Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Punting Passing and Kicking for a Stronger Brownsville

On July 26th, the Brownsville Community Justice Center helped sponsor an NFL Punt Pass & Kick Skills Competition put on by our partner, the Mo Better Jaguars youth football program in Betsy Head Park. PP&K (as it's known) is an initiative of the NFL to engage young people in football fundamentals. Although it's a supportive environment, competition is fierce- the highest scorers from Saturday advance to a regional competition and those winners will compete during the Super Bowl!

The Mo Better Jaguars are part of the North Jersey Pop Warner conference which features some of the region's powerhouse programs. They are the only Pop Warner football program in New York City and have been playing in Brownsville for more than 17 years.  Aside from winning regional and national titles, they have produced stars such as Jaiquawn Jarrett, now a safety for the New York Jets, and Kevin Ogletree, now a Tampa Bay Buccaneer wideout. Mo Better used to play its home games in the heart of Brownsville at Betsy Head Park but a few years ago officials deemed the field unfit for competition. Now Mo Better must travel outside of the neigborhood for home games. Even though Mo Better can't play games at Betsy Head, they continue to practice there because Brownsville is there home and so their families can watch them play.

The Village Voice has recently covered the program with a series of articles that highlight Mo Better's successes and challenges especially when alumni of the program get caught up in the criminal justice system and life on the streets. Just last month, two of the program's alum were killed by gun violence.

The Justice Center supports events like this as a part of "Brownsville Stronger Together" it's campaign to combat gun and gang violence in the neighborhood. The campaign's strategy is threefold:
1) Spreading positive messaging that highlights Brownsville's strengths, promotes neighborhood pride and strengthens community ties;
2) Creating opportunities for youth to develop skills, build self-worth and be agents of change in their community;
3) Activating public spaces and organizing place-based activities that create visible change in the physical environment.

The Mo Better Jaguars were not deterred by the poor condition on Betsy Head field. In fact, Coach Legree has instilled in them that overcoming adversity is fundamental to the game of football and has surely been critical to their great success as a program. Watching the crowd of young football stars drilling, cheering each other on, and bringing life to the often desolate park gets to heart of what "Brownsville Stronger Together" represents. We were proud to partner with Mo Better on this event and wish them the best this coming season!  


Head Coach of the Mo Better Jaguars Chris Legree reminds his kids of the principles they play by and live by.

Coach Legree give the Mo Better Jaguars a pep talk.

James Brodick of the Justice Center, tells the kids how their drilling, practicing and playing makes Brownsville stronger.

Let the competition begin!




                                                                 and kicking 



 for a Stronger Brownsville!






Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Brownsville goes to Broadway!

On July 10th, the Brownsville Community Justice Center and NYPD's Juvenile Robbbery Intervention Program (JRIP) ventured uptown to dinner and a Broadway show. The evening started at Carmine's fabled family-style Italian restaurant where we feasted on giant plates of chicken parm, penne a la vodka and ravioli with marinara sauce. For dessert the group of youth, police officers and program staff, shared not one but two gigantic delicacies known as "the Titanic" and well-deserving of the name.

Following dinner, the group walked through Times Square to the Palace Theater to see "Holler if Ya Hear Me," the new musical starring slam poet Saul Williams and featuring the music and poetry of Tupac Shakur. The energy in the show was incredible and brought Tupac's classic songs -including "Changes," "Me Against the World," "Keep Ya Head Up" and "California Love"- to life on the stage. It was a story about friendship, love, loyalty,  and redemption on the streets of New York City. After coming home from a long bid in prison, the protagonist's best friend is killed by a rival crew and his old crew is looking to him at how to respond - whether to retaliate or simply mourn and try to keep the peace. 

All in all, it was a wonderful evening out in the city and there is nothing like art to remind you that the daily challenges we face every day have been confronting others for generations, that we have choices (hard as they may be), and that it is the choices we make that shape our destiny.

Thanks to the New York City Police Foundation for the generous support that made this incredible trip possible.



Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Lighting up Pitkin Avenue with a Movie Night to kick off Summer

On Friday, June 27 at 8:30pm, the Brownsville Community Justice Center, Pitkin Avenue Business Improvement District ("the BID"), and Rooftop Films hosted a movie night on Pitkin Avenue as a part of the BID's Summer Plazas series. The movie was Pitkin Avenue’s first public event held in the evening in recent memory. The event was also a historic occasion, as it was the first movie screening on Pitkin Avenue since the closing of the Historic Loews Theatre in the late 1960s. The old theater building still stands just 2 blocks from our movie screening.

The movie ("Are We There Yet?" starring Ice Cube and Nia Long) drew a good crowd of children, teens and families who filled the streets with life hours after the last store had closed. The Justice Center frequently sponsors and supports community events as a part of it's campaign "Brownsville Stronger Together" which aims to change the narrative of Brownsville and build a stronger community by challenging norms that promote anti-social behavior.

The Brownsville Community Justice Center teamed up with the Pitkin Avenue BID to pull off this event.
Justice Center youth did face painting and other activities for youth during the Summer Plazas.

The Loew's Pitkin Theater at the corner of Pitkin Avenue and Legion Street was shuttered since the 60s and has only recently been converted to a charter school with ground floor retail.
"The successes of our Summer Plazas in recent years, leading to a more positive reflection on the neighborhood of Brownsville both from within and from outside the community has led naturally to this event as a next step in our mission to improve the neighborhood. We are now looking to extend the hours of activity on Pitkin Avenue, which is Brownsville’s Main Street, and in so doing create and maintain an expectation of safety, activity and an overall feeling of invitation on our Avenue and surrounding streets.” Daniel Murphy, Executive Director of the Pitkin Avenue Business Improvement District
Children sat up front on yoga mats while parents sat in the BID's plaza chairs.

“The Brownsville Community Justice Center is proud to help sponsor the first ever Pitkin Plaza summer movie. Summer evenings in Brownsville are beautiful but when the stores close and it starts getting dark, Pitkin can feel really desolate. In terms of public safety, there’s no substitute for other people being out. We’re just excited to be out on Pitkin at night, bring the community together and have a fun time.” Viviana Gordon, Director of Operations, Brownsville Community Justice Center

Faces of anticipation. Will Ice Cube be able to woo the woman of his dreams by taking her children on the roadtrip of a lifetime?