Sunday, October 30, 2011

Jurzeecat Ent Encourages Students To Do Better In School

TRENTON-- Local non-profit tells Trenton youngsters that there is no play without hard work first.

Three years ago, Cameron Turner, Keon Smith, and Shawn Hedgepeth created an incentive program designed to encourage and reward Trenton youth to get good grades and attend classes regularly.

From prom nights to concerts, these youngsters have it made if they can maintain a 3.0 GPA, have an excellent attendance record, and stay out of trouble.

Incentive programs have become the subject of debate in the last couple of years. Critics say rewarding students for doing well in school undermines the joy of learning and can encourage cheating. Supporters say that kids need motivation, especially in high poverty areas like Trenton. According to the NJ Department of Education, Trenton Central High West has a 53% graduation rate.

Jurzeecat Ent. CFO,  Shawn Hedgepeth said, that he and his partners created the incentive program as a way to give kids that extra push that he and many others didn't have when they went to school. To help get their program off the ground, Hedgepeth and his associates have sought to raise funds by promoting and selling their own Jurzeecat Entertainment apparel. Yet help is still wanting.

One individual, David Prewitt, a Kean University freshman, participated in Jurzeecat Entertainment's Prom Night event in 2009. He and his date, Kierra Levie, were escorted to the prom in a limousine care of Jurzeecat after pulling their grades up and submitting a essay showing why they should be chosen.

Prewitt said, "I had to take care of my grades. I had to write an essay about education and why I thought was important and why I should win the limo. Keon was my mentor. I did not have a lot of guidance growing up, so he was someone talk to. He motivated me, he was like a big brother".

Prewitt is currently studying criminal justice at Kean. Prewitt had B’s and C’s before hand, but said the program got him more focused and it saved him a lot of money for the prom.

He went on to say that he started getting A’s and B’s soon after despite starting off as a student that received D's. According to Prewitt, the incentive program gave him a push to improve his grades before starting college. Prewitt went on to say that Jurzeecat Entertainment's incentive program is a great opportunity for other seniors in high school and other city youth.  He said, "I think the program was great for its mentoring, we need male role models".

Kierra Levie, Trenton High graduate and upcoming nursing student at Mercer County Community College, said that she heard about the program through her boyfriend and prom date, David. She said that she had to maintain good grades and write an essay. I wanted to make sure everything was right before heading to college. Jurzeecat Entertainment provided limousine transportation, took pictures, and supplied a gift basket.

Levie said that, "its a wonderful program, I think with anything in life, you should earn it and work hard for it. I think that's what Jurzeecat Entertainment is all about".

Trenton Central High School (TCHS) Principal Marc Maurice said that he wants Jurzeecat Entertainment to be a part of their School Pride Program, which will reward students for good behavior, good citizenship and academic efforts. Maurice said he is looking forward to exploring the possibilities to collaborate with Jurzeecat Entertainment.

When asked about rewarding TCHS students for doing well is school, Kinya Boyd-Williams, a local parent, said that the program could work for certain kids and motivate them to do better. She went on to say that Trenton High kids need something like this because there are many other things out there that kids find attractive but are not good for them. Kinya said, why not make doing well in school attractive. 

Kamira, a senior at TCHS that gets B's said that getting a limousine to prom or attending a free concert would not really motivate her to take it to another level academically, but that it would probably encourage her classmates.

To help or get involved, contact Jurzeecat Entertainment CEO, Cameron Turner, at 609-496-1550.

Please see video below:

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Local Author Pens Children's Book, Hip Hop Catz

BORDENTOWN-- Area author and businessman William Mackson pens hip hop book to curtail childhood illiteracy but receives no support from city hall and board of education.

Mackson, a resident of Hamilton Township released the book, The Hip Hop Catz, The K9 Crew, a year ago as a way to "get our babies to read, especially in the urban community by using characters that they can relate to".

From DJ Cat Scratch to Tiger Mic, Mackson spins a tale of four cats that like to rap, rhyme, and have fun.

The Hip-Hop Catz teaches children how to observe situations and solve problems as they explore the world of these urban felines. Along the way, kids learn the alphabet, basic words and phrases, as well as math skills, music, and physical coordination.

Despite having a clear vision of what he wants to do with the book, Mackson says it has been a struggle to get the picture book into the hands of more children. Mackson contends that he has given copies of the book to city officials, members of the Trenton Board of Education, and others to no avail.

According to the city's department of citizen's concerns, city government does not handle childhood literacy. The school board was contacted but there was no response as of this article. I was told to contact the public library to get assistance.

Kathy Spalding, Trenton Public Library head, said that they have a copy of the book at the library and that it has a "good message for kids" but that at this time cannot speak on why the book has not received sponsorship and investors.

