There is a little known variation on a well-known saying. It goes: home is where the heart heals. Just ask the founder of Flatbush Fest, Hiedi Woo. Woo started this summer’s Flatbush Fest as a one-day block party to unite neighbors and give back to the community that Hiedi and her husband, Brad, call home – the very home and community that helped Woo heal and resettle after a traumatic near death experience and a tumultuous battle with a brain tumor. But a one-day party wasn’t enough for a woman who was pronounced clinically dead for three minutes and survived. After a successful GoFundMe campaign and with local support from the Flatbush Development Corp., the Flatbush Fest has blossomed into a three-day festival filled with live music, food, drinks, local vendors and artists all coming together to celebrate one of Brooklyn’s most diverse and unique neighborhoods, Flatbush.
For years Flatbush has been the home of many immigrant families looking to start a new life in New York City – like Heidi’s family, who emigrated from Korea to Church Ave. in the 1980’s. With the support of a neighborhood church and 80’s rent prices, the Woo’s were able to carve out a new home for themselves and eventually, open a small grocery store, called Woo’s Market. Fast forward 30 years later, Woo’s Market is long gone and the Flatbush neighborhood has certainly changed, but a strong sense of community prevails even among the looming threat of gentrification and vicious real estate developers.
Community love and diversity is what Flatbush Fest aims to celebrate and preserve this weekend, starting June 9th until June 11th. Woo, her co-creator Daniella Kahn, and an army of volunteers hope to unite neighbors who have been living here in Flatbush for 30 years with neighbors who have been here for three years, or three months even.
The festival starts on Friday evening with the free Kick-Off Party at the BKLYN Commons community space. The party will feature a dozen local artists, live music, food, drinks and more.
On Saturday, the festival continues with more free fun: Flatbush Talks at the Haitian-American Community Coalition. This event will be like TED Talks, but with community leaders and nonprofits working in Flatbush. Residents looking to become agents of change in the community can listen to stories and presentations from groups like The Flatbush Tenant Coalition, whose main mission is to empower Flatbush tenants against predatory landlords and protect affordable housing in Flatbush. The FTC helps organize tenant associations and develop skilled and informed tenant leaders to stop harassment, preserve safe & decent housing, and challenge the oppressive systems that disenfranchise low-to-moderate income tenants, especially people of color.
Other activist groups that will be there Saturday included Wheeling Forward, G-MACC, and CaribBeing.
Following Flatbush Talks is the weekend’s big finale, The Unity Festival on Sunday, June 11th, at the P.S. 249 schoolyard. The Unity Festival will start at noon, and will include live music, local vendors, food, a drum circle, and much more. Even though the Flatbush Fest ends here, this is just the beginning of a summer of community love. Flatbush, come outside and meet your neighbors! After all, what better way to heal the heart and cure the winter blues than a three-day block party?