BenMatters

Markeshia Ricks PhotoBenjamin Brown is the newest face of the IMatter multimedia youth empowerment project and the first face to grace a structure outside of downtown.

The 16-year-old New Haven native’s picture graces the Goffe Street Armory as part of photographer Rob Goldman’s ongoing photo series focusing on the youth of the city. On Thursday a crowd gathered on Goffe Street in front of the armory to watch a crew from the New Haven Sign Co. unfurl the sign featuring his picture.

Neither Ben nor his mother, Newhallville/Prospect Alder Kim Edwards, could be at the unveiling Thursday because Ben was recovering from surgery. His grandmother, former Alder Alfreda Edwards, and his uncle, Arthur Edwards, were there in his stead along with a host of other family, friends and high-ranking city officials including Mayor Toni Harp and schools Superintendent Carol Birks.

The elder Edwards described the teen as a bit of a “homebody” who kept close to home, and like most teens, occasionally had to be prodded to stay on top of his school work. He’d also served as a “youth ambassador” for Newhallville. Ben was first diagnosed with cancer in 2017.

Edwards said Ben chose the photo that ultimately became part of the IMatter project. Seeing it go up was a bittersweet moment for her and the rest of the family. (Read more about the IMatter project here.)

“Kim’s been a trouper,” she said of her daughter.

Ben is battling an aggressive form of brain cancer. Arthur Edwards said at this stage of the fight the teen is receiving palliative care to keep him comfortable. He said seeing all of those who turned out in the cold Thursday to witness the unveiling of Ben’s photo was touching.

“Having the community come out—this is what it’s all about,” he said.

Mayor Harp asked those gathered for a moment of silence for people to focus on Ben and send positive energy for him and his family. She said the IMatter project has given the city a unique and artistic way to give voice to the city’s young people. And in Ben’s case, it’s an opportunity to inspire the city through his life.

IMatter project manager Bo Sandine, who grew up near the armory, said the installation of the banner at the Goffe Street location is significant because it is the first outside of downtown.

Rob Goldman has entered into partnership with the city to put 100 such banners featuring young people from New Haven all over the city. The first banners were installed Downtown on the buildings that house the Dollar Tree Store (Chapel Street), MBA High School (Water Street) and LoRicco Towers (Crown Street).

Click the video below to watch remarks from the unveiling event.

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posted by: THREEFIFTHS on January 10, 2019  6:08pm

God Speed.

posted by: ItsGettingBetter on January 11, 2019  10:19am

Thoughts are with Ben and his family as he braves this fight.

Hopefully this is some constructive artistic criticism and not taken to personally by those involved:

Something about this photo project feels as if there is a missed opportunity.  The current aesthetic and installation method feels corporate and hyper polished.  Its clear to anyone in the city that this is through the eyes of an outsider looking in. 

What if the next version empowered the kids themselves to take the photos?  Photos from the kids of their friends in the context of their environment would add a level of sincerity that the quotes and the outsider photos fail to achieve.  Also, commit with paint or wheatpaste.  Vinyl banners show lack of real commitment from the property owners to art and New Haven’s children.

posted by: Nadine H on January 11, 2019  12:47pm

What a perfect sentiment to have grace the front of the Armory; wishing Ben and his family all the very best!