COMMUNITY FORUM

Community Lab: Brooklyn Community Arts and Media High School

December 3rd, 2008

Civilians Actor Joaquin Torres
Photo: Adrian Kinloch

Brooklyn at Eye Level includes a number of Community Labs connecting artists with local youth groups.  Last week author Carl Hancock Rux lead a workshop with students at the Hip-Hop Theater Festival’s affiliate school Brooklyn Community Arts and Media High School.  The workshop began with a lively discussion exploring neighborhood observations that weaved together notions of community, class, and even perspectives on vacillating trends and personal habits. The students read an essay by Rux,  Rich Man Poor Man: A History of Fort Greene, that referenced an 1858 New York Times article titled “Homes of the Poor.”  Rux writes “the Times item said the real estate boom has resulted in class conflict among a majority of the area’s longtime residents (identified as “renters or squatters”) and its new neighbors—middle to upper income homeowners (identified as out-priced Manhattanites attracted to the spatial wealth of Brooklyn and able to afford the high price of its grand scale Neo-Gothic brownstones.)”  With the background of a broad historical perspective the students wrote observations about their neighborhood and aspirations for the future of their communities.  Here is a short selection of excerpts from their work.

Come to The Performance Dec 4 -  7th to see selections of student work from our Community Labs.

My neighborhood is not that bad.  It’s like a bunch of brownstones with three apartment buildings close to the end of [Brooklyn] Ave.  The houses vary in color from the brightest being white, and the darkest being brown.  In my neighborhood it was all black people except for one white guy, but no one ever sees him.  And now there is like two full houses of white families.  And the people that used to live there moved down South to take care of their family.  I don’t think I can really  describe her because i have never seen her before, but the one time I did see her she was talking on the phone to one of her friends and she was laughing. . . if there was one thing that I would say and come true is to be more unified. we should come together and do things as a community, and block parties are not enough.  It should be a 365 thing.

- By Shakira A Bynoe

My neighborhood looks like any other neighborhood would.  There’s alot of people that are just like anyone, that i can guarantee. Something that has changed was the people.  They have aged and become less of who they were before.  We haven’t had any block parties and I dont think we will be.

- By Terrence W.

The things that changed was the people living around me. The people in the brownstone move in and out like the way the water flow. They build more things where you can spend money you don’t have.

They see me living good but still another nigga. They see me as the person who’s not trying to make things good but bad. They see me as a taker and not a giver.

- By Malcolm A Salley

You Can’t Block the Sun

December 1st, 2008

Photo by Michael Premo

“Ratner was trying to help all these people.  He doesn’t just take your property, he offers fair market value.  If you’re gonna say no cuz you wanna be in the way of progress . . . it’s gotta be this country, based on majority rules, right?  So, if the majority of people want something, you can’t have the few naysayers say no, cause then you know what?  You’d never make progress the rest of our lives. And you have some beautiful buildings that are gonna be built there . . . think about that one . . . the mayor approved it, the city council approved it, everybody approved of it, right? So everybody can’t  be wrong and these few people are right.  I had two ladies, one was a teacher, one was a stockbroker they were a couple  and the both of ‘em were both yellin at me, yelling and screaming, saying how could you be for this project don’t you realize if he builds a sixty story building the trees aren’t going to get sunshine. you actually believe that? How in your right mind you gonna believe that? You can’t block the sun . . . I can’t remember how many million miles and it still somehow reaches the flowers underwater. How you gonna block the sun with a building?  Manhattan never woulda been built with that theory. Am i right or wrong?” – Proud Brooklynite

I Want to be Able to See My Kids on the Street

November 30th, 2008

“I don’t see the average family in Brooklyn, particularly a low-income family, being able to function in those buildings effectively [proposed Atlantic Yards Towers]…When we worked in Bed-Stuy, on BS Restoration Corps. . . there was this woman who leaned out her window and said, “give us affordable housing. But make sure I can yell at my kids on the street.” You just can’t do that in a 40-story building. If you don’t have a nanny, the kids have to play on their own.  They have to have some sort of relationship to the community. And it’s different, for any family. But it’s a lot easier if you have support and funds.  If you’re a low-income family, it’s impossible. That kind of high-rise building is not designed for families.” – Urban Planner

