Twist and Shout

Twist and Shout
Life is never straight (Joey Kulkin photo)

Monday, February 27, 2012

Trentonian TV Production Notes: "Freedom" Episode 2

TRENTON -- The graphics didn't stick to the recording, again. I strive for perfection on projects like this, so anything less disappoints me like no other.

But, the victories in today's episode by far outweighed the one loss. Freedom engaged his guests Bruce Boyd and John Harmon with much more vigor, gusto, enthusiasm. Enthusiasm. And, he looked Boyd and Harmon in the eyes as he spoke and asked questions. Last week, Freedom didn't look any of the three guests in the eyes -- at all. And he heard about it from his fans. Freedom and I had a quick pep talk before going live, and the only big thing I told him was "look them in the eyes." The two conversations flowed better because of that. I felt Freedom's enthusiasm rise as he and his guests dove deeper into their conversations, and they were quality conversations. THIS is Trenton, when strong minds deliver strong ideas.

Boyd works for the State of New Jersey and also runs B.O.Y.D. -- Building Our Youth Development.

Check out the website HERE. Boyd was born and raised in Trenton's Donnelly Homes. He remembers when "community was community" and "neighborhood was neighborhood" -- when you borrowed sugar and thanked the gesture by returning some flour. His is another refreshing voice in a city that's suffocating. He's trying to change the culture of "family" by influencing behavior and habits.

B.O.Y.D. takes students out of Trenton to expose them to a world beyond these borders, to a slave plantation in Williamsburg, Virginia, to the Apollo Theater in Harlem, to Lancaster, Pennsylvania, to see what it's like to live with zero electricity, to the spot where Malcolm X was murdered. Boyd said he teaches students about the importance of the Black Wall Street. Those are just some of the field trips and ideas.

The organization preaches "360 degrees" of education between "us, the student and the family," Boyd told Freedom. "We're going to fix the family."

Just like Trenton School Board President Rev. Toby Sanders a week before on the debut of "Freedom," every word Boyd spoke was full of vibrancy. Amid the stink of the city, you sometimes forget that there are guys like Bruce Boyd making it their life mission to lead Trenton back to prosperity through education. Everything he said was terrific, but one line stood out the most when he talked about parents and their kids and sports. "You have to practice reading as much as dribbling the ball. The parents cheer them on (in sports) but do they cheer their kids on for education?"

Freedom and Boyd agreed that the family dinner -- where "table talk" was part of the feast -- is a distant memory in Trenton.

Harmon, meanwhile, touched on a series of economic issues that every Trentonian -- renter and homeowner -- should listen to. He and Freedom spoke about the Marriott's troubles, Doug Palmer's failures as mayor for 20 years and how it carries over into Mayor Mack's term, as well as lost opportunities and reinvestment and job creation in Trenton, the New Jersey African-American Chamber of Commerce's collaboration with Steadman Graham (yeah, Oprah's Steadman).

"When things are going wrong, people who have the resources, people who have the wherewithal tend to step up to help people, and here in this city, people stay quiet," Harmon said. "Here in this city -- a city headed to hell in a hand basket -- we can't coalesce 12,000 signatures in 6 months (to recall Mack, when one million Wisconsinites signed a petition to recall Gov. Scott Walker). When are you going to be sick and tired of being sick and tired of being hoodwinked and bamboozled?"

All the while, I was on the ball with the graphics, making sure to hide the names as I activated the screen-in-screen to show Facebook or web pages. I forgot only 2 or 3 times this episode. There weren't any broadcast blips that might have made the replay stutter, either, so it was a one-piece, 62-minute show, and I was excited about the finished product -- only to be disappointed after seeing the graphics didn't stick. But, I wasn't terribly disappointed for long like the other day because the conversations are always full of life. The value in these conversations to the community is not the sizzle of the graphics, but the meat of the ideas Freedom and his guests deliver. THIS is what Trenton must be about moving forward.

As for a few critiques of Freedom, he improved his delivery this week and didn't act like he was too cool for school, which he kind of did last week. But, he continues to wipe his face as others speak, which makes me think that his guests are thinking that they're not all that exciting or compelling. Freedom said he wouldn't rub his face during conversations.

Freedom has delivered 5 top-shelf guests. He said he has calls into Sen. Shirley Turner and Assemblywoman Bonnie Watson-Coleman and former Trenton City Councilwoman Annette Lartigue. I hope all 3 of those women appear on the same show. We also hope to book Barbara Horne, a Trenton native who owns Liquids and Eats and once worked on Wall Street. The live audience continues to grow, but I have an idea that live broadcasts at night will attract more of the masses -- so next Monday's show will begin at 7 p.m. Spread the word. Till then, here's the replay of Episode 2.