Can a Documentary Change the World?


Black and Cuba director Robin J. Hayes discusses “Socially Engaged Art as a Tool for Social Justice” at UnionDocs Socially Engaged Documentary Art Seminar Sunday June 21, 2015 10:30am 322 Union Avenue, Brooklyn, NY 11211. For filmmakers, artists and cultural producers, the seminar offers vital information about the theory and practice of documentary making with a purpose. Tell them Progressive Pupil sent you and get 20% off conference registration with promocode SEDA15. Learn more at  Share with a friend who wants to make films for their communities.

The New Old “Ghetto Fabulous”

l. Rihanna and Iman model Balmain Gold Bamboo Earrings courtesy W Magazine Mother and Child at Brooklyn's Fulton Mall photographer Jamel Shabazz

l. Rihanna and Iman model Balmain Gold Bamboo Earrings courtesy W Magazine Mother and Child at Brooklyn’s Fulton Mall photographer Jamel Shabazz


Happy October!

When I saw the epic fashion photo spread featuring Rihanna, Iman and Naomi Campbell in W magazine, I immediately connected the gold earrings by French luxury fashion house Balmain (pictured above, $850) and the bamboo earrings I coveted at Brooklyn’s Fulton Mall when I was growing up.


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What does Activism do?


Happy Black August!

AFROPUNK and Progressive Pupil are co-curating Activism Row: an interactive, inspirational and informative experience to be featured at AFROPUNK Fest 2014 (August 23 and 24 at Commodore Barry Park, Brooklyn). Activism Row’s goals are to facilitate voter registration, inform youth about civic participation opportunities and to encourage the festival’s multicultural audience to envision themselves making a difference. Highlighting social justice as a work of art, Activism Row shows activism lives today in communities of color.

Today, Activism Row launched an Indigegogo campaign to raise funds for the costs associated with producing the festival, which include staff, signage and programs.  You can support this effort by making a tax-deductible contribution and sharing the link ( with your friends, family and colleagues. Rock star perks are available for your generosity including VIP passes to the festival, which features D’Angelo and Meshell Ndegeocello, a chance to get on stage and more.

Activism Row features local non-profits that advance racial equality by solving urgent community problems such as violence, mass incarceration and HIV/AIDS. In addition, voter registration will be available. On-line and in person, Activism Row will provide AFROPUNK’s audience—who are predominately youth—the empowering opportunity to see themselves as agents of social change. By showing #ActivismLives, this exciting exhibition reveals that the best time for social change is NOW!

I hope to see you later this month at AFROPUNK FEST.  If you have suggestions for organizations that should participate in Activism Row, please share at

In solidarity,







Robin J. Hayes, PhD

Principal Organizer

Instagram @robinjhayes

Girls for Gender Equity


Photograph courtesy of Girls for Gender Equity, Inc

As we celebrate the month of Black Women’s History, we would like to showcase Girls for Gender Equity (GGE), a Brooklyn, New York based intergenerational grassroots organization that develops feminist leadership among teens. Founded in 2001 by a first generation Haitian American social worker and activist, Joanne Smith, GGE has been working towards engaging communities of color to improve gender and race relations and socio-economic conditions for vulnerable youths and women.


American Promise: The Colors of Education

Image courtesy of 2012

Image courtesy of 2012

Being a student is a hard enough task on its own. Put aside the toil of maintaining good grades, and you are left with the inevitable adolescent social obstacles of peer pressure, fitting in and trying to be cool. But what happens when juggling classes and extracurricular activities becomes the least of your worries and, instead, you find yourself confronting issues of race and discrimination in the classroom?


Highlights from AfroPunk 2013

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Thanks to everybody who made it out to the 9th Annual AfroPunk Festival! We’re already looking forward to next year’s festivities!

On August 24th and August 25th, an estimated 30,000 people from all walks of life united at Commodore Barry Park in Brooklyn to celebrate “the other black experience.”

Progressive Pupil tabled on Activism Row during both days. We made new friends while discussing Black studies with festival-goers, sold Progressive Pupil tees, tanks and totes and promoted our film Black and Cuba. Many people also took advantage of our invitation to ask Principal Organizer Dr. Robin Hayes any Black studies question!

According to Joselyn Cooper, festival organizer, “We describe AfroPunk as a free space for African Americans — and anyone else who wants to come onto that space — to just be who they are, and not being defined by monolithic definition of what, sort of, the outside culture puts on us as African American people.”

So, what does AfroPunk mean to you?

By Claudie Mabry

Photographs by Dr. Robin Hayes and Alexis Handcock

Brooklyn Youth Against Violence

Founder of the Kings Against Violence Initiative, Dr. Robert J. Gores, stands with his team.

Founder of the Kings Against Violence Initiative, Dr. Robert J. Gore, stands with his team.

Set against the backdrop of sadness, great debate and urgency, one group is taking bold action to stop gun violence among American youth — a fast-moving and poisonous trend. The Kings Against Violence Initiative (KAVI) based in Brooklyn is a hospital-based, school-based and community-based organization that provides young people with safe alternatives to interpersonal violence by empowering them with knowledge and activities that highlight their potential.

KAVI views the issue of interpersonal violence through a unique lens. Rather than positioning itself as an anti-gang program that condemns this aspect of communities around Brooklyn, KAVI understands that this is often a necessary association for many young people’s survival. Instead of combating or denying these negative truths directly, KAVI provides services at the point of impact to victims and works to create positive influences that sway youth towards a brighter, violence-free future.