For the past six years, I have worked in underserved communities, activating youth about community issues while teaching digital media skills. I have worked in Bedford Stuyvesant, Bushwick, Crown Heights and East New York.
In 2013, while working for the the Brooklyn College Community Partnership (BCCP) as a teaching artist, I led my students in Crown Heights from Paul Robeson Campus High School on an environmental scan. They explored alcohol advertisements on display within a ten-block radius of the school.
Youth photographed alcohol advertisements on every block within the ten-block radius except for one block which had a storefront church on it. This was very disturbing to me as an educator and mentor to youth because it was obvious that they and older residents living below the poverty line are steeped in alcohol promotion.The advertisements were for malt liquors or other popular brands that featured Hip- Hop artists. Many times, the price for the alcoholic beverage was less than $2. One of the alcohol advertisements for malt liquor so closely resembled Arizona Ice Tea, it was disturbing to me. Many of my students drink the ice teas making the malt liquor clearly appealing to them; and it was only 99 cents.
The experience of the environmental scan inspired the organization I co-founded, DIVAS (Digital Interactive Visual Arts Sciences) for Social Justice, to apply for funding with the Partnership for a Healthier NYC to explore the issue of the harms of alcohol and binge drinking in East New York. DIVAS created an interactive map that highlighted how many alcohol advertisements are on display within a five-block radius of a school and a youth organization.DIVAS partnered with the BCCP and Arts East New York teaching students media activism skills and conducting environmental scans through photography to show alcohol advertisements in close proximity to these institutions.
The findings of the environmental photography scans in East New York showed:
Product & Promotion– In the East New York community, malt liquors, beer, Alcopops and cheap wine advertisements are placed on neighborhood bodegas within 1-2 blocks of schools and youth organizations. For liquor stores, there is an emphasis on outside advertisements that promoted drinking through Hip Hop and Latino culture.
Price: Prices ranged from 99 cents to $3.49 in the East New York area so that alcohol was affordable for them.
Placement: Alcohol Advertisements were placed on eye level of the bodega from the front to the side of the store. Often, a bodega with at least 8-10 alcohol advertisements in one window would be found by the exit staircase of a train station, ensuring a lot of foot traffic.
The final project, Perspectives in Alcohol in East New York is an interactive mapping project. It is a qualitative report on the environmental harms of binge drinking in East New York, Brooklyn. With the support of The Partnership for a Healthier NYC, Center for Disease Control and The Bedford Stuyvesant Restoration Corporation, DIVAS for Social Justice is hoping this project can spark a conversation with community leaders about the harms of binge drinking with youth in East New York.