top of page
  • staff

Homeplace: Creating a Community of Mutual Care and Resistance at EVC

By Marlene Peralta and Dare Dukes with Isabella Araya, Chris Caraballo, Maude Carrol, Raelene Holmes, Christain Moore, Ines Morales, Carol Román, Alexus Stewart, and Yhenni Vogue.

“Described by bell hooks, ‘homeplace’ is a space where Black folx truly matter to each other, where souls are nurtured, comforted, and fed. Homeplace is a community, typically led by women, where White power and the damages done by it are healed by loving Blackness and restoring dignity. She argues that ‘homeplace’ is a site of resistance. Understanding the gutting of dark communities’ homplaces is critical to a teacher’s analysis of the community in which he or she teaches.”

—Bettina L. Love

No matter the years, no matter the change in demographics, alums keep coming back to Educational Video Center (EVC). They describe the welcoming feeling, the judgment-free zone, the collaborative space, and the opportunities for social justice leadership as some of the many reasons EVC feels both like a nurturing and safe family and a site of resistance—a “homeplace,” as bell hooks called it. While hooks defined “homeplace” as a uniquely Black site, EVC’s manifestation of homeplace embraces the heart of hooks’ definition as it encompasses the intersectional experiences of a spectrum of youth from communities that face oppression, including youth who are Black, brown, queer, trans, and working-class. 

At a recent Alumni Advisory Council meeting, council members, all Educational Video Center (EVC) alums, spoke freely about their love of EVC and why they stay connected to the organization, even decades after they left the program. (The Alumni Advisory Council serves as a board of  intergenerational alums with the goal of holding EVC accountable to the populations it serves.) 

Despite participating in EVC programs over 10 years apart from each other, Alexus Stewart, a 2018 alum from Brooklyn, and Ines Morales, a 2005 alum from the South Bronx, feel the same way about EVC: community and collaboration grounds the creative and resistance work. “It’s the way we go about creating films,” explained Alexus when discussing what makes EVC unique.  “We create community first, then we create film. We are all putting ourselves outside of our comfort zone while doing something we’ve never done before, but we are all doing it together and creating a bonding experience,” she added. Relatedly, Ines said, “Those bonds wouldn’t have normally happened outside of EVC.” 

Allowing Youth to Create a Space They Want and Need  

This sense of community, safety, and empowerment EVC’s young people feel is by design. EVC arose in 1984 at the intersection of the community media movement, the alternative schools movement, and interrelated, people-centered educational pedagogies that emerged from international anti-oppression work in the 60s and 70s. (For the full story of EVC’s founding, see “The Roots of EVC.”) EVC’s unique framework meets young people where they are, centering their wellbeing and cultivating their power in a highly collaborative space of healing, learning, and social justice leadership development. In this loving, playful, rigorous, and non-hierarchical learning environment, both youth and educators become co-learners, building knowledge and power as collaborators grounded in mutual care and respect.  

For Christain Moore, a 2023 alum, EVC helped him develop his passion for filmmaking. “EVC puts us in charge; they  give us the freedom to tell the stories that we want, to do what we want, everything is centered around us with the guidance of the staff," he said. “I didn’t really know much about film or anything like that, and because of EVC  it has become one of the greatest passions.”

Alexus said she appreciates the fact that she was allowed to make mistakes with no judgments. “EVC is such a positive experience because the judgment-free zone and the educators there allowed students to create a space we wanted and needed.  Even those students whose English wasn't the best, want to be here,” she added.

Resistance: Tools for Change

Raelene Holmes, a 2012 alum from Harlem, went a bit further: “For me putting yourself as a subject of a documentary you become so vulnerable, and you put yourself out there but with everyone around you going with you on this journey.  That creates an everlasting bond.” Raelene refers to documenting her own family’s plight in the film Breathing Easy, in which she addressed how toxic mold in her family’s public housing apartment had been affecting their health. The film follows their fight with the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) to fix these issues. Raelene said that creating films like this Breathing Easy made her interested in fighting for social justice. “In order to create change, a just society, in order to raise awareness, you need to speak up and show your audience why policies need to change." Breathing Easy did, in fact, create change. In 2015, two years after the start of an advocacy campaign featuring Breathing Easy as an education and organizing tool, NYCHA relented and agreed to renovate her family’s apartment. (It went mold free for years but unfortunately the mold returned after further neglect by NYCHA. The fight for adequate housing continues.)

Critical Literacy: Rewriting The World

The young people with whom EVC works are smart, resilient and hungry, yet they have spent a lifetime bumping up against harmful systems and structures, including being bombarded by media narratives depicting them as broken, two-dimensional antagonists on someone else’s heroic journey.  EVC youth seek safe space to heal, learn, and ultimately throw off these harmful narratives that they have often internalized. EVC’s unique collaborative research and production process cultivates “critical literacy,” the capacity to read, write, and rewrite the interwoven stories that make up the fabric of self, community, and world.  To be critically literate is to be aware of and understand society’s narratives, see who promotes these narratives and why, understand how power is consolidated and extracted through these narratives, and grasp how one’s personal story is supported or harmed by dominant narratives.  

