In the heart of Brownsville, Brooklyn, HealthJox Foundation and Exousia Cathedral joined forces again to pull off a strong end of year event with their annual Christmas tree lighting and toy giveaway called, “Brownsville Shines.” An annual family event, Brownsville Shines is the vision of Missionary Bishop – Dr. Lester Bradford that showcases a blend of rich holiday traditions, cultural heritage, and spirited giving by members and volunteers of HealthJox Foundation, Inc. and Exousia Cathedral.
By the evening of Saturday, December 16, 2023, news circulated throughout the neighborhood regarding the toy-giveaway from 5pm – 7pm and people came out in droves as the stage set-up began. By 5pm, DJ Argyle and his team began playing traditional and contemporary holiday tracks which represented a sounding-board to let everyone within air shot know that the event had begun. In that very moment, Founder and Executive Director of HealthJox Foundation – Dewry DuRoi Bradford grabbed the microphone and began addressing the onlookers and coercing them to gather and join the festivities. Parishioners lined up in anticipation as they enjoyed cups of hot chocolate, bowls of chicken soup, and dainty Christmas cookies and pastries. The sidewalk bustled with kids of all ages along with their parents and guardians waiting for their turn to access the lower auditorium of the building, where all the goodies were set-up for their choosing. Exousia Cathedral’s 693 Ralph Avenue location also couples as the headquarters of HealthJox Foundation, Inc. Community members know that at any given time, food giveaways are produced right outside of the building throughout the year, however, Brownsville Shines is the event most anticipated. Brownsville Shines is known for offering toys and technology in excess, all for free. The burden of worry is lifted from parents as they don’t have to face the disappointment their children would have experienced, by not being able to provide multiple gifts on Christmas Day.
Scheduled to hit the stage was professional dancer Kaylan TBB and recording artist JaredSB. As JaredSB entered to sing his Christmas ballad entitled “This Christmas,” (a cover that he launched last year), the crowd eagerly waited in anticipation. JaredSB, a Brooklyn native who grew up on Gates Avenue, launched his career a few years ago and have been locally touring the East Coast and parts of the West Coast with his sultry young voice. Reminiscent of a young Chris Brown, JaredSB takes this song to a different place with his heart-felt moves and gestures.
Looking forward to a promising year of 2024, HealthJox Foundation and Exousia Cathedral will continue to partner up in making a difference in the community of Brownsville. Although Brownsville is known to be one of the economically challenged neighborhoods in Brooklyn, HealthJox Foundation and Exousia Cathedral’s hope is to allow Brownsville to emerge as a shining example of resilience, progress, and community spirit. This vibrant community has produced some of the most accomplished athletes, musicians, and creatives in New York City.
Organizer and President of Brownsville Shines, Taniesha Bradford and her team: Pastor Kayla Swindell, Lucia Bradford and Dewry DuRoi Bradford, strategically organized the lower auditorium so that each visitor arriving (10-at a time), flowed seamlessly through the event space. Volunteers assisted with handing-off the toys, food, clothing, and footwear. Taniesha also challenged volunteers to include and focus on inspiring and empowering the community folk of Brownsville. through acts of kindness within the spiritual tradition of Christmas. This unique event is a testament to HealthJox Foundation and Exousia Cathedral’s commitment in fostering positive change and well-being.
History of Brownsville, Brooklyn:
Brownsville is a neighborhood in the eastern part of Brooklyn, New York City. It has a rich history, but it has also faced economic challenges and social issues over the years.
Brownsville’s development can be traced back to the late 19th century when it experienced rapid growth and urbanization. It was initially a middle-class neighborhood but later faced economic decline and social challenges. The neighborhood has been historically diverse, with significant African American, Hispanic, and, Jewish populations. Over the years, the demographics have evolved and Brownsville is known for its multicultural community. Brownsville neighborhoods have struggled with poverty and many efforts have been made by community organizations and local government to address issues and improve economic opportunities.
Exousia Cathedral has been a staple in the community, creating a safe space for youth to explore their spirituality and learn how to live productive lives according to the scriptures. HealthJox Foundation partnered with this initiative by providing tangible resources to service the needs of the people. Together, they have been working to uplift the spirit of people in Brownsville. Their efforts often focuses on lifestyle, spiritual development & mentorship, and community engagement to bring positive changes to the neighborhood. This can be observed through their new generation on volunteers growing up with the heart for community service. Despite challenges, Brownsville has cultural institutions and landmarks. The neighborhood has produced notable figures in the arts, sports, and other fields, contributing to its cultural legacy.
In recent years, there have been revitalization efforts aimed at improving infrastructure, housing, and overall quality of life in Brownsville. These initiatives often involve collaboration between local government, community organizations, and residents. Brownsville Shines is one of the service offerings that have been established by Missionary Bishop – Dr. Lester Bradford as this is his 11th year extending this event to the community. Brownsville Shines, initially started by original President – Lucia Bradford, who went on to become a traveling opera singer – headlining shows produced in Russia, Germany and most recently at Carnegie Hall and Radio City Music Hall, where she then passed the torch to Taniesha Bradford. Since then, expansion in offering and involving technology, dry goods, canned goods and home supplies for adults were included.
Brownsville’s future is influenced by ongoing community efforts, public policies, and the engagement of residents. The hope is to create a more vibrant and sustainable community that offer opportunities and a high quality of life for all its residents. In addition, HealthJox Foundation, Inc. and Exousia Cathedral launched a new tradition in 2023 of donating toys to other organizations. This year, 200 toys were donated to a Bushwick-based organization called “Clothed With Love” – founded by Pastor Denise Hall, for their toy giveaway event on December 23, 2023 where parishioners surrounding their 103 Jefferson Avenue location and was able to receive much needed items for the holidays. This aligns with the vision of Bishop Lester Bradford and Dewry DuRoi’s plan to position their organizations to expand and service benefactors within the community of Brooklyn.
It’s important to note that Brownsville Shines is forever evolving… and as the neighborhood grows, so will this platform.
Sponsors: Special thanks goes out to our sponsors who allowed us to accomplish this successful event:
Brooklyn Health Equity Foundation, Toys For Tots, Trader Joe’s, Grow Brownsville, Volunteers from Origins High School, Volunteers from Exousia Cathedral, Family & Friends, Volunteers from HealthJox Foundation.
Elder Elect Lucia Bradford, Pastor Constance Wright, Pastor Derrick Swindell, Deaconess Ingrid Semple, Deaconess Glendora Ceballos, Deacon Trevor Walker, Jamal “Mystery” Brooks, DJ Argyle, Josiah Bradford, Natasha Adams, Kayla Swindell and Nathifa King.
Brownsville Shines Recap Video: Click below to review event.
Brownsville Shines Preparation Video: Click below to review event.