Friday brought sad news from Red Hook: Emma Broughton, a long-time community leader and friend of the Justice Center, passed away after a long battle with illness.
I first met Emma in the early 1990s -- she was a regular at community board and precinct council meetings in Red Hook. I think, like a lot of folks, she was somewhat skeptical of me at the start. But she never allowed her skepticism to overcome her feelings of hope for her community -- or her good manners as a person. She always had a gracious, gentle way about her that tended to win friends and disarm potential enemies. More than this, she exuded a sense of decency that made me want to live up to her expectations. In many ways, she came to embody the frustrations and aspirations of the Red Hook community for me. That's why John Feinblatt and I chose to profile her in Good Courts. (That chapter is not available on the Internet, but here is a link to a Village Voice story about Emma that includes a nice mention of the Justice Center.)
I last saw Miss Emma a couple of months ago at the Justice Center's 10th anniversary. While she was clearly ailing, she still had her trademark mischievous smile. I'm happy to report that she was full of pride about the Justice Center. Her final words to me were "We did it. We really did it."