Vivian Jett (Brownsville Recreation Center Director)
My name is Vivian Jett and I’ve worked for the Parks Department for about thirty years. I used to run the preschool with the three and four year olds in Brooklyn Heights, then they condensed everything and opened the Brownsville Recreation Center about sixteen years ago. I’ve done the summer camp for the past twenty-three summers, and after that I stopped because twenty-three summers is a long time to do camp and I needed to take a rest. So then I started working with the seniors and the other folks here.
Some years ago I was in the original cast of Ain’t Misbehavin’. I was a teenager at the time, and I went down to the auditions on a dare with a friend of mine. I had just graduated high school and was going to Kingsborough Community College, when my friend asked if I would go down there with her. I had no intentions of auditioning; she was the one that was auditioning. I had a boyfriend and I couldn’t have cared less about something called Ain’t Misbehavin’. Richard Maltby, the director, said, “Why don’t you come in and audition?” He asked me, “Do you know the song, ‘That Ain’t Right’?” And I didn’t, but I had recently learned a song in college that sounded like the same kind of music, so I sang that and I got the part. Oh yeah, my friend didn’t get the part, and I am still doing the show today.
With the dance class that Public Works started at Brownsville, it’s been nice to see how some people that started with two left feet now actually have one of each! That, and just the happiness of them all has been wonderful. Some have never danced before, but always wanted to dance, and now they’re getting an opportunity. A lady told me recently, “I always wanted to dance when I was younger. Now I’m an old woman.” I told her, “Don’t say that. You dance to the song in your heart.” And everybody keeps showing up. It’s a real pleasure to see the growth that’s happening.
I LOVE New York. My favorite thing about New York is my job, which I know might sound crazy. I love my home, Brooklyn. It’s ALL about Brooklyn! I always say, “I can’t complain”. I think I say “I can’t complain” multiple times every day. “How you doing, Ms. Jett?”… “I can’t complain.” I look at the world and the people and the struggling and I look at my life and all that’s going good in it, and I really can’t complain. I have it, actually, very good. I’m very blessed. I get to go home to a house. I don’t have any children, so maybe I’ll feel sad about that in twenty or thirty years, but honestly I doubt it. I go home and there is just this peace and quiet and I love that. And I’ll always have my children here. Listen, I’m a sappy sucker. I cry at the drop of a dime. I like to agree with everyone to a certain extent. I like to create balance and harmony in my community. People call me Mother Peace. Some people say, “Stop trying to be so bleepin’ nice!” But I can’t help it. It’s my nature. I want to bring people together. And that boyfriend I talked about earlier, we’re still together married thirty years later.