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FUREE leadership changes hands

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ACORN may be going through a rough patch, but Families United for Racial and Economic Equality (FUREE) is on a roll.

The community-based-organization is in the process of changing leadership as Executive Director Ilana Berger, who has been with FUREE since its inception in 2001, is stepping down and being replaced with Valery Jean.

“I think it’s really important that FUREE has new leadership so it can grow. Organizations need dynamic and changing leadership,” said Berger. “I’ve done my piece in building the organization up until now, but it’s time to have new team of people to take FUREE to the next level.

First started around 2000 as an organization fighting for the rights of residents doing workfare, also known as the WEP (Work Experience Program), FUREE was an arm of the non-profit Fifth Avenue Committee (FAC) under its then Executive Director and current Council member-elect Brad Lander.

However, when the FAC redrew its line of gentrification from its Fifth Avenue storefront offices to new digs off Fourth Avenue, FUREE broke off from its parent organization and moved to its current headquarters at 81 Willoughby Street in Downtown Brooklyn.

Currently, FUREE has a membership of about 300 families and remains a Brooklyn-based, multi-racial organization made up of almost exclusively women of color.

It’s mission is to organize low-income families to build power to change the system so that all people’s work is valued and all of have the right and economic means to decide and live out their own destinies.

To achieve these goals, FUREE utilizes direct action, leadership development, community organizing and political education to win changes under the guiding principle that those directly affected by the policies should lead the organization.

“We have three main objectives and goals,” said Jean, who grew up in Park Slope and currently lives in Flatbush. “To fight for affordable housing, general economic justice where residents can work local jobs with living wages and benefits, and an economic justice campaign geared toward youths.”

Jean said FUREE also continues to fight for access to healthy and affordable food in the Fort Greene and Downtown Brooklyn area.

Among the current issues that FUREE is taking on is to ensure the proposed City Point project on the site of the former Albee Square Mall include affordable housing and jobs for local residents, Jean said.

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