Creating Change

Meet author and attorney, Keeda Haynes

By Sue Baldani

While in college at Tennessee State University, Franklin native Keeda Haynes started dating a man who would change the course of her life. “He asked if I would accept packages of cell phones and pagers for his company,” she says. “It turned out that none of the packages contained cell phones or pagers.”

Keeda, along with 28 others, was indicted on various marijuana and conspiracy drug charges. “Everyone pled guilty except for me,” she says. “I chose to go to trial and exercise my constitutional right.”

What was the outcome?

I was acquitted of six charges, but was found guilty of aiding and abetting a conspiracy to distribute 100 to 400 kilograms of marijuana, which carried a mandatory minimum of five years in federal prison. Although I had no prior criminal history, instead of receiving the minimum, I was sentenced to seven years. Upon appeal, I was resentenced to five and released from prison in December of 2006. I was determined to change the system.

What were your next steps?

I went to law school and became a practicing attorney In 2012. I worked at the Public Defender’s office for six and a half years and came to realize there was an intersectionality of the criminal legal system with so many other issues, like lack of housing and lack of meaningful employment.

I didn’t feel as if there was anyone in Congress addressing these issues, so I decided to run for Congress and received 40% of the vote. Today, I work on the national level with The Sentencing Project, and with Free Hearts, a local grassroots nonprofit. I’m also a member of Delta Sigma Theta and am one of the co-chairs on its Social Action Committee.

Why did you write BENDING THE ARC: My Journey from Prison to Politics?

I want to encourage people to have conversations about what’s happening in our world. I want them to think about how they can change things.

Personalized, signed copies of her book can be ordered from The Bookshop in Nashville, and unsigned copies are available on Amazon. For more, go to

Written for Franklin Lifestyle magazine in Tennessee.

A Museum With Something for Everyone

Come and experience the old and the new

By Sue Baldani

Looking to see great works of art, find unique programs for your children, or rent a spectacular venue for an event? If so, you don’t have to travel far. The Morris Museum in Morristown, with its affiliation with the renowned Smithsonian Institute, has all this and more.

Collections and Exhibits

While the permanent collections offered are incredible and varied, there are always new and fascinating exhibits to be found at different times of the year.

“We’re really excited to be hosting Art in the Atrium’s 30th Anniversary Show, For The Culture, By The Culture, 30 Years of Black Art, Activism, and Achievement, which opened May 25 and will run through September 25,” says the new Executive Director, Andrew Sandall.

Another exhibit on display throughout the summer is Contemporary Spin: The Guinness Collections Re/Imagined. “This shows our signature Guinness Collection interpreted through the eyes of the next generation of museum professionals.”

Children’s Programs

The amazing Spark!Lab, which opened last year, has been a tremendous hit. “It’s a fascinating, unique place,” says Director of Museum Learning and STEAM, Gabrielle Meyer. “There’s nothing quite like it within a couple of states.”

Spark!Lab, she explains, is a hands-on space that allows kids to create, think about the world differently and come up with solutions. “There might be a prompt to create a vehicle with this material or create something that moves with these gears. As a former teacher, the piece I love the most is that a 5-year-old and a 13-year-old can have a fantastic experience using the same materials.”

Another offering is the Art in Motion Tour. Children learn about various pieces, then go to the classroom and make their own kinetic art. Artful Afternoons, which will be held in July and August, is yet another fun addition. They’re each a week-long and have very specific programming based on a theme.


“There are numerous reasons to be a member, but the number one is free admission to the museum,” says Andrew. “Members also get exclusive programs and experiences and discounts for our regular programs. You’re also helping support us financially and making sure those programs and exhibits are available for everyone in the community.”

Private Events

Hold your next party or corporate event (up to 120 guests) at this unique venue. “We still have some select Saturdays available this summer,” says Private Event Manager, Nina Hoffer. Having access to the galleries during your event adds an extra dimension to your party that is distinctive and unforgettable. 

To find out more, go to

Written for Morris City Lifestyle magazine in New Jersey.

The Heart of a Restauranteur

A place for food, love and learning

By Sue Baldani

Jimmy Bellas grew up in the restaurant business. “My dad, James, literally came out of World War II and along with his dad and his brother opened a series of diners on Long Island. Later, he had a bustling place called Jimmy’s Backyard.”

