Friday, December 27, 2013

Another Successful Year for the Brownville Justice Community Program

On Monday, December 16, 2013, the Brownsville Justice Community Program celebrated the culmination of another successful year. Participants, staff, and local community supporters came to congratulate the participants who successfully completed all of their milestones and internships and thank those participants who may not have completed but put in equal effort into the milestones they were able to accomplish.  Throughout the year, our participants took part in various activities from a plethora of community benefit projects and educational activities, to internships, and for completing each of these milestones they received stipends payments for various amount.
Benjamin Smith, Program Coordinator, offering words of
Abdul Nixon receiving his certificate of completion.

During the events, participants were asked to speak about what the Justice Community Project meant to them. Many stated that the project provided them with a positive outlet from the everyday life they were used to. They spoke about acquiring skills that they could use to obtain employment or successfully graduate from school. The Justice Community Project became their home away from home.

Staff from all departments from the Brownsville Community Justice Center gave the participants words of encouragement as they all played a role in the success of the program this year. Many of our participants volunteered with many activities ran by the Brownsville Anti-Violence Project from Call-Ins to the Changing the Narrative Art Gallery. They also were a part of the first pilot group for the new Learning Lab.

Dashawn Hayes(left) and his daughter receiving his certificate
 of completion from program coordinator Benjamin Smith (right).

This year we had a total of 16 participants who successfully completed the project. Full completion includes completing 12 community benefit projects, 12 community planning sessions, 12 educational activities, and 8 weeks of an internship. We also had several participants who completed at least 80% of the program.  We are very proud of all the work they accomplished and know that each one will use the skills they acquired during their time in the project to become successful men and women. We would like to thank each one for the contributions they made not only to this program, but to the Brownsville community.

We would like to also thank all of our partners including New York City Department of Probation, Mayor’s Young Men’s Initiative, The Center for Economic Opportunity, Pitkin AveBID, Brownsville Partnership, Groundswell,, Opportunities for Better Tomorrow, Brooklyn BEOC, Career Gear, Hoods to Woods, Children ofPromise, Project Rhythm, Youth Represent, and Project East New York who all helped to make this year a great success. We look forward to the work we will accomplish together in the coming year!

We are now accepting applications for our 2014 enrollment year expected to being in February 2014. If you, or anyone you know, is interested in joining the Justice Community Program, contact our Program Coordinator, Benjamin Smith at (347)404-9585 or email at for more information.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Summer Reflections: Brownsville Justice Community Program and Groundswell

“Intersections Humanized”

     This summer the Brownsville Community Justice Center partnered with Groundswell's Summer Leadership Institute, the New York City Department of Transportation, and the Pitkin Avenue BID to create "Intersections Humanized,” a fifty five foot mural capturing the spirit of the resilient Brownsville community.

Brownsville Justice Community Program participants lift their certificates underneath the piercing gaze of the mural.

     Ten of Brownsville’s young self-starters dedicated eight weeks of their summer to help bring revitalization and a “shared streets” ethos to Pitkin Avenue.  The majority of participants are part of a program at the Center called Justice Community, which works with sixty neighborhood youth annually. These young enthusiasts participate in service projects, internships, and educational and career development workshops to help them build a stronger future for themselves, their families and their community.

Photo courtesy of Groundswell’s blog “On The Wall”

     For the first two weeks of the project, the participants brainstormed at Public School 156.  During this initial think tank, Brownsville’s future, assets, and landmarks were highlighted as important components needing representation in the mural.

Photo courtesy of Groundswell’s blog “On The Wall”

     During the third week, the participants attended scaffolding training which culminated in an OSHA certification, opening potential employment opportunities in construction and maintenance.  Then the participants spent several weeks working together as a group to accomplish the installation of the mural.

(Steven snapping a picture of his name to document his efforts)

     Taking pride in their work and community, many of the participants took photos and brought family members to the Livable Streets Pitkin Avenue Mural Dedication event, a community wide reveal showcasing the completed piece.

(Abdul, known as “Buddha,” taking pride in his contribution)

     Some participants expressed feeling a heightened sense of fulfillment while developing, showcasing, and living with such a monumental and meaningful piece of art in their neighborhood.  Other members noted their appreciation for the ability to say, “I did that!” to their peers when passing the mural during their commute.  

