Students fight social injustice through song, dance

Mass shootings across the country and more localized daily violence take a psychological toll on the nation and the community. While these issues may stir emotions of anger or revenge, students at ConneXions, a community based arts school in the Greater Mondawmin area, are using their talent to express their feelings through theater, dance and the written word.

“Skittles & Sweet Tea: a choreopoem for social justice” was directed by Tracie M. Jiggets and is based on the Trayvon Martin trial, Emmitt Till’s murder and black-on-black violence in Baltimore.

The choreopoem, which is told through the voices of students in grades six through 12, expresses young people’s opinions on social justice while giving hope to the Baltimore City community.

Jiggets, who has been teaching and directing theater for over 15 years said, “The fusion of theater, music and dance provides the perfect platform for the youth to express their thoughts on current affairs.

I’m thankful for the opportunity to work with this talented cast, and I’m excited about the healing this production will bring to the students in this community.”

Choreographers included Kwame and Diedre Dawkins-Opare, Kutia Juwara as well as a host of creative professionals who dedicated their talent, time and passions to the production.

In addition, several members of the Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity at Coppin State University volunteered and offered their support. Alpha brother Joshua Ned says, “I just love seeing kids have an opportunity to shine through their talents despite all that is happening in their surroundings. This is an honor to be able to support the kids in the communities surrounding Coppin State University.”

Since 2002, the community based art school ConneXions has been educating students in grades six through 12 in areas such as dance theatre, visual arts, martial arts and African drums. In January 2014, the school will also host a fashion show “Artistik Couture.”

ConneXions: A Community Based Arts School is located in the former William H. Lemmel Building, 2801 Dukeland Street in West Baltimore.

For more information about the school, visit:

Ledisi’s new project introduces growth, love

Grammy-nominated singer Ledisi embraces change on her own terms on her fifth major studio album “The Truth” which will be released in stores February 2014. She says she dug deep to create the album, which is available on pre-release on “This project was the hardest to start and easiest to finish,” she said. “There was a moment in my life where I had to embrace my truth, look at myself in the mirror and let go toxic things in my life whether it was relationships, people around me or things that were not healthy for me.”

Born in New Orleans, Louisiana, Ledisi appears graceful and unshaken in an industry that is very fickle and places tremendous pressure on an artist’s image. “I’m not trying to be something that I am not,” she reflects. “I have always moved naturally and what works for me naturally. I’ve always had confidence in myself and I’ve been encouraged by my mom and there are so many women around me who inspire me.”

She credits positive moments in her life with giving her the courage to move forward. “That moment of questioning myself is always there, but then there is always an incident that occurs right after to remind me that I am walking in my purpose. Those moments give me motivation to continue going forward. What is also very essential to me are these three keys— be careful who you surround yourself with; have faith and love yourself.”

The first single from the new album “I Blame You,” written and produced by Claude Kelly, Chuck Harmony and Ledisi Young (the team who brought you “Pieces of Me”), is a joyful reflection on that newly found love. USA Today calls it “A breezy-smooth rush of pop-soul nostalgia.”

Ledisi was excited to share her recent exploration of dance in a class called “Hip Hop in Heels,” which is led by dance instructor and choreographer Brandee Evans in California. Evans also choreographed Ledisi’s performance for her new song, “I Blame You” at the 2013 “Black Girls Rock” awards show which aired on BET network in early November.

She says branching out to dance forced her to face an insecurity. “A very dear friend of mine who died of cancer always encouraged me and told me that I’m more than a singer and to embrace my acting and dancing talents as well,” she said. “After his passing, I decided to let go of some [of my fears] and embrace it. I really enjoy the dance classes and connecting with all of the women who attend. Being there has taught me a lot about myself. However, I am always a singer first no matter what!”

For more information on Ledisi, visit: and you can follow her on twitter/instagram at @ledisi.

Author Cheyenne Bostock releases book to promote healthy relationships

Author, life and relationship coach, and mentor Cheyenne Bostock who goes by the name Chey B has dedicated his passion to inspire others with his recent release “Food, Sex and Peace of Mind” (What A Woman Needs To Know To Keep A Man). The book which was released in December, 2012 offers relationship tips for women looking to attract a compatible mate. During a recent tour, Chey B visited The Carolina Kitchen in Hyattsville, Maryland for a book signing.

