Thursday, June 28, 2012

Anwar's Reflections and Occupy the Hood NJ Team Up To Talk Politics

TRENTON-- As we quickly approach this year’s Presidential Election, now is the time to examine and discuss President Obama’s leadership and what this year’s election may mean for years to come.

Indeed, as the nation wrestles with high unemployment, failing schools, and a federal deficit, citizens from all walks of life are recognizing how important this election is. The stakes are high.

With this in mind, Anwar's Reflections-- a Trentonian affiliate-- and members of Occupy the Hood NJ have decided to host a panel discussion Saturday, July 7th from 10 am to 2 pm at the Trenton Public Library.

During the discussion, panelists will address a variety of challenges facing America, the state of New Jersey, and on a local level, the city of Trenton. We will cover issues like unemployment, education, and health care, to name just a few.

Members of the panel include historian and educator Dr. Jack Washington, community activist Daryl Brooks, editor of El Latino Expresso Carlos Avila, Hal Fleming, Edward Smith, and Bill Argust.

Members of the community are invited to come and join the discussion.

For more information, contact Anwar Salandy at (609) 968-6114.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Trentonians Celebrate Their Heritage

TRENTON- City residents and others head downtown for this year's Heritage Day Festival this past Saturday afternoon.

Anwar's Reflections-- a Trentonian affiliate-- attended this years Heritage Day Festival, a cultural event that started more than 30 years ago in the city's Mill Hill District as a pot luck gathering, but then grew into a weekend long event.

The event was suspended for a year in 2010 due to receiving fewer and fewer private donations. However, it returned to Mill Hill Park last year. For coverage of last year's event, click here.

During this year's festivities, vocalist Grace Little and well-known member of the musical group Patti LaBelle and the Bluebells, Sarah Dash, hit the stage and offered the crowd some of their vocals while members of the audience danced and bobbed their heads.

During the event, there were vendors selling shish-kabobs, fried chicken, and the often requested funnel cake to name just a few of the items. Along with food, vendors also sold jewelry, clothing, and t-shirts with biblical scripture graphic design emblazoned on them.

Trenton native and author of 11 books, Wahida Clark, was also one of the vendors selling and promoting her book.

And for the family, there were clowns and bouncers for children to play with. 

From talking with some of the festival's attendees, the consensus was that everyone had a good time and that it was a good opportunity to fellowship and get together as a community. However, of the people I spoke to, some individuals also mentioned that the event could have been marketed better to attract a larger crowd.

Based on my personal impression, I would say the same thing, the turnout seemed smaller this year compared to last year. Two of the individuals I spoke to said that they had no idea that a festival was scheduled and that they just 'stumbled upon' the event as they were going somewhere else, but decided to walk over and see what was happening. City officials did promote the event on the city's website

During the festival, my close friend and camera person, Monique Corbin, and I captured the event with video.

Please see videos below:

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Tuesday Night Stroll Leads To Guns And Liquor

TRENTON-- Imagine if you will, its 9:30 pm on a Tuesday evening, and you've had a rough day at work. You find your self strolling through an abandoned playground in North Trenton (not the safest place to be, I admit) after having a few drinks.

Now then imagine if you will, you stumble across a nameless young man approaching you in a slovenly and somewhat tipsy manner. In one hand, he has a bottle of Hennessy that is half empty and in another he is brandishing a pistol.

As the young man walks by, he asks you, "what you doin' around here? where you from? how old are you?" You take a long look at the young man who appears to be five years your junior.What do you do?

Well, ladies and gentlemen, I can tell you what I did and how I felt because I was on the receiving end of those questions Tuesday night. Between you and me, as this young man asked me questions and held the gun, on the inside, I was scared and on edge, but on the outside, I appeared calm and relaxed because I didn't know where this was going to lead. So, I patiently listened to the young man express his concerns about his life being in danger while he loaded the small handgun in front of me.

The young man seemed quite paranoid, saying random things like, "my boy just got robbed the other day' or 'I was stabbed at a party the other day'. Of course, to me, the young man's statement seemed out of place (since I didn't know him from a can of paint). During our conversation, he said that he could rob me if he wanted to.

At that point, I really didn't know what to think. I didn't want to agitate the young man any further than he already was, so I continued to listen. However, on the inside, I was saying I need to get the hell out of here pronto, I was scared.

But then the conversation began to change, the anonymous young man said, 'I don't want to disrespect you'. He then offered me a sip of his Hennessy and again not wanting to agitate or disturb any further than he already was, I took it. After he gave me the sip, he left. About 30 seconds after he left, I ran out of there, going in the opposite direction.

Indeed, this experience was an eye opener. The most obvious lesson I got out of this was that I don't need to be walking in places that are known to be high crime areas. That young man could have easily robbed or shot me if he wanted to, but he didn't. I didn't quite understand this, but indeed, I wasn't in the position to ask a lot of questions. At the end of the day, I am extremely grateful that this nameless young man didn't do anything to me. Yet this experience also opened my eyes to the highly possible reality that this young man was and is not alone in fearing for his life and that there maybe many others out there like him that are on edge and ready to shoot as well.

This situation makes me raise many questions: what social conditions are in place that influence or motivate this young man's behavior? What role do parents play in influencing this kind of behavior? What role do schools play? What role do film and music play in this kind of behavior? Is this a personal responsibility issue where family, friends, and other community activists all need to intervene to stop this kind of behavior? Or is there some policy that government officials can enact that would reduce the likelihood of things like this happening again in the future? Alas, I wish I knew the answer to these pressing questions, but I don't.

