Michael Lettman couldn’t let an opportunity to question the MTA president go by. With an MTA press conference highlighting accessibility initiatives coming up, Michael approached Edwardo Grispo, Community Support Professional and founder of AHRC NYC TV News, about taking their budding news crew to the press conference. Andy Byford, then-President of MTA New York City Transit, respectfully answered several questions from the crew, and his responses were included in a video centered on MTA accessible transportation that marked the official debut of AHRC NYC TV News on YouTube.
“I felt it was important to ask [Byford] questions about accessibility. I liked his answers,” Michael said. “I’m happy to be a part of this crew. We are trying to share our voices and our perspective related to being people with autism and other disabilities.”
AHRC NYC TV news was founded by Edwardo, who initially began his AHRC NYC journey at the Melissa Riggio Program for Higher Education at Kingsborough Community College.
Finding a Passion for Teaching Journalism
Edwardo studied journalism in his home country, Peru, and said he worked in radio and TV media before moving to the United States several years ago. He continued his studies in film and TV production in the US and began working for a Spanish-language TV show that now airs online.
“Since I was working for this TV show, my day started in the afternoon,” Edwardo said. “I realized I had my mornings open. A friend of mine had worked at the Riggio program and left, but she said I should go there and help. I had no experience working with people with disabilities before.”
Edwardo found he has a passion for teaching young students with disabilities the skills he has learned throughout his career. “I was afraid at first because my friend told me ‘you know, you’re going to have a lot of patience,’ but I found that the people I work with are really open, welcoming, and easy to work with. I didn’t find it hard to teach them.” He began by teaching the basics of broadcast journalism and camerawork, including video framing techniques, how to approach people on the street for an interview, focusing, and how to put the cameras and lighting equipment together.
With journalism as his base, Edwardo saw an opportunity to create videos that serve the public interest and advocate for the rights of people with different abilities. “First off we wanted to cover any kind of news, but we decided to focus more on disability issues and advocate for anything related to that field. We are committed to ensuring social justice because we have a powerful voice by being a part of the media. It is a responsibility.”
Bringing “Unheard Voices” to the Forefront
On Friday, February 14, the news crew worked at their regular spot at Church Avenue Day Services to interview Mary Donahue, Senior Administrator for QI and Behavior Services, as part of their next video examining how people with disabilities can be better understood in schools and daily living situations. The crew consisted of Michael Lettman; camera operators Alyssa Canty and Karaibe Hebbert; and production assistants Killian McMahon and Darren Smith. Fernando Cruz and Vincenzo Romano have worked on other videos in the past. Crew members alternate roles to ensure equal airtime and the best possible development of skills.
“I want to be a director and a person who makes their own movies one day,” Karaibe said. “I want to learn how to work the cameras more.”
“At first, this was a challenge. I challenged myself because this gives me the experience of how to work a camera, interview strangers, and show them the ability of unheard voices,” Alyssa said. “Just because we have disabilities doesn’t mean our voices shouldn’t be heard.”
Edwardo also works with Steven Morales, an Art Consultant, and a longtime Videographer, to shoot and edit the films.
“We’ve been training together for nearly a year,” Steven said. “They’ve started to understand the concepts of the framework and how the director is the keeper of the story. We are working together telling different stories and introducing people with different abilities to new experiences.”
Edwardo said his goals include continuing to grow the crew’s independence. “The big idea for me is that they can do everything without me. If I am sick on a day like today, they could still do the interview,” he said. “I also have the idea to look for grants and hopefully to one day make it a true job for them.”
Visit AHRC NYC on YouTube to watch the existing short films from AHRC NYC TV News.