Union County Teenagers Tackle Violence Intervention in their Community through Art and Immersive Technology
July 1, 2022, Elizabeth, NJ- The Elizabeth Youth Theater Ensemble’s (EYTE) Walking the Beat program receives support in the amount of $379,940 from the Attorney General’s Office as a part of its inaugural Community-Based Violence Intervention (CBVI) initiative. EYTE’s community partners also include the Union County Division of Youth’s Youth Forward, City of Elizabeth Office of Youth, Elizabeth Public Schools, Union County Prosecutor’s Office, Elizabeth Police Department, Elizabeth Public Library, Warner Media and National Endowment for the Arts.
Now in its seventh year, Walking the Beat is an arts based social justice residency for teenagers of the Global Majority and law enforcement workers. Utilizing performing arts as a vehicle for empowerment and community building, Walking the Beat has transformed lives with a results-based arts education methodology and curriculum which includes Drama Therapies and trauma based Yoga & Mindfulness, Virtual Reality (360 and Unreal Engine), and Oral History. Walking the Beat inspires — in students and officers alike — an appreciation for their common humanity, and a commitment to non-violence, community building, and social justice. The program will conclude in December 2022.
EYTE will also welcome Union County’s Youth Forward program as a partner this year. “The County of Union is proud to be a part of this initiative and I would like to thank EYTE for including our Department of Human Services as well as our young people within the County this year,” said County Manager Ed Oatman. “Youth Forward will help open the lines of communication between youth from all over Union County and law enforcement on a more personal level. It is a great, innovative way to offer an important dialogue and connect these two groups together. We look forward to hearing about their learning experiences and seeing their installations come to life.”
Walking the Beat currently has 40 students enrolled from within Union County, who will be creating original content in three different categories: Devised Theater, 360 Virtual Reality, and Unreal Engine. Beginning in August, students will present work and installations, free and available to the public. Full schedule to be announced at a later time.
“This year we are centering art for wellness and well-being,” says EYTE Program Facilitator and Curriculum Director, Angela Kariotis. “Not only do we believe in art as an intervention but as a disruptor of violence. We believe creativity is preventative not just rehabilitative. We will be exploring how trauma works in our bodies, how our bodies work and interact with each other, and art towards our collective healing.”
13 new recruits from the Elizabeth Police Department will join our program as a part of their community on-abording experience. In a joint statement, Elizabeth Police Director, Earl Graves, and Chief of Police, Giacomo Sacca state, “Walking the Beat is a great opportunity for new recruits to engage the community in a unique way. A chance to build a stronger bond with our officers and the youth we serve, is something that will stay with them throughout their careers. It is a learning experience from both ends and the Elizabeth Police Department fully supports the program.”
Additional officers will come from the Union County Prosecutor’s Office. “We are once again excited to be a contributing partner to EYTE’s annual “Walk the Beat Program’, added Union County Prosecutor William A. Daniel and County Chief of Detectives Harvey A. Barnwell. “This program provides an excellent opportunity for law enforcement officers and students to come together, to share their life experiences, and enhance community relations.”
The City of Elizabeth has been a long-time supporter of EYTE’s Walking the Beat program. “The Elizabeth Youth Theater Ensemble has made it their mission to bridge the gap between youth and law enforcement,” says Mayor J. Christian Bollwage. “Its impact is not only a lifelong learning experience for our youth, but the police officers involved as well. Executive Director Theo Perkins provides a safe space for those looking to build a greater sense of community and communication and that is exactly what our youth needs.”
The program will round off with a community based oral history project, in partnership with the Elizabeth Public Library. Community members will be trained to conduct interviews surrounding safety and gun violence intervention. Applications for the Oral History Cohort will be available in August.
Program Facilitators for Walking the Beat include Founder and Director, Theodore Perkins, Curriculum Director and Program Facilitator, Angela Kariotis, Drama Therapists Adam Stevens, Mindfulness and Yoga coach Tina LeMar, Virtual Reality artists Alton Glass, Idalis Maldonado, and Jacob Rosa.
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About the Elizabeth Youth Theater Ensemble
Established in 2015, The Elizabeth Youth Theater Ensemble’s mission is centered upon strengthening the voices of young artists. Utilizing theater-arts based curricula, EYTE provides creative learning opportunities for the youth of city and global majorities, where they gain experiences that empower self and community.
Designations: Since 2020, Elizabeth Youth Theater Ensemble has been a qualified organization of the
New Jersey Cultural Trust and an affiliate member organization of the New Jersey Theatre Alliance.