Bushwick's best-kept secret: Between Narcan trainings and online workshops, how POWRPLNT continues to serve community through the pandemic

POWRPLNT, an organization committed to bridging the digital divide, sits at the corner of Putnam and Evergreen in Bushwick. It’s unmissable, wrapped in a tropical mural featuring the bouncing card decks from the Microsoft Solitaire win screen animation. I spent a year wondering what was inside during my nightly walks with my dog around the neighborhood. “It’s Bushwick’s best-kept secret,” jokes Mad Pinney, the organization’s Marketing and Programs Manager.

At its heart, POWRPLNT is an open space for the neighborhood, providing a computer lab, WiFi, and skillshare workshops taught by local artists, free for children and with a suggested donation for adults. It’s a place for kids to get homework help, teens to learn essential Adobe programs, adults to print their résumés, and seniors to learn the basics of digital literacy. Founded by artist Angelina Dreem and Bushwick nightlife’s resident lawyer Anibal Luque as a digital art space to foster a new generation of talent, POWRPLNT began as a pop-up, opening its brick and mortar location four years ago.

“We want to be the first place that someone has their art exhibited or has their first performance or learns how to use Photoshop for the first time,” Luque comments. DJs like Pauli Cakes—who runs the nightlife and mutual aid collective DisCakes, which recently had its first Boiler Room showcase, with Marley Marl—got their start playing sets at POWRPLNT. “We kind of consider [Pauli Cakes] one of our alumni because they really did start at POWRPLNT, and we were able to see them grow as an artist and as an activist,” Luque explains. “To [see them] go from DJing for the first few times to being on the global stage, and also being so vocal in the activist space and a voice for their generation, is really inspiring to us and to me personally.”

When the pandemic hit New York City, POWRPLNT was forced to close its Bushwick location, challenging Pinney, Dreem, and Luque to continue with their mission online. “This space is so connected to its physicality. You know, we offer computers and materials,” Pinney explains. But Pinney soon saw new opportunities to build community through the internet, connecting artists and teachers with kids outside of the New York City area. POWRPLNT also began to host hour-long, donation-based Narcan training sessions, where attendees can learn how to properly administer the nasal spray form of Naloxone, a life-saving medication that can instantly halt an opioid overdose. Following the training, Sela Grabiner of Educational Alliance sends attendees a Narcan kit complete with two doses.

POWRPLNT switched gears again as the Black Lives Matter protests began. During New York City’s week-long curfew, Taehee Whang of Hyperlink Press asked Pinney why artist spaces, many with mission statements declaring support for their neighborhoods and for Black Lives Matter, were failing to provide to their communities during this time. The next day POWRPLNT reopened as a sanctuary space for protesters and locals. It is currently open most days of the week for limited hours, complete with a stand outside offering personal protective gear, water, snacks, and absentee voting applications.

Both the protests and the pandemic have expanded POWRPLNT’s role in Bushwick and beyond. Keeping an eye to its original purpose of providing the immediate neighborhood with the tools and skills necessary to be digitally autonomous, the organization is becoming a mutual aid space and a resource for students of any age across the country.

Click here to sign up for POWRPLNT’s latest Narcan training, September 4th at 5pm est.