Announcing the Spring Cohort of Resident-Reporters
The Newark News and Story Collaborative is committed to elevating community-driven storytelling to fill information gaps in local and national media. The Collaborative trains community members in storytelling, media-making, and other creative art forms to share and amplify their experiences. It’s laying the groundwork for a collaborative network that will address longstanding information inequities in Newark, New Jersey. For more information and hear local stories, you can visit www.newarkstories.com. Resident-reporters selected for training will also receive a stipend for their participation. The Newark News and Story Collaborative is made possible with funding support from the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation and the Victoria Foundation.
Today, we announce the Newark residents selected to join our spring cohort as resident-reporters.
Cass Severe is a mother, student, survivor, activist, and change agent living and working in Newark, New Jersey. She currently works with the Newark Housing Authority to support the Asset Manager and the Department of Operations. She holds an Associate’s degree in Human and Social Services from Essex County College and a Bachelors in social work from Rutgers University- Newark. Cassandra is currently a speaker of the Faces of Women Imprisoned Speakers Bureau with the Ladies of Hope Ministries to deepen and broaden public conversation through public symposiums and 2016-2017 Beyond the Bars Fellow of Columbia University Center for Justice. Cass previously worked as the Project Manager of the Newark Community Street Team (NCST). NCST is a community-based violence reduction strategy that trains and deploys Outreach Workers and high-risk Interventionists in the South and West Wards of Newark. Cass also worked as a Facility Coordinator and Case Manager at Integrity House, a multi-service agency that offers a full continuum of care for individuals with substance use disorders. Cass is an active member of Newark Anti-Violence Coalition (NAVC), All of Us or None (North Jersey Chapter), Women Who Never Give Up (WWNG), NJ-Justice Prison Watch (NJPJW), and People’s Organization for Progress (POP). Cass knows firsthand the difficulty and challenges people face after traumatic life experiences, thus she has made it her mission and passion to incorporate healing in her social work practices.
Sana Atiya though born in Elizabeth, NJ, was raised in the city of Newark and is a proud West High School “Roughrider”. She now lives and serves her community as a spoken word artist. An aspiring vlogger and journalist, Sana took a small departure from Newark when she moved to Boston, MA in 2007. There she obtained her Associate's degree in Communications from Bunker Hill Community College in 2011. Upon finishing her degree, Sana eventually traveled back home to Newark in 2012, where she graduated from Rutgers University with a bachelor’s degree in journalism while minoring in African American Studies. With the knowledge of the impact of the African Diaspora on people of color, coupled with her journalistic study, Sana decided to turn her real-life experiences into spoken word poetry and uses art as a medium to highlight the effects of poverty on minority communities. Sana Atiya can be found giving insight, what she calls her “Peace for the Day’s” on various social media platforms. Unpacking how single-parenting, miseducation, sexism, and racism are impacting urban communities. A self-proclaimed “artivist” Sana believes, “our words should be the tools we use to wage wars against social injustice. She is an aspiring author and plans to publish a book soon seeking to do just that.
Asaada Cooper is a graduating senior at Montclair State University with a Bachelors in Communications and Media Arts. As a multifaceted individual, she enjoys finding ways to apply her journalistic and public relation skills to her passions. She’s passionate about beauty and the arts, social justice issues, and health wellness. Asaada uses her social media to share her story and spread awareness about Crohn’s and Colitis. Asaada is a Newark native whose history runs deep in the city. Her great-grandaunt, Dazzare Jefferson, was a forefront leader during the 1967 Newark riots and she comes from the background of educators in Newark. Asaada plans to use the Newark story lab program to leave an impact and change the narrative of the city the same way her aunt did.
Simuel Gordon is born and raised in Newark, NJ aka Brick City. Simuel is best known for the many roles he holds. As an advocate in the community and accomplishments with multimedia production. He is a business-minded individual who reflects my corporate and community knowledge into the many projects he has collaborated on. Simuel's interests are multimedia production and marketing, in addition to internet development. He is an entrepreneur and founder of BrickMediaWorks LLC and has been self-motivated for over 20 years. He considers success only a small part of a bigger picture, in which destiny will decide.
Prince Derek Doll (b. Alonzo S. Blalock) is an American performing artist, media personality, entrepreneur, and advocate. Originally from Shreveport, Louisiana, the multi-faceted entertainer has experienced most of his career highlights in the NYC metro area and currently resides in the historic city of Newark, New Jersey. The Neo-Pop singer-songwriter, who released his debut EP 'GOLDRUSH' in 2012, made history in 2019 as the first openly bisexual artist to perform on Hip Hop Culture Day at Lincoln Park Music Festival. Prince Derek then went on to make an international press debut from the red carpet of the MTV Video Music Awards. Arriving in the official capacity as an interviewer for The Newark Times, his fashion choice unexpectedly garnered features on several best-dressed lists including Essence, GQ Australia, USA Today, and Vogue.
