Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Amsterdam News Review

September 30, 2010

We were very happy to receive the review, linked here, in the Amsterdam News this morning in advance of the PBS air date here in metro-NYC.  Our film will air on channel Thirteen on October 2nd at 1:30 PM.

One of our favorite lines from the piece written by Stephon Johnson:

“It’s the perfect backdrop to once again show the country that the image of Black men and young Black males is distorted in America.”


From WOSU Arts Blog

August 13, 2010

With our program airing tonight on Idaho Public Television I was delighted to read this message from Stacia at WOSU out of Ohio State in Columbus.  The link is here.

In time for the Jambo: Boy Scouts of Harlem patches are here!

June 24, 2010

The “759: Boy Scouts of Harlem” patch has arrived.

Designed by our own Jake Boritt and created by Rob Faurot at the venerable Chicago Embroidery Company, the handsome design will no doubt be much-coveted at the National Jamboree this summer.  Right now we are including a patch with DVDs that are purchased on our site or you can order a pack of five for $12.50 plus shipping and handling here.

Boston Museum of Fine Arts screening series/Boston Globe review

May 24, 2010

“a genial documentary…Boritt and Szlasa have talent”
Wesley Morris, Boston Globe

Yes, we are in the middle of our run at the fantastic theater at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston and were happy to have a review in the Boston Globe.

Sure, the reviewer mixed up some of our subject’s names and relationships and Jake never was a Scout and it was Manny combing Keith’s hair (or Ms. Ann giving KC braids) but we were happy to get some positive attention, a very nice quote and 2.5 stars out of 4 which actually is pretty good in the Boston Globe’s world. Anyway, almost all working film critics are stretched thin (and my guess is the Globe is short on fact-checkers) so we were happy Mr. Morris could knock out this review between screenings at Cannes.

From afar, it seems like Cannes is all parties and red carpets but anyone who has ever been at a festival knows that for people like Mr. Morris it is serious work.

If you are interested you can read the whole “759” review here.

Happy 100th BSA from the Village of Harlem

February 13, 2010

On February 8th, the Boy Scouts of America celebrated their 100th birthday.  With the help of Hellura Lyle of Docwatchers and the Maysles Cinema we had our own party in Harlem and free screening of “759: Boy Scouts of Harlem” in the community where it was made.

We were lucky to have Anthony Thomas, the two millionth Eagle Scout and his parents with us–all the way from their home in Minnesota.  Photographed below, from left to right, is: filmmaker Justin Szlasa, Assistant Scoutmaster Ann Dozier, Scoutmaster Okpoti Sowah, Eagle Scout Anthony Thomas, Colin Byers, Aubrey Byers and filmmaker Jake Boritt.

We were also lucky to have the Chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, Congressman Charlie Rangel, join us for the film.  He has been serving the Harlem community for about as long as Mr. Sowah and before that he served our country in Korea where he was awarded a Purple Heart.  After the screening Charlie said of Troop 759: “This is just one of the diamonds that we polish to help our kids learn discipline and how to respect each other and to get along.”  We couldn’t agree with you more Mr. Rangel!  Thank you for your support.

NY Post opinion piece for 100th Anniversary

February 8, 2010

Here is a piece I wrote for the New York Post that was published earlier today.

The full text is below:

Today is the 100th birthday of the Boy Scouts of America. But the cen tennial will likely pass with little fan fare in New York City, where of one of America’s largest youth organizations has become practically invisible — a loss, especially, to the city’s most needy youth.

You can still find some Boy Scouts in New York, but the number has dwindled; last year, Manhattan had fewer than 500 registered Boy Scouts with fewer than 4,500 citywide.

Forgotten are scouting’s deep roots in New York. In 1910, the organization set up its first national headquarters at 200 Fifth Ave., just off Madison Park in the building later known as the Toy Center. That year, Teddy Roosevelt and John D. Rockefeller lauded Sir Robert Baden-Powell, founder of the scout movement, at a dinner held in his honor at the Waldorf-Astoria.

Back then, the scouts had friends in high places here. In 1927, Franklin Roosevelt, then head of the New York City Boy Scout Foundation, arranged a deal to buy 11,000 acres of land along the Delaware that would become Ten Mile River Scout Camp — one of the largest in the world.

In 1952, Eleanor Roosevelt presented an award to the 250,000th Scout to attend Ten Mile River. In the early ’60s, more than 12,000 New York scouts camped there each summer.

Last summer, fewer than 1,400 city scouts camped at Ten Mile River. The venerable Camp Pouch on Staten Island is up for sale. And the national headquarters left Fifth Avenue long ago — the organization is now run from an office park in Texas.

