Good films are meant to be evocative. The better the film the more pronounced the evocation. Mad, glad, or sad you should be able to feel something when you’re talking about a compelling story. So it is for the Members Project. If you watch television at all then you’ve undoubtedly seen these American Express Members Project advertisements. The American Express Members Project ads talk about ordinary people doing yeoman’s work to create some kind of lasting change. Geoffrey Canada is one of those people and his work with the Harlem Children’s Zone has helped to create the New York City you see today. Yes Disney came into Times Square and big money has always been in the more cachet areas but Geoffrey Canada has been instrumental in helping to turn around the image and the neighborhood of Harlem. The Members Project ad talking about the Harlem Children’s Zone with Geoffrey Canada is one of the more touching and compelling commercials I’ve ever seen.
Who is Geoffrey Canada: Growing up poor and without often leads to a negative end. However for Geoffrey Canada, his upbringing in the impoverished and violent South Bronx helped shape who he is and his life’s work. Geoffrey Canada is obviously a very naturally gifted individual; his hard working ethos and desire to succeed only spurned him on to greater ends. Canada is an undergraduate of Bowdoin College and received his master’s degree from Harvard. Since joining with the Harlem Children’s Zone in 1983, Geoffrey Canada has gone on to become its president and chief executive.
What is Harlem Children’s Zone: The Harlem Children’s Zone has been described by The New York Times Magazine as a combination of “educational, social and medical services. It starts at birth and follows children to college. It meshes those services into an interlocking web, and then it drops that web over an entire neighborhood….The objective is to create a safety net woven so tightly that children in the neighborhood just can’t slip through.” From the hcz.org website “the Harlem Children’s Zone Project…targets a specific geographic area in Central Harlem with a comprehensive range of services. The Zone Project today covers 100 blocks and aims to serve over 10,000 children by 2011.” Helping kids not fall through the cracks is supposed to be what goes on in schools. The overworked, underpaid, overly-taxed public school teachers in big metropolitan areas like New York City have a hard time just keeping up with their workload and putting classes together. The Harlem Children’s Zone is a great resource for teachers, students, and parents which help shoulder the burden.
Harlem Children’s Zone American Express Members Project: The fact that American Express helps to fund groups like the Harlem Children’s Zone queerly makes me feel really good about the work that a credit provider does. Credit providers and banks have sort of been demonized in recent years; American Express has always been the sort of the aloof rich-person’s credit provider. But the fact that Harlem Children’s Zone has a partner like American Express shows me that this important work will continue to be done.