Nine Strong Women Reach their First Milestone

By Dave Kerr

Who would think that the Bloods and the Crips could ever be friends? In fact they are and they are working together as part of a new gang called ‘The Council’ to help other gang affiliated individuals return home from prison in a safe way. Two members of The Council, Jessica (Jayda) a Blood gang leader, and the man she loves, Creep, a Crip gang leader have become partners in their street work. Love not only produced a baby between them but created the strength and compassion to begin a challenging gang prevention program with nine young high school women from the Newark Schools. Notwithstanding the reports to the contrary from the school, Jessica sees the strength, intelligence, creativity and beauty in these nine young women. They have responded to her leadership and high expectations for them and have changed their focus and their lives to see the importance of graduating high school and even going on to college.

Traditional counseling has not worked for these young women for many reasons but Jessica has a way of showing her commitment to each of these ladies and they trust and listen to her. Jessica encourages the ladies to think for themselves and to grow strong as independent young women in spite of the negative lure of the streets, drugs and gangs. Now word has spread and there are nine more waiting to be part of Jessica’s new family.

Tanya Bennett has worked with many of her colleagues from Drew, including Michael Christensen, National Director of the Shalom Resource Center. Through Michael’s help, $6,500 was raised for the new project, 9 Strong Women. Tanya and Michael are members of a group called the Newark Interfaith Coalition for Peace and Hope, a group dedicated to working with grass roots community leaders on ways to reduce the violence in Newark. As a result of the success of 9 Strong Women, we hope to bring in greater local and federal dollars so that more women will be helped through this remarkably creative project.

For more information on shalom work in Newark, see

For video previews of September 21 premiere of Brick City, see