Monday, December 30, 2013

Jay Z Performs In Brick City But What About Trenton

TRENTON-- As hip hop mogul Jay Z Shawn Carter goes on tour to showcase his new album, Magna Carta...Holy Grail, in the new year, one can't but help take note that he has found some time in his busy schedule to perform in the tri-state area i.e. New York, Pennsylvania, and of course New Jersey.

Needless to say, this is good news for the local economies of Brooklyn, Philadelphia, and Newark. Jay Z's mainstream appeal will undoubtedly attract a great deal of attention and consumer spending in these areas.

Even as one celebrates Jay Z's tremendous success and upcoming tour, one has to raise serious concerns about his decision to perform in Brick City but not in Trenton. 

Now don't get me wrong ladies and gentlemen, I recognize that, yes, Mr. Carter has come a mighty long way since roaming the gritty streets of his beloved Bedstuy Brooklyn neighborhood to now being an internationally known hip hop icon. This man went from selling his music outside the trunk of his car to being a veritable household name. Indeed, Jay Z's success and prosperity is nothing to sneeze at or overlook. Even I have to admit that I, too, am a personal fan of Mr. Carter. 

Lo and behold, I vividly recall listening to many of Jigga's classic LPs, Reasonable Doubt, The Black Album, The Life and Times Of Shawn Carter, etc during my younger years and even to this day. To put it simply, the man's record speaks for itself. 

However, I do take issue with Mr. Carter deciding not to take a pit stop in Jersey's State Capital, yeah I said it, "why can't Jay Z perform right here in Trenton, New Jersey, a place he says "grew him" on his vintage Blueprint album. (Disclosure: Jay Z actually says that it was East Trenton that raised him).

Granted, both the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia and the Prudential Center in Newark are larger than Trenton's Sun National Bank Arena, but hey, there's still money to be made here in the State's Capital, don't let the naysayers tell you otherwise. Even though we face a record number of homicides this year along with a failing school system, and high property taxes, Trenton still has a lot to offer.

As a resident of this city, I can definitely attest to its strengths and virtues, not simply its weaknesses. Now of course, I know what you maybe saying to your self, dear reader, "what's this guy smokin...doesn't he know that Trenton is simply bad news, you got you're mayor under federal investigation and to top it all off when you go to the public library, you have to ask for toilet paper to use the restroom", but hear me out for a moment.

Most people may not know this, but Trenton is home to a deep and rich history. Just this past weekend, I was reminded of this history as Trenton Police required residents like myself on Warren Street to move their vehicles so that the yearly reenactment of the Battle of Trenton March could take place. For those that don't already know, in 1776, General George Washington and his army crossed over the Delaware River and defeated Hessian mercernaries in what became known as the Battle of Trenton according to the History Channel

Along with this rich history, Trenton is home to a number of really good people and organizations that are doing positive things, now as we speak. People like Rev. Simeon Spencer at Union Baptist Church, filmmaker and author Will Foskey, Educator Baye Kemit of the Garvey School, Special Parents Advocate Nicole Whitfield, Hip Hop Recording Artist Big Ooh, and entrepreneur Tracey Syphax are just to name a few. The efforts of these individuals may get overlooked in the mainstream press, but trust me they are moving and shaking things up here in the city. 

So I challenge and invite you Mr. Carter to take a trip to Trenton and 'show some love' to a place that helped in your own words grow you. Even though others may have written off the city doesn't mean you have to...Come back home Hov and I promise you, Trenton will show you some love...

Friday, November 29, 2013

Knock Out Game Must End

TRENTON-- So, as I was chatting with my brother this past week, I was told about a new phenomenon happening in different cities like New York and Philadelphia. Its called the Knock Out game.

Sadly enough with this game young people (teenagers) have been assaulting innocent bystanders by deliberately catching them off-guard and striking them with their fists. The aim of the game is to 'knock out' the bystander to the point they become unconscious.The assailants then post video footage of the assault online.

Victims of this sick and senseless game have included individuals like Diego Moya, a chef from Manhattan and possibly even an elderly woman in East New York. Along with these individuals Phoebe Connolly, a young lady that was biking in the Columbia Heights area of Washington, was "punched in the face" by a teenager. Connolly goes on to report that the teenager laughed after hitting her in the face. Thankfully, Connolly was not seriously injured.

According to Jeff Rosen and Avni Patel from Today.Com, the assailants involved in these attacks are even targeting women and children. They go on to report that "cases are piling up, and that police are on high alert".

Activists like the Rev. Al Sharpton and Tony Herbert of the National Action Network have both denounced the attacks calling them a form of 'cowardice'. Herbert has called on social media websites to take down videos of the attacks.

I want to join the chorus of individuals that have come forth to denounce these senseless acts of violence. I don't want this cowardice form of behavior to grow and fester. Yet at the same time, one wonders whether this aggressive behavior is symptomatic of the larger violent culture that exists in the United States. According to Mel Schwarz, a Psychology Today contributor, the United States is "easily the most violent high-income society on the Earth". Schwarz goes on to say that "when a system—individual, family, or culture —adapts to and normalizes grossly abhorrent activities, that system is terribly impaired. This condition is known as normosis, whereby we make normal that which is indeed aberrant. As a society, we find ourselves in just this circumstance".

Indeed, we as a society cannot allow things like the Knock Out game to fester and grow. I think the most important thing to do here is to first of all raise awareness on this important issue. If you don't what's going on, you can't take action. So, let's get the word out there, first and foremost. The second thing we need to do is call a spade a spade and publicly denounce this behavior, whether it be by the water cooler at work or at the barber shop or at the beauty salon, or even in the school cafeteria, the culprits behind these cowardly acts must be shamed. They must know that this behavior is not acceptable. And a big first step in that direction is to have social media sites like YouTube take these videos off their site. By doing this, we can send a loud and clear message that cowardly and thuggish behavior cannot stand in a civilized society.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Trenton...What If???