Early education training specialist, Ingrid Campbell, said that, "Literacy starts at home. The love of literacy must start in the household. Immerse children in literacy early on. Literacy is multifaceted. It involves being both receptive and expressive. All of those aspects are important. It takes a family to be literate. No one can be dependent on the government, it starts with the community".

From a community standpoint, that is precisely what Mackson is seeking to do by creating his picture book.

Vivian Vasquez, author and Professor of Education at American University says that, "in order to best support the literacy learning of children today, we need to understand what literacies they currently learn and use and what participating with such literacies affords them".

She contends that everyday pop culture should not be shunned, set aside, or kept at a distance". In an interview, Vasquez said, " I do believe that there is something to be learned from taking a close look at the everyday language and literacy practice of young people, which includes hip hop".

Another academic, Ernest Morrell, a professor at UCLA, made the argument that hip hop can help young people develop traditional and critical research skills, gain mastery in the research article and conference presentation as genres. Morrell went on to say that the information students gather can be used to advocate for social and educational justice. 

Parent and well-known disk jockey, DJ Iron Mike, said that "I think that hip-hop always speaks to the youth...unfortunately, today's brand of hip-hop doesn't offer much subject matter diversity compared to that of the times of the 80's & 90's and even some in the early 2000's. Answering the second part, I think a book of that nature is a fine idea... if you can find a way to relate to a child and show them that learning can be fun and enjoyable, they'll typically be more receptive.

Mackson has received positive feedback for his book. An individual whose YouTube screen name is LilMikeOnTheVibe said that the Hip Hop Catz is a "great idea".

For more information, visit Mackson's website and mention Anwar's Reflections.

Please see a brief interview below with Mackson:

Longtime Trenton Activist Dion Clark Says He Is Your Man This November

TRENTON-- Longtime city activist Dion Clark speaks out about why he believes he is the best candidate for Mercer County Freeholder.

As Election Day approaches, Clark, 48, of East Trenton, sat down with Anwar's Reflections-- a Trentonian affiliate-- to discuss a variety of topics, including but not limited to, his decision to run for office, his commitment to keeping locally elected office holders accountable, and much more.

Growing up in the city's Wilbur Section, Clark developed a reputation as city watchdog and a committed community activist.

Over the years, he has been a staple at city council meetings. From holding city councilman, Alex Bethea, accountable for occupying a handicapped parking spot at City Hall to helping nab a thief on his street, Clark has a proven track record in the community.

Clark said that he wants to stabilize taxes, promote economic growth and bring good leadership and good government to Mercer County.

There are two other candidates running for Mercer County Freeholder, James Castelize III, Dave Maher along with Democrat incumbent Lucille R. S. Walter and John Cimino. Election Day is Tuesday, November 8th.

For more information about Clark, please see the videos below:

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Garvey School Requests Help From The Community

TRENTON-- Local independent private school finds itself still suffering from the effects of Hurricane Irene.

The city's Garvey School was left with significant damage after the east coast hurricane swooped through town just weeks ago. From observing the school's basement, many items were damaged and in need of repair or clean up. From daycare equipment to a damaged water heater, the Garvey School has seen its better days since opening in 2003.

The damage can be readily seen at the school's Taylor Street location in North Trenton.

Over the last few weeks, this small African-centered private school, that was originally located on South Warren Street downtown for the first three years of its existence along with two other locations, has sought to drum up financial support from area residents and philanthropists to repair the damages. Up to now, the school has raised around $2,500 in cash from area residents and received significant help from YouthCorps, a volunteer program for young adults, and 5 Brothers Grim, a local flooring company.

Yet more needs to be done according to the school's principal, Baye Kemit. In an interview, he said, "the basement still needs a new floor, we have to continue with our hazmat clean-up, we also need new carpet". According to Kemit, the school's insurance company is unable to take care of many of the damages because they do not cover flood related problems. So he is calling on members of the community to step up and help out not simply with their wallets but also with their time and manpower.

Kemit reports that the school is still awaiting insurance claims and have since rearranged their classes to ensure day to day school functions continue as scheduled despite the damage wrought by Hurricane Irene.

To help raise funds to repair damages, the Garvey School is sponsoring a magic show that is scheduled for Saturday, October 29th from 1 to 3 pm. The show will be held at the New Jersey State Museum Auditorium located at 205 W. State Street, Downtown Trenton. For more information on how to get involved, contact the Garvey School at 609-792-9038 or visit their website

Please see video below of the facility and a brief interview with the school's principal, Baye Kemit:


Monday, October 17, 2011

Local Entrepreneur Seals Big Deal In Harlem But What About Trenton

TRENTON-- Local entrepreneur Roland Laird, CEO of My Image Studios, helps seal a major $21 million deal in Central Harlem for a cultural and entertainment center that is scheduled to be completed by April 2012, but leaves Trenton in the lurch.