EVC gives young people a mic and a camera, and they, with EVC’s support, learn to rewrite how they are represented in the media by telling their stories themselves. Ines Morales, a 2005 alum, says EVC filled an important void. “With the curriculum and everything I feel like you learn so much about yourself and about your community; things that you probably would not learn in school.”

Isabella Araya, a 2020 alum, says that the curriculum makes it really fun to confront hard pressing issues, especially for people like her who were really shy when she started the program: “It really focuses on the positive aspect and how we can have fun and make change. That makes it a safe space for me.”

EVC’s critical literacy focus helps youth learn about themselves, each other, and the issues that impact their communities. This process, in turn, helps them link their personal lives to the subjects of their films and the learning process. As this happens, they begin to see themselves as experts in their own right due to their unique lived experiences.

Maude Carrol, a 1998 alum, said she was very fortunate to have learned about critical literacy as a way to identify injustice and find ways to dismantle it. “EVC was the first place I learned about critical literacy as a concept of talking about stereotypes in media and how to use critical thinking when you are looking at films and the news and media in general,” she  said.  “Having that understanding going into filmmaking and making documentaries is really important because then we can start to dismantle and approach some hard hitting subjects that are important to youth and identify the injustice and take it apart.”

Meeting Youth Where They Are

Many alums appreciate how EVC creates space for young people, no matter their demographic, who come to EVC. The youth, in turn, learn themselves to meet others where they are, in their unique identities and experiences. “It didn’t matter where you were from or your background was or how you were doing academically; you were still invited to participate with open arms,” said Chris Caraballo, a 2006 alum.

Alexus shared that the diversity among students is an asset she has learned a lot from. “I think It's also really unique because, me personally, I went to a school where there wasn't that many kids who recently immigrated to the US and to come to EVC and have friends from Brazil  and from Yemen, it was a really eye-opening experience to be able to connect with those individuals and ultimately create films with them.”

For Isabella Araya, a 2020 alum from Queens, one thing that caught her attention is how powerful intergenerational collaboration in the program is. “There are generations of people that are connecting because they feel supported,” she said. “it’s really apparent how much they care and keep in touch.”

An example of that intergenerational connection unfolded during the 40 year anniversary kick off event when Carol Román, an alum from 1990, came to the podium accompanied by Christain Moore, an alum from 2023. Carol said Christain was next to her to offer support because she was “extremely nervous” to speak in front of a large audience. This small act showed a very powerful bond between two people from two generations 20 years apart. 

Thriving through Belonging: Building Leaders 

Speaking of dismantling oppressive structures, Maude Carroll said, “Just giving us a platform to ask questions is a huge act of resistance.” She went on to say that youth are given the mic. Any topic that is relevant to their lives is fair game, especially  “controversial” topics that question inequitable structures. Young filmmakers decide what gets covered and under what rules with the collaboration of EVC staff members. They learn and ask questions without the fear of punishment, retribution, or ridicule.  For instance, in 1998 Maude collaborated on Waiting to Inhale, a film exploring the possible legalization of marijuana. The film turned out to be decades ahead of its time. She said, “Talking about marihuana in the 90s was a big deal. You could get arrested for smoking it, and the fact that we were able to explore topics like that was really bad ass.”

Yhenni Vogue (nee Rodriguez), a 2017 alum, agreed: “We can use film and our voices for good and bring awareness on issues people put under the rug, which empowers students.” And she is right. Central to EVC’s mission is building young leaders to make positive change in their communities.

Making Their Own Rules

The work of the Alumni Advisory Council, created under Executive Director Ambreen Qureshi’s leadership, is a true testament to the idea that EVC is a homeplace that crosses generations, cultures, and identities. The Council is an intergenerational safe space for alums to hold hard conversations and to create systems that help design the kind of just world EVC wants to see. Its members represent alums from all decades of EVC’s lifespan, including some members who were at EVC decades apart. One of the Council’s projects is to create equitable licensing policies for EVC’s digital archive of youth media, which is slated to launch soon. The goal is to create a ground-breaking, people-centered system for licensing films that guarantees the safety for the folks featured in the films and allows for equitable compensation.

At EVC, co-learning and centering students' needs and aspirations are key to helping them reconnect to their innate love of learning and, ultimately, helping them build power and inspiration to dismantle the oppressive structures harming them and their communities. Alumni like Ines, Alexus, Maude, Chris, Yehnni, Christian, Isabella, and Raelene passionately attest to how effective EVC has been to transform their lives. The depth and richness of their experience at EVC keeps them coming back


bottom of page