Howard Collins, Jr, brings his shoulders and feet in a slink-down electric style snake move down an aisle at a 7 Eleven in downtown Brooklyn.
The eight-year-old has nicknamed the move “GP Push” where his shoulders and feet both echo each other into a push-pull, he describes.
“When I first started dancing, it made me feel like a weapon of a ninja and someone is using me to fight a bad guy,” Collins Jr. says. “Dancing is a power, I can turn into a sword.” And its those moves and energy that inspire his father—Howard Collins, Sr—to embark on a collaborative project with his son based on the energy that beats against the ground.
The duo from Brooklyn ‘walk the Brooklyn walk and can talk the talk,’ and Collins Sr., a 35-year-old fashion designer, wanted to create something that would encompass a “real script” of their lives to make a difference.
In works is an animated cartoon that Collins sketched, drew and painted based on his son that tackle an assortment of themes and issues —whether from bullying to gangs or to daily health—and messages he wants to send to kids in a relatable way. “This is something grown from real feelings; that’s the core,” Collins says. The duo’s project, “The Adventures of a Brooklyn Boy” (#TABB) was built through personal pain, Collins says, after the loss of his mother and Collin Jr’s grandmother from cancer. Always the three of them, Collins had to learn to rebuild, which in part was filled by his son.
Walking across the Brooklyn Bridge with hover boards or just adventuring around in the avenues, it became a natural progression for him to start calling him “Brooklyn Boy.” They record the adventures for YouTube that the two have together in Brooklyn as also a sidepiece to the project.
He just goes out there and attracts this energy around him, Collins says, describing a moment outside Barclays Center where he free-styled and danced, and people starting forming a circle around him, joining in and dancing. The script wrote itself, he says and the love shared between the two helped each other get through the void left by Collin’s mother.
“His face is my pursuit to happiness; it makes me not hinder myself,” says Collins.
Putting work into the ‘Adventures of a Brooklyn Boy,’ Collins hopes it will catch on and inspire others living the “Brooklyn dream,” to go out there and just do it. The “Brooklyn Boy” embodiment is adorned on t-shirts that his father has created as part of the project.
“Put down the gun and pull up your pants,” is a phrase that Collins, Jr, often says when it comes to gang members and something that would be incorporated into the animated cartoon series as well. Also a Brooklyn non-profit, Put Down the Guns encourages kids to engage in activities outside of violence and an organization that the son and father are part of.
The main character—based on his son—he hopes will be voiced by his son. At the throttle of it all will be the dance and energy as well as messages for youth, says Collins. Ideas spring through issues that Collins, Jr. sees in the streets, which echoes in their work together.
“Everything is just waking up, our pain is the script,” says Collins, attributing the loss of his mom at the centerpiece of the whole project and what brings them together. “It’s also making me a better father,” Collins says of the project the duo work on. On the first Friday of February, the two were at John Wesley United Methodist Church in BedStuy celebrating a launch to
“Friday nights” that would bring youth, young entrepreneurs, and older people together with the community.
“The impact is great, the kids have a positive outlet—a venue to vent their creative juices—and Brooklyn Boy is an expansion of it and inspiring young people to do more,” said 18-year-old Daryl Mensah-Bonsu, one of the organizers. A safe haven for youth, the theme of entrepreneurship also permeates Fridays allowing youth to open doors, Bonsu explains.
Partnering youth with older members of the community, teens can build a platform to learn what it takes to become an entrepreneur.
Recalling a lot of his friends who sold drugs at one point to make money, Bonsu says through self-employment and realizing you can make it on your own way, it brings choices that some youth may not have looked for, otherwise.
“It means a lot to me to be here… because I want to inspire kids to dance and stay out of trouble,” Brooklyn Boy said that night. At the event where also HIV/AIDS testing was done to bring about awareness, Brooklyn Boy danced amongst his community. “It’s good, it’s happy here, it’s a place where you can chill and hang out. It really means a lot to me,” said 11-year-old Shahiem Burchett.