Chey B said he started thinking about a book while studying human behavior at Texas Wesleyan University, “While I was in college I studied psychology where I learned about the human connection, body language and studying people, he recalls. “Often time’s my friends and family would come to me for advice about relationships and through those conversations I started to notice certain patterns. At the same time, those experiences also helped me to analyze my own relationship patterns with women.”

To date the book has sold over 5,000 copies. In addition, the author has over 50,000 subscribers around the world who support the “AskCheyB” relationship blog and are loyal followers of his Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Youtube and Instagram social networking sites which he updates daily with positive affirmations and encouraging advice.

In a book review, Paul C. Brunson, author of the national best seller “It’s Complicated (But It Doesn’t Have To Be)” said, “Chey B is one of the most passionate relationship experts I know. His strong desire to help and empower is what has led to his success and made me open my eyes and ears to him. I suggest you do the same.”

Chey B was born and raised in Brooklyn, New York. He is very optimistic about what lies ahead for his career and he humbly reflects on the path which ultimately changed his life. “A few years ago I was living in a homeless shelter with uncertainty about the direction of my future. My relationships with money and people were not healthy. It was during that time I had to step out of my own way and allow God to show me his way. From that point my outlook on life and relationships with others improved for the better. As a father of a six year old son, I want to instill values in him so that he can grow to become a productive and respectable man.”

“Food, Sex and Peace of Mind” is available for purchase on Amazon and For more information visit:

Coppin State University business speaker series encourages students to dream

— On Wednesday, October 16, 2013, Coppin State University hosted the second Named Speakers Series Luncheon with Dr. Jayfus T. Doswell, president and CEO of Juxtopia, Inc. serving as keynote speaker.

Ackneil Muldrow, consultant, The Baltimore Times; and Ronald Smith, student at the College of Business at Coppin State University.

Ackneil Muldrow, consultant, The Baltimore Times; and Ronald Smith, student at the College of Business at Coppin State University.

Sponsored by the Coppin State University, College of Business (CSU) and Times Community Services, Inc (TCSI), the series provides a forum for top business leaders in the city and state to interact with business students while featuring an outstanding business leader.

Featured speaker, Dr. Jayfus T. Doswell, the founder, president, and chief executive officer (CEO) of Juxtopia, LLC, a privately held biomedical and information technology company that develops products to improve human performance shared his business expertise. Doswell, along with community leaders and other professionals answered questions and offered advice to an audience packed with Coppin business school students.

Doswell encouraged students to pursue their dreams and not in give to insecurities, “Fear is the most destructive emotion and it destroys self,” he advised. He also told the students to seek out positive mentors to help guide their careers. Doswell acknowledged his business mentors but said that his drive started at home, “I have to acknowledge my parents as my first mentors because they gave me my foundation,” he said.

Justin Brown, a Coppin junior majoring in marketing said, “Attending this event has challenged me to dream bigger. After hearing Dr. Doswell speak, I know how to strategize and plan my goals better.”

Comedian Tony Rock headlines at Magooby’s Joke House

— Comedian and actor Tony Rock has recently embraced a new platform as host of the legendary talent competition “Showtime at the Apollo.” Despite his new role, Rock is not neglecting his standup fans and is currently headlining a national tour that is set to come to Baltimore.

Tony Rock will perform at Magooby’s Joke House located at 9603 Deereco Road in Timonium, Maryland from Oct. 24-26. Rock recalled his first performance in Baltimore, “I said to the crowd ‘New York is the Big Apple. What’s Baltimore known for?’ A girl in the crowd yelled out ‘We got crabs!’ I said ‘So I guess I won’t be sleeping with any women here’.

In addition to being a celebrated comedian and host, Rock is also recognized for his acting abilities in television and film roles such as the UPN network’s “All of Us,” “Everybody Hates Chris,” and the 2005 movie “Hitch” which starred Actor Will Smith.

Despite his variety of talents, comedy will always come first for the funny man. “Stand-up will always be my favorite because it’s what I’ve always dreamed of. I’m actually living my dream. Every other opportunity such as acting and hosting is given to me because I’m a great stand-up comic.”

For those who may not have an opportunity to see him perform in person, the “Tony Rock Comedy” mobile app can be downloaded to cellular devices with the android system.

For more information about Tony Rock upcoming performance visit:

Baltimore Ravens Torrey Smith reflects on athletes and hip hop

— Hip hop culture has an unquestionable influence in mainstream society including the video game, television and sports.

