Brooklyn High School students document sexual violence in their community

BY EMILY MAY

A few months ago I got invited to go out to Bushwick Community High School to speak with a group of their students about street harassment. They told me that they were concerned about sexual violence in their community — and as a former Bushwick resident and community activist — their concern struck a very personal cord with me. When I lived in Bushwick in 2003, I would get off at a subway stop that was farther away from my home just because I thought it was safer. And I learned (months after moving in) that I was the first resident of my six-person-loft to not get mugged in the neighborhood.

After I moved out of the neighborhood, I continued to work in it at a community based organization that helped young folks that dropped out of high school get jobs and GEDs. Their stories, and challenges, reminded how privileged I was in so many ways. Many of them had kids, mental illness, trauma histories, and broken homes. But what I found so inspiring is that all of them had hope. They were resilient.

And when I spoke with the students at Bushwick Community High School, I was struck again by resilience. They could have done this documentary about anything. They could have kept silent, or tried to ignore what was happening around them. But they didn’t. They took the harder road – and the result is a powerful documentary.

In the film they talk about sexual violence stemming from culture — and I couldn’t agree with them more. But how to we change culture? There are a lot of answers to this questions, but I think one of the most important ones is that we change culture by making culture. These students have used the power of the brains and their video cameras to help us imagine a world without sexual violence. And thanks to them, we are one step closer to getting there.

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