At Brooklyn’s I Will Graduate event, smart is the new cool

9/20/2018, 11:07 a.m.
Sept. 16 and Sept. 17, world-renowned actor Omar Epps was in Brooklyn, N.Y. to unveil the 2018/2019 I Will Graduate ...

Sept. 16 and Sept. 17, world-renowned actor Omar Epps was in Brooklyn, N.Y. to unveil the 2018/2019 I Will Graduate poster campaign, which is a part of the Entertainers 4 Education Alliance/I Will Graduate program founded by Tonya Lewis-Taylor.

In Lewis-Taylor’s original program, “In the Classroom,” she sat down with Epps in front of a live, invitation-only audience to discuss his roadmap to success, his struggles and his triumphs. Sept. 17 Epps visited the Life Academy High School for Film and Music, where he addressed students and unveiled his new poster campaign for the City of New York.

“I’m the son of an educator, and my mom was in the Board of Ed for 30 years, so I know the public school system very well,” said Epps as he waited to be called down to the stage. “I just wanted to give my energy to a positive purpose because what the program is doing is phenomenal.”

The campaign is designed to create awareness among young people, influence their attitudes and behaviors and empower them to succeed. This year, the media campaign entitled “Keys to Success,” will engage all of the public schools in New York City (approximately 1,650 schools). The campaign will also be supported by the New York City Department of Education and other city agencies.

With the slogan “Smart is the new cool,” the organization uses the power of celebrities, musicians, sports figures, high profile individuals and entertainment to promote positive messages to young people about the importance of education, personal advancement and social commitment.

Some past celebrities who participated in the I Will Graduate Campaign includes Daymond John (“Shark Tank”/ FUBU founder), ColdPlay (Grammy Award-winning rock band), Shad “Bow Wow” Moss (rapper, actor and television host), Mary Mary (Grammy Award-winning gospel duo) and Santonio Holmes (NFL player).

In attendance for this year’s pep rally Sept. 17, in addition to Epps, was New York City Council Member Jumaane Williams, who recently ran for lieutenant governor in the New York Democratic primary, and is from Brooklyn as well. They both took to the stage to talk the high school students about the importance of education. Williams discussed his struggles in the school system, mentioning failing classes and finishing college late while simultaneously dealing with Tourette syndrome and ADHD. “My nickname in school used to be ‘promotion in doubt,” he recalled.

Epps emphasized on the importance of art in the education system. “Art is about expression and imagination,” he said. “It also teaches you people skills. It teaches you different points of views and how to respect them.”

He also believes in art being used as a tool for children to become better versions of themselves. “I think it’s so important when kids can use art as a tool, strength as a tool to center them, to ground them and there’s many facets of it,” he said. “You could be aspiring to be an actor and find that your true gift is writing or directing. It’s just that there’s so much that can come from the world of art. For a child I think it’s paramount to have that.”