After not receiving city stimulus funding from the Recovery Zone Bond program last year, businessman Laird and My Image Studios were not deterred. They continued talks and deliberations with private investors to close the deal, yet Laird says he cannot speak about plans to do something on a similar level in his home town due to "legal issues".

The Trentonian reached out to Laird to obtain clarification on what those legal issues were but did not receive a response as of this post.

Laird and his associates received new market tax credits as a way to help finance the 20,000 square feet center designed to highlight African and Latino art and culture, which will be located on the ground-floor retail space at the Kalahari Condominium, a 249-unit affordable housing development at 40 W. 116th Street, between Lenox and Fifth Avenues.

New market tax credits are designed to stimulate private investment in distressed urban and rural communities like Harlem and Trenton.

Goldman Sachs, an urban investment group, purchased the new market tax credits and issued them to BRP Development, a New York based construction company, who then provided them to Laird and area developer Full Spectrum NY to finance this project. Prudential, a financial services company,  also played a key role in getting the project started by providing a loan.

Construction of the new facility began just this past Wednesday. Laird estimates that the project should create 50 jobs now and is expected to double that in the near future. The local entrepreneur said that the center should have a significant impact in the community.

The center will feature three performance centers that will hold 317 seats. It will also have a 7,000 square foot restaurant and lounge where people can enjoy cuisine from the Black community, Puerto Rican community, and the European community while they live entertainment from various artists and entertainers.

Laird said, "this center will not only provide more fun and entertainment, but it also provides more money and more skills to that community".

Please see video below:

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Vocalist Theresa Noye Releases You Saw Me

Today, Anwar's Reflections-- a Trentonian affiliate-- sat down with up and coming gospel singer, Theresa Noye. She has a new album out called You Saw Me. 

Noye was born in Brooklyn, but now lives in St. Davis, Pennsylvania with her husband and two children, Regal and Nia.

During the interview, Noye speaks about a host of issues, including but not limited to, her album, her family, and the struggles she has encountered during her life journey.

From speaking to the vocalist, I recognize she has quite an eclectic taste for music. Noye said she enjoys everything from Jay-Z to Leah Smith, from jazz to gospel music.

The Brooklyn native never envisioned creating an album, but says she was inspired to put together her debut album, You Saw Me, after finding out that her son, Regal, had been diagnosed with autism when he was only three years old.

Autism is a growing phenomenon in our society. Children with autism usually have a difficult time communicating with others and looking at people in their eyes. According to the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, autism affects one in 1,000 children in the US.

During the interview, Noye said that all of the songs on her debut album are really a window into her "personal worship time", those times she talked to God about the situation with her son's diagnosis, those times she spoke about her pain, and about her family's struggles. Noye says the music was her own way to navigate through the pain that she was wrestling with during her life journey. In the vocalists' own words, she said "the songs were birthed out of my pain".

She and her husband have created Regal's Walk, a fundraising and awareness initiative for the support of Regal's home therapy program and for educating families in the inner city. A portion of the proceeds that come from the sale of You Saw Me will benefit Regal's Walk.

After releasing the album, the up and coming vocalist has received some positive feedback from those that took a listen.

Robin McCollum of WNAP 1110AM Radio said that, "Her music is the reflection of her sincere and pure heart towards God and you can definitely hear that through her honest and straight from the heart sound".

James Robinson, President of Light Records and co-founder of Gospelflava.Com, said that, "You Saw Me is like an intimate conversation with a loved one who then transports you into the presence of God". Robinson later went on to say that You Saw Me "will be a great addition to your worship library".

One of Theresa fans, an individual whose YouTube screen name is Postprodept, said that Noye's title track You Saw Me, feeds her and reminds her that "God has not forgotten his children".

Another individual, whose YouTube screen name is Deeluv215, said Noye's You Saw Me was "simply amazing".

To get a copy of her debut album, You Saw Me, click here. To access her website,, click here. To reach Theresa, you can email her at For all other general inquiries regarding Theresa Noye and her ministries, please contact her Manager, Gregory Greene at and be sure to reference Anwar's Reflections.

For access to Anwar's Reflections exclusive interview with Theresa Noye and a video of Theresa's title track, You Saw Me, please see below:


Tuesday, October 11, 2011

City Activist and Concerned Citizens Say Old Cook School Needs To Be Razed

TRENTON-- Longtime community activist, Dion Clark, of East Trenton speaks out about the blight at the old Cook School located at the corner of Walnut and Cuyler Avenues Monday morning. The 101 year old building, William E. Cook School, has been vacant and abandoned since the 1990's.

