Mary Mitchell was born Mary Gladys White on July 10, 1917 in Bayonne, New Jersey. She was the only daughter born to her parents Delaney and Mary Etta White. She became Mary Gladys Mitchell after she married David Mitchell from North Carolina. Their union would bring forth their only daughter Gloria Delores Mitchell. Gloria would later become Gloria Delores Brooks after her marriage to her childhood Love, Louis Edmund Brooks. This union would bring form Mary Mitchell’s only grandson, Louis Kenneth Brooks. This grandson would extend Mary Mitchell’s family tree to five generations beyond her by fathering three sons, two daughters, and three step-children. These three sons would come to be fathers of their own sons and daughters.
“From One Came Many”
Mary Mitchell began her community service interest as early as the late 1960s. Like other racial conscience pioneers, she saw a need to help families establish public monumental in starting a number of community programs such as “The Bronx Action Committee, and Teen Town”. She was also the Co-founder of the “United Black Coalition”. She worked with a number of people such as Eula Rivers, Shirley Jones, and Ted Jefferson to initiate many programs. Despite a great deal of opposition and little to NO financial assistance or funding, she continued to forge ahead with new ideas and programs. Many of her achievements came from her own “out of pocket” contributions and some neighborhood assistance. Her motto was “there are OUR children, so it is OUR responsibility TO MAKE THIS HAPPEN!” Her Pride, Determination, and Quality (PDQ) made ALL the difference in accomplishing her goals.
In 1964, Ms. Mitchell in a joint effort with “The Police Athletic League”, (better known as PAL) established a summer recreation program that took place on neighborhood streets. Thus, the “Summer Play Street” was born. The very first PAL Play Street was given birth on Mapes Avenue between 179th Street and 180th Street. The success of the play street was so huge, that the following summer several play streets were set up throughout the 5 boroughs of New York City. The history of the PAL Play Street carried on for several decades.
Mary Mitchell was also very instrumental in helping start summer youth job programs throughout the East Tremont and Crotona area. Children as young as 13 were able to earn an income by working in public summer school programs, recreation facilities, and the PAL Play Streets as recreational aids. For many of the kids who lived in the East Tremont area, their very first job was because of Mary Mitchell’s efforts to bring employment to the neighborhood. She also was instrumental in establishing the “summer free lunch program”. This program provided free breakfast and lunch to many neighborhoods that did not have the means to give a decent meal to families in need.
Mary Mitchell was an inspiration and an instrumental provision for an entire community and to the children who were embraced by her devoted and tireless effort to make a difference to their lives and their community. We owe a debt of gratitude to her for ALL that she gave. The Mary Mitchell Family and Youth Center is not just a place of establishment, it is a sanctuary of Love, Peace, Equality and the commitment for a better way of LIFE. . .
Mary Mitchell passed on in November 1983, but her legacy and work continues to live on through the Mary Mitchell Family and Youth Center, her family, and the many children whose lives she touched during her presence here on earth.