Mark Appel does not like the spotlight. It’s a Wednesday morning and the silver-haired, Jewish, lifelong New Yorker is flying around his Flatbush venue, The Bridge Multicultural and Advocacy Center, and fielding calls from the speakers preparing for day two of the Visionaries Leadership Conference, a networking event to promote intercultural visions of prosperity. The conference is a collaboration between The Bridge and the Caribbean Israel Leadership Coalition, an organization that fosters collaboration between Caribbean countries and Israel through means of communication and innovation. It’s difficult to get him to talk about anything else but this today, or ever.
“I don’t like to focus on myself,” he answers quickly when pushed to answer more personal questions. “All the attention should be about The Bridge.”
Appel started The Bridge in January 2014. He owned a building that had empty space and decided to put it to good use.
“We felt there was a need,” explains Appel. “It’s easier to socialize with a person when you meet them in an elevator, than having an actual meeting.”
The Bridge hosts dinners, blood drives, conferences, supports impactful legislation, teaches basic computer literacy courses, holds conferences and take trips together and more, all with the goal of introducing activists, advocates, politicians and everyday New Yorkers to people they may not normally engage with and work towards solutions for social justice issues plaguing the city.
Haitian groups often collaborate with other ethnic organizations in various meet and greets to get the different communities acquainted with each other, which is a key vision that Appel has for The Bridge. Several Haitian organizations have come through the venue and used it as a space to gather with like-minded communities and hold special events. In 2016 Peter Helder Bernard, the Consul General of Haiti, held a Haiti Relief Mission at The Bridge, where they collected supplies to send to the country. The Haitian-American Community Coalition often collaborates with other Caribbean organizations to offer resources such as music classes and leadership empowerment events.
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