What if....

What if Trenton re-opened all five public libraries?

What if Trenton had more jobs than people?

What if Trenton had low property taxes?

What if you didn't need to ask the circulation desk for toilet paper at the Trenton Public Library?

What if the city's crime rate wasn't so high?

What if our city's mayor wasn't under federal investigation?

What if young people felt safe going to school?

What if Trenton Central High School wasn't in deplorable condition?

What if there were more churches in Trenton than liquor stores?

What if the city's Marriott didn't need a bailout?

What if the city's youth didn't loiter in front of different small businesses?

What if Trenton High had a 100% graduation rate?

What if Trenton had incentives to attract small business and aspiring entrepreneurs?

As a blogger here in the city of Trenton, I like many others am left with a lot of 'what if's'... but you know what, deep in my heart, I do believe that Trenton can get better, I can imagine a different Trenton, a Trenton where people can feel safe, work, get a high quality education, have a good time, and do business... what about you? Can you imagine a different Trenton? 

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Residents Talk Relationships At The Trenton Social

TRENTON-- So, it's a Thursday night and I'm on Facebook running through the news feed that never seems to stop and I stumble across a relationship blog cipher happening at the Trenton Social in just 30 minutes. I hop in the car and head right over because I recognize that despite feeling like I have a firm grasp of what it is to be in a quality relationship, I understand that sometimes feeling like you know something doesn't necessarily mean you really do.

Indeed, relationships at times can be hard work. I don't have to tell you this, we hear it all the time at the barber shop or at the hair salon, around the water cooler at work, at the church, in school, in the news, you name it, the issues surrounding relationships are all around us. But being an African American male, the issues in Black Relationships trouble me in particular.

New York Daily News Columnist Ralph Richard Banks reported in 2011 that roughly 7 in 10 black children are born to unmarried partners. Conditions like this almost always lead to children being raised by one parent, which believe you me, can be a struggle and a strain on families. So, I said all that to say that the more we talk about these relationship issues, the more we can begin to address to them and not deny their existence.

Indeed, that's a big reason I went to the Relationship Blog Cipher hosted by Neisha Kelly, a relationship blogger. I wanted to hear some thoughts and feedback on what's happening in our relationships. I wanted to receive some insight on some of the dysfunction plaguing our partnerships. And after going, I can definitely say my expectations were met. During the Cipher, we talked about a whole host of issues and topics. The subject matter ranged anywhere from whether it was necessary to have a 'checklist' of things you want from a relationship to whether relationships should be liberating or restrictive.

The discussion was on the one hand refreshing because it truly felt like a sigh of relief to get some things out in the open and clear the air about relationship concerns yet at the same time our exchange was somewhat challenging to the extent it got me to give careful thought to my ways or habits in relationships. The Relationship Blog Cipher is a conversation that needs to be continued and from speaking to the show's host Neisha Kelly, there is more yet to come...


Friday, September 6, 2013

Budding Documentarian Breaks The Mold With Hometown Perspective

TRENTON—  Will Foskey, co-founder of Trenton Going Global, a civilian based content curator for Young Adults in Trenton, recently entered his documentary “What Did The World Take? The Oppression and Misconceptions of Trenton, NJ”, into the 2013 Abelcine Documentary Grant contest. 

What Did The World Take? is a heartfelt look at a resilient group of Trenton residents fighting for the good name their selfless actions merit.

Foskey is known in Trenton as a motivational servant to his peers. He currently produces two web-shows for the city:

Pretty Business Television, an entertainment/fashion based web-show hosted by Ericka Pressley.

Trenton: Homebase, is a hub for Trentonians whom travelled abroad and achieved tremendous success, giving them a place to come home and express how being born and raised in Trenton benefited their careers.

According to a press release, “What Did The World Take?” presents a clear, unbiased approach to the social tug-of-war that is Trenton, NJ. As the title of the new documentary indicates, Foskey, the filmmaker, seeks to document what he calls the Oppression and Misconception here in the city. The Oppression refers to the unfortunate reality that the average age of Trenton residents is 32 years old; yet this generation isn’t represented in political office, community development, and is often held back by their elders. The Misconception refers to unforgiving facts like Trenton’s desperate need of new jobs despite there being many state jobs here in the city that most of the time go to non-residents.
Will Foskey with Rap Artist T.I.

This new documentary comes at a time when the world has previously seen other documentaries that have told a quite different story about Trenton. In the past, there was Gangland, a History Channel documentary that highlighted gang life in New Jersey’s capital. Along with that piece, there was a recent documentary done by Princeton University students that documented homelessness here in the city. Foskey’s documentary takes a different look at Trenton.

Foskey says that “this documentary will promote the best of us". The young filmmaker, 35, went on to address the local government and local newspapers by saying “time is up on promoting the rest of us for their selfish gain. We’re a city of passionate, resilient individuals. We’re a city of triumphant success stories. I need my City, my County and my State’s help in telling this story. Check out the trailer; share the trailer on social networks, “Like” the trailer. By winning this contest, I’ll receive the equipment needed to elevate the quality of the documentary to best reflect the good people of my hometown.”

For more information about the documentary and how you can help or get involved, contact Will Foskey at or 609.672.6123.

To view the What Did The World Take? Documentary Trailer, click here or view below:

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Anwar's Reflections Remembers Dion Clark

TRENTON-- It was a truly sad day in the city of Trenton when I heard through the grapevine that Wilbur Section’s champion Zane Dion Clark had passed away in his Walnut Avenue home. It was a Sunday, I believe. For those that didn’t know Dion, I’ll tell you that he was a good man that had a strong and passionate commitment to his hometown.

