Brick City documentary series premieres tomorrow–Tuesday, September 15–at Symphony Hall in Newark.  First episode airs Monday, Sept 21, on the Sundance Channel at 10pm.

NEWARK, New Jersey is known as “Brick City” for its architectural style, urban strength and human resilience.  In the wake of the riots and rebellion that exploded in 1967, Newark became a symbol of American urban decline.  In recent years, due the the determined efforts of many grass-roots groups and community engagements, Newark has gained a reputation of being a ‘city on the rise’–serious about reducing drugs and youth-related violence, and raising hope and peace.

BRICK CITY  is the name of the documentary series that follows Mayor Cory Booker, the Director of Police, gang members and selected city residents engaged in the complex, difficult and important work of community development.   It features Jessica Jacques (“Jayda”)—a Blood member and youth counselor who started Nine Strong Women, Inc as an alternative to ‘gang bang.’  Rev. Tanya Bennett, Director of Religious Life at Drew University and member of the National Shalom Committee, has supported Jayda in her work with young women at risk for drugs and gangs in Newark, and also appears in the series.

NINE STRONG WOMEN  seeks to mentor young women (ages 13-16) at risk for violence and gang activity in Newark, led by Jessica Jacques (“Jayda”), now a youth counselor and motivational speaker. The organization received its first grant from the United Methodist Special Program on Substance Abuse and Related Violence (SPSARV) in December 2008, and celebrated their ‘graduating class’ of ‘nine strong women’ at Drew University in April 2009.  Jayda and members of Nine Strong Women will join other Shalom Teams in Montclair and North Camden, New Jersey, to begin a five- month ShalomZone training program in asset-based community development, beginning October 17, at Drew University.

  Nine Strong Women at ‘graduation ceremony’ at Drew

About the Series: Acclaimed actor, Forest Whitaker, is the executive producer of BRICK CITY (pictured here with Jessica Jacques).Created and directed by the award-winning filmmakers Mark Benjamin and Marc Levin, BRICK CITY, is a five-part documentary series that fans out around the city of Newark, to capture the daily drama of a community striving to become a better, safer, stronger place to live. Against great odds, Newark’s citizens and its Mayor, fight to raise the city out of nearly a half century of violence, poverty and corruption. In the five one-hour episodes, the lives of Mayor Booker, citizens on the front lines, and key figures re-making the city – from developers to gang members and youth mentors – intertwine in a portrait of a city at a critical moment in history.

The Brick City series airsMonday-Friday, September 21-26, at 10:00PMon the Sundance Channel(Channel 192 or local channel 78), satellite television, cable television or On Demand. For further information on the Brick City Premiere, visit: or call SUN-FILM (800) 786-3456.

EPISODE 1:BRICK CITY – Summer is Ours   onthe bloody summer of ’07 when three college

students were murdered on the playground of Mt. Vernon Elementary School. Mayor Cory Booker and Police Director Garry McCarthy are putting new programs and systems in place to keep the streets safe during the hot months to come.  Longtime Blood gang member Jayda juggles motherhood with her work as a youth counselor, while her romance with Crip gang member Creep serves as a living example that violence and enmity can be overcome. Jayda and Creep are delighted to learn that she is pregnant, but an ugly episode in Jayda’s past suddenly returns to the fore, threatening all their plans for the future.


Jayda remains in jail as Creep struggles to take care of his and Jayda’s children, while his boss at Integrity House, a respected therapeutic center, contacts authorities on her behalf. Mayor Booker attends public ceremonies relating to trade and housing, and faces skepticism and criticism at a community meeting in the city’s middle-class North Ward. At the regular CompStat (crime statistics) meeting, Garry delivers good news about the homicide numbers, and Mayor Booker joins Governor Corzine to announce a new state program to help ex-offenders find regular employment. Jayda’s plans for a nonprofit mentoring group are gaining steam, but her relationship with Creep is headed for crisis.


It is July, and the word comes down that Newark’s new Central High School building – now nearly 10 years and $100 million in the making – may not be ready for the start of the school year. It’s a development that leaves everyone angry, and it’s up to Principal Ras Baraka and Vice Principal Todd Warren to prepare contingency plans and maintain morale among students, parents and staff. Creep and Jayda reconcile, and Jayda meets with the straight-talking, savvy defense lawyer Brooke Barnett about her pending criminal case. As the school year begins Central High opens. Camaraderie and serious discussions share the agenda at overnights given by Principal Baraka and Vice Principal Warren for Central High’s freshman boys, and by Jayda for her young female mentees.


For the first time in more than 50 years, the Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey circus comes to Newark, an event that is a testament to the city’s increased viability and improving public profile. Meanwhile, Director McCarthy’s efforts to change Newark’s policing methods have begun encroaching on areas traditionally overseen by the Chief of Police. Jayda makes her first court appearance in her pending case, and her lawyer investigates the claims made against her. The Newark Police Department and the Bloods mourn deaths in their families. News reports alert McCarthy to a potential coup against him – and it will be up to Mayor Booker to determine the outcome.


The city posts its 50th murder of the year, raising fresh concerns about the public safety policy. As he campaigns for Democratic nominee Barack Obama, Mayor Booker must also decide which candidate to support in the critical race for Municipal Council in the Central Ward. As he surveys the scene of a daytime dual, shooting, Director McCarthy wonders if an intra-gang war is brewing. After Newark’s streets explode in gunfire – including an incident near Central High – McCarthy demands a plan to deal with the violence that is claiming gangbangers and innocent victims alike. Facing dwindling legal options, Jayda must decide what is best for herself and her family. Newarkers flock to the streets to savor an historic Election Day, and Mayor Booker keeps a close eye on the local results.

 Mayor Booker’s Bio: 

 Jyda’s bio  

Blood Gang Member, Youth Mentor and founder of Nine Strong Women


Creep’s bio

Crip Gang Member and Youth Counselor

Dean Beach introduces Layla Anyai in Drew chapel during ‘graduation ceremony’ in April.