Nick Pilarski and the Brownsville Community Justice Center on WNYC!

Exciting radio coverage of 2015-2016 Hine Fellow Nick Pilarski’s collaboration with Brownsville youth and the Brownsville Community Justice Center on WNYC:

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“Our reporting also took us to the Brownsville Community Justice Center, an organization that works with youth in the neighborhood. There, a squad of late-teens and 20-somethings have put their minds to the ambitious task of easing neighborhood tensions by creating a virtual reality video game. They are digitally replicating Brownsville, with a few twists.

They wanted residents, and outsiders, to explore Brownsville by crossing neighborhood divides that, in real life, keep people apart, because of lingering tensions between housing developments or between residents and police. The team has aimed to unite people’s stories and call out the systems in place that confine people to poverty and powerlessness.”

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“In the tech lab at the Brownsville Community Justice Center, a small room overheated by computers and the energy of late-teens and 20-somethings, a group of young people are working daily on the final production phase of an immersive, virtual reality video game.

It’s a massive undertaking: they are replicating Brownsville, digitally, in an attempt to both soothe neighborhood tensions and illuminate the dignity they see in the people who live there.

Their mission comes from feeling weary of conflict between housing developments, tensions with police and the systems in place that keep people poor and relegated to public housing.

At the same time, they are also fed up with the portrayal of their neighborhood only in terms of its dangers and downfalls. Instead, they see people who struggle but manage to live joyfully and who care about their community. They encounter talent and innovation in their own neighborhood, but feel it is overlooked by outsiders.”

“What we’re trying to accomplish doesn’t fit into documentary, doesn’t fit into video games, doesn’t fit into any of these things,” Pilarski said, adding, “It’s more like cinema.”