In each and every conversation we had over breakfast at Pat’s Diner, Dunkin Donuts, or the Parkside Diner, he would at some point mention how important it was to improve the city of Trenton. In the middle of jokes, catching up, and chewing the fat, we would eventually get to Trenton’s dire straits.

Despite the sad and unfortunate nature of Mr. Clark’s untimely death, I think his departure from this earth shows me something fundamental about the nature of time and how important it is to use time wisely while you still have a chance. Indeed, Mr. Clark used his short time on planet earth to help others, build up his community, and last but not least, take care of his precious granddaughter. During his lifespan, Mr. Clark had no time for hate, finger-pointing, and criticizing the powers that be. He was better than that.

Dion was a man of principle that never missed a city council meeting. Dion fought for this city with every fiber of his being and never asked for a reward. He lived and breathed Trenton, and in particular his beloved Wilbur Section. Indeed, Dion had a fierce sense of urgency about urban blight, ATV’s in the community, illegal dumping and a host of other quality of life issues that plagued this great, yet beleaguered city. In different conversations, he was fond of saying that he was not some great hero, rather he saw himself as simply being a good neighbor.

Dion used his time to make a difference while he was here. He taught me that you don't have to be flashy or dribble a basketball to be a hero. Lo and behold, he showed me that caring about your community makes you a hero albeit an unsung hero, but a hero nonetheless. Indeed, Dion’s life and legacy will live on as long as I have something to say about it. That's my story and I'm sticking to it.

Below you will find different video interviews he and I had while he was with us…

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Dr. King's Dream Revisited 50 Years Later: A Letter to America

America, America
God shed his grace on thee
And crown thy good with brotherhood
From sea to shining sea…

America, oh America, as I sit back and reflect on my short 30 years in this country, I recognize that I have indeed witnessed tremendous growth and progress but at the same time, I have to also admit that I think we are still a far cry from what Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. envisioned in 1963 when he gave his historic I Have A Dream speech. Indeed, I can’t help but applaud the passage of the Civil Rights Act, desegregation, and the election of our nation’s first Black President in 2008.

But at the same time, I must admit that these breakthroughs don't in any way erase the fact that we still witness wealth inequality, racial profiling, and other forms of social injustice in our society today.

Alas, one can only imagine what Dr. King would say if he heard research reports indicating that the average net worth of households in the upper 7% of wealth distribution has risen by 28% while the net worth of households in the lower 93% of society have dropped by 4%? I can see him lamenting the fact that the rich are getting richer while the rest of us are, quite frankly, stuck in the basement struggling economically. On top of this, one wonders how Dr. King would react to seeing high-profile cases like Trayvon Martin's that brought the ugly issue of racial bias and profiling back into our collective consciousness.

For those that don't already know, Trayvon Martin was a 17 year old unarmed black male whose life was tragically cut short after an altercation one night while wearing a hooded sweatshirt and carrying a bag of Skittles. Martin was shot by Florida community volunteer watchman George Zimmerman. Zimmerman, a white male of Peruvian descent, claimed self-defense and invoked Florida's Stand Your Ground Law before being acquitted on all criminal charges brought against him. According to a Christian Science Monitor article, many people across the nation disagreed with the verdict and thought that race played a significant factor in Martin's untimely death. Indeed, if Dr. King were alive I can hear him asking, 'when will a man be judged not by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character?',

Along with this case, I have also seen other situations surrounding racial profiling in America. In New York, they have adopted stop and frisk policies aimed directly at Black and Hispanic men, that have ignited a firestorm of controversy and criticism because of the humiliation and harassment they have caused. Moreover, in Arizona, they have instituted an immigration law that many have said fosters racial profiling. Indeed, a study done by Pew Research finds that majorities of blacks still perceive discrimination from many institutions in their communities, and are consistently more likely than whites to say blacks are treated less fairly than whites. Things have gotten so bad to the point that in a New York Times op-ed piece, the newspaper went so far as to call the United States a "country plagued by racism, which persists in ever more insidious forms."

 At the same time, one need not stop with these sensational cases that have hit the front pages of our beloved newspapers to see what I am getting at as it relates to America's shortcomings and how far we are from Dr. King's Dream. One can also look at the 500 plus murders in Chicago alone last year, the recent Bankruptcy of Detroit's Motor City, or the dilapidated condition of many of the streets that bear Dr. King's name to see the point I'm making here. Bottom line: there's something wrong in America. Dr. King's Dream of the Beloved Community has not and cannot be realized until these conditions change and one recognizes that change doesn't occur overnight, nor does it come easy, change takes time and effort. Indeed, as Dr. King said himself, "even as we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow". Its important that we not give up on our Dreams...a Dream of a better tomorrow despite the stark realities of today...a Dream where one day this nation will rise up and become that shining city on a hill that it was meant to be. In the words of an old Negro spiritual, deep in my heart, I do believe, we shall overcome one day.

As I put the finishing touches on this letter to America on the 50th anniversary of Dr. King's historic I Have A Dream speech, I recognize that essayist James Baldwin was right when he said, "I love America more than any other country in the world, and exactly for this reason, I insist on the right to criticize her perpetually". Indeed, we as a country have come so far, but yet we have so far to go. Sure, we must celebrate the victories and breakthroughs, but we must never forget the work that is left to be done. In other words, there will be neither rest nor tranquility in this country until justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream. As we fight for our Dreams of a better tomorrow, let us not forget Dr. King, who he was, and what he stood for. 

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Daryl Brooks Runs For Council

TRENTON-- Longtime Trenton activist Daryl Mikell Brooks has announced that he is running for City Council at Large. Brooks, a two time failed United States Senate candidate and a vowed member of the Tea Party, declares that if elected, he will fight to overcome the foreclosure crisis, reverse economic disinvestment and  foster opportunities for viable youth development, family stability, and educational and economic advancement for all according to a press release. Along with this, the Trenton native says that if elected he will make it a priority to get corporate funding to reopen four shuttered city libraries that were closed due to budget cuts last year.

