CNN Heroes: From the streets of Afghanistan to the streets of Paris

These are the 10 CNN Heroes of 2019:

Name: Perrine Brokaw

Number of years doing the work: Year 13 (2013-2018)

Reason: Family and Race

Brokaw, a French New Wave filmmaker/dancer/photographer, arrived in France at the age of three with her parents, although both were in search of the American dream, she said, thanks to a little American fairy tale called “Raiders of the Lost Ark.”

As a child, Brokaw has been passionate about giving back to her country. Over the years, she has been based at the Institut d’Communaut d’Arts, a French nonprofit arts school in Paris founded by her mother, Barbara Brokaw, and Grandparents Unlimited, a global advocacy network for grandparents raising grandchildren.

Brokaw has created a moving “mosaic” that exhibits the faces of the children she has met.

Education: Brokaw always wants to give back to the French kids who schooled her. It costs an average $6,800 per year to attend the Institut d’Communaut d’Arts, she said. That’s money she believes should be spent on modern learning aids, such as access to internet and smart technology.

Brokaw admits that she makes a lot of sacrifices, especially when her career requires a lot of traveling, especially since she can’t communicate with young students in the schools in France because English is not their first language.

Charity work: Inspired by the controversy surrounding a French minister for children’s affairs who said she saw a “tiny Noah’s Ark” of homeless children with no parents on a similar journey, Brokaw created “Noah’s Ark” and took children with emotional issues, some with behavioral issues, to France and asked them the same question she herself was asked when they arrived: Where were you brought up?

The result was a series of artistic artwork inspired by the boy soldiers from Afghanistan who had wandered from their home country. “Noah’s Ark” started out as a three-part short film but later evolved into a series of paintings.

Bakari Kitwana, founding director of Rap Sessions, which advocates and promotes dialogue between black and hip-hop communities in America, says Brokaw’s artwork uses color as a powerful lens that can spark the ideas needed to foster social change.

“Yes, the art may be broader but in the specific imagery and because of the way it takes great color that touches a variety of individuals, I really think that’s what we need now.”

According to DJ Rahzel, CEO of Rhymesayers Entertainment, the rock group Rage Against the Machine, “Would not be who they are today without people like Perrine Brokaw.”

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