In the spirit of the upcoming Black History Month, the Downtown Brooklyn Neighborhood Alliance will be hosting a Black Lives Matter showcase contest in February 2018. The DBNA wants Brooklyn’s youths to express their knowledge of African-American history and culture in their performing arts contest. Participants will have the opportunity to win prizes. Along with $1,000 donated to the winners’ schools, clubs or organizations, participants can also win Broadway tickets, private suite seats at a Nets game at the Barclays Center, a tour of the African Burial Ground and a pizza party.
The DBNA wants to assist residents who were affected by the Atlantic Yards Project. With the approval of nine elected officials, the Barclays Center was developed in 2014. The $4.9 billion project improved the LIRR train yard and subway facility in the surrounding area. But housing became unaffordable for low- and middle-income families, resulting in many families losing their homes, especially African-American households. The DBNA also developed arena-related programs such as the Invictus Youth Initiative, Community Ticket Program, LDTC Prison Reentry Initiative and Health and Wellness Initiative.
“We want our participants to be able to express the value that their lives hold and feel like the community is attentive to their ideas, creativity, and experiences,” said Chyann Starks. “We want our youths to know that there are people, places, and organizations that care about them and wants them to prosper into adulthood and as future leaders. We hope that they feel empowered by what they contribute to the community in various creative ways. We hope that they leave truly feeling that their lives matter and they always have.”
Starks is the director of the Invictus Youth Initiative and the assistant director of the Community Ticket Program. Since 2005, Youth Initiative has provided workshops and programming that focuses on health and wellness, personal/professional development, educational, mentoring and political and cultural awareness. “Just seeing how we are affected so many youths’ lives by providing a program like Youth Initiative is a great feeling,” said Starks. “Sometimes they just need an open ear.”
Starks emphasized that the DBNA wants their participants to be as creative as possible. Students can choose from rapping/singing, dancing or reciting history through spoken word. Options for orations range from the origin of hip-hop to current events. Winners will be chosen based on creativity and meeting the criteria.
Interested parties must submit their applications by Friday, Dec. 22, at 5 p.m. A special call is going out to elementary, middle or high school students in Brooklyn. Applicants have until Thursday, Feb. 1, at 5 p.m. to record their performances and submit them to the DBNA.
Starks concluded, “We are hosting this event to encourage African-American youths to be ‘properly’ educated on their history. It’s important for them to know about the invaluable contributions and sacrifices that our ancestors have made for younger generations. They need to understand the legacy that they live each day and provides guidance for youth to begin to value themselves more, each other, their culture, and the potential that their lives have to continue to contribute greatly to the larger American culture and global society.”
For more information, go to TheDBNA.org/OurBlackLivesMatter, or visit their office on 415 Atlantic Ave. in Brooklyn.