What to do tonight: Discussion panel to focus on struggling schools, preview Reenah Golden's play

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What are you doing tonight? What will Pittsburgh's young people be doing tomorrow?

Perhaps the two questions are linked.

Tonight in the Homewood branch of the Carnegie Library on Hamilton Avenue, a local group called Bigger Tree Enterprises presents an open conversation about the education and achievement -- or lack thereof -- in Pittsburgh's inner-city schools.

The panel discussion will target the national No Child Left Behind Act and its impact here. What has it accomplished in terms of social inequalities and the achievement gap?

But this will be more than grumbling about school closings, segregation and budget cuts. It also will set the stage -- so to speak -- for Reenah Golden's performance of the one-woman play "No Child" at the Kelly Strayhorn Theater in East Liberty on Friday and Saturday.

According to its press clippings, the nationally acclaimed "No Child" is set in a tough Bronx high school, where a young teacher is trying to engage a class of underachieving 10th-graders by challenging them to put on a play.

"No Child" is "funny and buoyant, yet never shying away from the sobering truths of the urban lives and neighborhoods it depicts. [It] celebrates the positive difference one passionate person and a class of inspired kids can make in a troubled place."

Ms. Golden, who lives in New York, is the perfect person to take on the 17 parts that the play calls for. She already embodies a performance poet, a spoken-word artist, an actress, a social activist and an educator.

Showtimes are 11 a.m. and 7 p.m. Friday and 11 a.m. Saturday, and donations are requested in lieu of an admission charge.

Ms. Golden will be on hand for tonight's discussion. Her brother, Adam Golden, a graduate of Allderdice High School, started Bigger Tree Enterprises -- which is known as BTP --a couple years ago for just this kind of community activism.

Much of what BTP does involves sending interns out with video cameras to record urban art and culture.

"BTP is geared toward young people who are community-minded, who have a passion and determination to be better and to better their communities by giving back," said member Latrice Rose, a senior at Edinboro University where she is majoring in communication studies. "And not leaving. Staying in the community, supporting it and making it better.

"This is the first event we've actually put together," she said of the panel discussion. "It's easy to reach the community when you have a camera and you focus on arts and culture, but we wanted to do something on education and the closing of schools."

Ms. Rose said the panelists will include local activists Benjamin Walker, founder of ExperiLearn; the Rev. Cornell Jones, son of Urban Youth Action founder Bernard Jones; and teachers from Wilkinsburg High School. They will offer their views, but they also want to hear from people in the community -- the parents, young people, educators, and those who work with at-risk youth.

"In a lot of organizations, people don't want to say anything," Ms. Rose said. "They say things behind closed doors."

Tonight's session is intended to bring those things out into the open.

"There's a lot of differing emotions," Ms. Rose said. "There's a little frustration, there's eagerness to know what's going on, there's hope. We can speak up about the education that urban students are getting.

"We will see what people take from it, whether they engage in a discussion. But whatever is said, it won't be the last word. We don't want to leave it at that. We want this to be the foundation and grow from this. What else can we do, who else is having an event about education? Let's film it, let's talk about it.

"We can talk about this, we can do something about this if we care about the education of young people."

The discussion is from 6 to 8:30.

Check it out!

Get a preview of tonight's event!

Pittsburgh Left Behind: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9bM_98ls8iw&feature

=em-share_video_user

BTP Life: http://btplife.com/

If you have a suggestion for something to do some evening, let us know about it and we'll see if we can get some of our friends to join you. Contact Dan Majors at

dmajors@post-gazette.com or

412-263-1456.

theater - neigh_city

This story originally appeared in The Pittsburgh Press. To log in or subscribe, go to: http://press.post-gazette.com/


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