Torrey Smith, wide receiver for the Baltimore Ravens, is not only known for his dedication on the field as a strong offensive player, but also his daily “Good morning y’all” tweets as well as his twitter that often references about his favorite hip hop artists and lyrics.

Smith says there is a link between athletes and the hip hop culture. “I think so there is a connection. People often hear entertainers say they want to be athletes and/or athletes may say they want to be entertainers. It kind of goes hand in hand. I don’t necessarily agree with it because I don’t want to be a Rapper, but I do love the music in terms of the talent and different rap styles. I just don’t have an interest in doing it.”

Smith says he’s been listening to rap music for year and relates to many of its themes, “I can definitely relate to hip hop music from my childhood to where I am now. I can especially relate to what an artist like Drake says through his music when he speaks about working your way up to obtain a certain position or goals and the challenges that come with it. Whether it’s friendships, finances or people treating you differently because you have accomplished success; it relates to true life situations.”

Smith notes some if his favorite artists such are Lil Wayne, Drake, Jay-Z, and Pusha T. as well as Meek Mills. He also is familiar with hip-hop artists King Los and Caddy Da Don who are both natives of Baltimore.

Earlier this year, Torrey Smith and his wife Chanel Smith, a devoted schoolteacher created a rap video to motivate Maryland students preparing for a state standardized test. The Maryland School Assessment tests (MSA) are given to children in grades 3rd-8th to test reading and math levels. The YouTube video “MSA Rap Take 2” has received on 47,000 views to date.

Kleon Da Comedian: Reaching for the stars one laugh at a time

Comedian Keith Kleon Norman was just 10 when he realized telling jokes was a way to make others smile. He later recognized his talent was an opportunity to embrace gifts that would guide his path to stardom.

Keith Kleon Norman was born and raised in the Lexington Terrace area of Baltimore City. He recalled his earliest experiences of making others laugh, “Throughout my life, I was always entertaining people in my neighborhood, in school and at work. Friends and family would always suggest to me that I should take the career path as either a comedian or an actor, but I chose to pursue a career in stand-up comedy because that’s where my passion began.”

To date Norman, who goes by the stage name Kleon Da Comedian, has performed in over 29 cities across the United States at venues such as the Fox Theatre in Atlanta, Georgia; Texas Arena in Dallas, Texas; and Jokes N Notes in Chicago, Illinois as a featured act.

In 2010, he won the “Warner Brothers Short Film Contest” for his film “Standing in the Mountains.” That opportunity provided momentum for the self-taught film editor, videographer, director and producer to embrace his multi-talented abilities. In 2012, he independently produced the film “Bluffin,” which garnered a legion of supporters with over 20,000 copies sold by word of mouth.

Kleon Da Comedian returns to the spotlight with a stage play “Boyz to Men” in which he stars, as well as wrote, produced and directed. The performance will be held at the University of Baltimore on October 19, 2013 with shows at 8:30 p.m. and 10 p.m.

To learn more about Kleon Da Comedian or for tickets to the performance of “Boys to Men, call 443-597-3760 or visit:

“A Place at the Table” explores hunger and poverty in America

— According to a report released in 2012 by the Food Research and Action Center (FRAC), 16.2 percent of Americans reported not having enough money to purchase food for themselves and/or their families at some point throughout the year. In the United States, nearly 50 million Americans or one-in-four children don’t know where their next meal is coming from.

To shed light on this issue, the documentary “A Place at the Table,” directed by Kristi Jacobson and Lori Silverbush shares the stories of three Americans who struggle with not having enough to eat. The film was first released nationally on March 1, 2013.

Maryland Hunger Solutions, an organization that advocates for policies, programs and resources that fight hunger and improve the well being of Marylanders hosted a screening of the documentary and a panel discussion at the Charles Theatre in Baltimore in September.

The panel was moderated by Dr. Michael Reisch, Daniel Thursz Distinguished Professor of Social Justice at the University of Maryland School of Social Work and the panelists included: Jeff Singer, University of Maryland School of Social Work; Ellen Teller, director of Government Affairs, Food Research and Action Center; as well as Tony Simmons and Bonnie Lane representing the Baltimore Area Faces of Homelessness Speakers Bureau.

The discussion offered suggestions for community members to help reduce poverty and homelessness in Baltimore such as donating to food banks or volunteering at a local hunger or poverty related group.