As a kid, Jimmy was there washing dishes, cleaning silverware, and bussing tables. He later became a waiter and bartender. “I did it all, and I studied restaurant and hotel management in college, so when I graduated, I ran the restaurant with my dad.” It’s also where he met his wife, Karen Coccari.

Jimmy eventually opened his own Italian restaurant, but after getting married in 1998 and wanting to have a family, he realized he needed to make a change. “The restaurant business is wonderful, but the hours are difficult, especially if you’re serving dinner.”

After switching careers and working in sales for over 20 years, Jimmy found himself missing the restaurant business and would often sit around the family table regaling his wife and sons, Nico and LJ, with nostalgic stories. “I would say maybe someday we’ll open up a little place, and I’ll go back into the restaurant business with my own family this time. One day, Nico just looked at me and said, ‘Why don’t you stop talking about it and just do it?’”

And so, they did. They opened Sorriso Kitchen, a charming café in Chatham that serves breakfast, with choices such as omelets, home-made sausage and thick-cut bacon, and lunch, including an award-winning burger, which you can enjoy with a cold beer (it’s a BYOB.) The food is amazingly fresh and much of it, like their produce, honey, chicken, cheeses and syrups, comes from local farms in New Jersey and Pennsylvania.  

Their son LJ, who has special needs, was also the inspiration for opening up the business. They wanted to give him a place to work after graduation.

On Mondays, when the café is closed, they hold classes for other special-needs children to learn restaurant skills. In order to expand this program and encourage other businesses to do it, he and Karen will be starting a foundation.  “We’re so excited!” he says. “We’ll be able to support this type of program or similar programs that exist or even seed and create new programs.

“We really feel like we’re doing what we are meant to be.” Jimmy’s advice to others who are thinking about taking the leap into a new career or going back to a former one:  “Follow your passion, but make sure that the leap you’re taking is one that’s going to continuously provide you with the love of what you’re doing.”

Written for Chatham & Short Hills Lifestyle magazine in New Jersey.

A Main Street Legend

Sports, art, music and more

By Sue Baldani

Legends Gallery at Frames on Main in Chatham has been offering sports memorabilia for over 20 years. There’s everything from framed classic sports photos and jerseys to signed baseballs, football helmets, and hockey pucks. It has also hosted autograph-signing events with professional athletes like Eli Manning, Carli Lloyd, and Keith Hernandez.

“It’s a quick thrill to get to meet, say, Mariano Rivera, get your item autographed and take a picture with him,” says owner Greg Daily. Guests buy tickets beforehand, then either bring in their own memorabilia or buy them at the gallery.

Greg is now expanding into the exciting world of music legends by offering professionally-framed photographs of iconic moments in music history signed by the extremely accomplished photographers who took them. “There’s Bob Gruen, who was John Lennon’s and Yoko Ono’s photographer. I also have Ron Pownall, who was a tour photographer for Aerosmith, and Frank White, who has been shooting concerts for years. There’s also John Comerford, a Chatham guy, who has shot multiple album covers for artists such as Stevie Ray Vaughn and Meatloaf’s Bat Out of Hell II.”

There’s another new and unique offering as well. “I had a client bring in what’s called sound waves prints to be framed, which are pretty cool,” he says. “One was a Natalie Merchant piece signed by the singer herself.” Sound waves, he explains, are what you would see on a digital screen in a music studio.

“What this particular artist has done is create relationships in the music industry, so now he’s got all these sound waves and paints colors onto them,” says Greg. “Each one is different and signed by the musician. He does limited-edition runs of prints taken from photographs of his paintings.”

In Legends Gallery right now, there are sound wave pieces from Jamie’s Got A Gun signed by Steven Tyler, and Another Brick in the Wall, signed by Roger Waters of Pink Floyd. “I’ve also got one from a band called Evanescence, featuring their main song, Bring Me to Life, which is signed by Amy Lee. It’s actually my favorite piece and has this incredible purple color. I then have an old standby, Mama Said Knock You Out, by LL Cool J.” Each one of these pieces is beautifully framed.

Greg buys each of these prints directly from the artist, who then donates the proceeds to each individual musician’s charity. If you’re looking for a great gift for Father’s Day, or for a great gift for yourself, go to or, or even better, stop in and see them in person.

Written for Chatham & Short Hills Lifestyle magazine in New Jersey.