I think even though Brooks is running in a non-partisan election, his candidacy raises an important question: why aren't there more independent voices in local politics? Sure, some may say fundraising obstacles, organizational backing, and other issues prevent independent candidates from being serious contenders in general elections, but I think Brooks and other independent candidates also face the challenge of trying to win over a constituency that is historically loyal to the Democratic Party despite the dilapidated conditions of inner city communities. Indeed, high levels of unemployment, a dismal high school graduation rate, crumbling infrastructure, and an ongoing public safety issue are all problems that continue to plague inner city communities like Trenton.

Candidates like Brooks hope to turn the tables on the conventional way of doing things in Trenton. In a brief interview, Brooks claims that he is disappointed with current leadership and how they lack vision for the 21st century. He is a member of the Tea Party, a political group that many people in the Trenton community are suspicious of mainly because of its criticism of the Obama administration. However, according to a Tea Party website, they stand for “limited government, fiscal restraint, and individual liberty”, some things that may actually help inner cities like Trenton if they were applied.

In this sort of climate where inner cities face tremendous challenges, I think now is all the more time to hear alternative visions and viewpoints that might actually work. I think it will do us a lot better than staying politically loyal to a party that has not substantially turned things around for the better while they have had power. Ladies and gentlemen, that’s my story and I’m sticking to it. Feel free to disagree and chime in on this larger discussion about improving the city of Trenton...

For more information on Brooks and his candidacy, click here.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Guest Blogger Branches Out & Launches New Blog

TRENTON—Recently, as I was perusing through my email and Facebook messages, (please forgive me, I'm a work in progress, sometimes it takes me eons to check my messages and get back to everyone, but anyway I digress), I stumbled across a message from my friend and comrade, Delonte Harrod. Through reading his email, I found out that he has a new blog entitled Delonte J. Harrod.

On his blog, this Trenton-based journalism major/ photographer aims to share his "writing ability" and "engage the world through words" while sparking conversation. I applaud Herrod for his efforts. From reviewing his website, I see that Harrod also seeks to bring information to the public that they would not ordinarily have access to.

Indeed, Harrod does bring something new to the table by raising thought-provoking questions to his readers. As a case in point, in one of his blog entries, the Trenton-based blogger raises the question,  "how does [newspaper] content shape the perceptions of those who do not live or have never been to Trenton?” In other words: Is the local news of Trenton helping to frame people as only savages, immoral, and/or very hostile people?"

Here, I think Harrod raises an important question that highlights the power and impact of the media. Indeed, what media outlets report to the public, whether good or bad, sometimes gets taken as indisputable gospel, when in reality that information should be examined through a critical or skeptical lens. As a case in point, one day while I was at the library a few weeks ago, a gentleman next to me said that former South African president Nelson Mandela died, when in reality, he didn't. The young man based his conclusion on information received through Facebook. The point here being, with today's media and the saturation of the Internet, one has to take what one reads with a grain of salt and be critical consumers of information. Otherwise, if you don't, you may take what you're hearing or reading as the truth, when it is not.

As one looks at Trenton news, sure, there is bad news to report and I recognize where certain members of the media are coming from, but come on, let's be real. We're not living in Beirut, this is Trenton. Sadly enough, this city sometimes get painted as "Big Trouble" when in my humble opinion, it is not. These kinds of news reports do not paint a complete picture of the city of Trenton.

I think other people are beginning to see this trend in larger society as well. They are not satisfied. According to the Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism, “nearly one-third—31% of people say they have deserted a particular news outlet because it no longer provides the news and information they have grown accustomed to”. The study went on to report that 60.7 of the people polled find that the stories are less complete than they used to be". In other words, people are not satisfied with the media outlets currently available.

This is why I think that it is important to have bloggers like Harrod that present a counter-narrative to what the mainstream media offers. Indeed, reality is more nuanced than viewing Trentonians as mere scoundrels and hoodlums. Trentonians are doing great things everyday, this should not be glossed over or overlooked.

And with that said, I think we are in store for more thought-provoking commentary from Harrod, you can visit his website by clicking here.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Under Construction: Reflections on Change

TRENTON-- Just this past week, as I was doing my daily rounds, I noticed construction workers still digging in and digging up parts of North Warren Street. In the span of only a couple of days, these workers have turned this North Trenton street into a one lane pathway leaving neighborhood residents with one less place to park their vehicles and forcing pedestrians to walk around or circumvent the rubble.

Despite the current inconvenience that this new construction presents, I think something can be learned from it and I wanted to share with you my thoughts. First and foremost, I've learned that anytime something needs to be fixed or changed, sometimes you have to do some digging to uncover what the real problem is. Simply staying on the surface may not unearth the real problem. In other words, you don't want to just treat symptoms of an issue, when the problem may run much deeper than that. So you may have to dig deep and find some things you may not expect, but that's okay, because it's necessary to solve or fix your problem.

A concrete example of what I'm trying to say can come from my own experience. As a younger man, when I started college at Mercer County, my grades were terrible because quite frankly, I did not enjoy reading or writing, nor did I see their necessity at the time. When I was younger, I thought it was the teacher, or the books were boring, or something outside of me that was causing my poor grades, but as I dug deep and started to really look at the situation, I found that I was the culprit. I did not put in the time to read, pay attention in class, or do the work and I had to accept the reality that I did not like to read or write. By digging deep and looking at the facts objectively, I realized that I needed to change and quick if I didn't want to flunk out of school, and guess what, I changed, I began to love reading and writing to the point that I became a blogger or citizen journalist.

