These high rise Brooklyn public housing projects are typical of what is found in Bedstuy and Brownsville. Brooklyn has the highest number of social housing developments out of all five New York City boroughs with 99 developments for lower income families consisting of 58,462 apartments (NYCHA 2016). The Brownsville section of Brooklyn now has the highest concentration of low income public housing in America. According to the Transparency Report from NYCHA, approximately 90% of residents are either Black or Hispanic.
A K2 (synthetic marijuana) user falls into a deep 'high' after smoking some of the drug. The user is so intoxicated, he is unable to stand up straight but can't bring himself to lie down. "I ain't ever going to do that", says Shu Shu. "Boxing and my family are too important to me".
Located in the middle of Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn, the boxing gym opened its doors in 1980 as Bedford-Stuyvesant Boxing Association. The world's best fighters, including Riddick Bowe, Mark Breland, Leon Taylor and Henry 'Hot Pepper' Brent have come out of here. Now the gym, while low on members, still helps youth and adults develop their craft while channeling their energies in positive ways.
"There isn't a day goes by that I don't think of him." Bruce 'Shu Shu' Carrington Shu (17 in this photo) speaking about his murdered brother and best friend Michael Hayden Jr. (20). Michael was a gun violence victim on November 21, 2014 while walking home from a Brownsville store. On June 3, 2015, Shamell Whidbee (18) was arrested and charged with Michael's murder.
Officially opening its doors in 1980 as Bedford-Stuyvesant Boxing Association some of the world's best fighters, including Riddick Bowe, Mark Breland, Leon Taylor and Henry 'Hot Pepper' Brent have come out of this neighborhood boxing gym in Brooklyn. "People feared us", says Hot Pepper. "No-one wanted to fight us."
"I've been here 35 years", says Nate Boyd (50) in a reverberating, low, strong voice. Nate, who lost his son to gun violence on the streets of Bedstuy ten years ago, trains youth at the Bedstuy boxing gym 6 days a week, all year long. He does this for no financial reward. "He was shot in the back...the guy shot him in the back", says Nate looking straight ahead.
Bruce 'Shu Shu' Carrington (18) has his hands wrapped before a fight.
"You wanna be beaten by a cop?", shouts Nate Boyd as he encourages Shakka to get closer to a police officer with the New York City Police Department (NYPD). NYPD officers use the gym to train for competitions such as 'Battle of the Badges'. This is a way for NYPD to develop relationships with the Brooklyn community, especially where there is often some mistrust among some members of the community and law enforcement.
Two local men spar with each other. The club has great camaraderie where all people are welcome. "We struggling man", says Nate. "The cost of heating this place, the upkeep of the gym, simple things, it all costs money."
Two local men spar with each other.
NYPD officers Wenjian Liu, 32, and Rafael Ramos, 40, were sitting in their police car parked near Myrtle and Tompkins avenues in Bedstuy, Brooklyn when both were shot through the window by an attacker claiming to be reacting to the decision not to acquit police for their involvement in the death of Eric Garner. Flowers and candles mark the spot as NYPD officers look on. This happened in the same neighborhood as the boxing gym that Nate manages.
"I want to be the best fighter I can be." Shu Shu training in the boxing gym near his home in Brownsville, Brooklyn.
"I just don't feel right today", says a visibly upset Shu Shu. With a lot of expectation to succeed in boxing from his family, there is a lot of pressure on Shu Shu's young shoulders, especially after the recent murder of his brother and best friend.
"We all family here", says Nate Boyd. Peoples' reasons for boxing vary widely. An important aspect that keeps people coming back is the camaraderie, welcoming atmosphere and discipline boxing gives its practitioners. Nate looks on at two young fighters at an outdoor boxing ring in Brooklyn. The event was an opportunity for the Nate to show the community the benefits of boxing and sport in general.
Shu Shu rubs the side of his face as he worriedly watches a friend of his spar for the first time at an annual outdoor boxing competition. The event shows the community one way for youth to direct there energies in more positive ways that encourages self-discipline, good health and respect for others while avoiding the dangerous pitfalls of street violence, drugs and delinquency in parts of Brooklyn.
The Golden Gloves finals are being held at the Barclays Center in an already rapidly gentrifying part of Brooklyn. Since 1927, the Golden Gloves Boxing Tournament has seen more than 100,000 New Yorkers compete for amateur glory. Professional boxing careers often follow. Producing more world champions (41) than any other tournament worldwide, winning the Golden Gloves is in any aspiring boxer's dreams.
Outside the Barclay's Center, police presence is heavy, especially in the context of violence by and against the police, especially involving the African American community. Shu Shu is fighting here tonight in the Golden Gloves' finals.
"You've got one shot at this! You can do it baby!" The intensity is high at the Golden Gloves.
Shu Shu goes on the offensive in the Golden Gloves Final at the Barclays Center, Brooklyn. Hoping to qualify for the next Olympics team, winning here would put Shu Shu in an excellent position for qualification.
Golden Gloves, Final, Barclays Center
Spectators shouting advice and encouragement from the audience at the Golden Gloves Final in the Barclays Center.
As the referee announced that Shu Shu's opponent won the Final, some of Shu Shu's more vocal supporters began to boo in unison. Shu Shu immediately grabbed his opponents hand and raised it high in the air to celebrate his victory. In doing so, he not only showed the crowd, that sport is not always about winning, it's about humility, self control and respect. Especially relevant given all that is happening in the US around civil rights, police violence against African Americans and negative dialogue on immigration, here, skin color is not important.
As Shu Shu leaves the Barclay's Center, people protest outside against police violence targeted at minority groups in the US.
Things changed since the death of iconic trainer George Washington (photograph of George sitting in the Bedstuy gym) in 2006. George was the beating heart of the Gym and an iconic figure in Brooklyn boxing. Like the cracked leather of the gym's punch bags, the once respected, feared and envied name of Brooklyn boxing has faded. What has taken its place is the critical need to forge unity among Brooklyn's youth on either side of the gentrification divide. Boxing, and sport in general, when made accessible to all, irrelevant of skin color, ethnicity or religious affiliation, has the power to bridge this divide.
The Manhattan skyline is visible in the distance from the roof of the boxing gym in Brooklyn. New people are moving into the area, often with higher incomes. "Rent is crazy bro", says Nate. "I don't know how long more I can stay here". Nate hopes that boxing will help keep his community and especially the youth together.