@EverydayIncarceration

Everyday Heroes of East New York

YNY Community Program in Partnership with NeON Arts

Summer 2015

Featured on the @everydayincarceration Instagram channel

All photos by Rodolfo Diaz in collaboration with Young New Yorkers Participants. 

"I was watching this documentary last week. And when I saw the statistics, I'm like, What? How is that possible? You have 5 percent of the world's population but you have 25 percent of the people that's locked up. That's bad."—Courtney

Courtney was a participant in a workshop put on by Young New Yorkers, a transformative justice arts organization. In partnership with NeON Arts, the 14 to 20 year olds worked to map the “assets” of East New York, Brooklyn. 


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Ms. Arlene Smith is a New York City Supervising Probation Officer at the East New York Neighborhood Opportunity Network (NeON) and was nominated as an “Everyday Hero” by the Young New Yorkers participants.

In 2011, the NYC Department of Probation started centers called NeONs in seven city neighborhoods to connect local residents with opportunities, resources and services close to home. Recently, the city also began NeON Arts, which offers young people in the city, including those on probation, access to arts programs from dance to digital media to photography. 

 


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"The people don't care about prison if they see a lot of people in the prison, they say, Ah. That one—that one has been in the prison, and it's not terrible. Yeah. It's normal. Like a school." "Yeah, they grow accustomed to it." —Ludemis
 


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Steven's “Everyday Hero” is, "My sister," he said, "she always keeps me up. She’s happy, and she makes me happy too, when I’m down.”

 

Steven and other Young New Yorkers participants identified mass incarceration as a major issue in their neighborhood, which also intersected with economic disparity and a scarcity of opportunities in the community. They also recognized that there are people in the community who encourage them to be their best selves. Participants sought to highlight these “everyday heroes”—the people who dedicate their lives to keeping East New Yorkers safe and out of jail.
 



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"To me it feels like we’re slaves still, you know what I'm saying? All these jails. It's giving people more problems to go do more stuff, because they tend not to care after a while. Because this is where they throw us, they throw us right in a cell. But I don't ever think it's cool, or something I want to be a part of." —Dwayne


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"I think whether or not people know the person, they should help one another, because if you help one another you receive help yourself. You don't know what that person is going through, they have struggles. Even a, 'Hi, how you doing, how's your day going?' May make them smile." —Juana

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Antonio and Miguel were Young New Yorkers participants. Not long ago, they figured out they are brothers. "I had him on Facebook,” Miguel explains. “Maybe my whole life. Then I asked him who his father was and he told me his father’s named Jose. Then we started talking and stuff. Then I moved from Far Rock to East New York and I've been chilling with him ever since."

 

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"An everyday hero is someone who goes about doing community work without looking for anything in return for it—you do what you do out of the kindness of your heart to make sure that the people around you are better, because they're in your presence." Damian, a mentor at Arches, was nominated by some of the participants as an “Everyday Hero” for being committed to keeping local youth out of the criminal justice system. 


 
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"Me, honestly, I’m probably an everyday hero because I’m living. I know a lot of people that’s not here right now, that can’t be a son, they can’t be a brother, nephew, uncle, so just my presence being here, I may be someone’s Everyday Hero.” —Rashid


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"I be in the studio so I'm not in the streets. It helps me stay out of trouble. I go there, listen to beats, write, record, I be in there most of the time. I feel safe in there." —Dequan


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"A beef is a dispute between two or more people. It can be interpersonal, generational. If someone get into a fight or altercation or dispute, we go to both parties, and because we are credible messengers in the neighborhood, people respect us, so the situation a lot of times gets mediated.” --Timothy

The YNY participants nominated Timothy, a violence interrupter at Man Up! Inc, as an “Everyday Hero.” Young New Yorkers is an arts-based transformative justice program for court-involved young people who are being prosecuted as adults. 


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Man Up! deploys “violence interrupters” to targeted areas throughout East New York. They seek to mediate and listen, using “preventative measures as opposed to punishment measures.” Bishme, a violence interrupter at Man Up! Inc, was nominated as an “Everyday Hero” by YNY participants.

 
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"I describe an Everyday Hero as someone who has a passion. A passion to help, a passion to just assist people. Stop what you are doing and jump to help someone else. I see this for my whole life, helping people and trying to make things better.” Patricia, a mentor at the Arches program, was nominated as an “Everyday Hero” by the YNY participants.

 
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Q: “Do you know anyone locally who is doing their best to keep our neighborhood safe and keep people out of jail?” A: “Yeah, my father, he is on the clergy council board, as in he works with the 75th precinct.”

 

—Matthew
 


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