 50 years of left-wing activism it quickly becomes obvious that this is an unusual place.

The Graying of AIDS

When the epidemic broke out in the ’80s, few would have imagined that it would ever be a problem facing seniors. But according to the AIDS Community Research Initiative of America (, a Manhattan-based public health advocacy group, by 2015 half of all people with H.I.V. in the U.S. will be aged 50 and older.

What Queerocracy Looks Like

For Queerocracy, every issue is a queer issue.

UPROSE Uplifts Sunset Park

“Fourth Avenue is a highway,” says Elizabeth Yeampierre, Executive Director of UPROSE, Brooklyn’s oldest Latina/o advocacy group.

A Maestro At The Met

“I work all the time,” Jaron Benjamin, the new executive director of the Metropolitan Council on Housing (better known as Met Council) says with a laugh.

Aizzah's Travels

When actor/playwright Aizzah Fatima was in eighth grade, about a year after she and her family moved to Starkville, Mississippi from Al-Khobar, Saudi Arabia, she saw a high school production of A Thousand Cranes. The play tells the story of Sadako Saski, a 12-year-old Japanese girl who had died of leukemia in 1955, the direct result of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima.

The Wages of Dignity

Gripes about low wages and difficult-to-deplorable working conditions have sparked a nationwide movement by fast food employees.

Walls That Outlast Sandy

Pablo Picasso famously declared that “art washes from the soul the dust of everyday life,” but it wasn’t until Hurricane Sandy that people interpreted his statement literally.

BATS Step Up to the Plate

They call themselves BATS, an acronym for Badass Teachers, and they’re mad as hell and not going to take it anymore.

Sisterhood is Local: Offering Women an Abortion Haven

Abortion counselor Catherine Megill discovered that some out-of-towners traveling to New York City for multiple-day second-trimester abortions were sleeping on park benches, at Port Authority, or in cars, because they couldn’t afford hotel rooms.

From Breuckelen to Brooklyn: Writers Craft a Compelling—and Fun—Borough History

When Leonard Benardo and Jennifer Weiss set out to create Brooklyn by Name: How the Neighborhoods, Streets, Parks, Bridges and More Got Their Names, they simply wanted to learn more about where they lived. The married couple had read street histories devoted to Manhattan and the Bronx but were startled to find nothing comparable for Kings County.

Few Shrinking Violets Amongst These Red Roses

When Newsweek deigned to gaze at the nearly two million South Asians living in the U.S. in 2004, writers Jhumpa Lahiri and Salman Rushdie were showcased.

Dishing It Out, But No Longer Taking It

According to Zagat’s 2007 Restaurant Guide, Gotham is the costliest place to dine in America… Meanwhile, as the well-heeled chow down on pan-seared fluke, slow-roasted pork or Madeira-braised oxtails, conditions for the 165,000 people employed in the five borough’s 15,000 eateries—dishwashers to waiters, 40% of them undocumented—are often heinous.

Urban Boarding Schools Offer Twist on the Elite

Think boarding school and your thoughts will likely take you to a country setting where large trees, manicured grounds, and ivy-covered buildings greet a largely upper-crust student body. Since the first private boarding schools were established in the U.S. in the 1700s, this reality has prevailed.

Tenants Fight McMansions, Challenging Landlords to Keep Their Homes

The cliché tells us that home is where the heart is. But it is more than that. Just ask someone who is threatened with losing theirs, like Evelyn Suarez.

From Brooklyn to Bourbon Street

While there’s no such thing as a typical toddler, most say mama, dada and uh-oh when they’re testing the verbal waters. But not Eva Silverstein.

For We Were Strangers in Egypt

When Cardinal Roger Mahoney of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles gave his Ash Wednesday sermon in 2006, he called on Catholics to aid immigrants both legal and not. Taking inspiration from the Old Testament book of Leviticus, he reminded his parish of the ancient injunction: Treat the stranger as you would the native-born because you were once strangers in the land of Egypt.

