“RELEASED” a hit new docu-series to be debuted on OWN: Oprah Winfrey Network
September 30, 2017

Consulting Producer and Author Shaka Senghor

Yesterday, I had the privilege of being an honorary guest at the dynamic press lunch accompanied by a very deep and necessary roundtable discussion. The group dissussion surrounded multiple branches of incarceration within families and it featured the consulting producer of “Released” Mr. Shaka Senghor. 

“Released” is a new docu-series that adds a journey filled with emotion, a glimpse into the interaction and readjustment back into society after being incarcerated. In episode one we are introduced to Kevin, Jermaine and Kay as their stories are documented post release and they enter the next phase of transitional adjustment back into society; some serving over a decade of time. When one family member goes to prison it takes on a whole new territory for the family through conversation, explanation, financial and emotional hardship. No person is wrong for having the feelings they experience as we are not in that persons shoes to identify the hardship.

Rapper Mysonne joined to weigh in his views on the discussion

If you have not been incarcerated personally you are unaware of the tactics it took to survive inside, post traumatic stress uncuffed and the mentally physche of overwhelming feelings. You may have experienced the same emotions within your life perspective but from the key element of FREEDOM. Not having an outlet or the option to choose what and when you eat, enjoying simple pleasures at your own leisure or even interaction with others if you are in the hole will make you appreciate life in general. The struggle or the restriction is not comparable in either instance even though it does not make one’s feeling less valid because of a void that was not filled.

Shaka Senghor shared his story and why it was important to show this vantage point of being released is imperative. With staggering statistics as: 44% of Black Women have a family member in prison or 10,000 men and women are released every week, 4 to 10 return within 6 months and how the U.S. incarcerates more people than anywhere else in the world is alarming. 1 in 9 African Americans parents are in prison and drugs are along the top tier for the reasoning. 

RELEASED follows individuals who have completed longterm prison sentences during those first crucial 90 dayson the outside.  We’ll meet them as they walk out the  prison doors for the first time, and stay with them for  every step and misstep as they attempt to reconnect withtheir loved ones, establish their independence and beginthe long, hard work of starting over. 

As the docu-series continues to build around Kevin, Jermaine and Kay we will gain insight in how they transition from being restricted inside with no glimpse of society to entering a new world so to speak as it did not stop as they were away. 


I think society stigmatizes being released and there has not been an outlet to break the cycle of incarceration which tears families apart. Prison isn’t always the solution and in Kevin’s scenario he already had two strikes and went onto serve 19 years for stealing $160 worth of baby clothes and getting into a scuffle with a security guard. That sentence is harsh in comparison to a sentence of a murderer or not being able to get a job due to his priors and environment in which many opportunities aren’t rendered. Returning to familiar habits becomes the resolution to the common issue of being an outcast when returning to society. There is hope after prison, adversity and anything you consider struggling it all has to deal with your mentality and utilizing what you have access to but some are not as fortunate as others.

Shaka Senghor joined by Chanel Benjamin

Being placed back into society is similar to a baby learning how to walk after the crawling stages. How can you put something in the past that the world constantly remind you of with closed doors and limited opportunities? You literally walk out of one form of imprisonment to another form of restraint. Many are dehumanized in a way that allows people to say that’s unfair and unfortunate and make strides by utilizing our voice for change. The healing for children impacts their quality of life you can not rewind time and the importance of the new docu-series “Released” angles of family interaction, dealing with the outskirts of reality is depicted with raw emotion. The only emotion we are allowed to own is our anger from the notion of what is presented to us and what we see others have or just curiosity to how your life would have been in comparison to what is it. 

Courtesy of 135th Street Agency

Watch: Kevin Getting Stopped at Airport Security


Watch: Kay Describes How it Felt to Be Released


Be sure to watch RELEASED as it debuts on Saturday, September 30 at 10PM ET/PT on OWN. Join the conversation on social media using the hashtag #ReleasedOWN


G.R.A.C.E 1st Annual Back To School Block Party! RECAP
September 18, 2017

DJ M Fresh and CEO of G.R.A.C.E non-profit Gracie – Photo credit: The Marshall

I just came to say hello! (Waves frantically) I woke up still feeling inspired from yesterday. Being in the position to implement positivity in the place that you grew up in is amazing!

