"Together Forever" - Biography
daily struggle of young working class people growing up in the
city and contesting the limited spaces American social systems have
designated for them has been the concern of a group of young men
the housing projects of Coney Island, Brooklyn. They are showing
criminal life is neither an unbeatable deed nor inherent to the
denizens of the inner city as the media portrays them.
In search of a better human predicament, in 1984, these young people, still in their teens, created "Together Forever" or ("T.F.") an organization that would protect them from the hostile environment they grew up into.
the tip of Brooklyn, Coney Island sits on the shores of the Atlantic
Ocean. Once a residential area, Coney Island attracted wealthy
Manhattanites in search of rest between the sun and the ocean
Luna Park was built there and remains reduced, in the midst
rambling decay and pervasive violence. The Coney Island of today
confronts us with the spectacle of inner city neglect.
T.F. wants for its members what society has denied them. Even though its members have been initiated into crime at a very young age, T.F. doesn't claim a felonious way of life. The group takes the offensive against stereotypical notions of inner city youth showing that its members can fight the circumstances they are plunged into by setting higher goals for themselves. They insist that they too can partake in the creative process although they have all the odds against them.
T.F. members can bear witness of a system trying to destroy them in their daily lives by giving them no other role models than the reductive ones their own parents were drummed into: gang member, criminal offender, substance abuser, prostitute... They have suffered many setbacks; they have been the constant targets of police harassment and media defamation. Many false accusations have tarnished their image
T.F. members want to fight the atavisms. They want to become role models for others to fill the void. The strategy of T.F. is to reinvent itself as a perpetual brotherhood. The members find in the group the support they can't get at home or at school, giving it the position of a surrogate family; they have been denied family structures. The group takes pride in differentiating itself from a gang. Although they bear the trappings of urban street gangs they insist they are a "Foundation". To immortalize the members' bond to one another, each of them wears a tattoo of the T.F. logo.
T.F. started as a small group of 11 people, mostly people of color, and has now grown to well over the 1000 marks. Its members are of diverse ethnic origins, sexual orientations, class origins, religious beliefs and age. T.F. has also extended its geographic boundaries to many cities of the U.S. and overseas.
T.F. members are calling their organization a foundation, building its infrastructure starting from scratch. Their on-going projects reveal the initial steps taken towards it:
T.F. has an independent record label (T.F. Records) that has launched 2 singles and 2 videos by Brooklyn Zoo distributed by Cold Chillin', and more recently has released 2 new albums by Brooklyn Zoo's artists, Basha, Elite, Meknuckles A.K.A. Debiase, Rog-A-Rab, Paulee Zance, Phytrunka & Spitfire.
In January 2001, T.F. opened a store in New York City (TF BODY ART - 75 East 4th Street - East Village) hosted by Steven Zor, a longtime resident DJ in NYC's elite clubs, who masters the art of Progressive, Hard, Trance, Tribal, and Vocal House music in large scale clubs. The store claims the representation of hip-hop culture in all its various creative aspects. It consists of a tattoo parlor & body piercing with artist Paulee Zance and an art gallery (T.F. Art Gallery) showing graffiti, pop, and contemporary art. It also features live DJs and carries CDs and records from many upcoming and or already known artists.
In addition, one can find a good selection of urban gear like T.F. worldwide by Steven Zor, Ferrerforeal's leatherwear, SSUR, Jackie 60, young club gear, etc., and the creative works of some local artists. The most prominent one is Steel Neal whose metal artwork line has already gained a solid local & national recognition.
TF BODY ART has moved to Brownsville since early 2005, back into the core of which it originated, the inner city like its birthplace, Coney Island. It is a reminder of the edge that we live on, the pitfalls of life, the reality of the adversities we are up against. Here Paulee Zance still uses his artistry (Tattooing, Drawing, Recording, and Producing Apparel to further promote TF) as a vehicle to reach his ultimate goal as a philanthropist.
In collaboration with Equity Fight AIDS, T.F. members help distribute gift baskets to hospitals for people with A.I.D.S. and children with cancer by means of transportation and manpower.
T.F. initiates inspirational public murals as a creative outlet for the idle youth to focus on.
Yet, this is a foundation without trustees or philanthropic support. It represents a combination of hard work and perseverance.
T.F. founder, Paul Rivera aka Paulee Zance, wants for his organization to become a movement of universal impact. Its philosophy upholds equality between all races and genders. It revendicates a life of dignity for the present and all the future generations with a proper educational system giving all inner city's children a chance to rise above the odds and fight the pervasive and systematized ignorance. It wants to stop wars between gangs and return to gangs' true definition, i.e. the formation of a brotherhood as a response to a disorganized community. Ultimately it wants justice for all people of color.
The building of T.F. is a vital moment in the history
of underserved youth in the U.S.