Another thing I have learned from the construction on Warren Street is that change or transformation takes time. The construction workers on Warren Street just started about two weeks ago and it doesn't look like they will be done any time soon. So, change doesn't happen overnight. All one needs to do is look at the process of losing weight ( a process I am presently going through, too much soda and one too many donuts, but I digress). If one looks at the process of losing weight or getting in shape, it takes significant effort and time. Sure, there may be fad diets out there that promise overnight results, but I tell you the truth, real change takes time. Rome was not built in a day, neither will your change effort. But if you're serious and have made a commitment to change, you will see yourself through it, no matter the setbacks and obstacles.

Lastly, the construction on North Warren Street has taught me that changing can be uncomfortable. In the case of the construction on Warren Street, I see that residents and visitors alike now have one less place to park their vehicles. In the case of pedestrians, they now have to travel around the rubble to get where they are going. Yet despite this discomfort or inconvenience, it doesn't alter the need for change. The street still needs work whether we like the inconvenience it brings or not. Indeed, change can be painful, but this pain or inconvenience does not impact its necessity.

So, all in all, the construction on North Warren Street, has shown me the importance of change and that with change comes the virtues of discovery, patience, and perseverance which can all lead to growth. I think this information can help anyone (myself included) that is wrestling with change in their life, their community, or in their workplace. I leave this with you to ponder and engage with. All responses are welcome.

Sunday, June 30, 2013

Trenton Entrepreneurship

TRENTON--A big part of what I want to do with this blog is share insights about topics that have piqued my interest over time. One of those interests include entrepreneurship and the unique world of small business. You maybe wondering what makes this topic so interesting to me. Well, I'm glad you asked, allow me to elaborate.

Since moving to Trenton, New Jersey in 2005, I have found that entrepreneurship and small business creation is very much needed in this community since this city is saddled with entrenched poverty and joblessness. All one needs to do is look at some of the recent closings of small businesses like Cafe International, Can Do Errands, Delorenzos, and historic Amefikas to see what I am getting at here. All of these individual entrepreneurs gave people a nice place to go to, quality products and services, and most importantly, they created jobs that people in the city could possibly take.

Now lets be quite clear, entrepreneurs do a number of things, but I want to focus one of the main things they do, that is, create jobs. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, entrepreneurship and small business play a vital role in the US economy. And looking at Trenton's staggering 10.8% unemployment rate, it seems quite evident that entrepreneurship and small business creation can do our city some good.

According to Google, an entrepreneur is an individual that "takes the initiative to create a product or establish a business for profit". Indeed, the city of Trenton needs more initiative, and less complaint. Instead of moaning and groaning about all the potholes in Trenton, why not create a small businesses that specializes in paving streets? Instead of criticizing Trenton Mayor Tony Mack and the failing public school system, why not do what individuals like Baye Kemit did when he created an African-centered school that sought to address the problems facing public schools?

These examples strike me as the heart and soul of the entrepreneurial mindset. This type of mentality constantly seeks to solve issues instead of complaining or criticizing the powers that be. In short, entrepreneurs don't see problems, they see opportunities.

So I invite everyone to take something from the playbook of entrepreneurs by first of all being creative. Think outside of the box. Take calculated risks and step outside the comfort zone. The best entrepreneurs don't settle for the routine and get complacent. They push the envelope.

However, don't get me wrong, I am not saying that one should go stark-raving crazy by making reckless decisions. Rather the idea is to take moderate well-informed risks and be creative when looking at the stark realities that face communities like Trenton. Instead of seeing hopelessness and desolation, why not see promise and possibility? That's the question I wrestle with everyday and leave with you to ponder.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Trenton Mayoral Debate Shows Need For More Engagement

TRENTON-- Just last week, Patrick Hall, Jim Golden, and Paul Perez sat down at the Big Easy Restaurant downtown to have a talk.

These individuals were not at the downtown eatery just for the food or the ambiance, the purpose of their gathering was to show the people of Trenton what they are made of as the city's mayoral election quickly approaches next year.

Two candidates appeared at the question and answer session in person: former Trenton police director Jim Golden and businessman Paul Perez. Patrick Hall, a local entrepreneur was not physically located at the downtown eatery, he participated in the talk via video conference.

This discussion was organized by citizens Scott Miller and Jacque Howard, who launched Trenton Elections on Facebook to help Trentonians learn more about the candidates.

Golden, Perez and Hall answered questions that were solicited on the Trenton Elections Facebook page and supplied by residents.

During the 2 hour Q & A session, the mayoral candidates were asked things like:

What do you want Trenton to be known for?

What qualifies you to manage a 200 million dollar budget? What experience do you have?

What executive experience do you have? Were you successful? How many people have you managed?

What are your plans to be more transparent?

With regard to transparency, former police chief Jim Golden said that directors need to be present at council meetings. He also mentioned that he wants to make sure taxpayers have access to a power-point presentation that would come directly from the city's directors that would outline their proposals for improving the city.

Businessman Paul Perez said that he would create a system of oversight so that people are held accountable because "City Hall is dysfunctional". He went on to say that "it shouldn't be a surprise that we need money at the last minute".

Hall went on to say that he would bring in qualified people to address the transparency issue. He said that he believed in zero-based budgeting and that "just because you got $14 million dollars last year does not mean you will get it again this year".

The question that was running through a number of people's mind was what are these candidates going to do about crime or public safety day one if they are elected since news reports indicate 18 homicides this year so far.

Former Police Chief Jim Golden said that we need to deploy officers where and when they are needed most.

Patrick Hall said that we need more lighting and surveillance while Paul Perez said that he would look at violence reduction plans that were successful in other cities.