(Sean creatively pointing out his name and signaling the peaceful message the mural promotes)

     At the reveal, participants recounted returning home with paint all over their clothes after a hard day of work in the summer sun, and how the unified work ethic at the mural site reinforced many of the attributes woven into the roots of the symbolic tree central to the mural.  When asked about the mural’s impact on Brownsville, Sean (pictured above) stated, “Rome was not built in a day,” alluding to his expectations for Brownsville’s development.

Dashawn (left) and his brother Steven (right)

     Dashawn (pictured above left) reflected, “It was a life changing experience.  It was something different and new.  There was so much positive energy knowing everybody came together to do something nice in Brownsville.”

“NuNu” (left) and Messiah (Right)

     Nakira (“NuNu” to her friends) and Messiah (pictured above) allowed the excitement to motivate them to continue pursuing community benefit projects as well as their own personal goals.  “It was a cool experience and something new.  It was a learning experience.  I wish I could do more like it.  It was the first thing I did in the community where I could show people something I did,” explained Nunu as she reflected on her experience.  “I would definitely recommend this program to members of the community,” Messiah added.  NuNu and Messiah have since enrolled in the SUNY Brooklyn Educational Opportunity Center where they will continue their pursuit of higher education and entrepreneurship.  

     The completion of “Intersections Humanized” holds special meaning for Brownsville as it coincides with the announcement of a major grant from the National Endowment of the Arts awarded to Groundswell and the NYC Department of Probation.  This grant will usher in the “Transform/Restore: Brownsville” mural project, which is designed to engage local businesses, community members, and youth via a series of murals along Brownsville’s Pitkin Avenue.

     Aside from the concrete skills attained and new accomplishments bolstering their resumes, many of the participants displayed newfound motivation to apply the energy and momentum they developed from the experience to further pursue their own personal goals.  In addition to Nunu and Messiah’s recent successes, Dashawn recently enrolled in a GED program.  Sean is currently participating in the Justice Center’s new Learning Lab initiative, and other participants have gone to complete a home health aide training program and start employment, CDL training, and continued job search and work readiness programming at the Justice Center and elsewhere. 

     Thank you and congratulations to Groundswell, the New York City Department of Transportation, the Pitkin Avenue BID, the Brownsville Community Justice Center, the NYC Department of Probation, the Center for Economic Opportunity, the Mayor's Young Men's Initiative, the greater Brownsville community, Metro (check out their coverage here), and all of the participants who helped make this mural a great success!

Friday, November 1, 2013

Interview with Dashawn Hayes about his summer working on a Groundswell mural in Brownsville

My name is Yasmine Mohamed and I am a CUNY Service Corps member working at the Brownsville Community Justice Center. I had the pleasure of interviewing Dashawn Hayes, a recent graduate of the Justice Community program, about his summer internship with the Groundswell Mural Project which resulted in a new mural on Strauss and Pitkin Avenue in Brownsville. The mural was a collaboration between Groundswell, the Justice Center, the NYC Department of Transportation and the Pitkin Avenue BID. Dashawn spoke to me about the impact he hopes the mural will have on Brownsville as well as the impact the whole experience had on him.
Dashawn Hayes, Justice Community alum and Groundswell muralist
Q. Coming to the Brownville Community Justice Center, did you know that you were going to be a part of such a big project? 
A. No, I didn’t know that I was going to be a part of a mural. Ben (Smith) got me into it. In orientation I found out that I was going to paint a mural and I learned about their significance and became very interested in it. I knew wanted to stay and be a part of it. 

Q. What was your role in this project? 
A. My main role was to just participate. I helped anyone who needed help. I did a little bit of everything like cleaning brushes, moving equipment and just helping everyone. The first couple weeks of this project was all brainstorming for the mural. I did not actually believe at the time that it was going to become an actual mural. We were just giving our ideas for what it can be and what we would like it to look like and represent. 

