On-screen Jamie Hector is known for playing heartless bad guys—most notably the role of Marlo Stanfield on HBO’s The Wire—but in real-life, the Brooklyn-born actor is actually a good guy with a heart of gold. For the past two years Hector has been making a difference in his community through his nonprofit, Moving Mountains, Inc., which gives youngsters between the ages of 12-21 the opportunity to develop their talents in performing arts. Providing an alternative to the streets, the organization is Hector’s way of giving kids the same chance he had to achieve his dreams.
“I grew up in Brooklyn and there were a lot of obstacles and distractions in my way, the difference was I had a place to go in order to get over these obstacles, which was the theater,” explains Hector, who has roughly 85 to 150 rotating students enrolled in his program. “[That experience] inspired me and made me the man that I am right now. So Moving Mountains is basically focused on putting talented youth from our area into the entertainment industry.”
Hector, along with other established actors, performers and directors who donate their time, works hands-on with the students throughout the week to hone their skills in dance, vocals, instrumentation and theater. Then, once a month they hit the Brooklyn Museum to perform “A New Day,” a stage production that tackles weighty issues like cyber-bullying, peer-pressure, teen violence and abusive relationships. Through their performances the kids not only build confidence in their talents, but also learn how to apply what they experience on stage to their everyday lives.
“The vision was to prepare the young folks to come in and be successful in whatever they’re going to do in the future—acting, editing, writing, whatever task that they want to tackle, they know they can come here and have a professional work with them,” says Hector, who plans to address more youth-specific issues in future productions. “We just basically try to put them in positions and let them go [into the world] but they know that they have to come back and serve [Moving Mountains] because they have to keep this going.”
While the performance element is a big part of the program, Hector and his team stress the importance of education, providing tutors for the SATs through a partnership with Brooklyn College and helping failing students reapply themselves to their studies. “We don’t just immediately judge them on the fact that they’re horrible in school and the consequences of their failure is going to mean that you can’t be involved in this organization,” says Hector. “The criteria that we have for this organization is if you have talent, come, if you don’t have talent, come, and we’ll help you develop what your talent really is. Hopefully they grow in that area, where they realize that when you go home and practice and come back, you can be a better person at what you do.”
For a monthly schedule of “A New Day” performances and ticket information go to MovingMountainsNYC.org