Monday, April 20, 2009

"SUSAN BOYLE'S GOT TALENT" ---- Community Filmmaking Entry 4/20/09

(Actors C'Allah Coombs and Shai Shackley on the POINTING FINGERS set)
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.

Brooklyn Young Filmmakers is seeking 2 minutes of original instrumental music to use in the opening credits for POINTING FINGERS (2009, 15 min.), a story about family members pointing fingers of blame at each other, only to find out that they don’t really know each other – or themselves. (718) 935-0490. (See last Monday's entry for more about our hunt for music: )



Susan Boyle’s got talent.

(Now, what about those out-of-control

black kids you’ve heard about?)

When Susan Boyle stepped out on stage last week on "Britain's Got Talent" (the Brit version of "American Idol") the audience started snickering. The frumpy, ruddy-cheeked, unemployed forty seven year old announced she was going to sing “I Dreamed a Dream” from the musical Les Misérables. The snickering became wincing among both audience and judges, as they braced for the painful and off key. Susan Boyle opened her mouth. She spread her arms (wings?). The Sound emerged and made all thought stand still. It was melodic. It was knowing. It swelled with the heroic and the generous. The woman judge cried and Simon Cowell’s mouth dropped open and stayed that way. The matronly live alone woman who’s never been kissed penetrated the souls of those who would scorn her with her song and presence. She was not the lesser being. She was more than they. (Watch the performance that 50 million have now viewed: )

Susan Boyle’s got talent. Obama is our president. Slumdog is a Millonaire and Oscar winner*. There is speculation that maybe now, you’ll all be ready to meet – really meet – those out-of-control black kids you’ve heard about (fear to meet) from the projects. (*See the 3 part article on SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE


Now I had the blues before sunrise
With blues standing in my eyes
It’s such a miserable feeling
A feeling I do despise
Seems like everybody
Everybody’s down on me

-- “Blues Before Sunrise” by Leroy Carr

Last Tuesday in our free “I Love Film” Class at the Willoughby Senior Center I gave participants the assignment of coming up with an idea for a one scene, one location, short screenplay. It was C’Allah’s turn. He said his script would be about a fight that breaks out on a basketball court between a young player and the two coaches on an opposing team. I asked C’Allah, does this take place during a game? Because you know you’re limited to using just 2 – 3 characters, no extras, when you write your first draft.

C’ALLAH: “Yeah I know,” (sucking the air through his teeth and sighing) “but it’s a real story. The kids I’m coaching were in a fight on the court and the police were called.”

I said, Oh No! I knew how important the kids were to C’Allah. He’s been rounding up young male teens from Fort Greene public housing since the Republican Convention in 2004, when there was an execution style killing on the outdoor basketball courts near the old Ingersol Community Center. That’s when C’Allah picked up the ball and started running his own impromptu tournaments. Recently a new league for junior high kids (11 - 15 years old) formed in the neighborhood. C’Allah put together a team made up of kids he and his son play ball with and other kids recruited through the grandparents at the Willoughby Senior Center where he volunteers.

C’ALLAH: "It was our first game of the season. We were playing at the junior high school on Park that use to be known as “Sands” when I was growing up and went there. This was home for us, I looked at the opposition and I was surprised. It was a good mix, a really good mix of kids – white, black, Hispanic – and I thought that was great! Our team is all black, so they don’t get the exposure to different kinds of kids. Then I looked past the kids and was surprised again. Their two coaches had red faces, beer bellies and beards. They looked like they’d just come out of the hills of West Virginia! They didn’t look like any basketball coach. Didn’t look like anyone from Brooklyn."

I guess you haven’t been to all parts of Brooklyn.

C’ALLAH: "Guess Brooklyn’s a big place. Well, I was feeling good. We had the advantage. After the first two minutes of the game though I was thinking, whoa, we’re over our heads! The opposition, they was good! They went out ahead and stayed ahead. They were disciplined. They played really well as a team. That’s not saying we were terrible. I was actually videotaping it, so I had an eighteen year old who’d been playing with me for years coaching the game and he kept the game close. Our kids stayed about 6 points down for most of the game. But we could never catch up.

I felt bad, ‘cause I knew our training wasn’t as good as the other team’s. Part of it is that we can’t get any indoor court time in the winter to practice. There’s the Farragut Community Center indoor court, but they got their teams already booked into it. I have to tell my kids to be patient because they get so frustrated they start bouncing the ball in the hallways in the buildings they live in, and I tell them they can’t do that.

As we were losing to my surprise our team was actually very confident. They kept telling me, “Don’t worry C’Allah. We’re going to win.” And I kept saying to them, “You’re playing like you were hanging out all night partying.” They were always just a step behind the other team who were really hustling. I kept looking back over at the beer bellies and thinking that they were doing a great job of coaching their team. I didn’t like it though that their kids started doing a lot of trash talk at our players.

We were trailing by 6 pts going into the final quarter and our kids had never been ahead, but they were confirming their promise to me, “Don’t worry C’Allah, we’re gonna win the game.” And they lived up to their word. They came out for that last quarter like gangbusters. They started stealing the ball from the other team. Our team went ahead by 8 points! There was only one minute of play left and things had reversed.

Our guys started to trash talk the other team who were now looking confused. There was a loose ball and a scuffle broke out. One of the opposing players took his hand and mushed one of our players in the face. A fist fight broke out. The two opposing coaches ran straight at my player and started growling something at him. Then all hell broke loose. My kids started crying. I mean, literally crying. I was shocked. Then they were yelling, “This is Fort Greene. You don’t come down here talking to us like that! We fight coaches too!” My kids chased the coaches and their team! Ran them into the locker room and locked them in.

The director of the tournament announced that our team, the Willoughby Little Bees, had forfeited the game because of fighting. My kids got even madder. They stayed on the court and wouldn’t leave. I gathered them together and angrily told them how they had embarrassed me with their behavior. That’s when they told me what the opposition coaches had yelled at them and made them cry. The coaches had told them, “That’s why you niggers ain’t got nothing down here.”

The tournament director had called the police, who came to escort the visiting team out of the neighborhood. A couple of the police knew some of our kids because they had given them warnings when they were hanging out in the hallways of their buildings playing and making noise. The police officer said, “Oh yeah, we know these kids. They’re a bad bunch.”

The police led the other team down the front stairs of the school. We were behind them. The opposition coaches stopped and pointed at me and said, “It’s all your fault! You don’t have control of your kids. You shouldn’t have let that young guy coach. That just set up trouble.” My response was, “You didn’t say a word about it when you were winning all game!” My friend Ali knew to pull me away."

Susan Boyle has talent and people living in public housing are not who you think they are. Check in next Monday for another update on Brooklyn Young Filmmakers Community Filmmaking Project.

peace & future

Trayce, BYFC Director

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