Meet the Kids of Class Divide

HBO was present at the New York Urbanworld Film Festival screening for director Marc Levin’s latest documentary, Class Divide. The Q&A panel that followed was comprised of Levin, as well as some of the kids featured in the film. Here are a few of their thoughts.

Graduate student Hyisheem, who was 22 years old when the film was made, said, “Let’s do it” when asked to be a part of the documentary: “I was able to go to college; not too many people from my neighborhood are. I was able to work since I was 14, I was able to save money; I was able to do so many things … It’s a story that needs to be told. Coming from neighborhoods like mine, the thing we don’t hear is the narrative of the person who worked their tail off to be successful.”

A strong voice in the film despite being only 8, Rosa, talked about the future she sees for herself: “I can tell you for a fact my family is not going to be living in the projects for 10 more years. They think they’re comfortable living where they are -- my mom’s been living there for 25 years already -- they think it’s fine, but honestly if we face reality, it’s not. New York, for me, is one of the places your dreams come true. Don’t get me wrong, when I leave the projects I’m not going to forget where I come from, but I want to succeed in life.”

Now a student at Vassar College, Yasemin was a 15 year-old private school student when Levin approached her to participate: “When you become so aware of the things you’ve been given in life, it becomes hard to justify living a certain way; going to certain schools … When I look ahead, I think how am I going to use this to break the machine that brought me here? A big belief of mine is using what I’ve been given to make sure other people have access to the opportunities that I’ve had.”

The film highlights the struggles this younger generation may face in the future, but Juwan, age 21 when he appeared in Class Divide, remains optimistic. “This film is just the beginning,” he says. “I’m still in the community, so just bridging the gap is a start for the area. If we’re working on both sides of the pole, together we can fix whatever’s going to happen in the future.”

Class Divide is available to watch on HBO GO and HBO NOW.