Q. What does the mural signify? What was the idea behind it? 
A. The arrows represent street lanes. We interviewed people on the street and talked to them about what they thought a problem in Brownsville was and we talked to DOT and everyone agreed that there is an issue with the intersections and space. We felt like we needed more room for traffic regulations. Many accidents would happen because there is no space. So the arrows show more space for like bus lanes, bicycle lanes and more street space. The red buildings show public housing. We wanted this to show unity. We wanted to show that we care about them too. That we are all a community. When people think of Brownsville a lot of them think of public housing and we just wanted to show that we are in this together. Each picture in the middle is its own box, its own image of Brownsville. The faces of everyone that worked on it are in these boxes. It shows that we worked on it together and that we need to stay together to make Brownsville better. 

Q. What does the whole tree represent? 
A. The tree is like a family tree. It is all about unity. We need to better Brownsville together and we just want everyone to know that no one is left out.

The team that worked on the Groundswell Mural

Q. What was your experience like? 
A. It was life changing, in a good way. If I had the chance to do it again I would. A part of my experience was community painting day. We had people from the community come and help plaint and draw like simple lines on the mural. Me and the team promoted with flyers. Some people didn’t even stop to talk to us or to look at the flyer and I think that’s one of the problems in Brownsville. But a fair amount of people stopped and listened to what we had to say and a fair amount of people came and saw what we were doing and saw what we wanted to accomplish and helped out. Once the mural was completed and reveled that’s when people actually appreciated what we were doing and saw what the meaning of it was. 

Q. How did you like working with the team? 
A. I love my team that I worked with. You know some of the people didn’t want to be bothered and would just do their part but during the experience, my team became my family. We were in it together. We know that we each need someone else to make it possible. I loved working with my family. 

Q. I see that your face is in the center. Why do you believe that you were in the center? 
A. The main artist Chris (Soria) told me that I was his inspiration. I’m not a painter or anything, I’m mostly into music and Chris was inspired by my music and my effort that I put into the whole project. 

Q. How did you feel when you saw the mural finished? 
A. I felt really accomplished. It’s something that I know will always be there. I can show my daughter and my nephew later on and tell them that I did that, that’s my face in the middle. I consider it like a reward for all the hard work and dedication that I put in. 

Groundswell Mural on Strauss and Pitkin Ave.

Q. Do you believe murals will help better the community? 
A. Murals are not enough to better the community. We need to actually touch these people. We can touch them through events if they are hosted in schools or street fairs or any community places. Opportunities like that will allow me to actually talk to people. They need to find out about what we are trying to do and what needs to be changed before change can actually happen. When it comes to my friends I feel like I am their role model because they see that I’m actually dedicated. Some of my friends still do their thing and don’t make changes but some of them see what I am trying to do and they get motivated themselves. This is like the community, they have to see us dedicated and trying to bring change and then hopefully they will want to do the same thing. 

Q. Is there anything else that you would like to add? 
A. Well, I’m glad I’m the center of attention (laughing). I feel like I strived and I have been through a lot to get there and I feel like the artists Chris and Don saw that and I would really like to acknowledge them for that.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Brownsville Supports Their Youth: Changing the Narrative Art Exhibition

Brownsville residents showed up and showed out at the Brownsville Anti-Violence Project’s Changing the Narrative Art Exhibition! On September 14, 2013, the Brownsville Anti-Violence Project’s community-wide conversation and art-making tour came to an end -- and the final event was a grand finale!

There was an amazing line-up of talent packed into just 3 hours: original drawings, poetry and group inspired canvases created by Brownsville youth on the Changing the Narrative tour decorated the walls and hallway of the Van Dyke Community Center; photos captured by Brownsville youth of this year’s PhotoVoice program gave new perspective to everyday life in Brownsville; talented spoken word poets, rappers, dancers, and filmmakers shared inspiring and heart-felt messages about life in Brownsville; live artists painted the room's energy; and, the Brownsville Anti-Violence Project’s Youth Advisory Board engaged the audience in an interactive performance that encouraged young people to seek alternatives to violence.  