Community Lab: Atlantic Terminal Community Center

November 28th, 2008

(L-R) Civilians Artistic Director Steve Cosson and
Actors Marsha Stephanie Blake & Melanie Nichols King
Photo: Adrian Kinloch

Brooklyn at Eye Level includes a number of Community Labs connecting artists with local youth groups.  Playwright Lucy Thurber has been working with kids at Atlantic Terminal Community Center.  The students have been writing plays and songs about their neighborhood and community.  Come to The Performance Dec 4 -  7th to see selections of student work from our Community Labs.

COMING SOON: Keep checking back here to hear plays written by youth from the Atlantic Terminal Community Center performed by The Civilians actors.

My Home, Your Home
By: Evelyn McLaughlin

Chorus
My home, your home, our home together-
You have one hand, I have another-
Put them together and we’ll have each other
1st verse
Sweet smells from the kitchen
Entrance me in the weirdest way
I feel so comfortable when I’m at home
I love you so much, not you but my home
4 is heartful, helpful and happiness
O is oblivious, Omni, octopus and mysterious
E is for everything, everywhere in my home
Chorus
My home, your home, our home together-
You have one hand, I have another-
Put them together and we’ll have each other
2nd Verse
Love and happiness makes up a home
Stay with me and you’ll never be alone

Deep Inside My Mind
By: Ashley Jones

Deep inside my mind as my words go elsewhere. I hear parts of me take down.
As the light from the sky come down I see inside of me as if a x-ray came over me.
My heart beats fast as if I just heard a bell ring
My mind takes over my heart as if I’m dead but I’m walking as if I’m hear my mind goes around come back down as a fear, as everyone look and wonder why is this girl hear.
I fight their words but their power takes over me as they cut me with there power.
I drop blood as if rain have came over. I’m inside of a box locked down like a slave that have been shot down, walking under the rail road trying to find a life,
I’m still in this box and I won’t even fight.

Untitled Song
By: Ashley Jones

It’s twelve o’clock and the base from the music stops.
The room is filled with silence while the teens search for their tops.
Hurry hurry move swiftly it’s the cops!
Two teens approach the door with fear written across their face.
The sounds of their hearts beats loud like hip-hop base.
“We got a call from a neighbor, loud music and foul play”
The teens stood in the doorway neither knew what to say.
“Who’s the chaperone in charge of this party guys?”
No one could vouch everyone was under eighteen.
The conversation got cut short by a loud scream…..ahhhhh!
The cops ran straight in, trying to assemble where the sounds came from.
As they approached, the girl lay shot by a fully loaded gun.
She layed in the hallway trembling like a mountain of erupted rocks.
“Breath breath” one of the screamed!
But it was to late the girl was pronounced dead on the scene.
Who could have done this?
A drunk out of control teen.
A lesson hopefully learned, a girl pronounced dead on the scene.

Community Labs: Brooklyn Tech

November 28th, 2008

Civilians Actor Diana Sanchez
Photo: Adrian Kinloch

Brooklyn at Eye Level includes a number of Community Labs connecting artists with local youth groups.  One of these Community Labs is an Investigation Workshop with students at Brooklyn Tech High School.  Students have been exploring The Civilians Investigation process and approach to conduct interviews of their own.  The following is from an interview conducted by a Brooklyn Tech student.

