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Street Soldiers TV: Teen Summit Town Hall

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Teens in the East Harlem community face many of the same issues teens do everywhere but here they have the added challenge of avoiding the lure of the streets. Luckily for them there are some programs working to guide them in a positive direction.

Getting money is always a goal, and the temptation is to get it fast any way you can is always there. But Harlem teens also grow up seeing the price some pay for breaking the law. Harder to avoid is the social media beefing between youth in different housing developments.

Lawrence Birthwright, known to the community as Brother Jay or Mr. Jay, grew up in housing, and came up with a plan. Based out of the Stanley Isaacs/James Weldon Johnson Center, the S.A.F.E. Program features sports, leadership training, field trips and educational support for boys and girls. But most of all it’s about the ongoing dialogue and guidance.

We were invited by community leaders to do a special teen summit town hall to give the teens a chance to speak out. You might be surprised by what they have to say.

–LISA EVERS, Host and Executive Producer, Street Soldiers

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Street Soldiers TV: Hip Hop and God Featuring Fetty Wap & David Banner

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Acknowledging god and giving back are becoming more common in hip hop than ever before. We got an exclusive first-hand look how hip hop superstar Fetty Wap is sharing the love with his own community.

“God blessed me to be a little fortunate now so I try, especially the main thing I try to do is give back to Paterson,” Fetty said.

He teamed up with the new Price Rite supermarket, the Gray Firm and RFG Productions to give more than 1,000 Paterson, New Jersey, families a very happy holiday weekend. He gave out $25 gift cards so they could make a nice Easter Sunday dinner, something he rarely had himself growing up.

“To be able to live a different lifestyle, it kind of just really empowered me to try to help as many people as I could,” Fetty said.

Hundreds of people waited on line for hours as much to be inspired by his success in defying the odds as to receive his generous gift.

“I got kids, too. To make people happy—that’s what I’m all about,” he said. “I try to do my best.”

The heart of hip hop has never been bigger, more spiritual, and more outspoken about god. In the video “God’s Plan,” Drake gives away nearly a million dollars to people in need. The song set a record for most streams of a single in a day—more than 18 million—and set off the God’s Plan Challenge.

“All over social media you could see fans literally tearing up, getting emotional and also being inspired,” music journalist Sowmya Krishnamurthy said. “The God’s Plan Challenge was basically to do good deeds.”

Snoop Dogg’s first album was called “Doggy Style” and now some fans are crying “Holy hip hop!” over his latest work—a new No. 1 gospel album called “Bible of Love.”

Could Fetty have his own gospel album in the works? Anything is possible for this super-talented artist. For now, he is content to help others and accept dinner invitations.

“If I continue to be blessed, I’m going to always bless my city and make sure they got them plates for me,” he said. “Fetty Wap’s coming through—yeah, baby!”

–LISA EVERS

FEATURED CAST: LISA EVERS, Host and Executive Producer, Street Soldiers https://twitter.com/lisaevers

FETTY WAP, Hip Hop Superstar https://twitter.com/fettywap

SOWMYA KRISHNAMURTHY, Music Journalist https://twitter.com/SowmyaK

OSWIN BENJAMIN, Hip Hop Artist https://twitter.com/OswinBenjamin

DAVID BANNER, Hip Hop Artist https://twitter.com/davidbanner

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Street Soldiers TV: Ending Gun Violence: NYC Youth Stands Up for Change

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Gun violence is one of the biggest issues facing our country. And there seems to be no solution. A new generation of student activists is vowing to change that.

New York City students walked out of class in solidarity with hundreds of thousands around the country over gun violence, one month after the Parkland massacre. Nupol Kiazolu, whose father was shot and killed when she was 8, was among them.

“I’m still not fully there when it comes to healing and dealing with my father being killed,” said Kiazolu, a senior at Nelson Mandela School for Social Change. “But I’m using the pain that I’ve experienced and am still experiencing over his loss to help me and push me forward.”

Students from the city and suburbs gathered at an after-school rally organized by Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams. More blacks are killed by guns than whites. And their murders are often ignored. But Adams believes the students may be helping to right old wrongs.