Group created canvases lined the hallways of the Van Dyke Community Center. Senior Probation Officer Ms. J. Simmons, NeON Brownsville Probation, admires the artwork before the event begins.
Art work submitted by Brownsville youth ages 8-24 during this summer's Changing the Narrative tour lined the walls. 
Jasmin, Brownsville Community Justice Center's SYEP worker, came back to Brownsville to check out the event!  Guest sign-in at the table behind her.
Over 200 Brownsville residents, volunteers and stakeholders came out to the Van Dyke Community Center to walk the red carpet, get their picture taken, enjoy delicious desserts, and, most importantly, support up-and-coming Brownsville artists who are using their talents to create a new and positive narrative about Brownsville.
Sean Turner, Brownsville Community Justice Center's Americorps Member, collect guests' voting cards. Each guest was encouraged to vote  for their favorite original drawing, poetry and photo. 
The winning submission for best original drawing by Jahmien Williford. 
Guest admire photos taken by the PhotoVoice project and read poetry along the walls of the Van Dyke Community Center. 
It was a great day that would not have been possible without our Campaign Advisory Board members: Anthony Newerls (Brooklyn Blizzards), Minister Damascus Lee (Brownsville Community Baptist Church), Jesse Gordon (PeaceKeepers), Chaplin Sharon Rogers, Johnny Mae Robinson (NYCHA Family Services), Keoma Boone (73rd Precinct Community Affairs), R. Joel Rochford II (New Life Cathedral), and Monique Minter (James E. Davis Stop the Violence Foundation).  

We also want to give a special thanks to our Youth Advisory Board who worked hard throughout the summer planning and promoting this event: Dashawn Sargeant, Ra’nell Johnson, Ezkiel Stewart, Rezziea Alexander, Isamaura Mendez, Willie Minter, Jahmein Williford, Malcolm Kearse, Starasia Johnson and Dante Kearse (volunteer).

We cannot forget to thank NYCHA, Lisa Kenner and Miss Rhonda for being such gracious host.

Justice Community Volunteers, Nunu and Yaya, prepare to welcome guest on the red carpet.  
James, Deron and Sean, Brownsville Community Justice Center staff, help with set-up.
Erika McSwain and Jazmin Rose, Brownsville Community Justice Center Staff, helped give away gift bags at the event. 
Lastly, we appreicate all the Brownsville artists who submitted their work, the Brownsville talents who performed, the X-Mental, Inc. team, the Brownsville Youth who volunteered for the day and all those who came out to support Brownsville's young talent and the Anti-Violence Project's overall mission to end violence in Brownsville.

To keep updated follow us on Instagram! @antiviolenceproject!

More pictures from the event below:

Brownsville Anti-Violence Project's Youth Advisory Board! Left to right, top row: Dante Kearse (volunteer) and Jahmien Williford. Second row: Starasia Johnson, Isamura Mendez, Ezekiel Stewart, Jazmin Johnson (volunteer), and Malcolm Kearse. Floor: Thelma "Emi" Small (Instructor), Ranell Johnson, Willie Minter, Dashawn Sargeant, Rezziea Alexander, Kayin Latson (BAVP Staff). Front: Monique Minter. 
Brownsville Community Baptist Church praise dancers!
R. Joel Rochford II from New Life Cathedral came to walk the red carpet. Joel is also a member of the Brownsville Anti-Violence Projects Campaign Advisory Board. 
Daqua Ritter, Justice Community member and event volunteer, walks the red carpet.

More guest walk the red carpet! 

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Upcoming Event: "Changing the Narrative" Art Exhibition

The Arts against Violence: Changing the Narrative of Brownsville community-wide summer tour is coming to an end. With one last stop scheduled to take place at the Van Dyke Community Center on Friday, August 30, 2013 at 8pm, the Brownsville Anti-Violence Project (BAVP) and its’ advisory boards have been planning a grand summer finale.
While on tour, the BAVP visited 4 Brownsville schools (Mott Hall Bridge Academy, Frederick Douglas High School, Teacher’s Preparatory Charter School and Roads Charter High School), 1 church (First Baptist Church of Brownsville), and National Night Out. Throughout the tour, young people talked about the effects of violence on the community and ways young people can make a difference. Young people also worked on original individual drawings, poetry, photography, essays and painted group inspired canvases to bring their visions and experiences to life!
It’s not over! If you missed the BAVP on tour, you still have a chance to make the finale! Come see what Brownsville youth have to say about growing up in Brownsville and what a better Brownsville looks like to them! The BAVP will be showcasing all of the art made on tour at:

Arts against Violence: Changing the Narrative of Brownsville Art Exhibition!
Van Dyke Community Center
(392 Blake Avenue Brooklyn, N.Y. 11212)
Saturday, September 14, 2013 from 1pm-4pm.