Coney Island History Project Preserves the Past for Future Generations

In 1965, Charles Denson, then a 12-year-old kid living in a Coney Island housing project, saw a map of his community in the New York Daily News and learned that the area had once been separated from mainland Brooklyn. “At that point I became fascinated with the history of the place,” he says.

Nonfiction: Art on the Wall Inspires Duo

Fort Greene artist Janet Braun-Reinitz likes walls. But not just any wall. She likes well-preserved, smooth surfaces on the sides of buildings; they’re perfect for creating murals, she says. “There’s nothing like standing on scaffolding and painting,” Braun-Reinitz continues; or hearing comments from passers-by. There's also something she loves about the camaraderie of working with others as opposed to the isolation of a studio. “The process is renewing. When you’re on the wall people see you not as an arty-farty person, but as a worker,” she laughs.

Asthma Act Will Help Tenants Breathe Easier

“It started with a bad cough,” began Margarita Pabon, who lives in Sunset Park.

Will the DOE Test for PCBs?

You’ve got to hand it to the public relations firm hired by the New York City Department of Education. The tag line they’ve come up with—“Children First. Always.”—is exactly what a school system should be championing.

The Dirty Business of Cleaning Cars

Like most immigrants, Jose Oscar left his native El Salvador looking for a better life, a way to support his two children and aging parents. He didn’t expect America’s streets to be paved with gold and didn’t expect dollar bills to be hanging from trees. But he did expect to be given a chance to succeed.

A Benediction

Growing up in Bridgeport, Connecticut—the first city in the U.S. to declare bankruptcy—I knew few professionals. The women in my parent’s circle were housewives, waitresses and secretaries, and those men who weren’t disabled were truck drivers, salesmen or construction workers. I never heard anyone described as a community organizer.

Project Street Beat

Unlike right-wing fundamentalists, AIDS groups know that viral transmission will not be halted by moralizing. Instead, advocates work the streets, laboring at the grassroots to teach safer practices to those at highest risk.

Home is Where the Work Is, Domestic Workers Unite

Diane B. came to the U.S. from Jamaica in 2000 wanting what every immigrant wants: a well-paying job with healthcare benefits, paid vacation, and regular hours.

Wedding Bell Blues

When writer Helen Boyd (born Gail Kramer) was growing up, she wanted to be C.S. Lewis. “What that meant was unclear,” she laughs, sitting in her small Park Slope living room, a pack of Camels by her side.

Chisholm Center Uses History to Inspire Activism

If you paid attention during presidential primary season, you might have been led to believe that Barack Obama and Hillary Rodham Clinton are the first African-American and woman to seek the U.S. presidency. In fact, this idea was put forward with mantra-like regularity. Of course, it was false.

Y-Act: Mexican-American Students Fight for Educational Equity

When Kara Gagnon was a high school senior in Dalton, Massachusetts, she didn’t give much thought to the fact that there were four guidance counselors for the 140 students in her graduating class. But moving from suburban Dalton to Brooklyn made her realize how privileged she and her peers were.

How Hungry is America? VERY...

“Local charities cannot possibly feed 35.5 million people adequately," says Joel Berg, executive director of the New York City Coalition Against Hunger. "This belief that charity does it better than government only ensures that hunger will persist in America.”

Brooklyn Housing Court: A Landlord Collection Agency?

First come the metal detectors, swiftly checking the bags and bodies of everyone who enters 141 Livingston Street. Then there are the elevators, crammed with angry tenants, hostile landlords, tired attorneys, and fiery advocates all impatiently trying to get to the building’s 4th, 5th, 6th, and 9th floors. Welcome to housing court, Brooklyn-style.

Big Mama’s Legacy

When Ebony first attended the Willie Mae Rock Camp for Girls in 2007, she had no idea what to expect and feared that she wouldn’t fit in.

