Rapper Papoose and local stakeholders pay tribute to Bed-Stuy students

It takes a village to raise a child, and the village of Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn, came out in force this May to support students at Dr. Ronald E. McNair Elementary and High School with the inaugural STEMMY Awards, which honor excellence in education.

In May, under the leadership of Principal Lena Gates, PS5 students, parents, faculty, and staff literally rolled out the red carpet for a student-led awards ceremony. The black-tie ceremony included a surprise guest appearance by rapper Papoose. The Bed-Stuy native showed his support by taking part in a student-led tour that included a visit to the Dr. Ronald E. McNair Aviation Center sponsored by American Airlines, where a group of young aviators demonstrated flight instruction using their high-tech flight simulators, and PS5 Global Urban Gardeners were on hand to demonstrate how they use artificial intelligence (AI) to grow sustainable food.

Led by Dr. Robert M. Waterman, pastor of Antioch Baptist Church, and special guest Dr. Melissa Chester, the student-led performance began with a STEMMY skit and a welcome from PS 5 teacher Brittney Barriteau and her fourth-grade class, who were the brainchild and inspiration for the STEMMY awards program.

“The STEMMY Awards are just another incentive to motivate our students,” Barriteau said. “We know they’re smart; we know what they’re capable of. We need to motivate them and continue to motivate them to be their best. Thank you for participating in the first PS5 STEMMY Awards.”

The first PS5 STEMMY for Education Award was presented to Dr. Lester Young Jr., the first African-American chancellor of the New York State Education Department Board of Regents. “This award shows all of us that not only do we know how to educate our children,” said Dr. Young Jr., “but we also love our children.”

Other honorees included District 16 Superintendent Branden T. Mims, Dr. Evelyn Castro of Medgar Evers College and educator Dr. Brenda Boyd-Bell. Students Harold Anderson, Caitlyn Smith, Gerald Smiley and Cach Grandison also received STEMMY awards for educational excellence, as did artist Asani Enriquez, who created the STEMMY logo and award.

Community stakeholders also received STEMMY awards, including Dr. Divinah “Dee” Bailey, founder/CEO of Watchful Eye, who attended the event with many family members and friends. Bailey urged the audience to continue “fighting for this community” and thanked Gates “for providing a safe place for our children to grow and learn.”

Others honored by the STEMMY community include Wayne Devonish, founder of 500 Men Who Make a Difference; the Jefferson Avenue Lions Club; Tina Watkins, local resident and loyal PS5 volunteer; and restaurateurs Sabrina Brockman of Grand Champs and Eduardo Mantelli of Saraghina.

The evening included a percussion performance by Brooklyn Arts Council resident percussion instructor Mamadou Doumbia and his student Jaymah McKoy. The all-female United Steppers of PS5 were also in attendance, performing a powerful, uplifting practice performance set to Maya Angelou’s poem “Phenomenal Woman.”