Linda is a young, hardworking single mom struggling to get by from paycheck to paycheck. When she learns that her son Dre needs a kidney transplant, her family's already precarious financial situation takes a turn for the worst. Then she discovers that the only one who can help Dre is his half-brother LeVon, a drug-dealing gangbanger who thinks only of himself. Somehow Linda must get through to LeVon in order to save her son. Though she is deathly afraid of LeVon and the world he lives in, Linda knows she must conquer her fear and meet him on his own turf if she is to have any hope of success. Linda is finally able to teach LeVon the value of doing something noble with his life. And to her surprise, she learns she has room in her heart for one more kid, a boy from the streets who never had a chance.
Kat is a tough, independent woman who makes her living as a professional poker player. She is single, childless and happy about it. But when her best friend, Josie, commits suicide, she names Kat as the temporary guardian of her ten-year-old son, David, until his father can come for him. In the few weeks that David is with her, Kat finds herself changed in ways she had never thought imaginable. With the old poker adage "bet with your head, not your heart" ringing in her head like a warning bell, Kat nevertheless finds that all the money and success in the world don't mean a thing unless you have someone to share it with...and that maybe there is more to life than winning after all.
Sixteen-year-old Rasheed is smart, tough and a survivor. In his neighborhood, he has to be. The streets are run by a gang called the E Street Locals, and they've been trying to jump him in since he was a child. So far, he's managed to escape their clutches. But the gang is not his only problem. Rasheed's sister, Daneeka, was paralyzed in a drive-by shooting, and now she's confined to a wheelchair, mentally frozen at the age of nine. His mother is an addict. His father hasn't been heard from in years. High school is no safer than the streets, so Rasheed seeks solace at the local university campus. There he meets a young woman named Lanaia who takes an interest in him. He also bumps up against a police officer who he thinks at first is hassling him just because he's black. But eventually Rasheed realizes that the officer is only pushing him to become a better person. Though he can't escape his home life, or the gang, as easily as he'd like, Rasheed does learn some valuable lessons in his struggles: you and you alone are accountable for the decisions you make in life; even though the world is not a fair place, you can still accomplish whatever you set your mind to; and we all become stronger when we admit we need someone to lean on.
Rosario Gomez gave up gang life after his brother was killed in a street fight. Now all he wants to do is finish night school, be a good father and work hard enough at his job at the supermarket to get promoted. But when an old friend shows up to ask him why he left the gang, Rosario realizes he was fooling himself if he thought his violent past would just go away. When his pregnant girlfriend is hit in a drive-by shooting, Rosario has to make some hard choices. Revenge means a return to his old ways, something he swore he would never do. But unless he takes action, his enemies will not rest until they've settled the score against him.
Mother Anqelique runs a shelter for homeless mothers and their children in a run-down inner-city area, where drug addiction, prostitution and random acts of violence are facts of life. One day, newly orphaned Jamal and his sister Chantay arrive at the shelter, hungry and scared. As Angelique tries to find a new home for them, she develops a fascination with seven-year-old Jamal, who seems to inhabit a world of his own. Jamal tells her fantastic stories of a man named Jacky Wacky, who protects the poor children of the city and punishes the adults who harm them. A God-fearing woman, Angelique doesn't believe his stories at first. But strange things begin to happen whenever Jamal is around, and Mother Angelique is forced to admit that the world may contain stranger truths than her faith can explain.
Walter Davis is young, handsome, intelligent, dynamic and personable. The product of a bi-racial marriage but abandoned by his father as a young child, he prides himself on three things: his drive to succeed, his fine clothes and never having been late for anything in his life. Walter is also homeless. The medical expenses that came with his mother's brief and unsuccessful battle against cancer have left him destitute. Still, ever the optimist, Walter believes that if he lives in his car for a few months, he will have the time he needs to find a good job in the business world and turn his life around. His situation gets more complicated when he finds himself attracted to a girl he meets at the mailing center where he keeps a post box. But trying to impress a girl when you have no fixed address proves difficult, and when he's caught in a lie, she shuns his company. Walter's struggles grow when his car is impounded and he can't afford to pay the fine. Only resilience, ingenuity and his drive to succeed can bring Walter back from the brink of despair.
The year is 2147. Chago, twenty-four, is a prisoner in a world made up only of prisoners and those who guard them. The only bright spot in Chago's life is his son, Jim-Jim, whose mother is a guard. In an effort to resolve overcrowding in the prison, the warden introduces the Innocence Device, a high-tech machine he claims can determine innocence or guilt. Prisoners are encouraged to walk through the Innocence Device and experience its rewards: immediate freedom or death. When they discover the machine is rigged, the prisoners riot and take over the prison. After witnessing the execution-style death of the mother of his son, and surviving a brief stint outside the prison walls, Chago ends up in a position of power. But he soon finds the new regime little different from the old, and he sets out to save the only thing he values: his son.