The University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff’s Beyond the Bricks Community Producers Program graduation was held recently in Cross-Phipps Auditorium of Caldwell Hall.
There were nine young men who finished the program — Brian Donald, Cedrick Parker, Dedrick Parker, LeDarrius Walker, Victor Ryland, Jr., all from Pine Bluff High School, and Dontarius Slater, CharMarr Parks, Nicholas Dickson, and Jeremiah Young from Dollarway High School.
During the program, BTBP program instructor Leroy Brown talked about how they had grown since they started the program and how they taught him how to be patient and to deal with people whose environments are not the same.
Ralph Owens, program operator for BTBP at UAPB touted the efficacy of the program because it taught the young men about friendship and challenged the students to look at their community to see how they view the city they live in.
“Since we have had those conversations they have challenged me to do more and to become more involved in my community,” said Owens.
Vivian Flowers, director of recruitment for diversity at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences stated that these young men had a great opportunity to soar and grow, noting that some of them were quiet when they first started and really didn’t talk to each other — after about three sessions they were like brothers. Flowers talked about the danger of a single story and how powerful the media is when it comes to defining our single stories.
“These young men now see that they can be doctors, scientists and mathematicians and have been taught that they have the ability now to define their own single story,” said Flowers.
David Rainey, superintendent of the Dumas School District, congratulated the individuals who had the vision and foresight to understand that we are losing a lot of young men because we are not addressing their needs and these young men need mentors.
“There are individuals in the audience who have entered into your life to assist you to accomplish some goals,” said Rainey. “There are young people coming after you will who will set their goals based on what they see you do. The people who worked with you in this program see you as an investment for the future.”
Rainey recounted graduating from high school with the main goal to get a job and buy a car. He realized he wanted to get a college education while working in Altheimer moving bricks from railroad cars.
“If you look at statistics and come from a broken home, it is said that you do not supposed to go to college,” said Rainey. “From this point you will have an opportunity to make some decisions in your life because you have a support structure. Committee yourself to lend a hand to help someone else.”
Derek Koen, executive director of Beyond the Bricks Films, stated that the program was empowering young black boys to know that they have a voice. He related to them that they have something to offer and something to say.
“We want to empower you to go out and change the story that’s has been told around black boys,” said Koen.
Beyond the Bricks has a fellows institute comprised of one graduate from each BTBP site. Brian Donald, a student at Pine Bluff High School and the son of Floyd and Patricia Donald, was selected to attend the fellow institute in New York to be held in July. While attending the institute, Brian will have the opportunity to enhance his knowledge in video and media production and will be taught leadership and life skills.
The Beyond the Bricks Project (BTBP) is a media and international community engagement initiative to encourage and promote community based solutions to increase educational and social outcomes for school age Black males. The BTBP takes a grassroots approach to improving those outcomes by engaging community members including the young men themselves, educators, civic leaders, and other stakeholders to craft solutions to the challenges the young men face in their schools, neighborhoods, and cities. Importantly, we encourage the young men to examine their roles as leaders and community citizens. Learn more at www.beyondthebricks.com .