Dr. Estey’s syllabus points out, in part, “Recent sweeping changes in Brooklyn’s population, as a result of new immigration patterns, economic dislocations and gentrification, have produced an even more dynamic and fascinating context for the study of the structures and expressions of power in Brooklyn’s politics and the diversification of its religious expression. We will consider the relationship between the distribution of power in Brooklyn and religious constituencies in Brooklyn. We will look at how such constituencies shape the composition of community boards, the City Council, state Assembly and state Senate positions.”
Students are expected to participate actively in each field visit and to write field trip papers, which they later incorporate into a semester paper. They also write neighborhood profiles. Through these listening and writing assignments, Dr. Estey wants his students to discern and identify situations in Brooklyn where “state and religious interests coincide to produce a public good;” and to be able to identify “a situation in Brooklyn where state and religious interests are not coinciding and where a public good outcome is in doubt.”
Last week, for the class’ opening field trip, Dr. Estey took his students to the Council of Peoples Organization offices on Coney Island Avenue in Flatbush.
COPO Executive Director Mo Razvi addressed the class on interfaith work as an advocate for South Asians in this part of Brooklyn. Razvi is a widely-respected leader among area citizens and safety authorities, one of the main organizers of the Children of Abraham Peace Walk, and a key Muslim figure in Brooklyn.
This Friday, the class will visit the community organizing group, Brooklyn Congregations Uniting. The landmark Flatbush Dutch Reformed Church will host the meeting with BCU’s executive director, Margaret Hughes, another key organizer in last year’s Children of Abraham Peace Walk.
Over the next two months Dr. Estey’s students will visit different faith communities — churches, synagogues and mosques (or in Arabic, masjids). Estey also arranged for faith leaders of all three Abrahamic faiths to come to the class to make presentations.