“I think that Parkland was an awakening for many that finally heard the cries of those in the urban centers across America,” Adams said. “And now that connection is allowing a mass movement that I believe finally we’ll see a movement in the gun reform conversation.”

While students in low-income communities of color are often exposed to gun violence at an early age, it was a new experience for many of the Parkland students. Yet students from diverse backgrounds are now standing together for change.

“The face of gun violence looks a lot different than the people who are actually dealing with it,” City Council Member Jumaane Williams, a candidate for lieutenant governor, said. “And so my hope is that this bridge does occur.”

Assault rifles, like the one used in Parkland, are the main focus of the gun reform conversation. Adams, a former NYPD captain and a gun owner, said he hopes that focus is expanded.

“The urban problem are 9mm handguns, .380s, .38s—no one is having a conversation about that,” Adams said. “And so our legislators cannot be lost in the emotion of the suburban and rural problem and ignore the urban problem.”

The students seem certain that this time enough really is enough.

“This is something that is going to result in generational impact,” Kiazolu said. “So for future generations to come, we won’t have to experience anything like this.”

–LISA EVERS

FEATURED CAST: LISA EVERS, Host and Executive Producer, Street Soldiers https://twitter.com/lisaevers

NUPOL KIAZOLU, Activist, Student, and President, Black Lives Matter NY Youth Coalition https://twitter.com/nupol_justice

JUMAANE WILLIAMS, City Council Member https://twitter.com/JumaaneWilliams

JERMEL HOWARD, Actor https://twitter.com/JermelHoward

ERIC ADAMS, Brooklyn Borough President and former NYPD Captain https://twitter.com/BPEricAdams

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Street Soldiers TV: Can School Shootings Be Stopped? Teen Activists Rise Up

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Yet another mass shooting tragedy tore at the soul of our nation. But this time the aftermath is different. Many students who survived the massacre at Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida are vowing to make sure it never happens again. Can they succeed where so many others have failed?

“Every single person up here today, all these people, should be at home grieving,” Stoneman Douglas senior Emma Gonzalez said in a speech. “But instead we are up here, standing together because if all our government and president can do is send thoughts and prayers, then it’s time for victims to be the change that we need to seek.”

The brave speech by Gonzalez struck the conscience of the country and ignited the Never Again: March for Our Lives movement created by her and fellow students.

The teens took to the streets, the statehouse and anywhere people would listen—all this in between funerals for the 17 students and staff murdered at their school in Parkland, Florida. This is a healthy response, according to Dr. Randy Sconiers.

“At that age group, they’re very resilient, those kids that were talking out were very strong, they were tough, they were using that trauma and turning it into something that could actually help change,” Sconiers said. “And I call that transformational pain—when you experience pain then use it to change things in your environment.”

Teen actress Donshea Hopkins played the daughter of Ghost on the hit series “Power.” Her character Raina was gunned down outside school. She sees the debate over the Florida teens’ strong anti-gun stance as a positive.

“I think they’re doing an amazing job and they’re doing what they have to do. It’s like controversy causes action,” Hopkins said. “You can’t just set down and say ‘I don’t want this to happen anymore,’ you have to stand up and you have to try and make a change, you have to talk to your local politicians, you do have to go to Washington and talk to these really important people.”

For younger children, unavoidable images of the tragedy can be overwhelming and impossible to ignore. So the experts say that parents should encourage conversation.

“Be really careful about the information they share based on their age of the kids as well,” Sconiers said. “You don’t want to scare your kids but you want to educate them.”

“I let them know there’s people out there who try to do harm sometimes, here’s what to look out for, here’s what to do in these type of situations, here’s how to react, here’s how to respond,” said Patrick McCall, the CEO of McCall Risk Group and a father of four. “So that way they’re prepared, they’re not deer in the headlights, ‘Oh my god, what’s going on?'”

While the current generation of teens is sometimes seen as too passionate and unwilling to listen to adults, it could be their key to success as they take on the NRA, the White House, and anyone in their way, Sconiers said.

“Because they have those attitudes, they’re willing to go against the grain, and ‘If we have to, we’ll go against the adults who are not making changes,'” he said. “So that same thing that was considered the bad parts of this generation, we’re saying now this is actually the strength.”

