Black Owned Brooklyn founders, Tayo Giwa and Cynthia Gordy Giwa are set to debut a new documentary at The Brooklyn Academy of Music on February 24th. “The Sun Rises in The East” tells the incredible story of the rich legacy of The East, a Bedstuy based community organization established in the 1960s, and the impact it continues to make, fifty years after its founding.
The Giwas, a married couple who have operated the Black Owned Brooklyn Instagram platform since 2018, have made it their practice to highlight Black businesses and cultural events in the borough. They became interested specifically in The East after sharing a post about the International African Arts Festival, a four day celebration of Black and African traditions, artists, and entrepreneurs. After further research, Mrs. Giwa learned that the festival originated from The East Organization.
“We found snippets of information, kind of like these passing references to something that sounded really remarkable, really robust and really revolutionary,” Mrs. Giwa told the New York Times.
The Giwas made the decision to start the documentary process to showcase the Black pride that overflowed from the area during that time, and how it lives on despite gentrification.
“Why is central Brooklyn so Black and cool? The East is very much a part of that story,” Mr. Giwa said.
The film touches on key points of the organization’s history and highlights including The Black Freedom movement, and the teachers strike of 1968.
“The East was a manifestation of what was going on in every major Black community in the United States,” stated Jeffrey Ogbar, a professor of history at the University of Connecticut.
“People are saying, ‘We need resources, we need funding, we need control of what we teach our children. We need control of all these things,’” he said.
Many parents In the Ocean Hill-Brownsville area of Brooklyn began lobbying for more control over school curriculums, which were at the time run by majority white boards. While the city’s decision to give community leaders and parents more control over teachings, this led to the firing of several white and Jewish staff members, ultimately ending up in a strike that kept schools closed for two months.
This break in the system gave way to the offering of more culturally affirming educational options, like the Uhuru Sasa Shule school which the documentary also spotlights.
Fela Barclift, a former teacher at the school used a similar pan-African approach to education when she opened her daycare, Little Sun People in 1981.
“I want these children to know that you fit everywhere — you belong,” she said. “You know you are grounded in a history and in a culture that is not only great, but it’s magnificent.”
The Giwas are hoping to screen the film throughout 2022 beyond the Brooklyn Academy of Music. No other dates have been confirmed as of yet. In the meantime, watch both parts one and two of “The Sun Rises in The East” on YouTube.