Twist and Shout

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

Monday, May 7, 2012

Trentonian TV Production Notes: Freedom Episode 11

TRENTON -- Education, wellness and money matters dominated conversation for 55 minutes, and all 3 conversationalists are educated professionals who were born in Trenton. They want to make this city strong again.

Jerell Blakely graduated Trenton High in '05 then earned a degree from Howard University, and now is working toward his masters in social and philosophical foundations of education at Rutgers. Two weeks ago, the Mercer County Freeholders appointed him to the workforce investment board to help oversee development initiatives, and he aims to use his first taste of political status to educate Trentonians -- from Hermitage to Hoffman to Walnut to the Burg to South Trenton to Villa Park to St. Joe's Avenue -- about programs that pay to train prospective workers. "I want to partner with churches and schools and organizations," Blakeley said, "so people are aware there are resources available to become educated, gain a trade and do something productive with their lives."

A confident man who isn't afraid to speak about what's right and wrong and who quotes fellas like Booker T. Washington, Blakeley works at Education Testing Services in Ewing. He spoke about the urgency of holding parents and elected officials and teachers and students accountable. "You can have a gleaming facility and all the resources in the world, but if you have a $1 million plant a dime-store philosophy you can't take advantage of the plant." Trenton's major downfall, the reason Trenton High ranks 317 out of 317 in Jersey, is because "parents don't see education as a way to empower and uplift."

He spoke about "brain drain" in Trenton: good eggs go away to Howard and Harvard and Spelman but don't come back to build something great here. Yet those who do are faced with broken government that starts in the seat of power at 319 East State Street. Blakeley minced no words when he said, "The 800-pound gorilla is our mayor, Tony Mack. I'm praying for him. The next 2 years need to be better than the past 2 years. The last 2 years have been a total disaster. This could've been the Tony Mack Era -- with an 'a' but it's turning into the Tony Mack Error. It's unfortunate. He's educated and could've turned this city in another direction. But he lays off cops, turnrs libraries into learning centers and calls the laying off of a bloated staff an issue of public safety. It's bizarre. It doesn't suggest that something's right. He's the most prominent black man in the county -- as goes Tony Mack, so does Trenton, and I'm praying things turn around very rapidly."

Sa Mut Scott -- or "Mama Yoga" -- was born at Mercer Hospital (now Capital Health) and runs the Mama Yoga Wellness Studio. The nationally recognized yoga instructor travels the world speaking about the importance of making the right life choices through diet, nutrition, exercise, loving relationships and financial ability. But, she said, not many Trentonians put that layered philosophy into play on a daily basis, if ever. So that's the wisdom she tries to pass on. "I've been around the world and have never had a desire to move out of Trenton -- you with me? I want to add something of value and worth to children."

Freedom and Scott talked about Trenton's "bodega" problem. "We've programmed ourselves to buy into the worst," Freedom said, "but in the quality of life we expect the best." Scott replied that Trenton's bodega (corner store) issue is four decades in the making. "When you take the invention of fast foods and TV dinners, when you take the ability to prepare healthy meals out of the home, then you set up a community that is adjusted to, or becomes adapted to, grabbing foods quickly -- you see kids walking to school with 25-cent hugs. There are studies by Pew and Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital about juices and the effects of the dyes on the brain. So bodegas are a supply and demand. ... If you don't press them to have fruits or vegetables, or if the community isn't educated that they should want fresh fruits and vegetables, the bodegas will buy them but they'll just sit there."

Freedom and Mama Yoga talked about Trenton's 13-year-old girls who look like they're 19 and flaunt their wares like they're 25. "We're losing generations," Freedom said. Mama Yoga agreed and talked about her wellness center's 8-week training program for girls who are becoming young ladies way too fast. "They learn why they should choose apples over Fruit Loops ... learn about the beauty of themselves as young women, how to respect their bodies. Because everything is the mind. Perspective is first. If your perspective is not in harmony with healthy living and wellness and well-being, then the rest of your actions and lifestyle will produce what your mind is in harmony with." She talked about Trenton's obesity problem, and how "Little Shabika" walks around ShopRite with "her shorts too low where she's showing a little too much."

Friday night at 7 at the Underground Railroad in Burlington, she is leading the "My Sister's Keeper" program "to teach women how to love their men. ... It's gotta start at home."

Keith Scurry grew up near East State and Walnut. Rough 'hood. Now the college grad works for Primerica, a financial-services company, and says he makes "6-figures" and that he is "on track to make $300,000" this year. His 5-year plan is to become a "cash millionaire." He said Primerica focuses on middle-income families and teachers and nurses and construction workers and janitors and state workers. He talks a great money game and explains how banks snooker investors through the "Rule of 72." You take 72 and divide it by the interest rate on your CD or money market account or 401K "and that's how many years it takes your money to double on time." He said banks make a killing while you the investor get killed. Scurry said his grandma retired but went to work again because she had to live on 40 percent of what she earned over 40 years. He gave a pretty strong insight into why gang members or street hustlers do what they do to earn the quick buck instead of committing to the slow grind of earning an honest buck. "They don't want to go to school and work, because what's the point if you don't have anything? They'd rather get it any way they can and pay the price later -- but they don't want to live in poverty."

OK, enough words by me. Look at the photos and then watch the episode. These are the brains, and this is the knowledge that Trentonian TV continues to provide on a daily basis.

Jerell Blakeley: Future mayor of Trenton?

Jerell's and Freedom's kicks

Mama Yoga awaiting her turn in the seat

Keith Scurry looking dapper as he awaits his turn in the seat

Hunter Thompson hears and sees all every week on Freedom

The hands with a plan

Mama Yoga's hands and glasses

Mama Yoga's feet and blue nails

Mama Yoga

Keith Scurry's kicks

Keith Scurry's fingers

Keith Scurry between his many words