Baltimore’s nickname is “Charm City’ but outsiders would see little charming about East Baltimore and its surrounding neighborhood. Yet beneath its rugged exterior lies an amazing story about young black professionals trying to make a difference.
Denise Parker, CEO of Fulfilling the Promise Consulting and graduate of Coppin State University has joined with videographer Jimmie Thomas, graduate of Florida A&M University, to create an after-school video production program at East Baltimore Community School. The two, along with Clarice Griffin and Lisa Brown-Hall, have put their creative resources to use to help inner city youth at East Baltimore Community School create documentaries based on their school and neighborhood.
Parker, a product of East Baltimore, the very city that everyone associates with The Wire, created Fulfilling the Promise with the intention on wanting to give back to her community. “I could have gone anywhere to live but I chose to live in the inner city to make a difference. People invested in me as a child and I want to be able to give back.”
“While we have worked with the youth, we feel that the children are going to lead the parents into thinking bigger and brighter,” says Parker. “Ultimately, they will believe that they do not have to become products of their environment. Instead, they can build upon their surroundings to make it better.”
Jimmie Thomas, director of the EBCS documentaries and instructor of the after school program, says he wants the students to unlock their potential to a world of possibilities they didn’t know existed. “My mission is to help the kids realize that there is more that they can do. If you don’t like what’s on the Web or TV, we have the resources where you can create anything that you want to.”
The documentaries premiered on December 20th, 2011 at the American Brewery in Baltimore, Maryland to a small crowd of politicians, media professionals, and of course the students and their families. The two projects unveiled showed how the students feel about John Hopkins University making drastic changes to East Baltimore Community School, including a new building and name.
The students voiced their concern about the changes being made in their community, and why they are so proud of their school. The first documentary informed as well as entertained, as the students have the chance to express themselves through acting and dance.
For the second documentary, the students had the opportunity to interview policemen and school administrators about the school. “It takes a lot of hard work and practice,” says sixth grade student Joniyah Brinkley about making the documentary. Joniyah had the opportunity to interview East Baltimore Community School principal, Carol De Loatch. When asked about the interview, Joniyah said, “I was scared at first but I just went there and did it.”
East Baltimore Community School student Antonio Faulkner is an unforgettable member of the cast, but admits to being a little shy once off-screen. “I felt good about doing the documentary. I got to express my feelings, and that was important to me.”
James Cotton, site coordinator at Elev8, has been with the same group of kids for over a year and has seen much positive change in the students. “They’re becoming young men and women, they are maturing,” says Cotton. “I started to tell them that we’re all from the same neighborhood, so why should we go fighting each other?”
Some of the middle students in the video production program are already looking ahead to college, like Eric Johnson. “The college I really want to go to is Howard.” Eric plans to be a director, so he was happy to join the video production program. “I would like to make action movies, and music videos. I want to do all kinds of things.”
Everyone left the Brewery with the sense that the community that they were in, despite the boarded houses and dangerous streets, was beginning to change. Just like the Brewery, a once old and forgotten shell of its former self, was restored through hard work and dedication. Parker and Thomas’s hard work and dedication, by unlocking the potential of East Baltimore Community students, will soon be able to see the neighborhood restored.