8-Week Diversion Program Participants and Teaching Team. Photo by Mansura Khanam.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Young New Yorkers
33 Flatbush Ave, 4th Floor
Brooklyn, NY 11217
Press Contact: Rachel Barnard, Executive Director, Young New Yorkers
firstname.lastname@example.org | (347) 720-0776
YOUNG NEW YORKERS PRESENTS FINAL EXHIBITION
FOR YOUNG WOMEN’S DIVERSION PROGRAM
ART INSTEAD OF JAIL FOR TEENAGE WOMEN
100% GRADUATE AND HAVE THEIR RECORD SEALED
Brooklyn, NY November 3, 2015 – Young New Yorkers, an organization that provides arts-based transformative justice programs to court-involved 16 and 17 year olds, is hosting the Final Exhibition for their first Young Women’s 8-Week Diversion Program. The one-day exhibition takes place on Tuesday, November 10, 2015 from 5 until 7 o’clock at the U.S. District Courthouse, 225 Cadman Plaza East, Brooklyn NY 11201. Rachel Barnard, Executive Director of Younger New Yorkers, says, “Each of our participants have an extraordinary depth of human experience ranging from school suspensions to homelessness to violence. The exhibition is an opportunity for guests to listen deeply and give participants the experience of being heard through their creative work. We can’t underestimate the power of hearing other peoples’ stories."
The exhibition, which includes a large-scale, participatory art project designed to generate a conversation around these young New Yorkers’ experiences with, and hopes for, the criminal justice system, focuses on the multitude of social issues that most often touch the lives of these young women, e.g., homelessness, gun violence, mass incarceration, and community connectedness. It features Program participants’ own artwork, aspirational self-portrait collages in which the young women blend their photographs with images and words that convey the self that they want to the world to know. One young woman’s collage shows her with a jumping horse to convey strength and dedication. Another young woman’s features her among a flutter of butterflies used to convey the transformative work required to achieve her best self.
The exhibition also includes a participatory art project where all exhibition guests – including family and community members and court partners – are invited to share their own stories on these important social issues, by writing brief statements on props and then placing them on a large-scale map of Brooklyn. Also on display will be photographic portraits of the participants that celebrate their journey and introduce them, beyond their rap sheet, as future leaders for their community, capturing the strength, dedication, and courage that they communicate in their own artwork.
Program participants will give brief speeches about their experience in the Program, acknowledging and thanking the courts for their role in providing them with the opportunity to participate in the Program, and to their families and communities for supporting them throughout. Participants have already shared some of their positive feelings regarding the program in the last session of class. “I really like…the support all of the adults give to all the students,” said Shawntiara, adding that the program has helped her grow: “I’ve learned to handle [challenges] the correct way, no matter how tough it was.” Another participant, Kathryn, shared that “I liked…expressing my feeling towards myself through art” and said that she would recommend the program because “You learn to channel your emotions through art.” Another young woman, Christina, feels that the program is “a good place where you have respect, can be comfortable.” Speaking from the perspective of an instructor, Brooklyn Defender Services Social Worker Brenda Zuvay says, “Young New Yorkers provided the space, the time, and the encouragement and it was amazing to see how much of the magic came from the young women making deep connections with each other with a commitment to a healthy future.”
This is Young New Yorkers’ third 8-Week Diversion Program, and its first with all young women. Barnard observed, “It’s our first all women’s group, and the deep connections that were formed with each other as a group has been remarkable as they support each other working through the complicated landscape of adolescence, and their difficult backgrounds. We’re moved by their courageousness given that they’ve all experienced some kind of personal trauma. It’s astounding how joyful they are given the complexity of their experiences.”
Young New Yorkers employs an innovative collaborative justice model in their mission to provide arts-based transformative justice programs to young, court-involved people with the ultimate goal of empowering participants to transform the criminal justice system through their own creative voices. For 8-week Diversion Programs, Young New Yorkers partners with APYY-2 at Kings County Court, the Acting District Attorneys, Defense Attorneys, court staff, and Presiding Judges. For this cohort, Young New Yorkers partnered with Presiding Judge, the Honorable Sharon Hudson.
In its three years of programming, 100% of the 135 participants have graduated from Young New Yorkers diversion programs. In most cases, upon successful completion of the Program, participants’ cases are dismissed and sealed, preventing the establishment of a lifelong adult criminal record that places significant constraints on opportunities for employment, higher education, student loans, affordable housing and other benefits for the rest of their lives. Young New Yorkers is presently running one-day diversion programs and is fundraising for additional 8-Week programs. For more information, contact Ashley Martin at email@example.com.
YNY thanks the Pinkerton Foundation for supporting the diversion program; to Robert A.M. Stern Architects for sponsoring the exhibition; and Loci Architecture PC for providing large format printing.