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"We are always making choices"

It’s easy for men & women, especially youth to see cause and effect when a stone is thrown into a pond and the ripples move outward to the farthest shore. With day-to-day life choices involving family, school, and the community, cause and effect is not always so clearly recognize

Aginah Carter-Shabazz, founder and director of CHOICEZ, a program designed for urban middle and high school youth to help them understand that they are responsible for the choices they make and the impact their choices have on their lives.


In 1998 my daughter was arrested and incarcerated for a heartbreaking 18 months for a crime she neither committed nor orchestrated. Although she was acquitted of the crime, her life has been changed forever. Her experience was the consequence of choices she had made about thecompany she kept, money, and materialism. The subsequent trial and her release are the subject of my award-winning documentary Justice for Her and the inspiration for my acclaimed memoir CHOICEZ, a reflection on my own life and the consequences of choices I made in my youth.

Everyday, women and men throughout Philadelphia are living with the consequences of their own and other people’s choices about drugs, alcohol and easy money; choices that take a toll on their social, economic and political well-being. Influenced by poverty, single parent households, crime, drug abuse, disease, and teen pregnancies, these students are experiencing school drop out rates, unemployment, and youth incarceration at an alarming rate.

CHOICEZ’s mission is to guide, support and facilitate women and men, especially women of all ages, through creative interactive sessions, to design their “Plan for Living,” a plan based on the goal of achieving the best for themselves and their communities. We advocate self-discovery, self-discipline and cooperative relationships as essential elements in preparing youth to be effective members of the local and global society.

In February 2009, after reading my book and reviewing the documentary, Corrections Classification Program Manager Phyllis Jones-Carter invited me to speak at the State Correctional Institution-Chester, a drug and alcohol treatment institution. Inmates at SCI Chester are serving the 17 months before expiration of their minimum sentence.

Ms. Jones- Carter ordered several copies of the book and a copy of the CHOICEZ documentary for inmates to read and watch. With the inmates’ overwhelmingly positive response to my visit and the tools, Ms. Jones-Carter asked me to lead a CHOICEZ workshop. The workshop was very successful.

In workshops that use my documentary, Justice for Her and the book CHOICEZ as the project’s primary instructional tools, participants begin to learn that every choice creates its own consequence that impacts not just theindividual, but family and community. Other workshop tools include:

  • Thinking/Reasoning Skills

  • Communicating With Others: The Power of Words and Journaling

  • Self-Assessment and Self-Care

  • Creating Positive Outcomes: Pausing, Calming, Slowing Down

  • Exploring Personal Skills and Talents

  • Visioning/Scripting/Staging

 "No Changes No Change"


We are offering CHOICEZ, a program that supports positive behavior changes for Women and Men, at treatment centers, recovery programs and correctional institutions and more.

CHOICEZ always receives rave reviews.  For example, Saturday, March 26, 2009, Aginah facilitated a workshop with the Youth Summit students in Brooklyn, New York.  By Monday, March 28th, Matt Brown Principal, The Kurt Hahn Expeditionary Learning School contacted her requesting information about additional sessions and to let her know the constructive positive impact students experienced during the session.  CHOICEZ 'S sessions are powerful!   

Today, Team CHOICEZ, takes the message directly to high schools, churches, correctional institutions, universities and organizations that support women. Using the book and documentary as tools, the workshops are becoming more and more popular with invitations to speak and offer workshops throughout the greater Philadelphia area.  


CHOICEZ workshops have been presented to State Correctional Institution Chester for Men, Riverside Correctional Institution for Women, Sista2Sista Youth Summit in New York, sociology departments at Bryn Mawr College, Widener University and in Philadelphia EARN Welfare to Work programs on behalf of the Institute for Research in African-American Studies, the Department of Sociology, and the Vice-Provost's Office for Diversity Initiatives at Columbia University, CHOICEZ have accepted the invitation to speak with future prosecutors and sociologist on April 28, 2009. Next month, CHOICEZ will launch its 6 week sessions at Martin Luther King High School for at risk girls.  It's an awesome experience for Dr. Rosa and I working with the Women & Men For Human Excellence recovery & treatment center.


