Brooklyn, NY -- Five years ago, Jarrett Mathis, a young man growing up in Brooklyn, N.Y., finally became fed up. Too often he heard black youth refer to themselves using demeaning terms like nigga (even as a term of endearment), bitch, faggot, and hoe - language often condoned by popular music. And the prevalence of the disparaging language appeared to coincide with a decline in the number of classes devoted to black history in the public school curriculum.
This upsetting trend led Mathis to craft an interactive workshop that has helped to empower black youth and reduce violence in inner cities across the country. Over the past four years, Mathis has traveled throughout New York, Florida, California, New Hampshire, and Philadelphia to present his "Empowering Ourselves" workshop.
"Boys and girls become more interested in finding ways to not only further empower themselves, but also their peers," Mathis says. "This has sparked a greater interest in finishing high school and going to college, not to mention that it has made the schools and communities I've worked in safer."
Mathis has now transformed his workshop into a documentary, "Empowering Ourselves," free online for use by students and teachers. The 75-minute documentary is available on Mathis' website,www.EmpoweringOurselvesNow.com.
If preliminary reactions are any indication, this film is sure to have the impact Mathis wants.
"This is an important film that I wish every child in our community could watch," according to Tameka Landers, a first grade public school teacher in Brooklyn.
Elizabeth O'Neil, also a sixth grade public school teacher, in Brooklyn, echoed those sentiments, saying, "The documentary blew me away. It contains so much information that is left out of textbooks."
"Empowering Ourselves," available online now, will be officially launch on Friday July 9. To celebrate the event, there will be a party that same day at the Bedford Brooklyn Public Library, 496 Franklin Avenue, Brooklyn, N.Y 11238, from 3:30pm-5:30 p.m. There will be free pizza, drinks, and ice cream. A signed NBA jersey will be raffled off to one lucky person. All are welcomed.
About Jarrett Mathis
Jarrett Mathis graduated from Dartmouth College in June 2010. He is a Government Major. He was born, raised, and still lives in the Bedford Stuyvesant section of Brooklyn, N.Y.
About "Empowering Ourselves"
The focus of this documentary is to deter black boys and girls from using the n-word as a term of endearment, however, the overall goal is to empower and uplift black youth. This project achieves this objective in three specific ways. First, the workshop, which is the primary focus of the film, contains important aspects of black history that is often lost on our youth. Second, the workshop presents students with a critical analysis of gangster rap music. Third, this documentary prominently features black youth engaged in a sophisticated dialogue about noteworthy issues within their community. This is important since there are few opportunities for black children to articulate their feelings and perspectives.