In recognition of this years' Law Day, teen participants of the Red Hook Youth Court and the Red Hook Community Justice Center’s Youth ECHO and photography programs, teamed up with the New York Juvenile Justice Corps and a visiting high school student group from the Civic Educational Project at Northwestern University in Chicago. Although it was the last Friday of Spring Break for New York City Public Schools, over 50 teens and Corps members gathered to make Law Day a "day on, not a day off."
Law Day is an occasion to reflect on the role of law in our country and its importance for society with changing themes every year. This year, the theme of Law Day is "No Courts, No Justice, No Freedom." We explored this years' theme through the lens of a few high-profile cases both historical and contemporary in which the courts did not act in the interest of justice and freedom as well as well as cases in which the courts have expanded civil rights and civil liberties. AmeriCorps members facilitated break-out discussion groups on different cases, including the murder of Emmett Till, the Supreme Court's debate over Arizona's immigration law, and the recent death of Trayvon Martin. AmeriCorps members and youth participants discussed the fallibility of the law throughout history as well as the potential for courts to make us a more free, safe, and just society.
Corps Members Peter Frankland and Genna Plumatillo facilitated a discussion for the group.
Immediately following the morning session, teens and Corps members participated in a service project in Coffey Park, a local park in Red Hook. Corps members and teens helped remove trash and debris, painted over graffiti, and put a fresh coat of paint on park benches and water fountains.Our group collaborated with the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation as well as Alice Tapia, a lifelong Red Hook resident, former AmeriCorps and founder of "Friends of Coffey Park", a local volunteer group dedicated to making the once blighted and dangerous park, beautiful, safe and accessible to children in the community.
The take home message from the day was that change can be made by the courts as well as in our own communities. We hoped to instill in our teen participants, an deeper understanding of the court system in society, as well as a spirit of civil duty to be the change they want to see in the world.
Corps Members Stephanie Turner, Ellis Bullock, Shoneka Kelly, and Adrian Escarffullett tackled weeds growing in the cracks of the cobblestones and had fun doing it!
Corps Member Trime Kaja touches up the paint on the park benches.
The most beautiful time of year in Coffey Park!
The JJC was joined by community partners Dave Wysocki from the Parks Department and Donna Longobardi from the Red Hook branch of the Brooklyn Public Library as well as staff from the Red Hook Community Justice Center.