–LISA EVERS

FEATURED CAST: LISA EVERS, Host and Executive Producer, Street Soldiers https://twitter.com/lisaevers

RANDY SCONIERS, DSW, LCSW, Clinical Therapist, New Steps Counseling https://twitter.com/NewStepsCounsel

DONSHEA HOPKINS, Actress and Artist https://twitter.com/DonsheaH

PATRICK MCCALL, CEO, McCall Risk Group, Security Consultant https://twitter.com/mccallriskgroup

DARRIN PORCHER, PHD, Former NYPD Lieutenant, Criminal Justice Professor, Security Consultant https://twitter.com/DrDarrinPorcher

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Street Soldiers TV: The Black Panther Phenomenon

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Marvel’s Black Panther is in movie theaters now. Black Panther the superhero is here to save the world but he represents so much more than that.

Stan Lee and Jack Kirby created the comic book character in 1966—and predates the Black Panther Party, according to Chuck Creekmur, the CEO of AllHipHop.com. The character is a king, warrior, and scientist—an alpha male on another level, Creekmur says.

Black Panther is king of a fictional technologically advanced African country that hides its riches and intellectual wealth from the world until the Black Panther must fulfill his destiny.

The movie has great action, strong female characters, a multi-layered plot and a predominantly black cast. It is groundbreaking in many ways.

“You have a $200 million budget given to a person of color, Ryan Coogler, 31 years old, has only directed two other films prior to this—Fruitvale Station and Creed,” says Clayton Davis, a film critic and the editor in chief of awardscircuit.com. “And he’s given the keys to a big franchise like Black Panther.”

The film’s positive portrayals of a black civilization untouched by racism or colonialism can have a profound effect, especially on children.

“We’ve all been conditioned to see Africa and Africa’s children, whether they be in Africa or in Brooklyn, in a negative light,” says Brian Favors, an educator with the Nate Parker Foundation. “And I think this is going to be something that’s going to help defy some of those stereotypes.”

“Any time an individual can see themselves in a positive light, that can only increase their self-esteem,” says Dr. Elisa English, a clinical therapist.

—LISA EVERS

FEATURED CAST: LISA EVERS, Host and Executive Producer, Street Soldiers https://twitter.com/lisaevers

CHUCK CREEKMUR, CEO, AllHipHop.com https://twitter.com/chuckcreekmur https://twitter.com/AllHipHopcom

CLAYTON DAVIS, Editor in Chief, AwardsCircuit.com https://twitter.com/ClaytonDavis_Jr https://twitter.com/AwardsCircuit

BRIAN FAVORS, Educator, Nate Parker Foundation https://twitter.com/NateParkerFdn

DR. ELISA ENGLISH, clinical therapist https://twitter.com/AskDrElisa

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Street Soldiers TV: Love and Loyalty: Taking Back a Cheater

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Sade sang about love on the front lines. Now for celebrities, their love lives are increasingly on front street.

Mega-hot Cardi B was still celebrating her engagement to Migos rapper Offset when other women posted their sex tapes with him. Cardi responded that cheating happens to everyone so why start over with someone else?

Celebrities can influence our relationships, according to Essence Magazine senior editor Charreah Jackson, a relationship expert.

“We know that people are watching what celebrities do more than ever so it definitely has an impact to see what are favorite celebrities, your favorite singer, your favorite actor,” Jackson says. “What’s happening in their home can definitely normalize things that happen in your home.”

Cheating scandals (think Tiger Woods) used to mean shame and divorce court. But no more. Actress Gabrielle Union went on to marry NBA star Dwayne Wade even after he confessed he had a baby with another woman. Lala Anthony is estranged from husband Carmelo after he reportedly fathered a child with his alleged mistress.

And it is not just celebrities.

“Believe it or not, nine times out of ten, the people are staying around,” says private investigator Patrick McCall, CEO of McCall Risk Group. “You’re presenting them with some pretty good evidence, some solid facts that this occurred, and they’re basically just saying, ‘I’m already invested, I have nowhere to go.'”

He says a lot of clients rationalize staying by saying they must have done something.

