Lower East Side Community Hero
nominated by Ryan Gilliam, FABnyc & Downtown Art
A native of Philadelphia, Debra came to NY to seek her fortune in the motion picture business in the mid-1980s. She moved to the LES in 1989, by way of the pre-gentrified Fort Greene area of Brooklyn. Despite the break-in on her first night on Norfolk street, she never looked back. She worked for 15 years as a production manager and production coordinator in film and television in NYC. While she never quite found the pot of gold at the end of the film rainbow, she met her husband Ted on one of those film jobs, and found a different kind of gold – a wonderful life with a husband and two little boys who are now grown men. She and Ted found a loving community in their LES neighborhood, and became active in M’Finda Kalunga Community Garden. Twenty-six years later, they are both still passionately committed to this green space. Debra was a long-serving co-chair and is currently the garden’s treasurer, and has organized many garden events over the years, including Juneteenth celebrations in the garden since 2005. Debra serves on Community Board 3s Health, Seniors, Human Services and Education committee, and is currently VP of the SDR Park Coalition. She holds a BA in Radio, Television and Film from Temple University, a dual MSEd in Early Childhood and Childhood education from Bank Street College, and an EdM in Private School Leadership from Teachers College. She has been a classroom teacher and school administrator for the past 17 years, and currently earns her coins as the Elementary Division Director at The Calhoun School. However, she gets most of her wealth from working with like minded folks who want to make their corner of the world a better place.