Saturday, August 10, 2019

ESWA Fights For Change

TRENTON- Over the years I've come across a number of local organizations that are doing some very positive things. Men of HOPE, Father's and Men United for a Better Trenton, TSPAG (Trenton Special Parents Advocacy Group), and Catholic Charities are just a few that I have encountered and have helped a lot of people including my family. But just recently, I have connected with a volunteer organization of a different type and that organization's name is Eastern Service Workers Association or ESWA for short.

This all-volunteer run organization that takes no government funding and is working diligently to change economic conditions for the lowest paid workers (i.e. individuals that do domestic, temporary, seasonal or warehouse work that often times can't afford health care and other basic needs due to poverty).

One way that ESWA addresses it's members poverty conditions is by offering an 11 point benefit plan
that is run and managed by volunteer members of the organization. The benefit plan is free of charge and provides members with access to food, clothing, advocacy to prevent electricity shutoffs, medical and legal informational sessions, etc. The benefit plan however is not a long term solution to the poverty conditions that members face but it is a method that helps members get the basic things that they need that can enable them to come together and organize to fundamentally change their economic conditions.

Currently, the organization is working on it's Back to School Drive as many of it's members struggle with covering the cost for school supplies.

The organization is always looking for more part time and full time volunteers. There are a variety of ways you can help. Every Saturday the organization does it's door to door canvass in Trenton to get an idea of what issues workers are facing and how ESWA can help. On Wednesdays, the organization does it's advocacy sessions for members to help them with electricity shutoffs. On other days, the organization does mail outs, poster design, newspaper design and phoning sessions. In other words, there are multiple ways to help. Even if you have little to no experience volunteering, it is okay, ESWA has both part time and full time organizers that will be there with you to provide you with on the job training.

For more information on how you can get involved, feel free to call the office at 609-695-9562. Or you can stop by the office located at 6 W End Avenue, Trenton, New Jersey seven days a week.

Sunday, October 7, 2018

Art & Violence in the Capital City

TRENTON- Even as the city of Trenton is not solely a community riddled with violence and destruction, that violence must be talked about at some point or another or else we may risk ignoring the pink elephant in the room.  
Indeed, given the amount of senseless violence here in the city, I thought it would be fitting to discuss, in my humble opinion, one of the most powerful creative forces or outlets known to mankind. Drum roll please, what I'm referring to ladies and gentlemen is ART.

Art is defined by Oxford Dictionaries as "the expression or application of human creative skill and imagination, typically in a visual form such as painting or sculpture,  producing works to be appreciated primarily for their beauty or emotional power".

Given the definition above, one can sense that art can take on both transformative and cathartic dimensions. Even though my educational background and specialization is in industrial and organizational psychology, I undoubtedly recognize the positive psychological effects that art can have on a community beleaguered by senseless violence and other societal ills (poverty, failing school systems, and high unemployment).

Indeed, evidence shows that artistic engagement can lead to improved moods, emotions, and psychological states (see Stuckey and Nobel, 2010 for more info). Moreover, it has been said that art can possibly curb stress levels and depression.

Even as there are many passionate supporters of the arts, there are still those that view it as vandalism when it is used in public spaces for murals and graffiti art. 

Despite what the critics have to say, I am grateful that there is rich art right here within the city. Every year Trenton holds its well-known outdoor art gallery event,  Art All Night. The city also holds various workshops and classes on art at the Art Works building located downtown. We also have the Trenton museum, Mill Hill Playhouse Theater, and numerous murals throughout the city. Even recently, a new art exhibit entitled Trenton Art Puzzle, emerged that showcased artwork from over 200 individuals at the city's BSB Gallery. 

It is art that acts as a form of inspiration and ultimately a constructive way to communicate about life around us. Lauren Della Monica echoed this point when she said that artists have traditionally used their work " tools for documenting social, political, and economic conditions". 

All one needs to do is take a stroll through the city and one can see all the beauty, creativity and imagination that exists here. For without art, there is no way to imagine an alternative universe or way of being. Art does not accept the status quo. Oh to the contrary, it resists or challenges it. Where others only see problems, artists or creative types see opportunities. Opportunities to improve and enhance the community. Artists or creative types see the opportunity to rise to the occasion, shake things up, and ultimately make a difference when everything else around them appears to be coming apart at the seams. In sum, artists do not curse the darkness. Rather, these individuals have the courage to light a candle, no matter how dark things get. 

So, I encourage you, dear reader to flex your artistic or creative muscles, think outside the box, and be a part of the solution. Don't accept the status quo. Let us use our creative powers to leave the world a little better than we left it. Whether its volunteering at your local community center, giving art lessons, or creating a space where people can come to enrich or enhance their lives, all of these things can make a difference. 

For more on the artistic resources that the city has to offer, click here.

Friday, September 21, 2018

Trenton: What's Going On???

TRENTON- Its been a while since my last post,  but boy oh boy have there have been some things going on in the Garden State's capital city lately. As the old saying goes, some things change, but at the same time, some things stay the same. 

For starters, just this summer, Art All Night 2018, a well-known arts and music festival, was abruptly put to an end one evening when suddenly a mass shootout broke out leaving one dead and many wounded. In the midst of this, a new mayor has also emerged coupled with a few new council members. Even in the middle of all this political change, we still see senseless violence in the city. 

Just a few Saturday's ago, Trentonian correspondent, Sulaiman Abdur-Rahman, reported that Eric Rue, 34, was shot and killed at Championship Bar in the city. This young man was less than a year younger than myself. Others were hurt and wounded while the city was celebrating its community back to school events

This state of affairs leaves many wondering "what's next?" or "why stay here?" or perhaps even the proverbial "Trenton can't have nothing!" declaration. In any event, something is amiss within the city and a change definitely needs to come as Sam Cooke famously sung. 

The new mayor, Reed Gusciora, has suggested that we need to increase the size of the police force, others have stated that we need better parenting, while others are saying we need more after-school activities or nonviolence education programs. Despite the merit of these ideas, I think a multi-pronged approach is needed. 

In my estimation, the way forward will consist of all the above mentioned ideas, plus more.

In order to adequately address the violence in our midsts, I think we will also need to protest and petition our local leaders and/or work with community activists on creative ways forward. Civic and community engagement is critically important. Moreover, I believe we will also need to establish more partnerships among civic and political groups as this can foster more ideas and creative thinking. Additionally, I am all for encouraging more volunteering with at-risk youth as the youth sometimes need someone to show them that someone really cares and is committed to helping them stay on the right path.

I think another area to focus on is ensuring that illegal weapons do not end up in the hands of the wrong people. One way of doing this is through a gun buyback program. For more information on gun buyback programs, click here.

I also think we need to somehow address barriers to jobs and education as idle hands are a devil's workshop. Lastly, I think its going to be imperative that we provide more educational opportunities for parents.

The main reason that I am highlighting the importance of a more collaborative rather than individual effort to curb the violence in our community is to underscore how critical teamwork is when working on any meaningful endeavor. Indeed, there is wisdom and truth in the saying that, "teamwork makes the dream work". In order to move the needle and make a difference within our community, we will all need to play a role in ameliorating this plaguing social problem.

So, I urge members of the community to band together, protest the status quo, and create a better Trenton free of violence and mayhem. It won't be easy, but with commitment and determination, I am confident that we can achieve real change together.