Last week, the East Harlem Keystone Club hosted a community forum for the youth in their community to have meaningful conversation with police officers from their local precinct. The event was part of the Boys & Girls Club of America’s National Keystone Project—Conversations with Law Enforcement.
Teens in the after-school leadership club found that one of the root causes of friction between youth and law enforcement in their community is a lack of communication. The club members organized “We the Teens,” guided by the idea that by taking the time to learn about each other, listening to each other, and having some fun together, youth and law enforcement can mend community relations.
Sixty teenagers and officers from the 23rd Precinct attended the forum. Manhattan Deputy Borough President Aldrin Bonilla also spoke to the group about how important it was for both teens and cops to recognize each other as valuable members of the East Harlem community. In addition to the discussion, the club also screened a short video that chronicles their take on the preamble of the Constitution and facilitated an interactive t-shirt project. And like most Friday evenings at the East Harlem center, the evening ended with a friendly game of volleyball on the center’s court between teens from their schools, the Children’s Aid Deaf and Hard of Hearing program, the JAM Peers, and the police officers in attendance.
This isn’t the first time the East Harlem Keystone Club has facilitated a project of this size. Also under the supervision of the center’s arts and leadership coordinator, Midge Caparosa, the group of teens organized a #KnowYourRightsNYC forum in 2015 to educate peers in their community about their civic rights. The project secured a Boys & Girls Club $24,000 Million Members Million Hours grant to extend their community service efforts in their East Harlem community. And they have continued on that trajectory, showing how powerful it can be to have teens lead the way.
Watch their video “We the Teens.”