Brookdale Community College’s Angela Kariotis, director of Diversity and Inclusion and the Community College Opportunity Grant (CCOG), knows some conversations are really tough. However, that does not mean these difficult conversations shouldn’t happen. One of the founding members of Walking the Beat, a community engagement program that re-imagines police and policing, Kariotis is excited to bring that creativity and positive energy to Brookdale’s campus.

Walking the Beat evolved from Kariotis’ work as a teaching artist with the Elizabeth Youth Theater Ensemble, an arts education non-profit organization started by Theo Perkins. During her years with the Elizabeth Youth Theater Ensemble, Kariotis has worked with high school and college students on many difficult themes, such as cyberbullying, identity and place, intergenerational work, and more. The current theme they are exploring is police and policing which is where Walking the Beat was born. “We created Walking the Beat as a way to talk about what is happening in the world,” Kariotis explained.

“We created art that responded to and reflected on the moment. We have always been artists that are also activists; artists whose work aims to inform public policy,” Kariotis said about Walking the Beat. “We believe in story to ignite and to activate but also to explain the unexplainable. Story can put into words and feeling, as well as create containers for, experiences,” she said. Walking the Beat brings together students and police officers as they create art and engage in difficult conversations.

While Walking the Beat started in Elizabeth, it has expanded to Los Angeles, California. “Our goal is to become a national arts education program,” Kariotis said. The culmination of the project in California was held in August. Click here to watch a short video about the LA premier.  The free screening of Walking the Beat Elizabeth will be held on September 12 at 7 pm outside of the Elizabeth City Hall.

Poster for Walking the Beat: NJ

Kariotis wants to bring the same passion and activism found in Walking the Beat to Brookdale. “I want to invite people to think creatively about some of the problems that we face,” she said. “Problems are a beautiful thing because when you see a problem that means there is a solution,” said Kariotis.

“Everybody has a role to play in making the community the kind of space that they want to be in and making the community into a space where their fellow members are welcome and invited into,” Kariotis explained. To create that community at Brookdale, she plans on using creativity, encouraging difficult conversations, collaboration, and programs as well as initiatives.

As director of the CCOG program at Brookdale, Kariotis has invited all Brookdale faculty, staff, and students to submit requests for programming efforts that create a culture of care, creativity, and collaboration for student success. A video describing the request can be found here and the link to apply for funding and scholarship opportunities can be viewed here.