However, what I do know is that something has got to give...and soon.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Trentonians Enjoy Art All Night

TRENTON-- Eclectic art, raw blues and rock music, and fresh made fruit smoothies were all on display this past Saturday evening as art fans and diverse members of the community came together to take part in this year's Art All Night event at the Roebling Wire Works building in South Trenton.

Art All Night is a 24 hour art event that is held annually in the city of Trenton. This year marked the event's sixth year in existence. Anwar's Reflections-- a Trentonian affiliate-- was on hand to capture the event. This year, there were more than a 1,000 pieces of artwork on display. Local artists like Leon Rainbow and Will Kasso were just a few of the contributing artists at the event.

As I walked in, the first thing I saw was the 'pimped out' ride Will Kasso worked on last week at Trenton Atelier's Atelethon to help the local group raise money to avoid possible eviction. For more on that story, click here.

During the event, I also stumbled across fellow community bloggers Kate and Nick from 'Blogs All Night', a local blog that captured the event by blogging throughout the night. To access their blog, click here.

After interviewing a few event attendees, the general consensus was that the event was fun for the most part. However, some people did say that the music selection was 'one-dimensional', 'boring', or catering to only one particular audience. Others said that compared to previous years, the turnout was not as good as before.

Overall, my personal impression was that the event was safe, positive, and a good time. Now the trick is, how do we make events like Art All Night more of a regular occurrence where Trenton can be seen as a great attraction to go to and have fun instead of a city to avoid. That question remains unanswered, I invite the readers to chime in and comment on suggestions on how to do that...

For more information on Art All Night, click here.

Please see videos below:

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Trenton Artists Hold All Night Fundraiser

TRENTON-- Spray paint, welding, and artistic creativity were all on display this weekend as a local community organization held a fundraiser at their facility on Allen Street in Trenton.

In the hopes of keeping the arts alive at the Allen Street facility, Trenton Atelier, a group of artists that create artwork and functional objects from mainly recycled materials, decided to hold a fundraiser called the 'Atelethon' this past weekend in response to a possible eviction from the Sheriff's office.

Last night, members from all around the community stopped by to enjoy the music, art, and live performances. In addition to the festivities, artwork was also on sale. Any and all donations and contributions the group received will go toward the organization's efforts to either stay in their current location or move to a new one. Any artwork sales will go directly to the artists themselves.

After stopping by Sunday afternoon and speaking with Will Kasso, an artist and member of the Trenton Atelier, he said that they had not reached their fundraising goal, but that they were not giving up. He went on to say that despite not reaching their goal, the group will continue fundraising activities.

The group uses the Allen Street facility to "share ideas, tools, utilities and many many meals" according to their website.

To learn more about Trenton Atelier and the Atelethon, you can contact them at (609) 396-9936 or check them out on Facebook by clicking here.

Please see video below:

Saturday, June 9, 2012

New Jersey’s First Virtual Charter School

By Anwar's Reflections Guest Blogger Estelle Shumann

The importance of a quality education has prompted the New Jersey Virtual Academy School (NJVACS) to contract with the for-profit online education company, K- 12, Inc. to provide an online school alternative for the state. New Jersey has asked the company to come up with New Jersey’s first virtual charter school. Project visionaries see students learning from the comfort of their own homes. This learning project is due to begin during the fall of 2012.

According to K 12’s senior vice president, Peter Steward, K-12 is set to bring out new and valuable online learning opportunities to New Jersey students who are looking for an alternative to the traditional educational setting. He also noted that their company specializes in helping get students up to speed more efficiently than brick-and-mortar students, many of whom are normally a grade behind in their academic proficiency. He credits the online classroom’s better ability to teach students and sees growth in their learning. He thinks they will eventually become as proficient as their peers.

The virtual charter school program, which has already started recruiting students, has up to 300 students who have already showed interest in this program. Despite these virtual charter school recruiting figures, they are close to reaching capacity, because they only intend to recruit 850 students during their first year of their virtual school launch. This program will enable students to work hand in hand with potential teachers who might be next door or across the country and help their online students to realize higher grades and become more proficient learners.

New Jersey’s first virtual charter school project will have a more comprehensive educational impact on disaffected and un-reached students. It will encourage school drop-outs to continue with their education by offering them particular programs that will enable them to build on previously earned credits and finish their high school education. This virtual charter school will not be any different from any other online charter school because it will use the same standards and follow the same regulations as for state mandated K-12 curriculum requirements.

Although questions remain during the initial phases regarding various details, there are negations between K 12 and the Newark educational system and people are eager to find out whether the online charter schools will be given a go ahead to operate. While virtual schools are still being reviewed, Tim Nogueira, the Superintendent of the Monmouth Ocean Commission said that he is positive that these online schools are going to be in operation in the fall as per the indications from the meetings.

Online charter schools will be a new learning center that will have students from different parts of New Jersey interacting within the same medium. This is the first school project that K 12 has come up with and is unique to any other state. In fact, reports, have it being cheaper than a traditional cost for a brick and mortar school. It will only cost the district $10,000 per pupil for an online student, which is $3,000 less than a brick and mortar school.