On Tuesday, March 12 ,2019 the seventh grade engaged in the second annual BFS Criminal Justice Conference organized by the Office of Service Learning & Civic Engagement. This year, six 8th grade students — Elijah S, Coleman H, Jones M, Sean K, Micah P, and Sam E — took a leadership role in partnering with Director of Service Learning & Civic Engagement Natania Kremer to plan and facilitate the event.
Seventh graders started the day by participating in a Know Your Rights Training with Brooklyn Movement Center. Afterwards, they heard first-hand accounts during a panel discussion with two survivors of incarceration and solitary confinement as well as parent Illya Szilak, who works as a physician at Riker’s Island. Students then selected a workshop session with a community partner organization: Brooklyn Justice Initiatives and Red Hook Community Justice Center of the Center for Court Innovation, Books Through Bars, the HALT Solitary Campaign, and JustLeadershipUSA.
The students closed out the conference with a collaborative collaging session led by Arte and Resistance through Education. Their collage can be seen in the hallway behind the elevators at Pearl Street.
In their reflections, the words that many students used to describe their experience included: inspirational, informative, intriguing, eye-opening, powerful, honest, and extraordinary.
The conference was an intentional opportunity for our students to learn more about their rights as young people, to hear from individuals who have directly experienced the injustice in our “justice” system, and to find out more about how they can take action in our communities. Examples include advocacy days in Albany, contacting legislators, sorting and packaging books to people in prisons and jails, and joining youth cohorts at partner organizations.