Indeed, as the city of Trenton awaits next year's mayoral election, I think these sorts of forums are very much needed. These forums engage and encourage others to take part in the political process, something that is desperately needed today where there is so much apathy, ignorance, and cynicism toward our elected officials and the overall political process. Its like what Trentonian blogger Michael Walker said. In one of his blog posts, he states that "Trentonians won't start paying attention to the mayoral candidates until early next year". Sadly enough, I think Walker's comments are correct, but I think that's all the more reason why we need to do things to encourage and foster a well-informed citizenry that is active in the political process.

With a well informed citizenry, democracy can flourish and help make our elected officials accountable for their actions. The question becomes: how do we engage and encourage others to be a part of the process, I say we need more community forums to talk about these things, and I plan to help make that possible through blogs like this and through forums in the community.

Click below for video access to some of the debate or discussion:

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Buyer Beware

In today's world, where there is so much information out there, it seems as though it is becoming all the more important to be an informed consumer.

I make this comment in large part not just because of recent scandals surrounding Enron and Bernie Madoff but rather because a few a weeks ago, I was in the market for a new vehicle, but approached the situation in a way that was anything but well-informed and believe you me, I learned the hard way.

I went into the car dealership not having a clue about the financing process or what to expect, but somehow I thought I was going to walk away from the dealership a happy customer. Boy, was I wrong, ladies and gentlemen. I had no idea about how financing worked or what to expect. 

Yet, even though my experience wasn't too pleasant, I recognize that this doesn't necessarily mean I don't have some words of wisdom to share with others that may help them, below you will find some tips and insights I have gleaned from my experience, I hope this can be of assistance to you:

Know what you want (cost, mileage, reliability, fuel efficiency)
If you don't know what you want, how will anyone else? So first thing first, define what you are looking for before you get onto the lot.

Have a list of questions/ concerns
After you determine what you want, now is the time to prepare some well-thought out questions or concerns that you can  pose to the sales person upon arriving at the dealership. For instance, if you have questions about financing the process, then now is the time to raise these concerns.

Understand the role of the salesperson
The salesperson's role is to sell cars, point blank, plain and simple. So be mindful of that in your dealings with them.

Bring someone with you
Two heads are better than one as the saying goes. When all else fails bring along a friend or third party that can see things you may have missed had you gone to the dealership solo. 

Be realistic and bluntly honest as it relates to your expectations (budget)
Its no use in pretending to be something you are not. If you're not a Rockefeller, I advise being honest and realistic in your expectations with the sales person so they can put you in something you can afford. 

Be aware of your credit score as this can impact interest rates
Your financing options and interest rates will be determined in large part by your credit score, so be aware of it. To get a free copy of your credit report visit Annual Credit Report's website

Be aware of or take into consideration auto insurance costs that will go along with your monthly premium

Carefully review any customer contracts/ loan agreements before signing the dotted line
Indeed, as the saying goes, 'the devil is in the details'. In other words, read your contract carefully as these documents are binding.

Properly file a report or complaint if you become the recipient of a lemon with Consumer Affairs

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Poets Show Lighter Side of Trenton

TRENTON-- The week before last, I had a great opportunity to visit an open mic poetry event at First Baptist Church in Trenton, New Jersey. The event was hosted by Neikel Butler, the director of a poetry program at the Boys and Girls Club.

During this event, poets, young and old, recited their work. One in particular, Raul 'Polo' Cortes, took the stage and provided the audience with words of wisdom by saying that we need to renew the mind and keep the candle lit, metaphorically speaking. Another poet did a piece on 'pride' and recognizing the importance of practicing humility. Another poet said that it was important to be who you are, reminiscent of Shakespeare when he said, 'to thine own self be true'.

Another bard went on to chime in with a refrain, "I'm going to the bank, the bank, to invest in MY PEOPLE", something that is needed in a community like Trenton where people that 'make it' financially leave or flee instead of giving back.

All in all, it was a great Friday night that inspired me to keep fighting. Alas, living in a place like Trenton, I recognize that the city has seen better days and needs more events like this one that show its lighter side. All too many times, when people think of a Friday night in the state's capitol, they automatically think 'its gon' be some trouble'. And to be honest, who can blame them, when we hear stories from the Trentonian that report that there were eight (count them) eight people shot during Memorial Day weekend alone, it seems as though people's fears may be justified. Yet, I say that's only one side of Trenton.

There's a lot of positive things going on in Trenton. From Union Baptist Church's Quick and Clean Car Wash today to the Comedy Show they are having at the War Memorial, the people here in the city are moving and making things happen. I, for one, want to build upon that momentum and see more positive things happening. I am presently working on a Book Fest that is scheduled for sometime in July.

I think there is a real need to encourage people to read and imbibe in the written word, especially in the city of Trenton where the literacy rate is dismal according to the Times of Trenton. So I will keep you posted on this special event in July as new developments arise, so stay tuned...

Please see videos below:

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Trenton Oh Trenton

TRENTON-- Early last week, as I was walking home from work one day, I noticed there were laborers doing construction work on North Warren Street. And for those that know the Warren Street I referring to, you know that driving down that street in your vehicle is not like 'Cruisin on a Sunday afternoon' as famed rhythm and blues crooner Smokey Robinson once said.

Its quite the contrary, driving on that road is like going through a collision course.The potholes on that street are deeper than Plato's Republic. All jokes aside, I do believe its a good sign that they are working on improving things in the city of Trenton.

This isn't the only sign of improvement I have stumbled across in my travels while living here in the city. Just the other day, I was coming from the Trenton Public Library on Academy Street and I took a glimpse of some of the great work that the S.A.G.E. Collective and Trenton Atelier are doing on East Hanover Street. From the looks of things, they are bringing artwork, greenery, and new life to a street that is notorious for drugs and panhandling. So, I want to say hats off to them for doing this kind of work. Along with this, I also see that the Big Easy Restaurant has in its own way brought new life to the city's downtown section with its ongoing shows and tasty delicacies.