“My initial understanding of the project was that it was just a Nets stadium, and I thought, “Well what’s so wrong with that?” I’m not a huge basketball fan but I didn’t see the huge problem. Then I realized that there were houses being torn down as a result of the project and I thought, “Okay that’s crossing the line.” Eventually the whole problem of the project dawned on me: It’s not just that the project is making housing more difficult, which it is, but it’s a complete and total blight on Brooklyn itself, and me living close to it it’s just horrendous. Traffic will go through the roof, entire blocks will be cast in shadows throughout the entire day because of the office buildings and apartment complexes, which are going to be very expensive and as if housing in New York wasn’t expensive enough already. Ratner’s plans are ultimately going to only grant him a load of money and meanwhile put a total blemish on the face of Brooklyn. I said earlier that Brooklyn was like a rainbow in its diversity, and one might argue that this project is just another hue in the cultural rainbow; I respond, if you threw a dull brown-grey into the middle of a rainbow, it would seem out of place and ugly. That’s the problem with Atlantic Yards: It’s a total eyesore, a housing and traffic nightmare and there is simply so much more harm that can come out of this project than good.” – Brooklyn High School Student

Where’s the Community in the Community Benefits Agreement?

November 28th, 2008

“I think it’s questionable to even call the Atlantic Yards agreement a “Community Benefits Agreement.”  Because if you think that one of the definite defining points is that there is a coalition of community and labor, I don’t think they have that.  They made a beeline to the developer…where was the community in that community benefit agreement?  There are…all of the surrounding neighborhoods have community-based organizations that were never consulted.”  – Urban Planner

All This is Predictable

November 27th, 2008

“You know, I was brought up to think that the world actually is a somewhat rational place!  Well it is rational, you know, this is a guy who went to law school with Pataki who was the governor at the time, he dangles, you know the elephants in front of Marty Markowitz, he dangles part ownership of a football team in front of Jay-Z, he offers free events, you know, so that poor families can bring their kids to a basketball clinic, that then gets used to create a PR video, you know?  You know!  He gives half a million dollars a year to New York City political campaigns, he dangles you know, 10,000 construction jobs in front of the union – Oh, excuse me, that turns out, no, 15,000 construction jobs in front of the union he dangles, which turns out to mean 1500 construction jobs a year for 10 years, and oh by the way, if you go down to the where they’re creating the Rail Yards down on Atlantic Avenue and count how many people are working down there?  What is it.  15?  20?  You know.  But all this is predictable!  All this is predictable. It’s a trip.”  – Rational Brooklynite

Each Time I Refuse to Sell, The City Gives me Tickets!

November 27th, 2008

“They raided me 13 times because they don’t want me in the neighborhood and it was basically simple.  It was a simple as that.  They trying to get me out because i refuse to go.  Most of my food is cheap 90% of my customers are minority  and they don’t like that.  They say they don’t want all these African-Americans back into the neighborhood. . . i said you know what, you need to stop harassing me. . . every time they raid me, the day before i receive a call from some real estate investor in the city that wants to buy my building.  when i tell them no, you guys raid me, so what the fuck you expect from me.  they tried to shut me down, my restaurant was clean, not mice, not rats, no garbage, no unhealthy, unsanitary, so when they come here they give you some tickets for some bullshit. you know what the funniest freaking ticket i got from the fire department just to give me a ticket. it was a grease spot.  you see how clean this back is up over here, over the filters, i have a company here the sticker right here, and they come clean this thing every month, right.  you see that there was a little grease over there on the filter, right there, you see right there.  i got a ticket for that. they couldn’t find anything. they give me a ticket for every little thing and i got hand washing everywhere towels, soaps, everything. you know. they couldn’t catch me.  they brought the building department they give me stupid tickets on my door.  ooo this is off a little bit.   so i went through a lot.” – Community Business owner (Busines is not one pictured)

Exit: The Concerts. Enter: Doggie Fountains.

