A Conversation with a Notable Newarker: Bryan Epps with Aunsha Hall

Aunsha Hall, Program Manager, Project WOW, NJCRI

Epps: When did you first realize you were a leader in Newark?

Hall: In June 2009 at the Newark-Essex Pride Parade. To take on the role of coordinating a parade and having individuals participate in the parade was the moment that I knew I had what it takes to rally folks together.

Epps: Tell us about your love relationship with the city…including joy, pain, etc?

Hall:  Well I love the Newark.  To be around such passionate people who are living out their dreams is wonderful.  The love that I have here has challenged me to look at life differently.  It has challenged me to have a bigger hunger for life and take what it is that may come my way.

On top of that, to be in an area that has an appreciation for the arts, is amazing.  I am a lover of house music; I have gained so much respect for the house ball community; I am in love with the storytelling of photography and spoken word, as well as me being around fashionistas.  All of this was created or transformed in the NYC/NJ metropolis.

Epps: How has your work at NJCRI informed your opinions about the city and its progress?

Hall: I cannot lie, my family and friends were nervous about me leaving Kentucky to come to Newark; they are VERY protective of me.  But it was not until I helped a 19 year transgender female who was attacked by a group of guys that I realized that I cannot be someone who sits around and complain about how unsafe Newark is.  As I began to advocate for many LGBTQ folks in Newark, I realized that Newark is a city made up of some of the most amazing people ever.  To be around people who take pride in their city and appreciate all of Newark makes me love Newark so much more.  As a frequent runner, I feel overwhelmed with so much from Newark when running from the Ironboud through Downtown and to the Central Ward and people are cheering me on.  That feels hella good!  It shows that this city is moving in the right direction, all they want is to be recognized and seen as valuable resources in giving Newark this rebirth.

Epps: If you had one wish for Newark what would it be?

Hall: For it to be the premiere city that I hear it used to be.  I love downtown Newark and the history of Newark.  Newark should be “the other” city that attracts folks for arts, nice dining, partying, or whatever else.

Epps: Any advice for future leaders of the city?

Hall: You cannot do it alone.  We all have a vision for Newark moving forward, but it takes collaboration.  It means reaching out to people who are from Newark, those who want to be voice but do not know how.  It is about empowering one another because in return we are empowering ourselves to do much more.

Epps: Tell us about your opinions on the following

Favorite restaurant…

Hall: This is a good one, but I love Iberia in the Ironbound of Newark,

Favorite neighborhood…

Hall: I have to go with the Ironbound

Most treasured moment…

Hall: Going out for the first time, I went to Krash and it was so surreal, as if I was reliving a movie I used to watch as a kid.  To see people showing their appreciation for music and representing a borough or Jersey was AMAZING!

Biggest Difference between Newark and Kentucky…

Hall: Well in Kentucky, I can take my time and smile.  In North Jersey, you have to move at a pace because you have other people who are just as hungry as you.  Also, in Kentucky, everything is very black and white, but up here, it is one colorful portrait.  I love both places because they have helped me grow into the Aunsha I am today.  I do have to say though, that it feels good to have found true love in Jersey!

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