NEW YORK — A new community center for youth in Upper Manhattan and the South Bronx opens Friday in Harlem. The 22,000 square foot facility is the new headquarters for the Brotherhood Sister Sol organization.
Also known as BroSis, Brotherhood Sister Sol has been on W 143rd Street for 27 years, teaching children about financial literacy, social activism and the arts. Now the nonprofit has a facility to suit them.
“When this project started, I challenged our architects at Urban Architectural Initiatives to design a building that was about enlightenment for children,” said BroSis co-founder and executive director Khary Lazarre-White. “Architecture tells you things. It speaks to the value of what is happening in this space.”
What’s happening is a metamorphosis, as 18-year-old member Matthew De La Cruz recounts.
“Before, I didn’t care, I couldn’t really affect myself,” De La Cruz said of the world around him, “but then you see all these policies that these politicians are making affect you, but not directly. But sooner or later they will.”
De La Cruz joined BroSis as a freshman in high school. This community helped him through a pandemic, protests and puberty.
“We are friends for life,” he said of his colleagues.
Chapter leader Dominique Mitchell felt the same way after graduating from BroSis, having had the opportunity to travel abroad for free and learn skills to help her succeed as an adult.
“Because of the relationships I had with my chapter leaders, it inspired me to want to give back to my community, given that I grew up just across the street,” Mitchell said.
BroSis started in a century-old brownstone in 1995 but was packed trying to supply 500 young members and a growing waiting list by the time it was demolished in 2018. Lazarre-White said a painted mural by members showing enslaved Americans flying to freedom was the only thing they preserved.
“Our art teacher figured out how to cut out the piece of drywall, and then we had it framed so the old building was in the new,” Lazarre-White said.
The new $20 million building was made possible through private donors, government grants, and neighborhood goodwill. The new space includes a rooftop basketball court funded by the Kevin Durant Charity Foundation, dance and art rooms, and a Light Room that overlooks a thriving community garden.
Construction continued throughout the pandemic, while BroSis operated around the corner, providing more than a million meals to neighbors in need.
“We definitely want to ignite that fire in young people that they have to change the world, not in the future,” Lazarre-White said. “It’s not that tired old adage that children are the future. It’s about the present. It’s about the young people who are truly transforming our society today.”
Sister Sol Fraternity will officially cut the ribbon for the new building Friday morning on W 143rd Street between Amsterdam and Broadway.