This morning, I attended a screening of Brownstones to Red Dirt, a compelling documentary film spotlighting an inspired international pen pal program. This project pairs children in Brooklyn with children in Sierra Leone, in the same way I am matching Kenyan and U.S. children: through classrooms, orphanages, and 1:1 connections. The filmmakers were at the screening, so I told them about my project and said I would love to collaborate with them. I hope something cool comes of that.
Sierra Leone's Civil War (1991-2002) left many orphaned children as its truest casualties, and now they are forced into child prostitution and other inhumane circumstances, just to survive. Similarly and differently, the poverty and gang violence in Bed-Stuy/Marcy Park, Brooklyn kills its children, both literally and metaphorically, as they are either gunned down or forced into premature adulthood. The correspondence between children of those two worlds is heart rending: Rather than becoming hardened and cynical, these children shine when invited to share their respective lives with each other.
The movie is poignant, entertaining, and validating for anyone doing this work. I walked out of it feeling encouraged about the endless possibilities, for children to make friends across the world. I identified an overarching theme - finding power in witnessing the triumphs and struggles of another - that breaks through the common thread of poverty, violence, and isolation in these two communities.
I encourage any interested person to join Brownstones' mailing list (instructions on the website, linked above), to find out when it will screen where you live.