"Your documentary, Justice For Her, tells a story that needs to be heard across the country, and we are honored that you are coming to share your reflections on such a harrowing experience. - Dr. Carla Shedd, Columbia University.


"We have choices,” said an inmate at Riverside Correctional Institution for Women. “We must be mindful of the company we keep."


“I saw myself for the first time in living color when I saw this documentary,” said another. “It was like looking in a mirror.”  -Inmate, Riverside Correctional Institution


We welcome the opportunity to speak with you about CHOICEZ and how TEAM CHOICEZ can customize program services for your program.


Thank you in advance for your kind reply to our request.

Aginah Carter-Shabazz 


Aginah Carter-Shabazz was born to Donald and Elizabeth Carter in Philadelphia.  Aginah began her professional Career in 1978.  She had an interest in criminal justice, but always wanted to discover the mysteries of having beautiful hair.  She attended LaSalle University with a desire to major in Criminal Justice.  But a stronger voice pulled her away, and she enrolled at Wilfred Academy Beauty School to pursue the study of Cosmetology. And as they say, “The rest is history.” Aginah opened the first Natural Hair Salon on the east coast, and has served her loyal customers for over three decades. She is an intuitive entrepreneur who uses her own experience and growth to fuel and guide her vision.
Never one to shrink back from a just cause, Aginah has always conveyed strength of purpose to people of all ages.  Justice For Her, an award winning documentary, is the directorial debut of this Philadelphia native.  She was inspired to direct and produce her first featured documentary following her loved one's arrest and trial in a capital punishment case.  This documentary film reveals that the choices women make bring consequences never imagined in their wildest dreams.  For additional information please visit the website
Today her motto, “Working from the inside out,” has taken on an even greater meaning and a far wider perspective.  Aginah uses that message to influence the ideals of young people, helping them to understand that the choices they make in their hearts and minds will affect their present lives as well as their ability to enjoy a positive, productive future.  Aginah is a mentor to aspiring cosmetologists and a member of the assessment panel and speaker for the Wharton School of Business’s Young Entrepreneur Program at the University of Pennsylvania.  She performs volunteer services as a mentor to students in Philadelphia and Lower Merion.  She is the founder of the Promising Enrichment Program (PEP) that builds self-esteem in young women and girls.  Also, she has taken the message of this program to the female victims of Hurricane Katrina housed under Philadelphia Mayor John Street's relocation program by offering them a day of beauty.  Aginah teaches Cosmetology Career Planning to teenage girls at the HOPE Charter High School in Philadelphia.
Aginah has been featured in numerous hair care magazines and many newspaper articles.  She has received numerous awards, including the State Treasurer’s Award to African-American Female Entrepreneurs in recognition of her contributions to society and the West Philadelphia Economic Development Award.  In a fitting tribute to her personal triumph and her professional achievement, she was awarded the 1996 Madam C.J. Walker Award by the National Coalition of 100 Black Women, Inc. This places her among the nation’s outstanding African-American women who followed the path of an African-American icon.
In December 2004, Governor Edward Rendell of Pennsylvania appointed Aginah to the State Board of Cosmetology.  Also on behalf of Stedman Graham & Associates, he extended warm congratulations to Aginah for her nomination for the Anita T. Conner Award of Achievement for outstanding leadership.  Making It Happen!
Throughout Aginah's Career there has been crisis, challenges and a serious illness.  Aginah first closed her salon in 2001, to heal after fighting the powerful Commonwealth of Pennsylvania to free her loved one, and she won.  She reopened June 2006 and was forced to close her final chapter for good in April 2013 due to Moyamoya, a rare disease of the brain. Today she continues to provide holistic hair health education to her friends, family and the greater community. Aginahhair is also available for workshops and/or lectures. For additional information please visit the website

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