Yet, at the same time, I also see some of Trenton's staple businesses closing up shop or relocating. As a case in point, one can look at historic Amefika's on Stuyvesant Avenue. This longtime Trenton favorite is no more. On top of this, another well known eatery, DeLorenzos pizza shop decided to close its doors in Trenton and re-open them in Hamilton near the AMC movie theater. Wait, there's more, the city's lone major hotel, the Marriott, is struggling mightily and can't seem to turn things around financially. I ask myself: what is one to make of these developments?

Indeed, the question becomes: what's going on? Lets face it, the city of Trenton needs jobs, jobs, and more jobs. This beloved city is plagued with violence, failing schools, and abandoned properties, Lord knows something needs to give. Granted, I don't pretend to have the answers, but I do think there has got to be a way to help revitalize a place like Trenton that has definitely seen its better days.

However, before any talk about wholesale changes to attract small business and entrepreneurship, I ultimately think we need to have a serious dialogue about individual change. Here what I mean is that we can't begin to see real change on the streets of Trenton until there is a real change within. Change within our families, change within our communities, change with our selves. Indeed, as Mahatma Ghandi once said, "you must be the change you want to see in the world".

Now, don't get me wrong, I recognize that I have my faults and I, too, am a work in progress, but I know there are some basic things I can do to make a impact despite my shortcomings, however small they may be. That is a big reason I want to continue raising questions and engage the community in an ongoing dialogue about the pressing problems of today.

But I recognize that's just my one part. In a body, I recognize that there are many individual parts or pieces that help it function and ensure its health. For example, your individual part maybe volunteering with the youth, another person's part may be rallying to stop the violence, while yet another person's part may be cleaning up their street. You name it, there's something out there that we can do. Every little bit counts, that's my story, and believe you me, I'm sticking to it.

And don't think you're alone, there are others already out there that are letting their light shine and bringing positive vibes. From Classics' Friday night game night to the S.A.G.E. Collective Grass for Ghandi Fundraiser, these are definitely signs of positive change. Let's build upon that momentum together. What do you say?

Friday, April 5, 2013

Brooks Overcomes Death Threats And Presses On

TRENTON-- In a recent interview, local activist tells all about his recent bout with the New Jersey State Parole Board.

Daryl Brooks, a longtime Trenton political freedom fighter and now member of the Tea Party who served a three and half year bid in prison for flashing two minors (a crime he insists he did not commit), decided to sit down for an in-depth interview last week.

During the interview, Brooks spoke out in a way that he hasn't done before. The brash and outspoken political firebrand was in rare form last week as he opened up about his longstanding fight against injustice and persecution.

Since being released from prison, Brooks has sought to bring about social and political change within his community. According to an Occupy the Hood New Jersey blog, Brooks was the first person to run for U.S. Senate from Trenton, New Jersey. Although his campaign proved unsuccessful, he has coordinated numerous community organizing activities to stop violence and bring different people together.

Despite his efforts, Brooks has experienced problems with the State Parole Board and the public at large. In May, the Parole Board required that he attend counseling sessions. In these sessions, Brooks reports that he was required to admit guilt for a crime that he insists he did not commit.

After not complying with their request, he was ordered to take a polygraph exam or lie detector test as a part of the Parole Board’s Containment Approach that monitors the activity of individuals that are on parole for sex offenses. This test was required despite Brooks having had no parole violations since being released from prison according to Philadelphia Tribune reporter Linn Washington. Once he was given the lie detector test, Brooks reports that he was told by the Parole Board that he failed.
Brooks speaking at rally

Brooks subsequently requested a copy of the results to determine why he failed but was denied. The Parole Board confirmed this. When a parolee fails a lie detector test, they can have stricter restrictions placed upon them. The political activist questions the results and has voiced concern over how the lie detector was administered. He has expressed concerns involving the use and application of testing equipment, the recording of information, and the polygraph examiner’s impartiality.

Research bears out what Brooks is saying. According to Polygraph Specialist Joseph Buckley , the polygraph technique is highly accurate, but at the same time, errors can and do occur.

Most errors happen when the examiner fails to prepare the subject properly for the examination or by misreading the physiological data on the polygraph charts. This makes it all the more important that the examiner be properly trained. According to a State Parole Board representative, parole officers can and do administer polygraph examinations because they have gone through training and are required to undergo recertification every two years.

Brooks and another parolee that spoke on the condition of anonymity both question the accuracy of lie detectors. They wonder why the results of these tests can be used to restrict an individual for Parole Board purposes, but cannot be used in a court of law. Mother Jones journalist Brendan Koerner confirmed this finding when he reported that polygraph test results are generally inadmissible in court.

Through these issues with the lie detector test and by refusing to comply with the Parole Board’s requirement that he admit guilt for a crime he claims he did not commit, Brooks was now in violation of his parole which meant jail-time. In a previous interview, Brooks said the possibility of going back to prison was “terrible”.

Brooks went on to call his experience with the Parole Board an instance of 'persecution' citing that it was unjust to have this happen to him, because he has already served his time and he has had no parole violations since being released.

Brooks in Mississippi with poor children
Along with this travesty of justice, the political gadfly spoke out about countless situations where he was spit on, threatened with violence, and physically attacked by members of the Black community, a community that he has consistently fought for over the years with his protests and rallies. It came to a point where even his daughter was threatened by others in his community. Indeed, the Trenton activist had serious concerns that someone was going to kill him and that he was going to have to maybe kill someone to defend himself or his family.

In the interview, Brooks describes how utterly disappointed he was in the Black Community because of the way he was treated. He could not understand why they hated him when he did so much to improve things in the Black Community. It came to a point where the political activist threw up his hands and said, “my own people are trying to destroy me”.

After this, it came to a point where 'enough became enough' for the political activist. 

