“More Than A Quota”: Youth-Led Creative Arts and Advocacy About the Stop & Frisk Policy
Jazmin Chavez, Sarwat Siddiqui, and Armando Somoza
In 2012, students from The Academy at Urban Arts Partnership and LatinoJustice PRLDEF took on the policy of “Stop-and-Frisk” in New York City and created a viral and grassroots campaign that changed the landscape of youth participatory digital politics and community policing in New York City. Students created a 15-minute documentary, an original soundtrack and a social-media campaign called “More Than a Quota” examining the impact of Stop-&-Frisk on NYC youth. Stop-&-Frisk is a problematic policy in NYC that overwhelmingly impacts Black and Latino youth. Rather than being consumers of media, our students produced original content and distributed their message on global social-media platforms. Changemakers, our new-media leadership program creates movement entrepreneurs invested in leading conversations and shaping their realities.
The “Changemakers” Program empowers youth to be producers and active participants in their lives, community and education. From political empowerment to social media movements, youth leaders develop their political voice, engage more directly affected young people, deepen public understanding and behave as decision-makers on issues that impact them directly. A Changemaker is an artist who can harness the power of New Media tools; bringing power back to the people in order to challenge the status quo through rhizome inspired networking while maximizing resources & impact.
LatinoJustice PRLDEF and The Academy at Urban Arts Partnership
LatinoJustice PRLDEF (LJP) champions an equitable society. Using the power of the law together with education and advocacy, LJP protects opportunities for all Latinos to succeed in work and school, fulfill their dreams, and sustain their families and communities.
LJP’s Youth Leadership Network is a program that empowers high school and college student leaders to engage in the fight for social justice and equality in their community through leadership, new media advocacy and grassroots organizing. Meanwhile, the Urban Arts Partnership (UAP) advances the intellectual, social and artistic development of underserved public school students through arts-integrated education programs to close the achievement gap.
The Academy at UAP is a state-of-the-art facility that instills artistic, leadership, and academic excellence within high-school students, positioning them as agents of change in their communities and preparing them for their next step in life, be it college or career. The Academy is a program rooted in social-justice and designed as a third space – neither home nor school – where students participate in advanced art programs, leadership development trainings, and receive college and career resources and training. Through innovative arts programs, students learn and put into action 21st century skills to create positive change in their communities.
Stop-and-Frisk: A Broken Policy
New Yorkers were stopped by the NYPD over half a million times in 2012 and 5 million stops were made throughout the Bloomberg administration as a part of the controversial Stop-& Frisk policy. 90% of those stopped were Black and Latinos between the ages of 14-24, 89% of those stopped were completely innocent, neither arrested nor issued a summons.
Our youth have become producers of original media and have designed a social media campaign to capture and tell their stories. The HIVE NYC Learning Network , the MacArthur Foundation’s Digital Media and Learning Initiative , supported this collaboration between organizations to create new learning pathways and innovative education practices.
Youth Participatory Politics: Media Makers, Movement Entrepreneurs
Social media is pervasive in the lives of American teens- to the extent that having a presence on a social network site is as synonymous with being online. 95% of all teens ages 12-17 are now online and 80% of those online teens are avid users of social media sites. It is well documented that youth are the least participatory demographic in terms of advancing public policy and often feel irrelevant to social discourse even when it involves them. This is exacerbated when the youth in question are students of color living in distressed communities.
In 2012, LatinoJustice PRLDEF met with Communities United for Police Reform and asked how youth were included in the larger conversation of community policing. Rather than talking about the impact, we wanted to hear from those who had been direct victims of stop-and-frisk. We argued that given the opportunity, youth would expand their role as consumers of media to instead produce original content, curate it and distribute their message on global social media platforms to impact real change. We realized in order to make this a palpable and household conversation, the stories needed to come from the youth directly.
Based on the campaign, as well as trainings from the New Organizing Institute , we developed a new media leadership curriculum to better tell the story of stop-and-frisk and New York City youth.
In the summer of 2012, Changemakers created a documentary and social media campaign examining the impact of Stop-and-Frisk. Students met with attorneys from LatinoJustice PRLDEF to understand the policy of Stop-and-Frisk and learned their rights about being stopped and frisked by NYPD.
Students also met with public figures, university professors, youth from youth-based organizations and community leaders to examine this policy. Academy students developed high level film and media skills through intensive instruction in pre-production, production, and post-production phases of filmmaking and digital strategy.
On April 1st, 2013, Changemakers launched their “More Than A Quota” social media campaign, the same day they organized more than 100 youth in New York City to pack the courts during court proceedings. The goals of the campaign were to join the growing initiative to end “Stop-and-Frisk” policy, unite youth, pass the Community Safety Act, and to collect and share stories of youth who had been victims of stop-and-frisk policies. Additionally, Changemakers shared their documentary, led discussions around the city on current litigation and policy efforts, and conducted voter registration drives as well as “Know Your Rights” trainings.
Through a collective and creative vision, students became 21st century agents of change and created a campaign that went viral. Students fused the power of advocacy, creativity, youth media and online activism on platforms they already use and master on a daily basis. We learned that as youth follow their interests, they acquire technical skills to gather information, present their own ideas and recognize the systems around them, which better equips them for their future. This campaign developed social, creative, and academic pathways that support youth in acquiring knowledge and mastering new media skills.
Changemakers have the power to transform the policies, practices and beliefs that entrench their communities. They have a vision of themselves in the world and understand their power as influencers and agents of change that utilize resources for tangible impacts.
On August 2nd, 2013, in a win for civil rights, a federal judge ruled that the stop-and-frisk policy of the New York Police Department was unconstitutional and that a federal monitor would be assigned to oversee broad reforms. The judge in the case, Shira A. Scheindlin, ruled that police officers had systematically stopped innocent people in the street without any objective reason to suspect them of wrongdoing. Additionally, on June 27, 2013, two of the Community Safety Act bills were passed by the City Council with veto-proof majorities.
In December 2013, students presented "More Than A Quota: Our Experience, Our Story," a multimedia digital pop up exhibit at “SOHO ARTHOUSE”, to showcase creative responses to the experience of being stopped and frisked as a New York City youth. This digital showcase provided a venue for New York City youth to create original media and share multimedia projects that give students a voice in the discourse around community policing.