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.  

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