Jay-Z and Beyoncé may be the most high-profile couple to stay together through the tough times and make chart-topping albums and millions of dollars along the way—first Beyoncé’s “Lemonade” and then Jay’s “4:44.”

Jackson believes if the couple gets to the root cause of the cheating, they can rekindle their love.

But McCall disagrees.

“My honest opinion is, ‘Once a cheater, always a cheater,’ never going to change,” he says. “The possibility of that person doing it again is pretty high.”

–LISA EVERS

FEATURED CAST: LISA EVERS, Host and Executive Producer, Street Soldiers https://twitter.com/lisaevers

CHARREAH JACKSON, Senior Editor, Essence Magazine https://twitter.com/Charreah

JACK A. DANIELS, Psychotherapist and TV Host https://twitter.com/jackAdaniels

ANAIS, Star, “Love and Hip Hop: New York” https://twitter.com/therealanais

PATRICK MCCALL, CEO, McCall Risk Group https://twitter.com/mccallriskgroup

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Street Soldiers TV: NYCHA Town Hall 2.2.18

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The New York City Housing Authority provides affordable housing for nearly half a million New Yorkers. But with a no-heat crisis and other ongoing health and safety issues, can NYCHA turn it around before it is too late?

This has been a rough winter for tens of thousands of rent-paying NYCHA residents who found themselves without heat and without help on some of the coldest days in decades. Residents told us it was nothing new, but it was also never this bad.

From Throggs Neck to Far Rockaway, one end of the city to the other, resident council leaders told us they were running high on complaints and low on results—a pattern all too familiar from the lead paint scandal and safety issues like crime, lighting, and security cameras.

Aging buildings, boilers breaking down, lack of staff, and lack of funding—despite NYCHA’s $3 billion annual budget—are the reasons we kept getting. Another frustration was no real timetable for repairs. So we put it to NYCHA Chair Shola Olatoye in a rare interview on a recent Street Soldiers episode.

Some elected officials want her to step down. They accuse NYCHA management of incompetence, covering up problems, and not caring about residents.

Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. and City Comptroller Scott Stringer called the situation an emergency.

Public Advocate Letitia James called for new leadership at NYCHA that recognizes the priorities of the residents, particularly the most vulnerable and marginalized.

Days after announcing a $13 million emergency fund, Mayor Bill de Blasio told Good Day New York that he is sticking by his NYCHA chair, period.

So we took it to the people of NYCHA housing in a ground-breaking town hall in the Bronx. Voices were united as residents demanded permanent fixes to the problems. Residents and resident council leaders from more than a dozen public housing developments came out with local youth and concerned elected officials to talk about ways to solve the persistent problems facing NYCHA residents.

Residents have complained about no heat or hot water, urgent repairs not being made, broken promises, and dangerous health issues like lead and mold exposure.

Street Soldiers invited the mayor and NYCHA to attend or at the very least send representatives but they were all no-shows.

Our panelists who grew up in public housing say it is time to take the issues to NYCHA and City Hall. Joining our panel was hip-hop artist Ja Rule.

We had a lot of support for the town hall from Hot 97, which helped us get the word out and provide refreshments, to the hit web series “Project Heat,” which is based in the Pink Houses, to our event host, the Bronxworks Community Organization, which empowers Bronx residents to live their best life possible.

The mayor has pledged more than $200 million for new boilers and repairs, but many are skeptical about the timeline and the amount, which they say is a drop in the bucket.

–LISA EVERS

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Street Soldiers TV: Urban Web Series

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Urban web series are exploding in popularity. The shows attract millions of viewers. Themes of life and death in the streets, often on the edge of the law, made by self-taught filmmakers. Is this real-life street cinema or is the ‘hood going Hollywood?

“Mayhem” claimed the title as best popular web series in the first Urban Web Series Awards. It took off so fast that creator Andre Keys never looked back. He quit his job to work on the series full time. In fact, he is launching a spinoff series soon.

“Home of the Hittaz” is based out of Brooklyn, the Bronx and Far Rockaway with familiar themes of the drug game and violence and with characters as addictive as crack.

TV and film critic Clayton Davis says viewers can’t get enough. If there is a Hollywood for web series, it has to be Brooklyn. “Project Heat” makes filming on the streets an event for the neighborhood.

