Beyond the Bricks is a documentary created with the goal of promoting solutions for one of America’s critical problems in education: the consistently low performance of African‐American boys in the public school system. The film follows African‐ American students Shaquiel Ingram and Erick Graham as they struggle to stay on track in the Newark, NJ public school system. Fifteen year‐old Shaquiel is a bright student who enjoys writing poems and playing the trumpet, but finds himself a ward of the court system when he can longer take the “chaos” of his local high school and stops going to class. Erick, a nineteen year‐old high school drop out, realizes that the freedom he sought from his former daily school routine is not all it’s cracked up to be. Unemployed and unable to find a job, he spends most of his days bored at home and watching TV.
In danger of becoming just another couple of statistics on the “school to prison pipeline”, the boys find a lifeline with support from compassionate community leaders and alternative education programs that address the root causes of their problems with staying focused in school. Weaved into the boys’ stories is commentary from some of the country’s foremost scholars and experts focused on African‐American boys and their education. Newark Mayor Corey Booker, Schott Foundation President and CEO Dr. John Jackson, and the Reverend Al Sharpton, among others, weigh in on three areas that have a major impact on the success (or failure) of African‐American boys in school: public policy, the public school system and the role of the larger community.
Though the film focuses primarily on students and schools in Newark, NJ, the issues addressed there extend to urban enclaves throughout the nation. Beyond the dismal statistics are the real stories of children fighting to build better futures for themselves. Through these two students’ personal stories, the film looks critically at the circumstances that are plaguing African‐American communities overall, and offers up examples of people who are successfully combating these challenges. Beyond the Bricks promotes hope and the idea that with people at every level working diligently on this issue, there can be real solutions to the seemingly insurmountable obstacles that have for so long plagued African‐American boys and their education.