THE POINT CDC, a nonprofit in Hunts Point that promotes economic revitalization and social change, recently released a book celebrating its 25-year anniversary.
“THE POINT: 25 YEARS! The Story of Where Community & Creativity Connect,” features a narrative written by Mariposa Fernandez, scrapbook-style photos, clippings and mementos and essays by people whose lives changed because of THE POINT. Fernandez and Rachelle Fernandez served as editors; Aurash Khawarzad was the designer and Maria Torres, Danny Peralta, Carey Clark, Rachelle Fernandez and Michael Glazebrook were supporting writers. Eric Orr illustrated the Max the Robot cartoon character, who pops up on various pages throughout the book.
“Hunts Point is an incredible place, where neighbors preserve culture and solve problems and support and advocate for one another,” said Peralta, THE POINT CDC executive managing director. “Our book is filled with stories that will inspire the imagination necessary to fight for environmental justice. This book will continue to shape the perception of Hunts Point with stories of stewardship and not just marginalization and poverty.”
Hunts Point is one of the most marginalized congressional districts in the U.S. But, as the book describes, prior to racist and extractive policies, Hunts Point was initially home to an Indigenous population that lived in harmony with the environment, and then to a thriving community of artists, musicians and poets.
THE POINT is working to revive the area’s vibrant and environmentally sustainable culture, while also advocating for a more just and equitable future. The book provides examples of how its three main program areas – youth leadership development, arts and culture, and policy change – intertwine and help further these goals.
- The Youth Programming chapter describes THE POINT’s education, advocacy, and arts programming for young people, from an after-school program offering homework help, healthy snacks and a safe place to gather to an annual summer camp. Teenagers join the A.C.T.I.O.N. program to organize on issues from the environment to over-policing. There’s a circus arts program, an arts and entrepreneurship program, and a culinary arts and healthy eating program. Fem Flava is an annual event that challenges and redefines gender norms.
- The Arts & Culture chapter highlights the award-winning Live from the Edge Theater featuring stars including Mike Epps, All Americas Drumming classes teaching Afro-Carribean rhythms and classes taught by the world-famous graffiti arts group TATS Cru. THE POINT’s International Center for Photography has launched kids into photography careers, while its production of the “Nutcracker” ballet earned a stunning New York Times Review. The poet Lemon Andersen was among those who participated in Open Mic night, while the late Angelo Lozado, who served as the warm-up comedian for The Daily Show with Trevor Noah, started a regular comedy night. THE POINT’s “Village of Murals” project explores the connections among industry, community and the environment. “We and I,” starring boisterous teenagers recruited at THE POINT, was screened at the Cannes Film Festival and won the International Critics’ prize at 2012 Deauville American Film Festival.
- The Policy Change chapter covers THE POINT’s work on environmental justice and climate change. Community members closed down a fertilizer factory, defeated a proposal to dump more trash in the neighborhood, and stopped the expansion of a nearby expressway. THE POINT helped create The Greenways of Hunts Point and save South Brother Island, a nesting sanctuary for migratory shorebirds. The annual Hunts Point Summer Festival and Fish Parade celebrates the community and the waterfront.
- The Fiercely Facing the Future chapter focuses on efforts to make Hunts Point more resilient to the effects of climate change. THE POINT’s climate resiliency work includes installing solar panels to power its campus, even during power outages. The Free Hunts Point Community Wi-Fi project connects residents with a free mesh Wi-Fi network that is resistant to power and internet outages.
“I’ve lived in Hunts Point since the 1960s, and I’ve proudly volunteered with THE POINT for years, “said Orrin Hercules, one of the community members who agreed to host equipment needed for the Wi-Fi network. “I started out helping in the food pantry. Now I’m a Digital Steward, hosting and maintaining part of the community Wi-Fi network. THE POINT helps everybody – from young people to seniors like me – to learn new skills and stay involved in the community.”