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Ground breaking documentary “goes beyond” with national community engagement campaign to challenge minority performance gaps in public education

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Aug. 13, 2010- New York, NY- If a quality education is the key to success, and nationwide only 48% of African American males are graduating high school, what does the future of black America look like and who is responsible to address this critical problem? This is the question asked in Beyond the Bricks, a new short-form documentary and ground-breaking national community engagement campaign produced by New York based production company Washington Koen Media. With the goal of promoting solutions for the low performance of black males in America’s public school system, the film takes an unfiltered look at one of the country’s most critical problems. Anchored by a targeted 10 city community engagement tour, celebrity PSAs, interactive web portal and other grassroots initiatives, Washington Koen Media are embarking on the mission of creating meaningful dialogue and positive opportunities for communities to take action and become a catalyst for change.

Beyond the Bricks engulfs viewers within minutes of the opening credits as it follows teenagers, Shaquiel Ingram and Erick Graham who struggle to stay on track in the Newark, New Jersey’s public schools. Weaved into the story are vital information and statistics that give a clear picture of some of the alarming practices of our nation’s schools, as well as commentary from leading community voices and scholars including the Reverend Al Sharpton, Newark Mayor Corey Booker and Schott Foundation President and CEO Dr. John Jackson among others. In true form, Beyond the Bricks explores the impact that an intuitive and engaged community and its leaders can have on today’s youth, and challenges viewers to realize that the weight of educating an entire generation of young men falls not just on those in control of public schools and education policy but on the community as a whole. It is a story that transcends its subjects and goes beyond the borders of New Jersey to urban enclaves throughout the nation.

Beyond the Bricks, to be released September 18, 2010, was created by Harlem, NY based production duo, Ouida Washington and Derek Koen, founders of Washington Koen Media Productions, a full service video production and media company focused on creating high impact media that boast socially responsible messages. The two created the film as a way to look critically at the circumstances that are plaguing African‐American communities across the country, while using these two students’ personal stories as examples of what you find when you look beyond the statistics to recognize that there are reasons to be hopeful.

“The lack of quality education is at once a local issue and a national dilemma, a school problem and a community concern,” states documentary Producer Ouida Washington. “Our National Campaign is one we hope will bring all the community stakeholders together to inspire them to make necessary change happen, not only where they are but also beyond.” This sentiment is echoed by film director Derek Koen: “I madeBeyond the Bricks because I want young black males to know that there are people who love them. 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.”

Proclaiming the immediate need for education and community reform across the country, beginning in September the Washington Koen Media team will unite with leading national and local organizations to host a series of town hall events in 10 communities that have been identified by their struggling performance and graduation rates among black males. The tour will serve as a platform for discussion, with hope that through continued community efforts and a broadened sense of what constitutes successful change, the seemingly insurmountable obstacles that affect African‐American boys and their education can begin to take a turn for the best.

Beyond The Bricks will be available on DVD September 8, 2010 at www.beyondthebricksproject.com <<a href=”http://www.beyondthebricksproject.com/”>http://www.beyondthebricksproject.com/> , and the national community engagement tour begins Sept, 18 in Jackson, MS. Additional tour dates TBA includeAtlanta, Baltimore, Boston, Chicago, Detroit, Milwaukee, New Orleans, Oakland, and Philadelphia.

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