It was a red carpet night to remember for Jayda and her “ladies” (as she calls them)–the Nine Strong Women–as well as for those of us who support their efforts to reduce youth violence and bring peace and hope in the city of Newark, N.J.

Six members of Drew University–Tanya Bennett, Annie Allen, Donna Powell, Nancy Vanderveen, Renee Olson and me–attended the Premiere at Symphony Hall Tuesday night.  Nearly 1000, mostly Newarkers, packed into Sympony Hall and a couple of hundred enjoyed the VIP reception prior to the showing.

Executive producer and Oscar Award winner Forest Whitaker, left, walks the red carpet with Newark Mayor Cory Booker at the premiere of Sundance Channel’s documentary series ‘Brick City’. The series follows Mayor Cory Booker and the citizens of Newark as they take strides to redeem their cities’ reputation after a history rich with riots, violence and rebellion.

Preliminary speeches were heard from Executive Producer, Forest Whitaker (‘glad to be here and will stop by often’), Mayor Booker (who reminded the audience that the film only shows one slice of Newark), the Director of Newark Police (who apologized for his ‘cussing’ in the flim’), the film producers who earned the trust of the cast, and Jayda and Creep–the Bood and Crip couple around whose story the documentary unfolds.  

We just saw the first episode Tuesday night in which the Mayor is featured prominently, and we wept with Jayda as she decides to face her past parole violation and go to jail before beginning her new life as a community organizer, mentor, organizational founder, and motivational speaker.  The first one hour episode leaves you eager to see the entire week long series next week (which of course, we all want to do).

Local reviews were mostly positive, but qualified:  More than one local leader advocated for a wider community perspective than what the documentary presents:


I think that we need to make sure we capture the full picture and not just the pomp and circumstance of the “Brick City” premier. I am proud of Jayda and of her efforts with Nine Strong Women. Jayda is phenomenal strong woman and is her husband and will likely go very far with their efforts to transform and show a different side and more positive side of Bangin’.  They are both influential leaders in the community no matter what side of the Bangin’ or law abiding table you sit at.  I have great respect for what they are trying to accomplish.

However, [we] need to also keep in front of our discussions the reality of the eclectic feedback that the residents, politicians, dignitaries, etc. and others who live in the City of Newark are thinking and Blogging. So be deliberate in checking the blog categories under the trailer.This type of “community feedback” has been ongoing for decades as one of the many life long Newark bloggers puts it…”check your history for the City of Newark” and  “stuff like this has been going on for years”.  The community is who we need to engage in our efforts. So we must approach the community with wisdom there too.In order for us to make sense with whatever we bring to the community and streets, and to support those like Jayda, and others, we need to remember all perspectives to get the full pulse check on feedback out there.

Here’s a link to the Star Ledger article about the documentary, “Brick City”

Though limited to one point of view (that of the produces who tried to tell a complex story and depict a reality of the streets), the documentary is certainly worth seeing to raise awareness.According to film promoter, Karl Hollandt (who got us our tickets to the Premiere):

Rolling Stone magazine named BRICK CITY as one of the top reasons to watch TV this fall and the Chicago Tribune named BRICK CITY in their top TV picks this fall.

Starting this Monday Sept 21st-25th BRICK CITY will begin airing nightly on the Sundance Channel @ 10pm. For those who cannot wait, the episodes are already available on HD VOD (video on demand), in the New York market.

Created and directed by the award-winning filmmakers Marc Levin and Mark Benjamin and executive produced by Forest Whitaker, BRICK CITY, is a five-part documentary series that captures 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, Cory A. Booker, fight to raise the city out of nearly a half century of violence, poverty and corruption.

Check out the first 10-minutes here:

Visit our website for more info and view the webisodes here:

If you don’t have the Sundance Channel, please call your cable provider to order.

And, please, spread the word.

Love and peace to all. Karl

The Shalom Initiative, which I direct, plans to show Episode Two at the  National Shalom Summit in Columbia, SC (Oct 28-31).