College Hosts National Film and Forum to Improve Educational Outcomes of African-American Males in Public Schools

PHILADELPHIA, Oct. 19, 2010 —Community College of Philadelphia will host the nationally acclaimed Beyond the Bricks film and community forum from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Sat., Nov. 6 in the Great Hall at the College’s Winnet Building on 17th Street between Spring Garden and Callowhill streets.

Beyond the Bricks is a documentary produced by Washington Koen Media Productions (WKMP) of New York. The film follows two African-American boys as they struggle to stay on track in the Newark, N.J. public school system. The documentary will be followed by a town hall meeting that will address how communities, working together, can create solutions to address the problems facing black male students, more than half of whom do not graduate from high school.

The town hall meeting will bring together educators, community leaders, policymakers, parents and students to discuss the issues exposed by WKMP’s powerful documentary.

Some of the featured speakers who will participate in the town hall meeting at the College include: the Honorable U.S. Rep. Chaka Fattah; Marc Lamont Hill, associate professor of English Education at Columbia University and author of Beats, Rhymes, and Classroom Life: Hip-Hop, Pedagogy, and the Politics of Identity; Chuck Williams, assistant clinical professor at the Goodwin College of Professional Studies at Drexel University and director of the Center for the Prevention of School-Aged Violence; Stacy E. Holland, co-president and COO of Philadelphia Youth Network and a Community College of Philadelphia trustee; and Salome Thomas-El, an award-winning teacher and former principal of the Russell Byers Charter School in Philadelphia, and author of the books, I Choose to Stay: A Black Teacher Refuses to Desert the Inner City and The Immortality of Influence.

Philadelphia is the fifth stop on the national tour of eight U.S. cities. Community College of Philadelphia is the only community college in the nation to host the film and forum.

“The lack of quality education is at once a local issue and a national dilemma, a school problem and a community concern,” said Ouida Washington, producer of Beyond the Bricks and a partner in WKMP. “Our goal is to make necessary change happen, not only where we visit with this campaign, but also beyond. There are many examples of models and approaches that are working across the nation, and we think these ideas need to be shared so they can be replicated and even spur new ideas.”

Directed and edited by WKMP partner Derek Koen, Beyond the Bricks has won support from the Open Society Institute’s Campaign for Black Male Achievement, The Diversity Council, The Black Male Development Symposium and Project GRAD Philadelphia. WKMP has additional strategic partnerships with the United Negro College Fund, TheGrio.com and BET Network’s Centric TV Online (Centrictv.com) to help spread the word about the campaign’s initiatives, national tour and groundbreaking DVD documentary.

In conjunction with the Beyond The Bricks web platform (www.beyondthebricksproject.com), communities across the country are being encouraged to connect and share ideas, discuss their developments, track progress and work together to establish objectives and goals that can be applied for future success.

A recent report by The Schott Foundation for Public Education found that the graduation rate for black males nationally is only 47 percent, compared with 78 percent for their white counterparts. In the School District of Philadelphia, only 45 percent of black males graduate in four years, making the need for conversation and actionable solutions more critical than ever.

Community College of Philadelphia has implemented several programs to help address the high dropout rate among African-American males. One program is Advance at College, a partnership with the School District of Philadelphia that allows 11th and 12th grade students to take college courses while still in high school. Another program is the Center for Male Engagement, a mentoring program that focuses on assisting male students to achieve their education goals.

The Beyond the Bricks event is free and open to the public. Register to attend the event at: http://philadelphiabtbtownhall.eventbrite.com/. To view the film’s trailer, visit: http://www.beyondthebricksproject.com/content/trailer.