Date: 8.15.02

C.A.S.Y.M Nurtures Young Minds

By ADIKA BUTLER

 

Bernice Moses, 55, stands in the P.S. 91 school yard in the East New York section of Brooklyn doing what she loves.  Gazing intently at her Caribbean American Sports and Cultural Youth Movement (C.A.S.Y.M.)  Steel Orchestra practicing at a distance, Moses takes special interest in the young people that the band is mostly comprised of.

As C.A.S.Y.M.’s secretary for the past 19 years, she understands that it is more than a steelband.  It is a community based organization that has touched her life in a very profound way.

Over 20 years ago, when Moses was a single mother struggling to raise her two sons, she —like so many other young mothers throughout the city —was looking to get her boys in a youth program that would keep them off of Brooklyn’s mean streets.   She enrolled them in the Five Borough Youth’s Soccer League, which was composed of both Caribbean, and Caribbean American children.   There she met up with William Jones, with whom she would help found C.A.S.Y.M. Inc. in 1983.

New Yorkers read endless stories telling them that low test scores and overall underachievement, overshadow so many young people in the city’s urban communities.  Yet for almost 20 years, C.A.S.Y.M. has had the alchemical formula for transmuting the base metals of young impressionable black minds into solid gold.

In P.S. 91’s schoolyard, Tichard Chapman, 26, is taking a quick breather.   He is observing his fellow band members practice for the West Indian American Day Carnival Association’s (WIADCA) Pan-O-Rama steel band competition on Aug. 31. C.A.S.Y.M. has been first place winners of the competition for two straight years, and they intend to make this one their third.  That naturally explains why Chapman is so eager to get back to practice.  A band member for the past 12 years, Chapman describes the experience as being “one for the ages.”

Chapman is currently a music instructor at the Meyer Levin (I.S. 285) junior high school in Brooklyn where he teaches steel pan music.  “Classical, R&B, jazz, you name it, we play it,” says Chapman brimming with pride.   He is also considering attending Brooklyn College where he would pursue his degree in education.

Tasanyia Sebro, 19, who has been with the C.A.S.Y.M. since the age of 11, has competed in five Pan-O-Rama contests.  She says that by being a part of the band she has learned to “cooperate with others,” and “the importance of team work”.  Since those formative childhood years, she says that she has also come to understand the importance of education.  And it shows.   As a freshman at SUNY Binghamton where she majors in speech pathology, Sebro achieved an impressive 3.8 g.p.a.

Her college education was made possible by two grants of $1,000 each she received from both  Coco-Cola and the Daily News.  The latter has been a financial contributor to C.A.S.Y.M. for  the past six years.

Another beneficiary of those contributions has been Nasima Amin, 18.   As a freshman at St. Joseph’s College in Brooklyn, Amin managed a 3.0 g.p.a while majoring in Psychology.   She attributes much of her work ethic to the values instilled in her as a member of the C.A.S.Y.M. band.  “Being in a band like this you learn to be disciplined and focused,” says Amin.  “When you're busy you learn to keep out of trouble,” as well.  C.A.S.Y.M. President William Jones says that an opportunity to partake in productive activities with their peers would keep many of New York City’s young minorities off the streets where trouble usually awaits.

“When I look at this area I’m sad to say that they have no place to go for recreation, or to socialize,” says Jones.   He also insists that instead of spending millions of tax dollars on propping up youth detention facilities like the Cross Roads Juvenile Center in Brownsville, Brooklyn, elected officials should use funds to enhance the quality of life of young people in the city’s urbanized areas.

“If you look at the cost of maintaining a prisoner and the cost of providing the youth with  [education] and recreation, it’s much cheaper,” he says.   A 2001 study conducted by City University of New York (CUNY) researchers in conjunction with the New York Department of Correctional Services, found that the costs of holding inmates with a college education amounts to $3,090,500 in tax payer dollars.  Meanwhile the cost for holding inmates without a college education amounts to $4 million.

Moses, who is now married, identifies C.A.S.Y.M.’s communal atmosphere as being a catalyst for the excellence achieved by so many of its young people in all aspects of life.   “We have been like a big family, [C.A.S.Y.M.’s] a home away from home,” she says.   “That has been very important to me as a parent.  Being able to know that you can bring your children to a place where they can have fun and learn discipline”.  One of her sons, David Nathan, 29, has been with C.A.S.Y.M. since its inception, and is now the organization’s program coordinator.   The other works for the New York Police Department.   His name could not be disclosed.

Jones is now looking for help acquiring computers for his young people to further ensure that they unlock the doors of success with the keys of technological wizardry.



C.A.S.Y.M. can be contacted by telephone at (718) 774-7977, or through the web at www.casym.isgreat.net.

 

CASYM PAN YARD

                                                                               

Email the writer at aton9@hotmail.com

 

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Last modified: August 17, 2002