The first wave of school supplies at the G.R.A.C.E table – Photo credit: The Marshall

On Sunday September 3, 2017, Gracie Cedres, the CEO of G.R.A.C.E (Granting Resources And Community Enrichment) non-profit, gave back to the very place she was born and raised. Being the visionary, entrepreneur and kind hearted person she is the task of creating an incentive to give back to the scholars in the community was planned and well executed.

Attendees enjoying the giveaways from Vegan Smart nutritional shake, Junkless chewy granola bars and hair products from Taliah Waajid – Photo credit: The Marshall

As the summer comes to an end and the new school year begins children, teens and parents wind down and what is a better way to spend Sunday Funday! G.R.A.C.E has alleviated some expenses parents are responsible for by giving away bookbags filled with school supplies, in efforts to provide children a head start to be GREAT!

Did you know: Each bottle sold by GiveMeTap gives 5 years of clean water to a person in Africa. They also have partnerships with restaurants and cafes, where GiveMeTap customers can refill their water bottles at no charge – Photos at no charge. Photo credit: The Marshall

Paula taking a moment to pose with the kids who stopped by her table to play interactive games and receive school supplies – Photo credit: The Marshall

DJ M Fresh keeping the block party LIVE! – Photo credit: The Marshall

We shine the light on G.R.A.C.E as a non profit whose mission is to inspire, enlighten and encourage youth, young adults and seniors of our community by providing influential resources and events. “Our organizers are residents of the Harlem community and by hosting this celebration we were able to stress the importance of education, provide support to the families with giveaways and provide fun activities for participating families. Our reputation lies in providing resources and enrichment in the community.” – CEO of G.R.A.C.E non-profit Gracie Cedres

CEO/Founder of G.R.A.C.E non profit Gracie Cedres displaying her bookbags – Photo credit: The Marshall

To show your support towards Gracie’s community efforts you can purchase G.R.A.C.E backpacks. They are now available for order email apparel@harlemgrace.org for your choice the bookbag comes in different colorways and will assist in the vision going further within the community.

The literature table featuring Amy’s Travels and Tackling Reading by Kathryn Starke. Minnow and Mars display of the raffle prize a new lunchbox and bookbag set – Photo credit: The Marshall

DJ M-Fresh and G.R.A.C.E collaborated to bring a fun filled family day that provided food, entertainment, educational books, healthy snack options and school supplies for our scholars to start the school year off right. Harlem definitely showed G.R.A.C.E love as the rainy skies cleared out and the sun shined down upon us the event went on as scheduled. Seeing the smiles on the children’s faces as they received the giveaways, won raffles, played in the bouncy house, and ate food. Their stomachs and hearts were full as joy, which made every action worthwhile.

Ms. Penny and Jay are all smiles when it comes to giving back – Photo credit: The Marshall

iPad and Bookbag giveaway at The Indie Broker/Verizon table – Photo credit: The Marshall

Granting Resources And Community Enrichment in HARLEM! – Photo credit: The Marshall

To the sponsors and those who donated where would we be without YOU! You all are the MVP’s in this vision coming into fruition. We thank you so much for following through on providing your products, time, services and expertise with us all for the kids. 

Facepainting done by @ZilladidIt – Photo credit: The Marshall

A form of expression and a smile for appreciation – Photo credit: The Marshall

Special thank you to all of the Sponsors/Vendors:

@kathrynstarke (Tackle Reading & CMP) , @givemetap (Give Me Tap), @luxtravbywanda (Luxury Travel by Wanda), @indiebrokers (Indie Brokers), @Verizon, @winnowandmars (WINNOW + MARS), @timberland, @applebees (117th St Harlem Location), @redlobster (125th Harlem Location), @livevegansmart (Vegan Smart), @bjswholesale (Exterior Street Bronx Location), Maryam Yum Yum, @tlishadoeshair (Chic Hair Boutique), @bigrussbarbershop, @zilladidit (Face Painting), @loudsocietyllc (Loud Society), @simply_eight (Junkless chewy granola bars), @sunniclothing, @taliahwaajid, @homedepot (Exterior St Bronx Location), @culturexcollab, @_JaideL, @ItsCrystalChanel, @papajohns (145th Street Harlem Location), @dunkindonuts (145th St Harlem Location), Photo credit @alumniine (The Marshall), and @litee (Milton Webster).

Brought to you by: @harlemsgrace and @djmfresh 

“Teamwork makes the dream work!”

Support goes a long way and we all played imperative roles for the success of the event – Photo credit: The Marshall

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