November 26th, 2008

“Oh, I know what disappeared! Concerts in the park! Concerts in Fort Greene Park. They got rid of those because I guess the people who live here now didn’t want the kinds of people who’d come to the concerts parking on their streets or hanging out in front of their houses. Didn’t want the noise. So those are gone. And now they got doggie fountains…where your dog could get a drink of water. Used to be your kids couldn’t get water outta those fountains, now they lowered them so the dogs can drink.” – Fort Greene resident

Arrogant, Cocky New Neighbors

November 25th, 2008

“i knew everybody.  it was a neighborhood.  it was a neighborhood. it was family orientated neighborhood.  my customers, one of them or their family members or whatever . . . i went to their funerals i went to their wakes . . . it was a tight community.  it was like, you know, that type of community is like, where you were born and your next door neighbor was born right next to you and you guys grew up together, that was the neighborhood.. now you see these guys coming in.   first the elder black and the old black families in this neighborhood in 99, 2001, 2002, 2003 they got robbed out of all their brownstones over here, they was buying brownstones over here 200,000, 300,000. these investors held onto them and now they’re selling them for 1.5, 1.6, 2 million dollars. and now all these guys you see coming into this neighborhood.  they dont have time to say hi to you how are you, how ya been . . . they dont. that is nasty of them that is very rude . . . arrogant, cocky.”  – Brooklyn Old Timer

They dont care about Black Business!

November 24th, 2008

“Not good for business not good at all [whispers] because the white people don’t like our type of food, you know? They don’t come in. I been here for over three years but the store been here over ten years. But with this construction right here? We hardly get any people coming in at all. Cause the construction just make people wanna walk fast fast through here to get past all the dust and the debris. So nobody stop. We not doing too good. They said it supposed to be done by Thanksgiving but Thanksgiving is next week. So maybe by Christmas. By Christmas that would still be better. Been like this for long long time now. They turn the street one way so nobody can park anywhere and now the bus been re-routed so hardly anybody come by dis side, you see? It’s like in Third World countries. You know in third world countries when they drag the work out for long long time so more people can make more money? They don’t care about the Black business man cause all they see is we don’t vote for them. We don’t vote at all.  But I vote. But my one vote is not enough to get dem elected, you see? So they not gonna save my one business when the people coming in gwine vote for them in multitudes. They looking out not for me, not for my neighbor, not for my friend. They looking out for numero uno. You know what numero uno is? Number one”  – African-American Businessperson

Its a Binding Contract

November 24th, 2008

“It’s a binding enough contract [The Community Benefits Agreement] that when you see things happen in the community that are not going in that direction, that you can go back to that piece of paper say look this is what you promised us, to the developer, this is what we agreed upon doing and it was signed by the mayor. So I really feel . . . they had a whole press conference and everything and the signing and everything so I feel yes, it was a binding contract.  You can go back and say this is what you promised to do.” – Brooklynite

Official Atlantic Yards Community Benefit Agreement information.

Where i’m gonna go?

November 23rd, 2008

“If ya’ll do kick them out . . .I hope ya’ll got another house for them to move in. My grandmother been here for twenty years and she said she ain’t going nowhere. And I said grandma I’m right wit chu. Cause I love this building. Without Atlantic Terminal there wouldn’t be me. With all the talking and encouragement, you must stay on the right track, you know. Me talking to gang members out here, drug dealers. Some of them went back to school because of what I said to them, the good advice. You know it make me feel great. Me going to another complex? C’mon I don’t know nobody. I know people in the Clinton Hill area, Fort Greene area. I don’t wanna go out to no Bed Stuy. No Farragut. I don’t wanna  go there. I’ll go there to talk or whatever but I’m not going to live out there.” – A Firmly Rooted Brooklynite

(PHOTO: A Civilians company member on his way to an interview in Ingersoll-Whitman Houses)

A gardener remembers the way it was . . .

November 23rd, 2008

“I had gotten all these bulbs, and I was out with this little heart-shaped spade, um, planting them, and….I….I was up close to 127, and one of the drug dealers, this other neighbor and I decided that one of the ways that we could fight this, this problem was just to make the drug dealers feel uncomfortable. And so, when they would come out, instead of looking away, or crossing the street, we would just watch them – not say anything, but just watch them. So, I was planting, and, the bulbs, and, one of these guys came out, and I was just looking at him. And, and um, he, he charged me, and he grabbed my spade, and was about to cut up my face, and, and – attack me, with my spade, and fortunately, my neighbor who had sort of took over as like as my guardian on this block, and he . . . intervened. He was an older man, and he intervened, and stopped this guy from, from cutting me up. But it was – it was like that. . . you  just had to watch where you walked.”  Garden and a Guardian remembering the way it was not so long ago.

