First of all, if you’ve never heard of Brandon Stanton or his project Humans of New York, do yourself a favour and take a look. After Stanton lost his job as a bonds trader in 2010, he decided to pursue photography full time. In Brandon’s words, “I thought it would be really cool to create an exhaustive catalogue of New York City’s inhabitants, so I set out to photograph 10,000 New Yorkers and plot their photos on a map. I worked for several months with this goal in mind, but somewhere along the way, HONY began to take on a much different character. I started collecting quotes and short stories from the people I met, and began including these snippets alongside the photographs.”
On January 19, Stanton posted a photo of a boy named Vidal with a caption.
“Who’s influenced you the most in your life?” “My principal, Ms. Lopez.” “How has she influenced you?” “When we get in trouble, she doesn’t suspend us. She calls us to her office and explains to us how society was built down around us. And she tells us that each time somebody fails out of school, a new jail cell gets built. And one time she made every student stand up, one at a time, and she told each one of us that we matter.”
A few days later, Brandon went to go find Ms. Lopez.
A couple days back, I posted the portrait of a young man who described an influential principal in his life by the name of Ms. Lopez. Yesterday I was fortunate to meet Ms. Lopez at her school, Mott Hall Bridges Academy.“This is a neighborhood that doesn’t necessarily expect much from our children, so at Mott Hall Bridges Academy we set our expectations very high. We don’t call the children ‘students,’ we call them ‘scholars.’ Our color is purple. Our scholars wear purple and so do our staff. Because purple is the color of royalty. I want my scholars to know that even if they live in a housing project, they are part of a royal lineage going back to great African kings and queens. They belong to a group of individuals who invented astronomy and math. And they belong to a group of individuals who have endured so much history and still overcome. When you tell people you’re from Brownsville, their face cringes up. But there are children here that need to know that they are expected to succeed.”
Brandon spent the afternoon with Ms. Lopez and her Assistant Principal Ms. Achu brainstorming ideas about how Humans of New York could help Mott Hall Bridges Academy. They decided to create a fund that will provide every incoming 6th grade class a chance to visit Harvard University.
I want every child who enters my school to know that they can go anywhere, and that they will belong
– Ms. Lopez
Within the first 24 hours, they had raised enough money to make the Harvard trip a permanent part of the MHBA curriculum. When the funds reached $700,00, Stanton announced that all further funds would be used to start a scholarship called The Vidal Scholarship Fund, and the first recipient will be Vidal.
The fund has reached over $1.1M just 9 days after it began, with another 9 days to go. Visit the Indiegogo page to donate.
All photos © Brandon Stanton