A Once Told Story of Franklin Avenue by Saira Toppin

This is an article that will be featured in “Una Noche Panamena” Scheduled to print May 2016. These magazines can be found at the Caton Avenue Market, Kelso Bistro Bar and Restaurant, and the Michelle’s Bar. 
If you grew up in Brooklyn, you knew about Franklin Avenue. The Franklin Avenue I am talking about started from Atlantic Avenue and extended a few blocks past Eastern Parkway. October was the best time of year for Franklin Avenue if you were Panamanian. This is when we celebrated our independence in New York City. In Panama, it is celebrated in grand fashion on November 3rd.
We commemorate our Panamanian heritage through “Un Gran Desfile” (pictured above). It is a parade that starts at Pacific Street right under the Franklin Avenue Shuttle train tracks and continues up Franklin Avenue until Union Street. The parade features marching bands, musical artists, dance troupes, and lots more. We make a right turn and end off at the Dr. Ronald McNair Park, across the street from the Brooklyn Museum. We finish off the day with food, music, arts, and crafts. This parade draws thousands of Panamanians to Brooklyn from all over the United States and abroad. Along this route, you will find many Panamanian outlets, including favorites like Kelso Bistro Bar and Restaurant, B&B Sports Club, and The Pana Store. 
If you walk down Franklin Avenue today, you will still see these namesakes, however, you will see a whole lot more. Franklin Avenue has been turned over by gentrification. It was once a less desirable block, but over the years, things have changed. The Crow Hill Community Association formed the Franklin Avenue Commercial Revitalization Project. This project was started to “upgrade Franklin Avenue’s infrastructure and local storefronts.” Trees were planted, storefronts were upgraded, graffiti was removed from buildings, and sanitation pick-up was improved. We applaud Crow Hill and the work it put in to refresh Franklin Avenue, but they are trying to cancel us out! 
Some years ago, The Alliance of Panamanian Organizations in the United States of America (APOUSA), tried to rename this stretch of Franklin Avenue to “Avenida Panama” or Panama Way. They received the approval of three community boards, but Crow Hill said no and so did the Department of Transportation. The DOT cited a law change saying streets cannot be renamed after countries. APOUSA pointed out streets like Korean Way and Little Brazil that existed in Manhattan. Why couldn’t a courtesy be extended to us? Panamanians are a part of Franklin’s culture. We have been here for many years and do not plan on leaving. 
Once the blow was received, APOUSA’s leader said they would not stop. They would find a new way to get their credit on the block. Let’s see what 2016 has in store for this organization and Panamanian Culture and Identity in Brooklyn. Next time you walk down Franklin Avenue, remember the Panamanians nearby. 
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