Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Press release: Red Hook Community Arts Organization Awarded Earmark by Congresswoman Nydia Velásquez

Dance Theatre Etcetera receives funding to expand “tolerance through the arts” programming

Brooklyn, NY – (March 16, 2009) When President Barack Obama signed the 2009 Omnibus Appropriations bill into law, he gave local politicians across the country an opportunity to infuse resources into projects with direct impact on their constituents. Among the projects singled out by Congresswoman Nydia Velásquez (D- N.Y.’s 12th district) was Dance Theatre Etcetera’s Tolerance Through the Arts Initiative, a series of programs at local schools, after-school programs, and community centers in the underserved neighborhood of Red Hook and adjacent Brooklyn neighborhoods.

Dance Theatre Etcetera (DTE), a community based cultural organization located on the Red Hook waterfront, has been working in the area since 1992 and currently serves approximately 1,000 at-risk youth, annually. DTE’s award winning arts education programs at the Brooklyn International High School, which serves recently immigrated youth from across the globe, and at the South Brooklyn Community High School, a small transfer high school in Red Hook that serves teens with issues of chronic truancy, use theatre, dance, and digital media to engage students in arts-based dialogue about critical issues of social justice. Students in DTE programs have produced documentary videos on constitutional rights (Know Your Rights), created performing arts festivals that celebrate the Native cultures of local immigrants, and have participated in international exchanges with student activist/artists from Brazil and Colombia. Principal Pam Taranto from the Brooklyn International High School gives credit to the school’s annual, DTE-produced International Festival for contributing “to the remarkably low incidence of violence” in a school that matriculates students from over forty countries around the globe. “Students learn to understand and value their cultural differences through this event,” she says.

Federal funding will allow DTE, hit hard by cuts in funding to the arts, to continue its successful programs and to work with consultants to publish a Tolerance through the Arts curriculum guide. The organization will look to transport its successful model to the schools where it is most needed, eventually spreading its high-quality curricula to programs across the country, ensuring that arts education act as both an incubator of transferable skills and a forum for students to engage with the real-life issues that most affect them.

DTE’s programs have established safe spaces for students to have the kind of transformational experience that Nebajoth Jean, a BIHS student originally from Haiti, details here in a letter to Executive Director Martha Bowers: “[l]iving in a world where you can't even picture your future is really hard, you've made me think differently, being with you guys have (sic) changed me, I was unable to think for myself, proudly now I am.”

For students like Nebajoth and for the thousands of people in Red Hook who are touched by Dance Theatre Etcetera’s programs every year, Congresswoman Velásquez’s federal earmark stands as an important promise- to invest in, to sustain, and to build our communities as we seek local solutions to the challenges we face.

To see a DTE program in action, visit the Brooklyn International Festival at 7 pm on April 3rd at JHS 113 in Fort Greene, when over 100 students share dances, songs and poems inspired by their Native cultures!

No comments: