recruiters are a familiar sight in Bushwick, Brooklyn,
a predominately Black and Hispanic immigrant neighborhood where nearly 30
percent of residents live below the poverty line. The area is serviced by two
recruiting stations, one on Myrtle
Avenue and one in neighboring East
New York. Recruiters approach students after school in major
shopping thoroughfares like Knickerbocker
Avenue, while high schools students receive visits
from former students who have joined the military.
Henderson, a recent graduate of a Bushwick high school remembers recruiters in
the school at least once a week, asking for students names in the office and
approaching students in the hallways with flyers and information material. "I
feel like they are just targeting blacks and Latino students," said Henderson. "We should be
having college recruiters in our schools to present options to continue our
education. Instead we are left with military recruiters, feeding us lies and
recruiters are like vultures," said Desiree Camacho, 16. "When I walk pass the
recruitment station they harass me and get in my face to hand me materials. I
have even somehow received emails from them and information comes to my home."
back against the recruitment of their youth, community members organized with Make the Road New York have been working with local high schools to make students
aware of the dangers of joining the military. In 2003 Make the Road helped to start the Bushwick School for
which was once part of Bushwick
High school, a failing
high school with a 23 percent graduation rate. Make the Road is now a
"community partner" to BSSJ. They help with curriculum development, offer
social justice classes and organize with youth through their Youth Power Program in campaigns like fighting to have the airport-style security removed
from the school’s main entrance.
BSSJ Assistant Principal, says that as soon as students enter BSSJ as freshman,
they are told they are going to college. It is ingrained in them they are
preparing for college. "We help them apply and get aid and support them and
through the whole difficult and scary process this is our alternative [to the
don’t currently have an official counter-military recruiting campaign it is
part of our daily conversation with youth," said Sarah Landes, education coordinator of Make
the Road. "We offer youth-led workshops on military myths,
counter-recruitment and the cost of war. We also work collaboratively with
other organizations on a city-wide level to fight recruitment in schools and on
Make the Road has organized street theater
protests outside the Myrtle Avenue Recruiting station. In the last one, which
Landes calls "intense", kids dressed up in orange jumpsuits and had black hoods
on to protest the 2005 Haditha massacre in which 24 Iraqi civilians were
tries to "create a community of young leaders demanding the best from
themselves today and working together for a more just tomorrow," BSSJ must
still technically allow military recruiters on campus.
with high poverty populations get Title III federal funding, which we cannot do
without, nor do we have the choice to not accept it," said Rush. "However, we
do not give recruiters much of an audience."
distributes opt-out forms to students, to prevent the school from being forced
to turn over students contact information to recruiters, also mandated by No
Child Left Behind. "I believe in our five years only two students have signed
up," says Rush.
the halls of the Bushwick School for
Social Justice are adorned with students’ poetry and art, and posters
bearing quotes from heroes like Che Guevara, Joe Hill and Cesar Chavez.
Students call teachers by their first names, and you could walk into any
administrator’s office and find a student sharing a joke or details of their
day. "I wouldn’t join the military if it would save my life," Robert Moore, a
15-year-old BSSJ student who participates in a Make the Road after-school program said. "The government is taking
away funding from our school so I see no point in having the military there."