I love and cherish the pure innocence of the many questions, interactions and conversations that I have with my two year‐old son. Often when I put him to sleep, tracing a finger along the shape of his face, his lips, nose, and eyebrows, I’m blinded as my eyes well up with so many emotions. It rips my heart right out of my chest when I think about the pain he will endure as an African‐American citizen of this world. I think about the unexplainable pain on the face of my 16 year‐old son the first time he felt the unfathomable weight of racism and inequality, in school no less. At first I feel sadness, which turns into anger, and then a deep‐down rage. That rage is piled onto the last incident, waiting ever so patiently to be unleashed.
I think about the world that I have brought my children into and all the obstacles they will have to face, head on: prejudgment's by society, potential mistreatment and even death at the hands of cops, hate, racism, and violence from other black males. Teachers and administrators that label them “at risk” because they think black children cannot learn, enabling them to internalize feelings of inadequacy, to be less than. I will not tell my children that this is the way it is, and they just have to accept it.
I made Beyond the Bricks because I want young black males to know that there are people who love them. People who know that they are very capable to do anything they are willing to work for. I want to show young black males that they can have control over their lives. I want people in their communities who they come into contact with on a daily basis to take responsibility and be positive role models. I want the people who are charged with educating them to do it genuinely from their hearts. Most of all I do not want them to settle.
Derek Koen, Director/Editor