In the wake of nationwide protests against police brutality, students at Brownsville’s Brooklyn Collegiate Preparatory High School have formed a task force aimed at confronting racial inequality at the school, saying they wanted to continue important conversations about social justice outside of the classroom.
“I wanted people to understand that the youth understand what’s going on today,” said Kiairrah Graham, a recently-graduated senior at Brooklyn Collegiate and member of the task force. “We’re not clueless, and we actually are paying attention.”
The task force was born out of a forum set up by Community School Director Rosana Shields, who said she wanted to create a space for the students to process their emotions, despite the challenges of being limited to a virtual space.
“The students really just used it as space to talk about their frustrations, their anger, their sadness, their feelings of hopelessness,” said Shields. “And then it turned into an action planning platform.”
About 90 students, along with 40 faculty members and parents, attended the first open forum, which was originally scheduled to run for 30 minutes — but the dialogue kept the students engaged for over two hours, according to Graham, who attributed the forums’ success to the tight-knit community that makes up Brooklyn Collegiate.
“If you’re in a bigger crowd or with people you’re comfortable with, you’re more likely to speak on topics that are bothering you,” she said.
And a large part of what made the forums a hit among students was creating an environment that made the kids feel comfortable having such impactful conversations, according to Shields.
“There is going to be raw emotion and that’s okay,” she said. “Sometimes we want to fix it for the kids, but we really wanted the students to just talk about how they’re feeling and everything that was going on.”
Formed out of two students from each grade, the task force is working on their first action over the summer, putting together a video that features the student body speaking about racial justice, and the Black Lives Matter movement.
The in-progress video features some students reciting poetry, teachers speaking to what they think needs to change, and students speaking about what the words “racism” and “Black Lives Matter” mean to them, and features elected officials such as Borough President Eric Adams and Manhattan Councilwoman Carlina Rivera.
After they finish the video in a couple of weeks, the students say they hope for it to go viral.
“We want the video to explode,” Graham said.