Pratt is located in the middle of what has historically been a primarily Black neighborhood and it’s relationship with its surrounding has ebbed and flowed throughout the years. On the one hand, real estate decisions by the administration, such as the purchase of the Willoughby dorms, have prompted protests and other forms of activism. On the other hand, Pratt students, staff and faculty have developed many initiatives dedicated to leveraging resources to the surrounding community through educational programs and civic engagement. For example, the Pratt Center for Community Development, founded in 1964, is a non-profit organization affiliated with Pratt and dedicated to creating a more equitable and sustainable New York City in partnership with community-based groups, small businesses, and the public sector. More examples of community outreach, including grass-roots initiatives, are documented below.
For student activists, community issues and Pratt issues are intrinsically linked. This flyer from March 1969 shows engagement with community activist groups like the Black Panthers and the local PTA.
In 1970, Pratt students urged administration to bail out three members of the Black Panther Party as a form of reparations for its mistreatment of students and the surrounding neighborhood.
In 1972, BSU organized a workshop for local high school students in collaboration with other area colleges. The goal of the workshop was to introduce the students to the college admissions process.
Since Pratt’s inception, there has been some kind of a summer program catered to local youth. On its August 18th, 1968 issues, the New York Times that year’s summer program as “a different kind of student rebellion”. The summer program was part of the Bedford-Stuyvesant Campaign Culture proyect and was the result of the combined efforts of Pratt and community organizations such as the Bedford-Stuyvesant Youth in Action and the Neighborhood Youth Corps. It had the aim of assisting and encouraging high school students and those who had dropped out to continue their education and guided students through a curriculum on architecture, art, African American history and traditions, music, dance, theater, and physical education.
The next year’s program reached over 375 students, increasing its impact. In 1972, one of the demands put forth by BSU was to formalize and expand the program even further.
The next year, in 1973, the program was renamed the Youth Skills Discovery and Development Summer Program.
Here is an example of student work that came out of the program, a booklet of poetry. Students also had the opportunity to have their art exhibited in Pratt’s Main Gallery.
In 1982, the Youth Skills Discovery and Development Summer Program celebrated its official 10-year anniversary.