Faith + Action = Justice

“The faith community in New York has never been challenged to deal with economic inequality,” says Rev. David Rommereim of the Lutheran Church of the Good Shepherd in Bay Ridge.

Street Vendors of the City Unite

Almost a century ago, in 1915, thousands of immigrant peddlers, forerunners of today’s street vendors, marched through Brownsville to air their grievances. Their placards and banners raised their concerns: We Demand Our Right to the City Streets; Shall We Go Out and Steal?; Down with Fines.

Feminists Challenge FDA on Emergency Contraception

Carroll Gardens resident Annie Tummino knows that if you’re going to pick a fight, it’s wise to choose a worthy adversary. So she has. The 26-year-old feminist activist is the lead plaintiff in Tummino v. von Eschenbach, a lawsuit challenging the Food and Drug Administration’s refusal to make Emergency Contraception (EC)—or the Morning After Pill (MAP)—available over-the-counter.

Government Charges Local Man As Eco-Terrorist

Ask his friends, and they’ll tell you that Daniel McGowan is funny, generous, loyal, and kind, the type of guy people are immediately drawn to.

Art for Life: Starts Off with a Rush in Brooklyn

In addition to operating a gallery and offering free Saturday art training for underserved youth, Rush Arts brings classes to incarcerated and newly-paroled adolescents and donates money to community education efforts throughout the city.

Immigration Mess

Shawn was 28 when he left Guyana on a Visitor’s Visa in 1997. A college graduate, he took an off-the-books job when his Visa expired; he also found an apartment in Flatbush. He was HIV positive, and believed that he was making a decent life for himself; he did not worry about his lack of documentation. Then, in November 2003, he had an altercation with his landlady.

Kit Kaplan: Capturing Brooklyn on Film

Photographer Kit Kaplan’s mission is to capture Brooklyn neighborhoods on film. From abandoned buildings to a man in pink alligator shoes resting on a stoop, her work documents lives and places that make Brooklyn Brooklyn.

Welcome the Strangers in Your Midst

Nasreen Alkhateeb, an Iraqi-American filmmaker, sculptor, photographer and painter, describes herself as a constant outsider.

Ambulatory's Many Obstacles

The Ambulatory Surgery Center, located on a grimy residential block underneath the Gowanus Expressway, has been in operation since 1971 and provides multilingual treatment for a range of ailments, from gynecology to podiatry to pulmonary difficulties.

Lawsuit Claims Discrimination At Court House

When Yvette Woodard heard that 20 percent of the 321 units in the Court House apartments in downtown Brooklyn were going to be affordable to low-income tenants, she thought it sounded too good to be true, but she applied anyway.

P.S. 24: Social and Emotional Learning in Dos Idiomas

Every morning, Diaz asks her students if there’s anything they’d like to discuss; she is often surprised—and pleased—by their revelations. Today is no exception.

Sharing Brooklyn’s Bounty with South African Youth

Shortly after art teacher Sandy Edmonds arrived in Port Elizabeth, South Africa last August, she noticed that one of her students, 12-year-old Vuyo Mkalipi, held his scissors a few inches from his eyes. It was the only way he could see the paper he intended to cut.

Giving Good

Daniel Helfman wants to do good. Not carrying-groceries-for-an-elderly-neighbor good, but the kind of good that creates jobs for the long-term unemployed, builds affordable housing in high-poverty areas, and extends health care to those without it. He calls his mission “social change through free enterprise.”

City Home Sharing Program Promotes Aging in Place

Joseph Bell, a retired Public Relations Director at the New York Institute for the Education of the Blind—now called the NY Institute for Special Education—was walking down Hanson Place several years ago when a pamphlet on the ground caught his eye.

JOSHUA DERR: Bearing Witness to Gentrification

The first thing you notice about photographer Josh Derr’s work is the color. Whether you’re looking at a blue sky, a red truck, or something yellow or green, his dazzling hues practically jump off the page and demand attention.

