Hakim, Meet Hakeem: How a Young City Farmer Got to Know a Congressman

Hakim, Meet Hakeem: How a Young City Farmer Got to Know a Congressman

Growing up, Hakim Jeffrey didn’t suppose a lot about politics. But folks would usually level out that his title sounded similar to the title of his consultant in Congress, a rising star within the House and fellow Brooklyn native.

“All of them would simply inform me, ‘You ought to meet this man some day,’” Mr. Jeffrey stated.

He brushed it off. Mr. Jeffrey, who lived within the Bay View Houses, a public housing growth in Canarsie, considered himself then as “only a common 16-year-old boy from the initiatives.”

Then, at 18, he began engaged on a brand new farm on the growth, one in every of a number of the New York City Housing Authority had helped construct to supply wholesome meals for residents.

He beloved it.

Before, he had been an introvert who skipped faculty to play video video games. On the farm, he would give vital folks excursions, exhibiting how he grew chard, kale, tomatoes, squash, basil and different produce.

Mr. Jeffrey, now 24, acquired extra concerned, discovering goal in serving to a public housing group usually ignored by the surface world, except a constructing was falling aside.

On a cloudy March afternoon final yr, one in every of his tour members had a well-recognized title. That was when Hakim Jeffrey met Hakeem Jeffries.

“‘You have the best title on the market,’” Mr. Jeffrey remembers Mr. Jeffries telling him.

The assembly between Mr. Jeffrey and Mr. Jeffries, 53, a Brooklyn Democrat and the House minority chief, was possibly simply an amusing coincidence. But Mr. Jeffrey additionally noticed it as one thing a bit of greater than that: a second that highlighted the underappreciated potential of Brooklyn’s youth.

Civic management is usually the bailiwick of older folks, particularly in New York City’s public housing system, the place almost 43 % of the households are headed by folks 62 or older. Mr. Jeffrey goals to vary that.

“How we will enhance our life — it begins with our younger folks,” he stated.

Mr. Jeffries, the congressman, grew up in a modest brownstone in Central Brooklyn, part of the town that within the Nineteen Eighties was additionally formed by the drug commerce. He was a part of an earlier technology of Black politicians — together with Mayor Eric Adams and Letitia James, the state’s legal professional common — who got here up in Brooklyn.

People often ask if Mr. Jeffrey was named after Mr. Jeffries, who’s 30 years older. Beyond their upbringing within the Black group in Brooklyn, there’s no connection, Mr. Jeffrey stated. His father was Muslim and appreciated the title Hakim. But he doesn’t thoughts the comparisons.

Originally from Bushwick, Mr. Jeffrey moved together with his mom and sister to Bay View in 2009. He stated his weight-reduction plan, like that of different youngsters who lived within the Canarsie advanced, included copious quantities of meals from Dunkin’, Popeyes and McDonald’s close by.

Mr. Jeffrey stated it felt just like the surroundings was “designed to maintain you unhealthy.” He has bronchial asthma and stated he observed how folks residing at Bay View usually had diabetes, hypertension and different well being issues. The group district that features Bay View has an weight problems fee of 41 %, about 16 proportion factors increased than the town total.

Before he found the farm, he felt unmotivated. He had no plan for his life after he graduated from highschool in 2017, and spent most of his days “killing time.”

His mom introduced residence a flier that marketed a brand new AmeriCorps program run by Green City Force, a nonprofit, on the Bay View farm, which was in-built 2016.

There are 9 such farms throughout the town, and the quantity is rising. Bay View is the biggest; its two acres was once an empty discipline the place Mr. Jeffrey would play soccer with different kids.

He was skeptical. But he stated he would attempt it.

The program enrolled younger folks between the ages of 18 and 24 to assist run the farms and finally get jobs that would use these expertise. Mr. Jeffrey stated his “entire total life modified.” Suddenly, folks appeared all in favour of his future.

He discovered pleasure in educating residents at Bay View about wholesome meals. He took to it so effectively that Green City Force employed Mr. Jeffrey in 2019 to coordinate different farm staff at Bay View.

He was just lately promoted and now works with younger folks at Bay View and 5 different developments, together with on Staten Island, in Queens and in Brownsville in Brooklyn.

Andrea Mata, NYCHA’s director of resident heath initiatives, stated Bay View residents “needed to come to phrases with not seeing him as usually.”

“There’s by no means sufficient Hakim to go round,” she stated.

The farms produce hundreds of kilos of produce yearly, obtainable free to public housing residents. When Mr. Jeffries visited final March, he lauded Bay View farm as a promising mannequin for methods to enhance vitamin in underserved communities. He additionally had some phrases for his tour information.

“That title is fairly simple for me to recollect,” he stated in a speech. “Hakim Jeffrey, thanks a lot in your extraordinary management and your work.”



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