– By Khahlil Louisy

There are several lessons learned from the poignant coming-of-age story of Steven Prescod, in the stage play, A Brooklyn Boy. Prescod, who grew up in the Bedford Stuyvesant neighborhood of Brooklyn and born to Caribbean parents, takes the audience down an emotionally charged journey of his early life in the Brooklyn neighborhood, as he assumes 32 different characters who influenced his life, whether positively or negatively, in the play. His father was sentenced to prison when he was only a year old, leaving him to be raised by his Grenadian mother and other family members.

Trouble, though, would soon find Steven as he fell into the wrong crowd, leading him down a detrimental path of gangs and violence, and eventually into trouble with the law. His desire to break free from the binding grasps of the streets and its activities, led Steven to the City Kids Foundation, where he would meet the foundation’s former Artistic Director, Moises Roberto Belizario, who encouraged Steven to tell his story, following a six weeks internship program.

A Brooklyn Boy was performed for the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, Prince William and Kate Middleton, during a royal visit to New York in 2014. Steven’s performance impacted the prince so profoundly, that he gave his number to the young actor, with a promise to help him. This led to a British Academy of Film, Television, and Arts sponsored performance at The National Black Theatre. A Brooklyn Boy has since been performed at the Department of Education, The American Museum of Natural History, and the Fox Theatre as part of President Obama’s My Brother’s Keeper Success Mentors Initiative InspirED Youth Leadership Lab, among many other locations.

Steven Prescod’s story highlights the importance of organizations like the City Kids Foundation, who work tirelessly and often with very little resources, to rehabilitate and engage troubled youth. It is likely that without the help of City Kids, Prescod would have found himself in trouble with the law again and eventually behind bars, wasting raw talent like the acting ability he masterfully demonstrates in the play. At a time when government funding for arts programs are being slashed, it is imperative that we support initiatives like the City Kids Foundation, to help young people stay engaged in a positive way, out of trouble, and importantly, to help them develop skills that will be beneficial to them.

Anyone can catch a performance of A Brooklyn Boy at the East Village Playhouse on Thursdays and Fridays at 7pm and Saturdays at 2pm and 7pm. Ticket’s can be purchased here: eastvillageplayhouse.com/abrooklynboy.

 

Image: BAFTA