This Tuesday: Help break down a divide (and watch some great student videos at John Jay HS Campus)

This Tuesday: Help break down a divide (and watch some great student videos at John Jay HS Campus)

John Jay Video Showcase 4-29

Although it’s located right in the middle of Park Slope, there has too long been a divide between the public schools in the John Jay Educational Campus and the surrounding community.

Next Tuesday, we’ve got a chance to help break down that divide.

For the past two years, BRIC Arts Media (with support from my office) has been working with high school students at John Jay’s Secondary School of Journalism, Park Slope Collegiate, and Brooklyn Millennium in a digital media program. This year, the students have produced video and animation projects that they will be screening for the community at a special showcase on Tuesday afternoon at 3:30 in the John Jay auditorium (237 7th Ave).  

The young people are preparing to participate in BRIC’s Brooklyn Youth Media Festival at the end of May (led in part by two of last year’s students), but you can get a sneak-peak at the entries on Tuesday. I was able to attend last year’s screening and was blown away by the skill and creativity that was on display (you can watch one of last year’s videos here). I really encourage you to join me for this year’s event, to see what these young artists are capable of.

Its no secret that there’s a long and complicated history at John Jay, or that the relationships between the schools there and the surrounding community shine a spotlight on broader issues of inequality and segregation.

Three years ago, when the DOE co-located Millennium Brooklyn into the building, to share space and resources with the three existing schools – Secondary School for Law, Secondary School for Journalism and Park Slope Collegiate – it highlighted these issues. Because Millennium was conceived in part as a school that would more explicitly serve Park Slope residents, the proposal raised challenging questions about fairness, diversity, and segregation in our schools. At the time I wrote about the hard truths of race, class, inequality, and education that the situation at John Jay highlights, and expressed some serious concerns about whether the co-location of Millennium into that building would exacerbate an already tense relationship between the schools and the community. I expressed then that I was “deeply committed to helping the schools in the building succeed – individually and together – and to confronting the educational inequalities that continue to score our city.”

The following year I was able to report that not only were the schools making the best of the situation brought on by the co-location, they were beginning to collaborate as a campus. My office has worked hard to add to that spirit of collaboration by bringing cultural and afterschool programs to the building, including the BRIC digital media program, a “Teen Battle Chef” program, and a Groundswell Community Mural Project, “Education is Our Right” (which is well worth seeing, if you’re in the building on Tuesday). This year, I was especially pleased that a student-led proposal to transform the sidewalk outside the school into a more welcoming plaza area was one of the winning projects for Participatory Budgeting.

Let’s be real: it will take far more than a few afterschool programs to bridge the divides of segregation and inequality (which Errol Louis recently described in a strong Daily News Op Ed as “our enduring shame”). So it was great to see the hard work being done by Park Slope Collegiate to confront these challenges featured in a powerful New York Magazine article this week.

I recently offered a few thoughts on longer-term work to confront segregation and discrimination. And we’re working with the District 15 Community Education Council on a forum later this spring (Monday May 19th) to talk about diversity and segregation in our schools (if you’re interested, please reach out to Vicki Sell at vsell [at] council [dot] nyc [dot] gov). 

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But for today: I hope you will take advantage of the opportunity to see some of the progress first hand by joining me for the digital media showcase on Tuesday afternoon. There is still a lot of work to be done, but we should celebrate what these students have accomplished together already.