The zip code surrounding Nostrand and Fulton Avenues is 86 percent black, New York City’s largest non-white community. Camilo José Vergara

Camilo José Vergara takes his camera to Brooklyn’s Bed-Stuy neighborhood.

Editor’s note: This is the latest installment of Camilo José Vergara’s Crossroads project. Previous stories covered Newark’s “Four Corners” and the Bronx’s “Hub.

West Indian, African, African American, and Latino cultures converge at the intersection of Nostrand Avenue and Fulton Street in Brooklyn’s zip code 11216. This part of the borough’s Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood is 86 percent black, making it New York City’s largest non-white community and the cultural center of Brooklyn’s African American population.

In spite of a wave of gentrification in recent years, Caribbean culture continues to dominate; Fulton Cultural sells special soaps and candles believed to ensure protection, prosperity, successful court cases, and love; Golden Krust Caribbean Bakery, whose motto is “Be Jamaican, Buy Jamaican,” displays the Jamaican flag above its entrance.

(Camilo José Vergara)

Within a block of the intersection along Fulton Street, a ten story residential building is nearing completion, and a vacant lot where the famous Slave 1 Theater (demolished in 2014) once stood is awaiting construction. Also on the intersection are two empty storefronts. One of them, Zim Entertainment Outlet sold African Movies and phone calling cards, the other Futa Toro, a gift shop named after a region around the Senegal River, sold clothing and bags. They were recently sold and will likely be upgraded to higher end retail stores.

(Camilo José Vergara)

A former Trini Roti is now a Jamaican jerk chicken restaurant. No pork products are sold at Abir Halal a popular Bangladeshi restaurant. Chung Market sells American and French products to a West Indian and Senegalese clientele. Le Paris Dakar, a French coffee shop known for its crepes, quiches, and omelettes, could be mistaken for a sign of gentrification but the proprietor is Senegalese. The six-year-old business is listed in BKLYNER as one of 37 Black owned coffee shops in the borough.

(Camilo José Vergara)

On the sidewalk, men in fancy attire sell small vials of skin products that they carry in bandolier belts across the chest. A street vendor sells baby turtles, Latina women sell ice cream, various men pass leaflets advertising tax preparation services. A t-shirt on a street preacher proclaims “Allah Is The Creator.” Another one states “The Black Man Is God,” as first claimed in the 1960s by Clarence 13 X, founder of the Five Percent Nation. NYPD and store video cameras record the street activity.

(Camilo José Vergara)

Much to my surprise, I encountered two Korean owned stores on Fulton Street which sell church suits and hats to black women. One of the stores, Dylan Lingerie and Jewelry, has a decal of the iconic Lion of Judah on its entrance. For a decade, these colorful stores have been selling clothes that help define Black culture.

Black dandies are easily spotted wearing extraordinary fashions and hairstyles. One tall man wears bright yellow African robes and a Kunte Kinte cap, another wears a complete Chicago Bulls outfit that matches his dyed red beard. A serious-looking man, wearing all black attire with a silver cross on his chest and long dreadlocks, resembles a minister of a long disappeared religion. More than a few men are seen with long braids. Among adult women, burkas are popular, but I did not see men wearing Islamic attire.

(Camilo José Vergara)

I saw a young white man who stood out but appeared to feel at home as he crossed Fulton Street carrying his small blonde daughter on his shoulders and two Whole Foods shopping bags in his hands. His partner walking behind them carried three more Whole Foods bags. Through their presence, the young family seemed to be announcing a new era for the neighborhood.

About the Author

Most Popular

  1. Life

    The ‘Marie Kondo Effect’ Comes at a Weird Time for Thrift Stores

    Netflix’s hit show has everyone tidying up, but that's not the only reason second-hand stores are being flooded with donations.

  2. A photo of a DART light rail train in Dallas, Texas.
    Transportation

    What Cities Are Getting Wrong About Public Transportation

    Cities could get more people walking, biking, and riding transit, according to a new report, if they just know where to look for improvement.

  3. A photo of Seattle's Alaskan Way Viaduct
    Transportation

    As an Elevated Highway Closes, Seattle Braces for Traffic Hell

    By closing the Alaskan Way Viaduct, Seattle ushers in a period of short-term commuter pain for long-term waterfront redevelopment gain.

  4. A man carrying a young boy on his shoulders amid the fall foliage of New York's Central Park.
    Life

    Which U.S. Cities Have the Most Families With Kids?

    Spoiler alert: It’s simply not the case that families with kids have disappeared from urban America.

  5. Videos

    Why Are European Cities So Dense?

    It’s not just because they’re old.