From the Blog

Tribute to Napoleon Cockern

Posted by Samira Rajan @ July 1, 2017
Welcome to Brooklyn Cooperative’s blog!  We decided to start a blog as a way to introduce ourselves. Credit unions aren’t as familiar to most people as banks, though our services are likely better suited to their needs. Hopefully, through this blog, we will show that.
In early 2012, a small faith-based credit union affiliated with one of the most storied African-American churches in Bedford-Stuyvesant decided to merge with Brooklyn Coop. The day-to-day operational burden had grown too cumbersome for a volunteer-led organization. In order to ease the transition of members, I spent about a year tellering at the old Bridge Street Federal Credit Union offices at Bridge Street AWME Church on Stuyvesant Avenue. My guide and companion was Brother Napoleon Cockern, a member of the Church’s Board of Trustees and the credit union’s manager.

Looking back, this experience counts as a rare privilege in my life. Mr Cockern was, of course, courteous and respectful of all the members we encountered and he remembered all manner of details about their specific requirements. However, he was also clear-minded regarding credit union policies and procedures. Mr Cockern understood that, for a community institution to survive and thrive, it must balance between treating its clients with compassion, while also ensuring the organization maintains utmost integrity. If the organization loses its way, it will soon lose its clients too, and we will all be worse off.

I appreciated this a great deal. In my mind, Mr Cockern will always be a pillar and an example to follow. His actions fit his words. He believed in the ideals of cooperativism and community, and his countless years of voluntary service and dedication demonstrated his faith.

On a personal level, I admired him for his sense of humor, his deep decency as a human being and a man of faith, and his generosity. I enjoyed every conversation we ever had.  I looked forward to visiting with him even after I no longer spent time at the church, and I will miss him a great deal.

Samira Rajan is the longest-serving employee of Brooklyn Coop and currently the Director of both the credit union and Grow Brooklyn. She started here as an Americorp*VISTA for a single year of service back when we were Bushwick Coop in 2001, got hooked by the challenge of building a community financial institution, and hasn’t left.