After years of fighting injustice, facing fierce opposition, and wrestling with the possibility of going back to prison for something he deemed to be unjust, Brooks says that the pressure became overwhelming and he came to a fork in the road where he felt a life or death decision needed to be made.

In the interview, the political malcontent said that the night before he was arrested in May, he sat in his room all night staring at a bottle of prescription pain pills that was lying around his house, contemplating whether or not to take them. His intentions were to take the pain pills as a way to end his misery and cut his life short. That particular night, all sorts of thoughts ran through his head as he glanced as that bottle of pills. However, something stopped him from taking them.

Brooks says that the only thing that prevented him from taking his life that night was listening to Martin Luther King, Jr.'s sermon But, If Not, a 1967 speech that highlights the importance of what King called civil disobedience where one refuses to abide by an order of the government because your conscience deems it unjust.

The political activist said that he had no worries that following morning when he received a 7 o’clock call from parole because he knew that he never “walked alone”, God was with him always. So that following morning, Brooks buried those pain pills saying that he felt strong and inspired, like Martin Luther King, Jr. before he was escorted to that Birmingham Jail in 1963.

Brooks being interviewed for U.S. Senate
Brooks went on to say that despite the persecution he is currently going through, history is ultimately on the side of right and that justice will eventually prevail. However, the political activist is still concerned about the social implications of others going through a similar ordeal with the Parole Board that he went through.

The Trenton born activist expressed concern regarding the Parole Board's use of power. In the interview, he makes the case that the State Parole Board is abusing its power whenever it administers a lie detector test, but does not provide the parolee with a copy of the test results. Brooks fears that the Parole Board may begin to require others that have been convicted for non-sex offender related crimes take these same sorts of tests and not be given a copy of the test results either. The political firebrand thinks this could have damaging social effects as it relates to one’s civil liberties.

Brooks says, "Are they [the Parole Board] testing this out for the next line of individuals? This may start off with people with sex offense and lead to people with regular crimes. This could be the start like when we used drones in other countries, now that was a test, now let's see what its like to use drones here in America. Now let’s do it [lie detectors] with people that shoot people, drug dealers, people that do a regular crime, let’s test it out on a group of people that people are going to despise because they're not really human".

In general, this issue brings up questions about how we treat parolees. Does society care about how people on parole are treated since they have already served their time or does society think that it doesn't matter how these individuals are treated because they committed crimes against society? Are parolees being pushed around by the Parole Board or are their rights being protected under the law?

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Tycoon Visits Princeton But What About Trenton

PRINCETON-- As well-known millionaire and media giant Steve Forbes swept through a nearby town (Princeton) not too long ago, it made me think, what, if anything, will tycoons like Steve Forbes do for the city of Trenton, a city riddled with crime, joblessness, and despair?

Now don't get me wrong, I am not suggesting that well-off individuals like Steve Forbes owe inner cities like Trenton anything. I am simply saying that with all the wealth, opportunity, and access individuals like the Forbes Magazine giant has, there might be something they can do to assist communities like New Jersey's state capitol.

Forbes was at Princeton University giving a talk on the tax and monetary sins of the West.

Now I came to this point after considering recent events involving another wealthy person. Not too long ago, Facebook creator Mark Zuckerberg dipped into his treasure chest and gave Newark public schools a handsome amount of money. In light of this, the question for me becomes, why can't individuals like Forbes and others like him open their hearts and quite frankly, their wallets, to help out an ailing city like Trenton.

That question remains unanswered, but I am willing to take a stab at it for the time being.

My response to that last question begins with what I and many others are seeing in the papers everyday. In light of Trenton's recent history, it doesn't seem to be a worthwhile place to invest in. I mean come on, unless you're living in a bubble, you recognize that our beloved state capitol has seen better days. 23 homicides last year, a dismal high school graduation rate, and an unacceptable amount of blight or abandoned properties all show that the Garden State's capitol city is not exactly prime real estate that everyone is dying to get their hands on.

Let's call a spade a spade, Trenton is not headed in the right direction. And unless we (those that live here currently) or others (outsiders like Steve Forbes) take action, we can only expect things to get worse. Bottom line: Investors are unlikely to invest in a losing horse that seems to be going in the wrong direction. They simply don't see an attractive return on investment.

Having said that, the question now becomes, how do we become that place where not only wealthy individuals like Steve Forbes want to invest and help, but also everyday people. For me, I think the first thing we need to do is stop blaming the government for our problems, sure budget shortfalls adversely affect our communities in terms of programs being cuts and public service layoffs, but I'm a firm believer that if there is a will, there is a way to make things better, even if your 'money is funny' or your 'change is strange'.

We don't need the government need to give us funding to ensure our homes are in order. I do believe we (myself included) can take ownership of some of these problems we face. I don't think we need to always solicit or reach out to local or state government to get things done in our community when we already have human resources (everyday people) in place that may be able to fill that gap or void that exists.

All in all, I think by taking action and becoming a participant, we will be in a better position to improve the quality of life in our communities. Along with ending the blame game, I think its also important to stop criticizing the powers that be, for the unfortunate state of our city. Indeed, local officials bear some of the burden and responsibility for the mess we find ourselves in, but I also think there is room for we as everyday citizens (myself included) to take some sort of responsibility for the condition of our communities.

My way of taking responsibility is to post blogs, create community forums, and engage others in a meaningful conversation that will hopefully generate ideas to make things better. However, I recognize that your skill set may take you in an entirely different direction than mine.

Ultimately, my point is that whatever your skill set is, it can be used somewhere in the universe to alleviate a social problem that afflicts all too many members of our community. So I invite one and all to get involved and become a participant in this human drama called life. Instead of being a passive spectator that idly watches as our communities turns to shreds, why not be a participant that contributes to the solution. I leave you with that question and invite feedback from others.