Last year, Derek surprised fans with new music by releasing “BANG” to streaming platforms followed by a 3-page spread in the Feb/March 2021 issue of Out In Jersey magazine. As an actor, he has made featured appearances on hit shows like Gotham (Fox) and The Get Down (Netflix), starred in short films such as The Last Bus and Haven—both written and directed by Kristi Woodard, and is a former cast member of A Sketch of New York, an improv comedy show played at the world-famous Producer’s Club. He’s appeared in music videos for artists like The Red Hot Chili Peppers, The Plug Daughter, and RayKatanna. In the true fashion of an artiste, Prince Derek’s portfolio also includes many self-produced works that speak to his knack for creative expression, most notably his dramatic interpretive visuals found in “Rebirth In Progress” and his online comedy series “Cute For You” which features a host of characters all played by the maven. The ever-ambitious advocate, Prince Derek utilizes his platform and influence to address economic and social disparities affecting the LGBTQ community, while also commanding space for other LGBTQ creatives and leaders where they are often underrepresented. He serves as an Executive Board Member for Newark Pride, Inc. and has hosted the Newark LGBTQ Pride Festival three times since 2016. He is also the host of NJPAC's former open mic event Freeform, co-host/mentor of The Darren Green Show podcast, and co-producer/cast member of Queered Millennial's The Ki--an online talk show specifically about gay culture from the perspective of millennial men of color.
He is a certified community health worker, panel moderator, Victoria Emerging Leaders Program graduate, and is a Leadership Newark Public Policy Fellow with hopes of making a positive impact on the city's homelessness issues--especially those concerning LGBTQ youth. In recognition of his contributions to the local community and creative arts industry, Prince Derek was named 2020 Creative of the Year by Artistic Passion & Purpose. He is diligently working with his newly assembled creative team to ensure his supporters receive new merchandise from his Unowned Negro clothing collection, a solid music project, and even more live productions than in previous years.
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Kira Jones is a scholar, activist, and organizer from Newark, New Jersey. She is a graduating senior at Rutgers University-Newark with a major in Psychology, a Minor in fine arts, and a concentration in Social Justice. Kira is also the founder of the DOTUM (Daughter of the Urban Mind) Foundation and plans to receive her master’s in Art Therapy.
Daniela Palacios is a 17-year-old entrepreneur and speaker from Newark, New Jersey. She immigrated to the United States at eight years old and she is proud of her Ecuadorian roots. Daniela noticed how her seven-year-old brother, Xavier, struggled to understand Spanish in her bilingual household. Additionally, there were no engaging bilingual books to improve his Spanish-speaking abilities. When children grow up not speaking their parents’ native language, it is often because valuable dual-language education is absent. Daniela felt compelled to fix this problem by founding a bilingual children’s book company to empower kids like her brother, to become or remain bilingual. Daniela created Para KIDS!, a media company that helps culturally diverse children feel appreciated through unique bilingual stories with immigrant characters. Daniela is currently writing a new bilingual children’s book, “Sara’s New Country and New Friend”, which she will self-publish as an eBook and a physical book. Daniela understands the importance of representation in the publishing and business industry. She wants her story to influence other youth of color, especially those that are immigrants and Latinx, to recognize their power and pursue all of their aspirations.
Chantel Fletcher is a dedicated healthcare researcher with a passion for community engagement and upliftment. As a public health researcher, Chantel counsels volunteers in COVID and HIV clinical studies, which includes conducting risk assessments and other prevention trial education. Chantel brings a host of experiences centered around eliminating health disparities and promoting health and well-being in urban settings. She has supported transformational community projects in Harlem, Detroit, Baltimore, and of course Newark. She started as a Student Advocate with the Harlem Children’s Zone. As a native Detroiter, Chantel ended up in Newark for school, matriculating from Rutgers School of Public Health with a Master’s in Urban Health Administration in 2018, and then she launched The Sis and Bro Initiative, a nonprofit focused on integrating trauma-informed care into everyday life. While completing her practicum on maternal-child health, Chantel has collaborated with local hospitals to raise awareness of the disparities Black women face seeking prenatal and postpartum care. Chantel continues to stay involved in Newark. Chantel believes violence is a public health issue and supports anti-violence organizations like Newark Community Street Team and Shani Baraka Women’s Center. You can catch her volunteering at community gardens in her free time.
A special thank you and shout out to our project partners Free Press and Center for Cooperative Media @ Montclair State University.
Visit www.newarkstories.com to learn more about this project and hear local stories. If you are interested in collaboration or partnership, email email@example.com.