2002-08-03 / Columnists

From the G-Man

By Gary G. Toms

Some Proposals For Bloomberg

Hey people! Yeah, I know, it's been a while since you heard me say that. I stopped using it because in the survey we took six months ago, people said that after five years it was getting tiresome. Like a dope, I listened, instead of following my heart. My Managing Editor, Howard Schwach, noted that he was questioned by members of the community about the absence of my tag line. It was at that point that I realized that "Hey people" was similar to Ed McMahon's, "Heeeeeere's Johnny!" on "The Tonight Show" or The Fonz's, "Aaaaay" from "Happy Days." Both shows had long runs, and they never deviated from the show's tag lines. "Hey people" has become synonymous with this column, so I see no reason to break with tradition. Simple enough, right?

Before I get into the "meat" of this column, I want to take a moment to acknowledge the loss of a dear friend this week. Janet Talcott was the Marketing and Public Relations Director for St. John's Episcopal Hospital South Shore in Far Rockaway. Janet was my "Homegirl", and she was always there when I needed a comment for a story I was doing. In looking back, I can only pray that my attempts to get to the bottom of the story did not play a part in worsening her condition, with the stress of having to respond to the stories I was writing. Janet was a class act. Let me give you an example of what I mean.

I would call her, knowing I was going to write something that was unfavorable about St. John's, and she was always quick to say, "Don't apologize Gary. For God's sake, you're just doing your job." It was not easy writing those stories, but it would have been 10 times harder to write them without Janet's input. She helped me. She believed in my work, and she conveyed that in the very last conversation I had with her. "I have to tell you something off the record. I think you are a great writer," she said. "I think your talents will carry you far beyond The Wave, and on to greater things. You are amazing." Janet, I see you smiling in heaven, as you hold a beautiful white dove. I want you to know that The G-man has shed a tear or two for you, because you were truly one of the beautiful people of Rockaway. Thank you for your unyielding support. Now, sleep my dear Janet...sleep.

Since the decision has been made that Mayor Bloomberg will be calling the shots regarding the New York City school system, I have a few ideas that I would like to share with him on how he could improve the school system. I submitted these proposals to District 27 Superintendent Matt Bromme during a one-on-one meeting back on May 25 of 2001. A copy was to be forwarded to School's Chancellor Harold Levy as well. I don't know if Levy ever got the proposal, and for whatever reason, Bromme and I were never able to have a follow up meeting to discuss how the plans could be implemented. So, I am now taking the opportunity to share the proposals publicly, and I hope that the Mayor and his team will consider them if they are plausible. Ready? Here we go.

There is much discussion about who is to blame for the state of our schools and the mindset of our children. Parents blame teachers, teachers blame parents, and children end up in the crossfire. It may be a combination of both, but the bottom line is that we are losing our children...fast!

In the nearly 20 years that I have spent in the entertainment industry, as a writer, talent representative and public relations specialist, I have come to understand the power of visual media and celebrities. Today, more than ever, visualization has become a major factor in the development of our youth; particularly in venues like music (MTV), film (New Line Cinema), and the publishing industry (Vibe Magazine).

The children of this generation are growing up worshipping images that are not necessarily positive. The re-direction of hip-hop, in the last 20 years, has caused a transformation to take place in the inner city neighborhoods, and the results have been devastating. African-Americans, and Latinos, have the highest percentages in the latest report of high school dropouts; violence is becoming commonplace in our schools and teen pregnancies are on the rise.

Living a "thug life" has become accepted as the norm, and obtaining an education has taken a back seat to drug dealing, "pimping", and gang involvement. The common link in all these situations is the media and the constant bombardment of negative images on our youth. This, coupled with peer pressure, bad parenting, and poverty within the inner cities, only helps to fuel "the beast." However, this monster can be caged!

The following proposals could have a huge impact in addressing the current social conditions that exist within the public school system of New York City. They list as follows:

1.The "You Win, We Spin Program" works with top named celebrity DJ's (like Grandmaster Flash, Red Alert, Funkmaster Flex, and DJ Scribble) and community DJ's to help kids raise reading and math scores in the schools of any given district. The goal is to have the kids obtain higher scores during the course of the year. If this is accomplished, after every two to three marking periods (or quarters), a dance party is held throughout the entire district. This program, with extensive media coverage at the events, would give the kids more incentive to do better on these test and garner major exposure for the districts at the same time.

2.The "Raise The Grade Concert Series" works with major record labels to allow headline talents, like Mariah Carey, Ja-Rule, Janet Jackson, and Alicia Keyes, to take part in concerts, at the end of the school year, to celebrate the student's achievements in raising grade levels throughout the five boroughs. The concerts would be held, simultaneously, in major venues like Madison Square Garden, Radio City Music Hall and the Nassau Coliseum. All concerts would be absolutely free! The tab would be picked up by the record labels, or by enthusiastic investors from the business and/or corporate sector, as a way of giving back to the community.

3. "Reunions" is a television show concept that is similar to "Inside the Actor's Studio" on the BRAVO network. You would have prominent figures (from film, television, science, sports and politics) go back to the schools that they graduated from, in the New York City area, to tape a one-hour interview with a student host. Questions from other students would be taken after the interview segment. Many schools within the different districts would be showcased. More importantly, this would be a student-driven project entirely, which would be produced by HBO (Nickelodeon), MTV or PBS (Channel 13). In District 27, Middle School 202 already has the mechanisms in place to make this a breakthrough show, and it would not cost anything. All that is needed is for a major entertainment entity to get involved so that these shows could be promoted and produced.

These are just a few remedies I have for possibly curing our ailing school system. I strongly believe that we live in a visual and pop cultured world, and these elements have an incredible grasp on our youth. It does not have to be this way. As I have illustrated through the proposals, there are components of these mediums that can be used to help correct some of the social conditions in our schools. In any event, there is nothing to lose, and everything to gain, by simply trying these programs. What do you think Rockaway? Let me know via Email (editor@rockawave.com) or by fax (718) 945-0913. By the way, if any of you out there have links to "Bloomy", pass this on. I have no doubt he needs all the help he can get.

See you next week!

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