At Home in the Chelsea Hotel

When Sybao Cheng-Wilson was a teenager, she loved traveling from her family’s home in Queens to Manhattan’s Chelsea Hotel.

Creating a Groundswell in Brooklyn

At the time of his arrest in January 2011, James was a 15-year-old high school sophomore. The charge? Possession of marijuana.

In the Beginning, All Need the Word

On at least one point, early childhood educators unanimously agree: Providing children with books is the best way to help them develop language skills and enhance creativity, imagination, and a love of learning.

Upsetting Brooklyn

When Zohra Saed was a child, her father frequently spoke about two things: Islam and Afghanistan, her family’s country of origin. She found his stories riveting. In fact, she loved them so much that she started writing stories and poems of her own

Faith in Filmmaking

Prospect Lefferts Gardens resident Faith Pennick is a feminist and a filmmaker. But that doesn’t mean she wants to be called a feminist filmmaker.

The Angela Thomas Story

Long before The Swan wafted into living rooms across the U.S., Christian author and motivational speaker Angela Thomas found herself lamenting her “ordinary” looks.

Off the Shelves: Politics They Live

Those who believe that women and people of color are inherently progressive need only read Laura Flanders’s Bushwomento be disabused. This entertaining and enraging text lambastes female leaders whose policies adversely impact poor and working-class communities as well as stymie efforts to legislate social equity.

Fiction: The Land Without A People

Susan Abulhawa’s timely, fact-based novel, The Scar of David, asks a profound question: Why have the Palestinians been forced to pay for the Jewish Holocaust? The piece resonates with compassion, not only for Palestine, but for the millions who died in the Holocaust.

Off The Shelves

Peter Manseau and Jeff Sharlet’s bible is not a monolithic mirror reflecting the state of religion in America post 9/11 but more like a disco ball:

In Conversation

City of Women: Elizabeth Gaffney

It’s easy to see why 38-year-old writer Elizabeth Gaffney calls herself “a Brooklyn devotee.” She still lives in the Brooklyn Heights brownstone in which she was born and loves to rifle urban archives for overlooked nuggets of borough lore.

Politics: Pro-choice or no choice

At first glance, Cristina Page’s How the Pro-Choice Movement Saved America seems to belong in the fantasy aisle. Between the war in Iraq, Samuel Alito, global warming, and federal funding of anti-abortion crisis pregnancy centers substituting school-based sex education, America seems far from salvation.

Social Criticism: Deconstructing Race in America

When media ethics professor Robert Jensen was growing up in North Dakota, he had no idea that his insular world was built on a foundation of racial subjugation. To his credit, this self-styled “white-bred, white bread, white boy” has spent decades deconstructing skin privilege.

Fiction: An Audacious Talent

The nine short stories in Kaui Hart Hemmings’ debut collection are at once intimate and profound. Readers are dropped into upper-crust Hawaii, a world in which people wound each other—sometimes intentionally and sometimes not—at deep psychological levels. While this is not in and of itself unusual, Hemmings’ characters are largely able to recover their equilibrium. Throughout, each person—whether adult, teenager or child—radiates resilience and the ability to adjust to adversity and betrayal.

FICTION: Inventing personal history

When Jennifer Natalya Fink was growing up, she repeatedly questioned her family about why they’d trekked from Lithuania to Brazil to the United States. ...

An Uphill Battle for Legal Services in Brooklyn

Back in 2003, attorneys at Legal Services-NYC's (LS-NYC) Brooklyn offices began seeing clients who felt they had been swindled. As their stories unfolded, the lawyers were told that a realty outfit called United Homes had approached people in Bedford-Stuyvesant, East New York, Bushwick, and other largely low-income communities and had lured them into purchasing houses that were supposedly fully-renovated, only to later learn that serious underlying problems continued to exist.


The Brooklyn Rail

SEPT 2023

All Issues