Thursday, July 01, 2010

Empowering Ourselves Now

Yesterday, I wrote about a departed advocate for civil rights from our neighborhood, and added that I believe Brooklyn can and does still produce individuals of this caliber. Today, as if in answer to this statement, I received the following press release (and video) from Jarrett Mathis, a lifelong Bed-Stuy resident, Dartmouth alumnus, and director of Empowering Ourselves Now, a series of workshops and materials (including an upcoming documentary) that he created to empower black youth through African-American history. Check out the press release below for more information, and be sure to make it to their documentary launch next Friday, July 9, at the Bedford branch of the Brooklyn Library.

Empowering Our Youth - Empowering Ourselves - Press Release

Media Contact: jarrett {at} empoweringourselvesnow {dot} com

Five years ago, Jarrett Mathis, a young man growing up in Brooklyn, N.Y.,finally became fed up. Too often he heard black youth refer to themselves using demeaning terms like nigga (even as a term of endearment), bitch, faggot, and hoe — language often condoned by popular music. And the prevalence of the disparaging language appeared to coincide with a decline in the number of classes devoted to black history in the public school curriculum.

This upsetting trend led Mathis to craft an interactive workshop that has helped to empower black youth and reduce violence in inner cities across the country. Over the past four years, Mathis has traveled throughout New York, Florida, California, New Hampshire, and Philadelphia to present his"Empowering Ourselves" workshop.

"Boys and girls become more interested in finding ways to not only further empower themselves, but also their peers,” Mathis says. “This has sparked a greater interest in finishing high school and going to college, not to mention that it has made the schools and communities I've worked in safer.”

Mathis has now transformed his workshop into a documentary, “Empowering Ourselves,” free online for use by students and teachers. The 75-minute documentary is available on Mathis’ website, trailer for the film can be viewed [above].

If preliminary reactions are any indication, this film is sure to have the impact Mathis wants. “This is an important film that I wish every child in our community could watch," according to Tameka Landers, a first grade public school teacher in Brooklyn.

Elizabeth O'Neil, also a sixth grade public school teacher, in Brooklyn,echoed those sentiments, saying, "The documentary blew me away. It contains so much information that is left out of textbooks."

”Empowering Ourselves,” available online now, will officially launch on Friday July 9. To celebrate the event, there will be a party that same day at the Bedford Brooklyn Public Library, 496 Franklin Avenue, Brooklyn,N.Y 11238, from 3:30pm-5:30 p.m. There will be free pizza, drinks, and ice cream. A signed NBA jersey will be raffled off to one lucky person. All are welcomed.

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