Refreshments will be served! Prizes to top art submissions!

We are still accepting freelance art submissions to be considered at the exhibitions!

You don’t want to miss out! For more information on this event or to find out how you can submit artwork to be considered for a prize, please feel free to reach out to the BAVP:

Brownsville Anti-Violence Project, Brownsville Community Justice Center, 444 Thomas S. Boyland Street, Suite 207, (between Pitkin Ave and East New York Ave), Brooklyn, NY 11212.
Phone: 347-404-9584 or 347-404-9589
Instagram: @antiviolenceproject

Thursday, August 1, 2013

LAW INTERNSHIPS FOR TEENS-- Accepting Applications now!

Are you 14-18?

Are you currently enrolled in school or a GED Program?

Do you want to learn about the law?

Do you want to help other teens who have gotten into trouble?

The Brownsville Youth Court Wants You!

What is Brownsville Youth Court?
The Brownsville Youth Court trains teenagers ages 14-18 to serve as jurors, judges and youth and community advocates. Members hear real-life cases of other teens that have committed low-level offenses. Youth court members then offer meaningful and beneficial sanctions. The goal of Youth Court is not to assess guilt or innocence; rather it is to use positive peer pressure to ensure that young people who have committed minor offenses pay back the community and receive the help they need to avoid further involvement in the justice system.

How do I become a youth court member?
Brownsville Youth court members are selected out of a competitive training internship program. Trainees are selected based on the quality of their applications and interview performance. Youth Court trainees spend 32 unpaid hours learning about youth court, juvenile justice, how to perform the roles, and take a bar exam. Trainees will receive community service hour credits for the training internship. Trainees who perform well on the bar exam and have demonstrated themselves throughout the training process are chosen to serve in a 6-month paid internship as youth court members.

Who is eligible to apply?
Brownsville Youth Court membership is open to Brooklyn teens ages 14-18 who are enrolled in school or GED program.

How much do youth court members get paid?
Youth court members receive a $100/month stipend to serve for 5 hours per week.

When is the training internship?
The training internship will take place mid-October and end mid-December on Mondays and Wednesdays from 4:00 PM to 6:30 PM. The training location takes place at the Brownsville Community Justice Center located at 444 Thomas Boyland St. (between Pitkin and East New York Avenues).

When and where are youth court hearings held?
Youth court hearings will be held at 444 Thomas Boyland St. every Tuesdays and Thursdays from 4:00- 6:00pm.

Interested in becoming a member of  

Brownsville Youth Court? 

     Apply HERE or Click HERE to download the application. 

Applications are Due No Later than September 30, 2013

If you have any questions, Please contact a BYC staff person at 347-404-9581

Friday, July 19, 2013

Summer in the 'Ville

The past few weeks have been a busy time at the Brownsville Community Justice Center. The steady stream of young people coming through our doors to inquire about summer opportunities quickly turned to waves of purple shirts on their way out the door, equipped with digital cameras, paint brushes, and anti-violence palm cards. After taking a moment to calculate the numbers, we now understand why it’s felt so busy! All in all, this year the Brownsville Community Justice Center will offer 254 young people from Brownsville paid opportunities in community restoration projects, internships and the arts.

Here are a few highlights behind the numbers:

On Tuesday evening, our cornerstone program, the Brownsville Youth Court heard its 300th case. Since their first hearing on May 12, 2011, more than 111 young people have served as members and have successfully diverted 294 cases from the traditional juvenile justice system, with a 92% compliance rate. Even more impressively, last month, all 8 of our graduating seniors were accepted into college and will be attending in the fall.

The Brownsville Justice Community program just completed enrollment of its 2nd cohort of 60 justice system-involved young people from Brownsville. For 6 months these young people will pursue educational and job-readiness goals while participating in neighborhood benefit projects. As we speak, members are working on two community murals – one with Groundswell and the Department of Transportation alongside the Lane Bryant on Pitkin Avenue and one with Xmental behind a community garden on Saratoga and Sutter.

