Wednesday, December 3, 2008


For those of you who don’t know, Fort Greene public housing is made up of 3 developments that border each other. They are called Whitman, Ingersol, and Farragut. Brooklyn Young Filmmakers has an office in the Whitman Community Center.

As part of our outreach to recruit cast and production assistants from all over the neighborhood for our Community Filmmaking Project, we contacted the Farragut Community Center, which draws many older teens. As I explained the project to the Farragut Center’s acting director, she said she thought a number of teens would be interested in the project – but she predicted that they wouldn’t come for interviews. Why? Because Brooklyn Young Filmmakers is housed in the Whitman Community Center. There is a turf war going on among some of the young people……

How small, how utterly small must the world and hopes of these young people be – if nothing makes them feel important except saying to other young people who live across the way, “This is my block, don’t cross the line.”
The other part of this sense of restriction not being talked about is that most of these kids will probably never walk through the more well off areas of Fort Greene because they don’t feel safe there either – Someone who lives there (or the police cruising by) is sure to say (or make you feel like) "What are you doing here?!"
People who don’t have hope can be dangerous. But even more dangerous than trying to reach them is not trying to reach them. This is not Iraq. This is Fort Greene, our neighborhood, but are you listening to what is happening here? Why can’t we show some concern, some resources, some creativity, some determination in trying to ease the tensions and build new bridges.

Maybe you’re white or just look well-to-do, and you’re thinking, “I can’t go there. If the kids might attack each other, then they are certainly going to attack me. Public housing must be a scary place.” But you’re wrong.
The first time one of my students, a young white woman from South Africa, came to the BYFC office she got lost in public housing, way lost – and she ended up enjoying being lost. She had to interact with the residents she passed to ask for help with directions and she was surprised with how welcoming and helpful everyone she talked to was, as well as how clean and well cared for the grounds of public housing are. To hear more about Phillipa’s experience, you can read the comments she made to after my December 1st posting.

Brooklyn Young Filmmakers has offered to go to the Farragut Community Center and give a presentation about our Community Filmmaking Project, show the 2 films we have made, and answer questions. Maybe no Farragut teen will be interested in working with us – but at least we will make the message clear that we, housed across the way in the Whitman Center, would love to work with them.

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