Twist and Shout

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

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Trenton, My Trenton: Emiija's Hope Part 1

TRENTON -- A mentor, 3 of her teenage mentees and a young man with half an afro took to the hood on the west side of Trenton to open a few minds. A reporter followed them. They hit some of the hardest, toughest, roughest, broken, saddest and heartbreaking streets in America: Passaic, Hanover, Stuyvesant, Volk, Hoffman, Bryn Mawr and a few nooks and crannies in between. The mentor and her mentees and the young man with half an afro passed out fliers and bent a few ears in their quest to find and invite young females to a July 7 barbecue at the Conservatory Mansion on 540 East State. That's where they'll chow down and learn about Emiija's Hope, Trenton's only mentoring program targeting teen girls ages 13-18. The program completed its first 12-week run two ago.

Tashanna Ellis is the 23-year-old mentor of Emiija's Hope. She chronicled her story on Trentonian TV a few weeks ago. In short, Tashanna was a disobedient teen who ran the streets and gave birth to a kid when she was 14. She was depressed, desolate, stuck in her bell jar. Tried to kill herself. Mental hospital. But she emerged on the other side by finding God, then went to Delaware State University and graduated from Mercer County Community College. Her focus is helping Trenton's teenage girls who might be dealing with the pitfalls of hood life by empowering them to overcome the confusion, rage and angst. Tashanna wants to expand Emiija's Hope, so the barbecue is step one. Step two is raising enough money to find the group a permanent spot to meet every week. Tashanna said she'll apply for grants but she hopes Trentonians will dig into their wallets to support the cause, too.

Below are the photos the reporter took from 5:30 to 7:30 with Tashanna, Star, Nay-Nay, Rashawnda and 17-year-old Ozzia, who joined the girls in their quest because he is best friends with one of them. Some of the photos left a deep impact in the photog's mind, like the 4th one with "BIP BLVD" tagged on the shuttered abode that looks like it could be in the middle of war-torn Syria; and the 6th one with the elderly woman reading a flier and the dude on the other side of the porch who looks so sad, lost and lonely; the one of the man standing in front of a church on Stuyvesant; the second-to-last one with curtains and a flower pot with a pretty flower painted on the boards of a shuttered abode; and the last one with Tashanna's arm around Star's shoulders as they walk down Stuyvesant.

In case you're wondering, Emiija is the name of Tashanna's daughter.

Trentonian Photos/JOEY KULKIN (click to enlarge)

Nay-Nay, Star, Rashawnda, Tashanna, Ozzia

The walk began on Passaic Street

Trenton, My Trenton

Passaic Street aka BIP Blvd?


Passaic Street

Passaic Street

Some of the young girls Tashanna Ellis hopes to reach

Trenton, My Trenton

Hanover Street

Raising consciousness

Rashawnda spreading the message

Star talks to a 28-year-old mom on Hanover Street

The mom is Gennara Crews, who runs Black Girls Who Rock

Hanover Street

A young mom on Hanover Street holding her daughter, reading the flier

Trenton, My Trenton

Brother, can you spare a wire?

Hanover Street


Nellie, 5, Hanover Street

Rashawnda listening to the crowd

Stuyvesant: Star talks to a young mother

Only $50,000? Alright!

Trenton, My Trenton

Star talks while Tashanna watches her mentee in action

Tashanna (right) with a longtime friend

Stuyvesant fireman says he'll post the flier on the wall

Another young Stuyvesant mom

She's a Pennsy girl who said she'd show up to the July 16 barbecue


Volk Street

Tashanna's best friend, Ashley

Uncle Tim, from Liberia, BBQ'ing beef and chicken. Wings on a stick were great.



Best visual of the day

Mentor and mentee

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