Monday, April 27, 2009

"DEAR GOD" --- Community Filmmaking Entry 4/27/09

(HipHop artist Ashanti Baptiste, wearing the peaked cap and beard,
sits in on a class session on the set of POINTING FINGERS)
- photo by Jenny Ducaud

In July 2009 Brooklyn Young Filmmakers plans to shoot a short narrative film. We are inviting local residents to be involved in our “Community Filmmaking”. This Monday blog column will keep you updated on our next steps, introduce you to the volunteers and students already involved, and let you know how you might get involved.

BYFC SCAVENGER HUNT : RESULTS! We told you last week that we needed 2 minutes of original instrumental music to use in the opening credits for POINTING FINGERS. Thank you for helping to make our first online scavenger hunt successful!!! We have received 15 responses from high school and college students and professional musicians. Some people attached music samples or directed us to where you can find their music online. Other people offered to send CDs. Half of the people responding had been referred by someone else who had read our blog and then told them about it. We are currently responding back and have already heard some good stuff. Next Week: Brooklyn Young Filmmakers will announce its next Scavenger Hunt. RIDDLE: How can you contribute to Brooklyn Young Filmmakers next Community Filmmaking Project by giving up something that you don’t want? Find out next week!

GRANTS FOR ASPIRING SCREENWRITER/DIRECTORS: If you are a double threat – both writer and director – the Jesse Thompkins III Foundation for Young People in the Arts (JT3 Art) is offering a $2,000 grant. Applicants must be U.S. Citizens between the ages of 18 and 30, and residents of Brooklyn. Deadline for applying is June 22, 2009. More information on the awards program can be found at .


My mind is struck in one place as if cemented
And when I try to escape
I’m just prevented
Feels like
The thoughts I think about be demented
Should have been in a crazy house getting sentence
-- from “DEAR GOD” by Ashanti Baptiste

A HipHop Artist Talks About Basketball Courts, Fort Greene Association, & BAM
The son in POINTING FINGERS sings Ashanti’s song “DEAR GOD”, which also plays over the closing credits. I’ve known Ashanti as a neighbor for over nine years. He’s been volunteering with Brooklyn Young Filmmakers for a number of years and last year he joined our board. Ashanti read my interview with C'Allah from last week and had a lot to say.

ASHANTI: “I’m use to hearing about fights on the court. But what caught my attention when I read your interview with C’Allah last week was that he said the kids were crying. And that he didn’t learn why they were crying until they told him what the opposition coach had said to them. That was deep. You read the newspaper and hear there was a shooting and you get used to it. But you don’t hear that young black kids are crying because someone calls them “nigger”. In my experience, most of the time I see kids quick to fight, “Who the hell R U F talking to?!” As if they really know their history enough to get seriously mad about what is meant with the word.

Hearing that these kids cried touched me. I think what really hit them was the other part of what was said – that they “ain’t got nothing down here”. The last few years the intense gentrification has gotten close to them. The stores where their families shopped were torn down on Myrtle and the luxury condoms are now towering over the projects from right across the street. When these kids come out of the projects and look across the street, all they see is the rich people moving in and that there’s nothing really for them here anymore. The adults have long known this, but now the youth are really realizing that this neighborhood is getting pulled away from them and they can’t do nothing about it.

The youth tend not to care if it don’t have to do with name brand clothes and money. In the neighborhood they’re not paying rent. They might fight over who rules the sidewalk in front of their building, but beyond that they aren’t thinking “this is our neighborhood”. But now the youth are saying “Yo, we getting moved out and there’s nothing here for us.” The basketball court is like the last thing for these black youth – not hiphop, not rap – the basketball court. C’Allah’s kids don’t have a regular place to play. And then to be on a basketball court in your neighborhood and have a white coach tell you that you don’t have nothing down here in the projects, that’s deep. That’s powerful.

To me it brings joy to know that these kids were crying because it makes me think they are reachable and that’s a good start. Also from how they played the game, it was good strategy. The way they stayed a little behind the other team for three quarters and let the other team get prideful thinking it was all over. Then in the fourth quarter C’Allah says the kids came out like gangbusters and started stealing the ball and quickly pulled ahead. They were practicing THE ART OF WAR. That’s a book by Sun Tzu, a Chinese philosopher, that everybody on the streets and in the business world reads ( ). It teaches how to get through a battle without physically having to indulge in it. It’s a mental game. And that’s basically what those kids played. That was smart. Was that C’Allah’s strategy?

No it wasn’t his. He kept thinking they were losing the game. It was his kids strategy, or maybe the 17 yr old coach he had put in charge.

ASHANTI: Our kids are ready to think. But they and their families need the dialogue and exposure that things like BYFC’s Community Filmmaking could bring. As a black male who’s grown up on the streets of Fort Greene, I see Brooklyn Young Filmmakers as a vessel that could be the backbone to help promote and connect. It’s very hard to get the different classes of people to come together. It’s like it’s taboo. I attended the Fort Greene Association meeting last Monday. They talk about wanting to bring all the neighborhood together. I’ve been to at least 12 of their meetings over the last 9 years. I always feel like I’m the only one coming from the poor community who’s sitting in the audience. They have a lot of connections. I feel angry sometimes because it’s not the right people there.

It might not be ALL people there. But when you say the “right people” that makes it sound like the people who attend are wrong and that they don’t care about the other neighbors who don’t attend.

ASHANTI: I’m not going to say they’re wrong or have bad intentions, but their ideals don’t match up with most of the people I know in Fort Greene. I don’t see the FGA advertising in the projects and on Myrtle. I don’t see them figuring out how to reach the people who are not on computers.

Have you seen this flyer? I picked it up in a store on Fulton. It’s about registration for the Brooklyn Pitbulls Youth Football, which is for kids 5 – 16 yrs old. The Fort Greene Association, along with Councilmember Letitia James and State Senator Eric Adams, have put up money to reduce the fees for kids to register (for more info: / ).

ASHANTI: No I haven’t. That’s a good thing. It’s a start. But what we really need are things that promote dialogue among the different people if a real connection is to take. And rather than people who control resources shaping everything, it would be good if there were more grassroots people having a say. The bottom is where the truth is at. You gonna get all feelings, the good, the bad, and the angry. But if we let it out we can turn it into something positive. But most institutions, like BAM, are starting from the middle and top, not from the bottom up. BAM has a lot of great programs for students in schools, but what about the kids in the neighborhood and projects right around BAM, the kids who really need something good and new to happen.

BAM was speaking at the FGA meeting about the new building they are going to put up where the Salvation Army building is. It’s going to have a theater and programs to teach theater and filmmaking for both youth and adults. You think they are going to come up with their own version of community filmmaking? It would be nice if they would talk with Brooklyn Young Filmmakers if they are headed in that direction. They’ve got buildings and money, and we’ve got a strategy for making things happen from the bottom up.

(Hear more about Ashanti's thoughts on the neighborhood in a Neighbor Sketch we posted last year: )

Curse u out
Say that u don’t exist
Then scream your name in vain
And claim they the holiest
Dear God
Wherever u are
Whoever u are
Dear God
Wherever u are
Whoever u are
U probably chill with the stars
-- from “DEAR GOD” by Ashanti Baptiste

1 comment:

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