Monday, October 18, 2010

Beyond the Bricks Community Engagement Tour Visits Oakland Town Hall Meeting

By Tokiwa T. Smith
San Francisco/ Oakland Contributor

On Saturday, October 2, 2010, the 'Beyond the Bricks Community Engagement Tour' held its Oakland, CA town hall meeting at the Allen Temple Baptist Church, the second stop of a ten city national tour that features the documentary film, “Beyond the Bricks.” The film focuses on issues of consistently low performance of African American males in school.

The film’s producers, Ouida Washington and Derrick Koen of Washington Koen Media Productions, selected the cities for the tour based on certain statistics about African American males. “The purpose of these town hall meetings is to bring the community together to provide an opportunity for us as a people to feel good and empowered to solve problems in our community,” says Ouida Washington, film producer. “We want people to walk away from the town hall meetings with hope, wanting to be a part of a movement, a unified force, that is moving forward.” The national partners for the Community Engagement Tour are the Open Society Institute, Centric, United Negro College Fund (UNCF) and theGrio.com. The local partners for the Oakland town hall meeting were Allen Temple Baptist Church, Insight Center for Community Economic Development, 2025 Campaign for Black Men and Boys, and the National Equity Project.

Daniel Mastin, a student on the community panel

The film follows African-American students Shaquiel Ingram and Erick Graham as they struggle to stay on track in the Newark, NJ public school system. The idea for the film was birthed from the film director and co-producer’s experience with his oldest son. “African American males face issues with the meaning of manhood and other problems in society,” says Derrick Koen. “We wanted to provide an example of what African American males can be when they are supported…this documentary is a model of educational and community programs that allow African American males to succeed.”

The agenda for the day was opening remarks, the film screening, a community panel discussion, community planning workshops and action planning as a group. The panel discussed issues that face African American males in public education, the criminal justice system, the family, the community, the media, and general culture. The moderator for the community discussion was Reverend Daniel Buford and the panelists were: Mr. Cheo Tyehimba-Taylor of Forever Media, Media Advocate; Dr. Shawn Ginwright, San Francisco State University, Educator; Mr. Chris Chatmon, Oakland Unified School District and 100 Black Men of the Bay Area, Community Agency; Mr. Roger A. Clay Jr, Insight Center for Community Economic Development, Policy Advocate; and Mr. Daniel Mastin and Mr. Martin Grace, Student.

Overall, the Oakland town hall forum was exactly what Washington Koen Media Productions envisioned with the tour. It was an opportunity for students, parents, educators and community leaders to discuss challenges and come up with solutions to ensure that African American males in Oakland succeed. The next step is for the town hall attendees and individuals in Oakland that did not attend the meeting, but want to be part of the solution, to visit the Beyond the Bricks website to join the web portal, www.beyondthebricksproject.com. The web portal is a way to connect individuals across the country that are interested in sharing information and resources to ensure that African American males succeed.

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