In the midst of crisis lies hope, according to twins Sedrick and Dedrick Parker, juniors from Pine Bluff High School who lost their mother to congestive heart failure when they were in the seventh grade.
They are two of the 10 participants in the Beyond the Bricks (BTBP) Community Producers program that will begin at the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff.
“[The program] sounded like something positive that could keep me out of trouble,” Sedrick said.
Dedrick chimed in to emphasize that he was drawn to the media component. “It is something I definitely wanted to get involved in.”
During the parent orientation and luncheon recently, there was tremendous support in attendance from the Black Male Achievers, a UAPB student organization, along with representatives of Kappa League and initiators of the program at UAPB.
According to BTBP co-executive directors, Derek Koen and Ouida Washington, too often young black men are viewed through the lens of deficits. The primary goal of the Beyond the Bricks Project is to use media to allow these young men, their communities and the world to understand that they are bright, thoughtful and courageous people who are much more “at potential” than they are “at risk” – and it is up to all of us to help them recognize and incorporate this fact into their lives. “We are very proud and excited to partner with UAPB for this program as we both seek to build brighter futures for our children.”
Vivian Flowers, director of Recruitment and Diversity at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, gave an overview of the partnership between UAMS and UAPB and how it came to the institution. Flowers attended a film screening on a previous occasion and was impressed with the work done by the producers of Beyond the Bricks. She noticed that it covered the lives of two young men from the inner city, but noticed that there was a need to shift the focus to those in smaller towns. She teamed up with Ralph Owens, associate dean for Student Activities, and the rest is history.
“This is just the beginning,” said Flowers. “It will have an impact on all those involved.”
Flowers had the chance to meet Shaquiel Ingram, one of the young men featured in the film. “I was so impressed with his thoughts and his story,” said Flowers. Shaquiel will be coming to UAPB in the fall.
After the film was viewed, remarks were made by Owens about the importance of the program being on UAPB’s campus and discussed some of its facets. The three key components of the Community Producers curriculum – media literacy, physical literacy and STEM — are intended to work together with the goal of transcending “isms” (e.g. racism, classism, sexism) with critical interrogation and meaningful self-reflection through media analysis and production.
Armed with video cameras with the purpose of increasing critical analytical skills, students will also have the opportunity to enhance their writing and multimedia skills, since the courses require students to compose written reflections and produce critiques of media representation. In addition, this course will also expose students to career building, various components of digital literacy and the STEM fields that are necessary to acquire for 21st century learning.
“Beyond the Bricks represents a game changer,” said UAPB interim chancellor, Calvin Johnson. “It’s changing perception, ideas and attitudes among young men. We are thankful to have partnerships like these that help us make a difference – the [University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff] is the best place that I know of where it can happen.”
For more information about the Beyond the Bricks Community Producers Program at UAPB, contact Owens at 870-575-7063.