(NOTE: Picture is from the Bears Community Garden.  Click on COMMUNITY to see more photos from the Bears Community Garden by Alix Lambert.)

Crumb Snatcher?

November 20th, 2008

“We’re the average joes and we’re the average janes.  We’re African-american, we’re asian, we’re hispanic we’re all these different things.  We struggle and yet we’re accused of taking the money.  But nobody’s taking account of moneys that come out to support the opposition.  It’s ok for them to have all of that.  It’s ok for my city council and my state senator to give them $100,000 so they can do an environmental to review the project that’s $200,000 but grassroots organization like us we couldn’t get 5 cents.  So if we get $50,000 from the developer again for things you’re showing and you’re doing, oh you’re taking the money and you’re running off and you’re doing whatever.  This is not a get rich quick scheme.” Hard working advocate

We Need Change!

November 20th, 2008

“Look, this is the reality.  Maybe for you life is comfortable for you here, you have a job, you’remaking pretty good money.  You like things the way they are.  So you don’t want change but when you look at some other people who also live here we need change.  We need things to get better.  We need opportunities.  Maybe it’s not as big of an issue for you because you don’t need these things but there are a lot of people who do and this project is something that can generate those opportunities for us.”  – Hopeful resident

What’s the NEXT wave?

November 19th, 2008

“My dad says he’s scared of what the NEXT wave is gonna be. Cause before you had the pioneers, who’d talk and be neighbourly. Then the millionaires came in and they speak sometimes but only to us cause they think we’re in the same class as them, you know, cause we’re owners. Dad says he’s scared of what the ones who buy their houses for 3 MILLION (and it’s their SECOND house, you know, their CITY house) are gonna be”  – anonymous long time resident

TALK, by all means . . .

November 19th, 2008

“If ya’ll do kick them out cause they can’t pay rent I hope ya’ll got another house for them to move in. My grandmother been here for twenty years and she said she ain’t going nowhere. And I said grandma I’m right wit chu. Cause I love this building. Without Atlantic Terminal there wouldn’t be me. With all the talking and encouragement, you must stay on the right track, you know. Me talking to gang members out here, drug dealers. Some of them went back to school because of what I said to them, the good advice. You know it make me feel great. Me going to another complex? C’mon I don’t know nobody. I know people in the Clinton Hill area, Fort Greene area. I don’t wanna go out to no Bed Stuy. No Farragut. I don’t wanna  go there. I’ll go there to talk or whatever but I’m not going to live out there.”

“I like to talk. See, what it is with me, I’m studying to be a preacher. I like to talk. If somebody invite you to talk, TALK, by all means. If your schedule is not bad.” – Talented Talker

(NOTE: Man pictured is not Talented Talker)

IF YOU HATE CHANGE MOVE TO THE MIDWEST!

November 16th, 2008

“When you look at the renderings and what the finished product is going to look like, I think it’s wonderful. NYC is all about evolution, it’s all about re-inventing itself and my whole thing is…get on the bandwagon. If you really don’t like change then go to the midwest somewhere where communities– you could go there a hundred years later and it still looks the same.” – A New Yorker for Change

It Doesn’t Match

November 16th, 2008

“I like being able to, in the spring or the summer, one of the things I like doing the most is walking from Fort Greene or Clinton Hill all the way to the other side to Crown Heights, Prospect Heights, Park Slope. To see the beautiful architecture and the design and to see the way in which each neighborhood sort of blends into the next into the next….And I just see the development that is happening all over Brooklyn, that it doesn’t match the beauty that already exists. And I just wonder in fifty years if America is going to be able to see the wonder and the beauty of what we created, instead of this cardboard cut-out bullshit that is passed off for living. So am I a fan of the arena? No.” – Former Fort Greene Resident