For more information about how to get involved in the effort to end hunger in our community, as well as the organizations at the forefront of this issue in Maryland, the public is invited to attend the “Fighting Hunger in Maryland Conference” on October 10, 2013 at the University of Maryland in Baltimore. Conference registration is available online at:

Morgan graduate David Talbert screens ‘Baggage Claim’ in Baltimore

— Award-winning playwright, novelist and filmmaker David E. Talbert has written and directed 14 nationally acclaimed productions that have garnered 24 NAACP Image Award nominations.

In 2008, Talbert wrote, directed and produced his first comedic film “First Sunday,” which starred Ice Cube, Tracey Morgan and Katt Williams.

To celebrate the release of his second major film, “Baggage Claim,” Talbert hosted a special screening for the students at his Alma Mater, Morgan State University on Monday, September 16, 2013 at the AMC Theatre in White Marsh, Maryland.

“Baggage Claim” is based on Talbert’s book by the same name. It’s story about “Montana Moore” a flight attendant played by actress Paula Patton, who finds herself with only has 30 days to find “Mr. Right.” With the help of her friends, she uses the travel privileges she receives through her job to find the perfect mate.

Other actors in the movie include Jill Scott, Derek Luke, Taye Diggs, Trey Songz, LaLa Anthony, Boris Kodjoe, Tia Mowry, Adam Brody and Djimon Hounsou.

Talbert says that his inspiration often comes from listening in on others.

“I get most of my ideas through eavesdropping on some of my wife’s conversation with her girlfriends,” he confided. “I’ll sit in the other room and just listen to different scenarios her girlfriends are going through, and then gather that information with other real life situations [that] some women may encounter and create a concept from there.”

After the screening of the film, Talbert answered question from students who were eager for career advice about the film industry.

He told the students that dreams can come true with hard work. “I believe the journey to success is however you get there— you just get there. Whatever one aspires to accomplish in life, approach it like it’s a house and whatever you have to do to get inside that house, whether it’s through a window, door or crack in the wall— get in there! Accomplishing your dreams is very possible and when you get there, just remember to leave a crack for someone else to get in,” he said.

“Baggage Claim” opens in theatres on Friday, September 27, 2013.

Health Care for the Homeless helps restore stability

— There were over 4,000 adults and children homeless in Baltimore City according to a survey conducted in 2011.

Experts say that number has only increased in 2013 as more people have fallen victim to a shaky economy and unemployment. “Health Care for the Homeless” is an organization that has been fighting homelessness in Baltimore for almost 30 years.

Located at 421 Fallsway in Baltimore, Health Care for the Homeless is staffed with professionals who provide mental health services, medical care, addiction treatment and social services, as well as extensive dental services for homeless adults and children. In addition, the organization offers a permanent supportive housing program, which serves to house and provide the life skills for clients to maintain stability.

Adam Schneider, director of communications says, “Housing is the foundation that is built around what we do here at Health Care for the Homeless. A home is what stabilizes the client to focus on other necessities such obtaining a job and providing for themselves as well as their family. If the organization can get people into a stable living environment, provide supportive services that can keep that individual permanently housed, then that is the start to a new life.”

Dontae Johnson, a Baltimore native who was homeless for two years, is a grateful client of the organization. An untreated mental health issue prevented Johnson from holding a job, which led to eviction from his apartment. Johnson says, “When I was homeless I would sleep in abandoned homes or deep in wooded areas where no one could find me. I was in a period of depression and had lack of direction. Being homeless became my lifestyle and I would wander through the streets in search for food. Then one day I was speaking to a woman at Our Daily Bread about my situation and she told me about Health Care for the Homeless.”

That conversation changed the trajectory of Johnson’s life. He went to Health Care for the Homeless where his mental health issue was diagnosed and treated by experts. In addition, he received regular counseling and support which allowed him to embrace a new home with a family member.

No longer homeless, Johnson says, “Health Care for the Homeless gave me a lot of hope and I feel much better about myself. I have reestablished family connections, I communicate and spend a lot more time with my family and it makes me feel good. Prior to coming to the organization, I was in a stage of disorder and depression, but now I have found the strength to live.”

Spokesman Adam Schneider says, “I’m very proud to work here because the organization tries to model the type of community or society we as staff want to live in. We recognize it is critically important to meet the needs of the clients with a direct approach and service in order to provide treatment and prevent a cycle. I’ve found meaning in my life through the lives of others I have encountered while working here.”

To learn more about Health Care for Homeless or to make a donation to the organization, visit: