Braddock Youth Project: Breakthrough 1

– Cadwell Turnbull

As the media coordinator at the Braddock Youth Project, I have had to come up with a year-long plan for the kids.  I wanted to wait for the kids, but with so much time on my hands me and Alisha—the video coordinator of the media team—set to work on creating something that the kids could build on. During their time with the afterschool program, we decided that it would be enjoyable for them not just to work on the quarterly newsletter for BYP, but also an end of the year literary magazine as well as a year-long production of a documentary.  I also had a few ideas for events—such as an open mic/poetry night—that the media group would organize and promote.

I was super excited for the opportunity to share this with the group and I was expecting resounding applause and cheering.  I expected the kids to get up from their seats and do power cartwheels across the finished wooden floor of the community center.  I expected them to get excited, and from that catalyst of excitement, begin brainstorming ideas for the documentary, for the magazine, for the events.

I got mostly blank stares.  All nineteen kids had an opportunity to choose from the gardening team, media team, and BYP junior team.  We ended up with five kids; 3 of which didn’t choose us as their first choice.  The other groups were full and they had no choice.  They got stuck with us, the not-so-awesome alternative to gardening and mentoring and tutoring younger children.  I never felt so disconnected in my entire life.  I thought we were going to be the cool group.  I thought everyone would be excited to join us.  But we turned out to be the lesser option.

The kids didn’t make it easy for us either.  Once in the group, we experienced all the abuse you receive from kids that don’t want to be there.  The passive aggressive heads slumped in the palm of their hands, the bored expressions of “why am I here?” painted on their droopy faces, the complaints and excuses and whining of children at an age still fresh in my mind.  They didn’t see media as an opportunity.  They thought we had planned too much work.  They knew and liked the other team leaders and had grown used to them; we were still in the awkward phases of unfamiliarity.  It was just a disaster!

But lately, for at least some of the kids at least, the tide has changed.  We set up the video camera and put giant letters on the wall in block letters: a “B,” a “Y,” a “P.”  We told them the rules, to fill in the words with their thoughts and feelings, open it up to the rest of BYP, and film it.  Later we would do a time-lapse with the footage and create a BYP introduction.

Though we had experienced some smaller miracles, this was by far the biggest of them all.  They got involved.  Everyone helped.  They planned it, made decisions, set up the lighting equipment to improve the visual affect with the help of Alisha, they told the others and they filmed.  They got up to the wall and wrote their messages.  They had fun with it, catching hats, dancing, tumbling into the frame, and other actions.  It was the first moment that I had seen them collectively laugh, smile, and actively do a job.  It was a masterpiece for me, a beautiful moment caught on film.  I felt like we had finally gotten through, broke the divide between us and the kids.  It was truly miraculous!


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