The Story of MANA with Overseer Robert Burgess, Part 1

The Ministerial Alliance of North Amityville and Vicinity was founded in the late 1980’s as a response to the crack epidemic that was literally destroying North Amityville. The corners of Great Neck Road and Albany Avenue had become the center for drug trafficking the extent that many families in the neighborhood refused to allow their children to even go past the intersection.

It was at that time that a group of pastors mobilized their congregations and repeatedly marched on the intersection until the Town of Babylon agreed to condemn and remove the buildings that made up the strip shopping center known as “the block”.

Currently, there are only three pastors that remain who were present over thirty years ago and participated in the street protests and subsequent meeting that led to the formal organization of the Ministerial Alliance of North Amityville and Vicinity. For the next several months we will dedicate this article to Overseer Robert Burgess, Dr. Patricia Rickenbacker and Bishop Walter Willie, all who remain as the surviving members of MANA that were involved in the organization of MANA.

Overseer Robert Burgess was born on the eastern shores of North Carolina. After having served in the army during World War II he moved to New York where he became a health inspector for New York City. While having grown up as a Baptist, he followed his wife to the Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church which at the time was in Amityville on Albany Avenue. Following his serving as the Assistant to the Pastor, he organized his own congregation that began in Wyandanch but eventually relocated to Amityville.

In this first of three interview parts Overseer Burgess details his early life and activities in North Amityville, first as a community activist and later local pastor. Parts 2 and 3 of this interview will appear in the January and February issues of this newspaper.

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