December 1, 2009 - On November 12, more than two hundred and thirty staff members at Department of Youth and Community Development (DYCD)-funded afterschool programs and call center representatives from 311 and DYCD Youth Connect were invited to attend a special screening of Precious: Based on the Novel Push by Sapphire held at BAM Rose Cinemas. The screening of the Lee Daniels directed film was followed by a panel discussion that included a frank conversation on how service providers can respond to the immediate and long-term needs of young people who will find Precious’ story all too familiar.
Produced by Oprah Winfrey and Tyler Perry, Precious depicts the harrowing story of a sixteen year old girl living in Harlem in the late 1980s. When the film starts, Precious is pregnant with her second child and the victim of her mother’s constant verbal and physical abuse. Hosted by DYCD and Inwood House and in partnership with the Mayor’s Office of Film, Theatre and Broadcasting and the Mayor’s Office to Combat Domestic Violence, the screening, which was made possible by the Wallace Foundation, gave staff members the opportunity to be equipped with resources and information for the reactions they might encounter from young people who see their own experience in the film.
Screenwriter Geoffrey Fletcher introduced the film by thanking the audience for the work they do to help young people in difficult situations. “I sense that for many of you, it’s a calling,” he said.
Dr. Derek H. Suite, a psychiatrist and co-founder of Full Circle Health, spoke about how challenging it can be to be on the front line when hearing from a young person for the first time about their abuse. “It can be shocking,” Dr. Suite said. “Part of being on the front line is you take the shock, but you don’t have to be stoic.” It’s important, he added, to establish trust and safety.”
“You have to let the young person know you’re there to help,” said Dianne Heggie, associate executive director, Council on Family and Child Caring Agencies, “and one way to help is to connect them to other services.”
“Your relationship is ongoing,” added Kristen DeFur, director, Healthy Relationship Training Academy, Mayor’s Office to Combat Domestic Violence, even after you’re no longer the person who can help. “You go with them to meet the new person to make the connection complete.”
During the panel discussion, many of the audience members expressed how they all know a Precious in their lives. Fletcher described a scene that was cut from the theatrical release in which Precious visits an incest survivor’s meeting filled with women of all different backgrounds and races. It was important to Fletcher that the topic of incest be seen as “a universal issue.” He added that as he’s traveled around the country with the film, women who don’t look like Precious have come up to him and said, “I am Precious.”
“We need to raise awareness [this is] not a black issue,” said Linda Lausell-Bryant, executive director, Inwood House. “We’re working to educate people that child abuse and sexual abuse knows no racial, ethnic or neighborhood bounds.”