From looking at the facility, the building has boarded up windows with shattered glass, littered debris, and uncut grass.

Clark, an activist that is passionate about safety and quality of life issues in the city, said that the building is an eyesore and needs to be tore down and used for another purpose. He has visions of turning the former school into a community center where computer classes are taught and new mothers can take their children to daycare.

City resident, Ms. Jenkins, lives on the same street as the old Cook School, and said that the building is an eyesore and something should be done with it because it has asbestos in it. She went on to say that she isn't surprised why businesspeople don't want to invest in Trenton because "look at what you see when you walk or drive down the street, you see abandoned buildings, eyesores". Jenkins went on to suggest that the school be cleaned up or turned into a parking lot to make more room for residents to park when the city plows the streets.

In an op-ed piece written by the Trentonian's own LA Parker, the well-known columnist, is quoted as saying, "the old elementary school house at the end of Walnut Avenue needs a facelift".

According to the director of energy education, planning, and research at Isles, a non-profit organization that seeks to foster self-reliant families in healthy, sustainable communities, there are 1,719 abandoned buildings in the city of Trenton.

City government officials are aware of abandoned buildings like the shuttered Cook School. Just this past summer, the city demolished two abandoned industrial buildings with the hopes of creating a greenway along the Assunpink Creek located between Monmouth Street and St. Joes Avenue.

Trenton Mayor Tony Mack said that the razing of those abandoned buildings is the beginning of a totally different direction for the city. He was quoted as saying that he wants to rid the community of eyesores and turn them into beautiful open spaces.

What happens to the old Cook is still undetermined. Clark and others say they will continue to voice their concerns to city council and members of the Mack administration until something is done to the building.

To contact city council or the Mack administration, please click the link below for their contact information:

Please see videos below of the facility and a brief interview with Dion Clark: 

Sunday, October 9, 2011

'TRENTON'S PASTOR' Street Renaming Celebration Videos

TRENTON-- Here are some videos (interviews) of Saturday mornings celebration of Rev. Dr. John & Dorothy Gaines street renaming on what was once known as Euclid Avenue but is now known as Rev. Dr. John & Dorothy Gaines Way in their honor.

Please see videos below:

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Local Musicians Say 2AM Is Never Too Late

TRENTON-- Local musicians James Royale and Andre 'Ballsey' Howlen release new album, 2 AM. 2AM is an eclectic LP that reflects the ups and downs of both musicians lives.

From speaking to both musicians, creating the album was truly a labor of love and as such it took a significant time to complete.

2AM is both artists first feature record. These Trenton natives have described the LP as both raw and unimaginable in that it breaks entirely new ground by expressing real pain and providing an authentic soulful sound. Both horn players say the jazz album silences the critics and disarms the cynics who said they could not do it. Both artists say the album speaks to bona fide music lovers.

Howlen and Royale have performed at venues the likes of the city's well-known Cafe International, Maxine's, Fat Cats, Rider University, among other places. 2AM was recorded and produced by Carmen. The 12 track album is now for sale. For more information, call 609-414-0512 or email

Please see videos below:

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Anwar's Reflections Small Business Interview Series Results

TRENTON-- After collecting data from local small business owners in the Trenton Mercer County area, I have noticed some patterns and commonalities among those that participated in Anwar's Reflections exclusive interview series.

For one thing, a significant amount of the area's businesspeople said that 'word of mouth' is one of their primary ways of promoting and advertising their small business. What this tells me is that that if you satisfy or please your customers with a quality product or service they are likely to tell their friends and family about their  experience with your business thereby giving you free advertising. So the takeaway message is: do what you do well and others will spread the word on your behalf.

For another thing, many of the participating  entrepreneurs said that planning is a critical part of starting and running a small business. What this tells me is that to be successful one needs to not simply have an idea of what they want to do, but they must also create a plan that indicates the how, when, and where of their business venture. For example, how many competitors are in the market I'm trying to enter? When should I decide to promote or advertise my business on radio, television, or the internet? Where should I locate my business? Location is key. All of these questions require research and planning and are essential for business success.

Interview series results also suggest that internet marketing is growing. Small businesses are utilizing social networks like Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. These entrepreneurs see the potential of the Internet and how many customers they can reach with the Internet's help. In this Information Age we're living in, all it takes is a click of a mouse to reach millions of individuals at a relatively low cost. In an economic downturn, small business owners are seeing the value of a strong Internet presence.

As the saying goes, small businesses are the heart and soul of the economy. Let's celebrate and learn from our communities entrepreneurs. As new small business ventures emerge in the Trenton, Mercer County area, Anwar's Reflections will be sure to keep you posted.

THANK YOU ALL for your support. Stay tuned.