Myrtle Avenue Brooklyn Partnership Executive Director, Meredith Phillips Almeida, sat down with Samantha Johnson, Director of Community Integration at the Ingersoll Community Center – just one of the many hats she wears as an activist, educator and leader in the Fort Greene community. If you spend just a moment with her, you’ll quickly be drawn in by her positivity and warmth. Armed with an endless supply of energy and a huge heart, she’s on a mission to use them to lift up young people as they transition to adulthood.
SJ: Well, I’m a supporter and member of the Close Rikers Campaign with Just Leadership USA, I’m also an NAACP member, and a chapter leader with Million Hoodies for Justice. I’m also a part of the Downtown Brooklyn Task Force to assist with local schools.
“We all remember that one person who did something to empower us. It only takes one person.”
MPA: You give to our community in so many ways. What inspires you to continue?
SJ: I know that the work is never done, but the families that I work with are my neighbors. We are connected and are constantly growing together. It’s the challenges, laughter and tears that we share that gives me strength. I know I need them and we need each other to build love and empowerment in this beautiful evolving community of Fort Greene to which we call home.
MPA: You commit yourself to many things, but I know you have a special place in your heart for helping and mentoring youth.
SJ: I do, I understand that a youth’s positive or negative upbringing and environmental factors can create adults who are to be the next leaders of our community. It is essential to start early with the building blocks of compassion and education. I hear and see the challenges that they face and do my best to support, but most importantly to meet them where they are. I rarely call myself a mentor, I just want to be a impactful human being whose love and determination motivates. We all remember that one person who did something to empower us. It only takes one person.
MPA: And who was that for you, both in the past and in the present?
SJ: My mother. For being such a compassionate determined individual and being able to tackle obstacles with grace and poise and respect. I also admire Melissa Harris-Perry and Maxine Waters for being such a strong force in a male-dominated field, and being able to continue their determination for education, liberation and truth.
MPA: If you could snap your fingers and bring about one change in our community for youth, what would that be?
SJ: I would create a Young Love Committee. As youth get older they seek independence. The family that they create is a model of what they’re primarily seeking attention in. Too many times I hear from youth that “no one cares”. This is not just from a family perspective, but from those whom they admire. The Young Love Committee doesn’t have to be formal, but just intentional. A simple selfless community commitment to share a positive word to a young person. We just need to bring adults and youth together to build trust to create a community in which we grow and win together – and not against each other.
For more information about Samantha’s work with the Ingersoll Community Center follow the organization on Facebook at, https://www.facebook.com/Ingersoll.Community.Center.