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Street Soldiers

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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