A couple weeks ago we did think-tanks with Brownsville Community Justice Center youth to get them thinking about how to create a safe public space for residents in an insecure cul-de-sac created when Langston Hughes houses was built in the late 60s. We used collage as a means of having the participants create a hypothetical narrative for users of the space and had them present those narratives to one another. The personas that they created were then the basis of discussion around changing the mode of interaction between opposing groups or “ops” and how we can use art to create a “no flex zone;” a neutral area of anti-violence awareness. For instance, the question was proposed, what image would be symbolic of ops dropping the beef? Their unanimous response was that they would get money together so they would “pick up stacks.” These and other inputs of the discussion were digested by MiB’s design team to create the design of the space and mural which is centered around the Brownsville Stronger Together campaign imagery with the added layer of wealth building imagery or “royalty” being a product of dropping the beef.
The youth really provide the necessary amount of resistance to the designs produced. When we went back to the think-tank with the mural design, the group noted that the initial crown in the design was attributed to a gang and should be redesigned. One of our youth designers is taking on the task of redesigning the crown section of the mural. We’ll keep you updated on the new design. This is just one among several projects in which Brownsville’s youth are helping to inform safe space through design.