In addition to convening our monthly parolee “call in” forums, the Brownsville Anti-Violence Project recruited a Youth Advisory Board to guide its public education campaign. These young people are dedicating to combating gun and gang violence in Brownsville and will be the creative engine behind our campaign messaging, community events, and social media, including the final tour dates of our “Changing the Narrative” tour at local schools, churches, and community centers.   


Last week was also the launch of PhotoVoice, a participatory photography program in partnership with the Brooklyn Arts Council led by professional photographers and teaching artists, Russell Frederick and Sam Barzilay. PhotoVoice aims to use photography as a platform for young people in Brownsville to have a voice in their community and represent Brownsville in a more positive light to the outside world. The program will culminate in September with the student’s work being displayed in the pop-up PhotoVille festival in DUMBO, a gallery-style exhibit at the Van Dyke Community Center, and a semi-permanent installation of the student’s work along Mother Gaston Blvd.

As a staff, we’ve been overwhelmed by the level of dedication and passion among youth to do something positive in the community. While these young people may never appear in our Google alerts or make headlines in the Daily News, they are the daily inspiration for our work and we’re proud to have them in our purple, representing the very best of the Justice Center.  

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

The Brownsville Anti-Violence Project launches the Changing the Narrative Tour

The Brownsville Anti-Violence Project (BAVP) is on tour! Working together with community stakeholders, the BAVP has launched the Arts against Violence: Changing the Narrative of Brownsville Tour and art competition. The Changing the Narrative Tour is a 7-stop open discussion and art-making session in Brownsville schools and community spaces. At each “tour date” young people and the community ask “what are the effects of gun and gang violence on my community?”, “what can I do to help?” And, “what does a better Brownsville look like?”. The BAVP has made 3 stops in the month of June: (1) the Brownsville Youth Court, (2) a joint date with Teacher Preparatory High School and Frederick Douglas Academy, and (3) Mott Hall Bridges Academy Junior High School. So far, the Changing the Narrative Tour has reached over 120 youth who live or go to school in Brownsville.
Young men from the Brownsville Justice Community Program came to help out!  

Accompanying the BAVP on tour is Ralph Perez, artist and Executive Director of X-Mental, Inc.  Ralph brings the conversation to life on canvas as each group discussion evolves. After the discussion, attendees break into smaller groups at work stations. At the stations are prompts and supplies for everyone to begin crafting their best BAVP logos, slogans and freelance images. Each station is also given the chance to add their flare and paint the canvas inspired by the group discussion.

At the Brownsville Youth Court tour date, Ralph Perez of X-Mental, Inc teaches young people painting technique!

The best of the tour date canvases and individual submissions will be displayed at the Changing the Narrative gallery event in Van Dyke Community Center on September 14, 2013. At the gallery event, stakeholders will get the chance to vote on submissions. Submissions with the most votes will win prizes and inspire an outdoor community mural!  
At Frederick Douglas Academy and Teacher Preparatory High School young people add some color to their group canvas!

Everyone can play a part in Changing the Narrative! If you miss the BAVP on tour or a BAVP event you can still create artwork to be displayed at the art gallery event and for the art competition! The deadline for independent submissions is August 2, 2013.
Don’t despair! There are more stops on the Changing the Narrative tour! The BAVP will be heading to ROADS Charter School and Aspirations Diploma Plus High School for a joint date, Van Dyke Community Center and two additional community spaces.  
Stay tuned for more Changing the Narrative event information! For up-to-the-minute BAVP updates and great action photos follow the BAVP on instagram: @antiviolenceproject!

Mott Hall Bridge Academy scholars pay close attention to conversation prompts!

Kayin Latson, BAVP Staff, leads the discussion at the Frederick Douglas Academy and Teachers Preparatory High School joint tour date!

Mott Hall Bridge Academy working on their group canvas!

Ralph Perez of X-Mental at work during the group discussion at the Frederick Douglas Academy and Teachers Preparatory High School joint tour date!

Brownsville Youth Court puts the finishing touches on their canvas!