DreamYard Students Honored for Play

When drama teacher Ashruf Ghanimah told his students at DreamYard Prep High School that they would be producing a play about misogyny, they didn’t have to look far for examples.

Students talked about catcalls they heard virtually every day at the 170th Street subway station down the block from their school. They used those everyday experiences to write, direct and perform the play “Every Girl.”

The students behind “Every Girl” were honored at the 2011 Denim Day event at the Bronx Supreme Courthouse on Wednesday, April 27. Denim Day is an international day of awareness about sexual abuse, but this year was only the second time it was officially recognized in the Bronx and first time throughout all five boroughs in New York City.

Students from DreamYard Prep’s Young Men’s Club also hosted a discussion about misogyny and sexual violence in the courthouse’s Veterans Memorial Hall as part of the official Bronx observance.

“Every Girl is basically about how women get harassed every day,” said 14-year-old Ashley Galarza, one of the students who developed the play. “Even though there might be reasons for anyone to approach a female that way, women shouldn’t be quiet about it.”

“Every Girl” started as an improvisational exercise among the students in Ghanimah’s class. They recorded the sessions on an iPhone, took out their favorite lines, and developed them into a script.

“We wanted to create something that had a young vernacular,” Ghanimah said. “We wanted the language to be extremely realistic.”

The play was a collaboration between four DreamYard Prep Students, one of whom, Harold Alexis, did not make the Denim Day event.

“We all had input on it, because basically we all came up with the idea every woman should have a voice,” said 18-year-old Rudy Diaz.

Deputy borough president Aurilia Greene represented the Borough President’s office at the event.

“This is very significant,” she said. “We’re so glad we could show we appreciate that they’re learning to respect each other rather than abusing each other.”

The legend of Denim Day comes from Italy in the 1990s, when a driving instructor raped his teenage student. The instructor was convicted of rape but the charges was ultimately thrown out on appeal because the Italian Supreme Court found that since the victim had been wearing tight jeans, it made the rape consensual sex.

In protest, all female members of Italian Parliament went to work in jeans the next day, marking the first Denim Day in 1997. The day first came to the United States in 1999 when it was recognized it Los Angeles.

It was brought to the Bronx by teen advocacy group Start Strong Bronx. Alexandra Smith, director of Start Strong Bronx pitched the idea to Ghanimah.

“We told them we wanted the idea of young men as champions,” Smith said. “We wanted to show how men in the Bronx could make a difference.”

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