23 Apr Making the Bronx a Little Brighter
This year, for the first time, girls from across the country are participating in our formerly only countywide program, Girls Build. Girls Build is designed to empower teams of girls to identify and address a challenge in their school or community. One team, Bronx Bright, based in the Bronx, New York, is taking on the issue of lighting in their community. Its five members — Jasmine, Kayce, Monse, Natalia, and Rayanne — want to make it safer to walk outside at night.
Here, we chat with the team about their inspiration, and what it’s like to be part of Girls Build.
How is it to participate in the program, formerly LA-only, from across the country?
Kayce: An honor, truly. Making a change from across the coast is inspirational.
Monse: It’s exciting to be part of a network of amazing women. Being able to participate in a program that was formerly LA-only is important because it highlights the necessity of providing folks with resources to enhance their communities across the country.
How did you decide on lighting as your issue?
Kayce: Growing up in the Bronx, safety has always been an issue. We were raised in dark streets and wanted to make a change in our community to make it safer. Writer and consultant Margaret J. Wheatley said, “There is no power for change greater than a community discovering what it cares about.”
Monse: I personally grew up“accepting” the poor lighting in my neighborhood because I did not know that other options were available. I grew up speed-walking with my mother to get home and grew accustomed to the lifestyle. Yet, as I grew older and explored outside of the Bronx more, I noticed myself not having to worry about lighting in spaces such as downtown Manhattan. So, when this project was proposed, it was easy to make the choice of wanting to allow our neighbors the same experience of relief when walking home because they can see what is in their surroundings.
What has your process been?
Leah: We’re focused on lighting in public spaces at night, particularly where teens hang out or along routes where they walk home, such as under the 167th Street and River Avenue 4 train station, and Mullaly Park. We set out to document the current light levels through video, light measurements and interviews, to determine how we could help shed some light with our project.
What do you hope to accomplish by addressing this issue? What’s the change you hope to see?
Kayce: We hope to see more members of our community outside spending time with others.
Monse: We want to create conversation on the importance of lighting in urban communities, like our own. I want to see that our research and project proposal is considered as an example of what can be done for the community. It is essential that people realize the impact lighting has on communities. Essentially, we want our neighbors to feel comfortable and safe in their community.
How would this affect your life/lives personally?
Kayce: Personally, with more lights I would feel more included in my neighborhood — safer to do more activities with both kids and adults.
What have you learned about yourselves since beginning this project? What skills or strengths have you developed?
Kayce: Since the beginning of our project, I have individually grown as a communicator. As for the group, we have grown, too. We’re learning how to raise our voices, make an action plan, and execute on it.
Leah: The girls have demonstrated a ton of initiative and already made amazing strides. Our marketing and outreach team are currently working on a presentation for our collaborating designer’s company’s board meeting to get insight, support, and potentially investment into our lighting improvement project for Mulally Park. We are also applying for funding through the Designers Light Forum, and attempting to collaborate with the local Bronx Community Board 4 (CB4) and the Parks Dept. One of our students presented at the last CB4 meeting, and we plan to attend the next one with an update and a clearer ask for input/community support and connections.
Meanwhile, our technical team is exploring lighting designs and layout for the park installation using a design software called Dialux. I’m blown away by what these girls are doing.
We’ll be announcing the winners of the Girls Build challenge on May 22nd. Visit girls-build.org for more information!