The basis of this project, “Uptown Kids”, has evolved from my work as a student mentor at Polo Grounds Community Center, a space built within the complex of Polo Grounds public housing projects located on 155th street in Harlem, New York. This body of work contextualizes Polo Grounds as a physical structure and as a community, deconstructs existing issues of social and economical inequality, questions the ways in which documentary and collaborative practices can work with or push against traditional forms supported in art institutions (galleries, museums, schools) and ultimately, to find a balance between using the work to criticize the systemic issues that effect public housing and education but also to tell the story that exists, on a micro level, at Polo Grounds Community Center and within our mentoring program.
After taking a year-long sociology course that required its students to engage themselves as volunteer mentors at different community centers throughout the five boroughs and few hundred public housing complexes of New York City, I decided to continue my commitment after the course was completed. Since participating as a volunteer mentor at Polo Grounds Community Center for the past two years, the project has evolved and gained momentum in ways that it can stand up for social inequalities surrounding Polo Grounds as a community and also in greater, more universal representations. With a balance between cynicism and sentimentality, “Uptown Kids” invites viewers to question their self-perception of racial identity, if and how place defines people and what has led people to be failed by our systemic institutions.