A legal victory for the national group was the latest setback for New York City scouts. In spring 2000, Boy Scouts won the right to exclude gays from membership — a policy roughly equivalent to that of the US military.

New York institutions reacted by abandoning the Boys Scouts. City government barred them from meeting or recruiting in public schools. Politicians, celebrities and business leaders who had long championed scouting abandoned the program. Charitable donations — which mostly helped boys in poor neighborhoods — slowed to a trickle.

The decline doesn’t matter much to affluent kids; they have plenty of options. But for boys from lower-income families, scouting may be their only chance to camp in a tent, swim in a lake, hike up a mountain or learn to save a life.

This is certainly true for the scouts of Troop 759 in Harlem. Scoutmaster Okpoti Sowah, an immigrant from Ghana who came to New York to study at Columbia, has been a leader for more than 30 years in a neighborhood that needs male role models. His scouts have backpacked the deserts of Philmont, the wilds of Maine and the Adirondack high peaks.

Sowah pushes boys to succeed. Most of his troop members go to college; many achieve Eagle Scout.

If a boy has been in the scouts at least five years, there is a 91 percent chance he will finish high school. He is nearly twice as likely as a nonscout to earn a college degree and can expect to earn almost a third more.

Prominent ex-scouts abound in New York business and politics: Former Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson, Rep. Gary Ackerman, Wall Street great John Whitehead and entrepreneur Earl Graves are Eagle Scouts.

Mayor Bloomberg, a Distinguished Eagle Scout, writes in his biography that “Boy Scout Summer Camp was the highlight of the year . . . It was where I learned to be self sufficient, and simultaneously, to live and work with others.”

In other words, scouting produces success. It’s a tremendous shame that New York has allowed the culture wars to deny that hope to its children.

Justin Szlasa is an Eagle Scout and pro ducer of the documentary “759: Boy Scouts of Harlem.”

Camp Pouch to be sold?

December 30, 2009

The Greater New York Councils are serviced by three Scout Camps–Camp Alpine, which is right across the Hudson river in New Jersey, Ten Mile River Scout Camps–which is where our film was shot and the home of Camp Keowa–and Camp Pouch which is located on Staten Island. Staten Island has a great Scouting history and, on a per-capita basis, is probably the NYC borough with the strongest traditional Scouting program.  The TMR Museum, by the way, does an excellent job of documenting NYC Scouting history.

The New York City Boy Scouts have been hit dramatically by the economic crisis over the last few years. One option on the table to deal with the Council’s financial problems is to extract some money from Camp Pouch–by selling the camp outright our selling rights related to development of the property. I think everyone–including Staten Islanders, volunteers and the NYC Scouting professionals–would be very sorry to see Camp Pouch close. A dynamic group of community activists have rallied to save the camp and set up a website here and a Facebook page here.  As of this morning the Facebook page had 6,246 members which I find remarkable.

In my view the best long-term solution to the problems faced by the NYC Councils is to recruit more Scouts and volunteers–to fill up the camps with kids from the city who wouldn’t otherwise have a chance to experience what Scout Camp has to offer.  I also recently heard an innovative idea to boost camp attendance from a long time Staten Island Scouter.  It is possible to get from Camp Pouch to Manhattan by public transport (the trip includes the Staten Island Ferry, of course).  Why not market the camp as a destination for Troops around the country to come and camp for a few days in a beautiful spot–and visit the greatest city in the world?

759 in Johns Hopkins Magazine

December 9, 2009

Jake and I both were lucky enough to attend Johns Hopkins in Baltimore.  I studied International Relations, Jake studied in the Writing Seminars department.  Hopkins is also the alma mater of some famous Eagle Scouts–including Mike Bloomberg the Mayor of our Fair City and Dr. Peter Agre a Nobel Prize winning scientist and the father of two Eagle Scouts.  It was a special honor to screen our film at Hopkins and also get this write up in the Winter edition of Johns Hopkins magazine.

Celebration of Scouting on Capitol Hill

October 13, 2009

A letter from Senator Ben Nelson & Senator Jeff Sessions

Senate Letter

Jamesburg-Monroe, NJ Screening Sponsored by Troop 54 Oct 17th

October 5, 2009

We are very happy to announce that the good folks at Troop 54 of Jamesburg-Monroe are sponsoring a screening on Saturday, October 17th at 7PM at the Jamesburg Presbyterian Church
(Corner of Gatzmer & Church St. in Jamesburg, NJ). More information about the screening and Troop 54 is available at Thanks!