The incredible thing is that most of these web series creators are self-taught filmmakers and use friends and family members as actors, which makes scheduling a challenge. As they sign major distribution deals, they’ll be able to have a payroll.

–LISA EVERS

FEATURED CAST: LISA EVERS, Host and Executive Producer, Street Soldiers https://twitter.com/lisaevers

TIFFON “POP” DUNN, Creator, “Project Heat” and Founder, Urban Web Series Awards https://www.instagram.com/popshowup/

DOUG “KD” APPARICIO, Producer and Cowriter, “Project Heat” https://www.instagram.com/kdshowup/

BOOM P., Creator and Director, “Respect Life” https://www.instagram.com/boompacino/

CLAYTON DAVIS, Editor-in-Chief, AwardsCircuit.com https://twitter.com/AwardsCircuit

ANDRE KEYS, Creator, “Mayhem” https://www.instagram.com/mayhem_driz/

SHAKIM HINES, Creator, “Home of the Hittaz” https://www.instagram.com/ceo_sha_hom…

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Street Soldiers TV: Chinx, Cracking the Case

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The news of the arrests for the murder of Chinx rocked hip hop culture and social media. While it seemed sudden, it was many months in the making. And all the while, as Chinx’s brave and beautiful wife Janelli Caceres told me in an exclusive interview, she kept her hope alive on her long journey for justice.

A Fox 5 camera was the only one on hand as NYPD detectives brought in Quincy Homere, 32, and arrested him for the murder of Chinx, whose real name was Lionel Pickens, on May 15, 2015, in Queens when his Porsche was stopped at a light. Minutes later, they brought in suspect No. 2, Jamar Hill, 26. He was also charged with murder.

For more than two and a half years, NYPD detectives were relentless in their search for the killers, no matter what the obstacles, according to Queens South Homicide Lt. Richard Rudolph.

Janelli told me that during the many months when it seemed like nothing was going on, detectives from the 107th Precinct and Queens South Homicide kept her informed privately.

For Chinx’s legion of fans, and the hip hop culture, long accustomed to unsolved rapper murders, the arrests came as a shock, according to Vanessa Satten, the editor-in-chief of XXL magazine.

Lt. Rudolph said that in 2009 Homere and Chinx had a beef over a gang-controlled phone on Rikers Island that left Homere seething. In between felony arrests, Homere tried his hand at rap under the name Qwality, and even had a song out called “IDK Nothing,” with a reference to the same type of gun allegedly used in Chinx’s murder.

On April 24, 2015, after a show at the Sound Garden Hall in Philadelphia, where rising star Chinx was performing with French Montana, Homere’s hate and jealousy ignited. Sources said Chinx called him out as a snitch. For the next three weeks, law enforcement sources said, Homere hunted Chinx like an animal.

The courtroom was packed with Chinx’s family and friends, and security was tight in Queens County Criminal Court as Homere and Hill were brought before a judge. They were arraigned on murder and other charges and pleaded not guilty.

It was the first time Janelli saw the men who allegedly took away the love of her life and father of their children.

It is still too early to tell whether the suspects will go to trial or take a plea, but Janelli said she will be in court every time.

Over the years, Janelli has focused on raising her three children as a single mom, pursuing her college degree in business management, working and handling her husband’s music business. She said she will continue to pursue her own goals as an example to the kids to move forward despite tragedy.

–LISA EVERS

FEATURED CAST:

LISA EVERS, Host and Executive Producer, Street Soldiers https://twitter.com/lisaevers

VANESSA SATTEN, Editor-in-Chief, XXL Magazine https://twitter.com/VSattenXXL

DARRIN PORCHER, PHD, Former NYPD Lieutenant, Criminal Justice Professor, Security Consultant https://twitter.com/DrDarrinPorcher

KENNETH MONTGOMERY, Criminal Defense Attorney, Law Professor, Former Prosecutor https://twitter.com/EsqMontgomery

LT. RICHARD RUDOLPH, Commanding Officer, Queens South Homicide https://twitter.com/NYPDQueensSouth

JANELLI CACERES, Widow of Chinx