A Note for Jordan Miles…and for all black and brown boys living in a police state…

It was a sunny afternoon in “Pollock Town” and the bells signaling the end of my school day at Camden High had rang a few hours before. I was home. I decided, as I typically did, to leave my grandmother’s house—which happened to be my house (and at various points in time, every family member’s house)—on Vanhook Street (as it was named then) to my Aunt Arlene’s house directly around the corner. We lived in a neighborhood where youth played outside often, where homes were literal camping grounds for neighborhood children, where fights broke out and brought everyone to their porches, where “posses” were family and formed because of boredom, and where one might receive love as easily as s/he did bullying. Drugs, like other urban spaces, had a stronghold on our neighborhood. I assume that’s the reason that our police took to our neighborhood as if it were a war zone where civilians figured in their skewed imaginations as either the drug user or pusher. Most forgot, I assume, that they too had family in our small city who just as easily matched their stereotypes given that most of the presumed “shining shields” were from the same hood that they had begun to terrorize. I digress….but, not really.

I walked elatedly as I turned the corner of the street where my Aunt’s house was located—adorning my fresh kicks, rocking trendy gear, and flaunting my flashy herringbone necklace with matching bracelet. I’ve always had a penchant for nice clothes and sneakers even if I could not really afford them. So, I would clean my sneakers with a toothbrush and iron my clothes as if I worked at a professional dry cleaning service. I understood, honestly, the lure that pulled other young brothers into a fast-paced life of drugs and money: even while I witnessed the lives of those that I love being wrecked by drugs, I desired to live the “Rap City” life (at least wear the clothes that rappers were wearing in the videos) every day. But, I was lured by my dreams of something better and books instead; though, I managed to live into “street” fantasies every now and then. But, my black male body—adorning fresh kicks, rocking trendy gear, flaunting flashy herringbones—remained a point of surveillance because of its seeming displacement from the “set” (read, drug corners). I assume.

A city of Camden cop car turned the opposite corner as I walked passing young and not-so-young black males on the corner. The car increasingly picked up speed as it moved down the street in the direction I walked. I walked to my aunt’s house often, practically lived there, and had my share of eyewitness accounts of police happenings on the block. So, I expected there to be nothing new but the mundane emergency response to some neighbor’s call. The car moved quickly unto the sidewalk. I was surprised considering that there wasn’t anyone walking on that part of the block but me. The black cop jumped out of the car and screamed words that I still don’t remember to this day–lthough, he mentioned something about “look out boys”–because I was in shock as my arm (the same arm that I would typically use to write essays in my advanced English courses, the same arm that I would use to place money in the hands of bus drivers when traveling downtown to take college-level classes at Camden County even while a high schooler, the same arm that I used to make silkscreen t-shirts as part of my summer youth employment job) was violently placed behind my back as if the black cop wanted to break my arm as well as my spirit. I could see my aunt’s boyfriend, Big Sam, running down the street and feared that the black cop would turn from me and beat the black man coming his way. But, he didn’t. He threw me in the back of the car and was unaware that I was a student in Camden High’s IPLE (Institute for Political and Legal Education) where Coach Hanson had taught us about Miranda rights and what happens when our law enforcement officers break the law by failing to recite them. I am certain he was unaware of this fact, because I matched his image of the public enemy: black, male, and hood. So, he drove away without reading my rights. He angrily asked, as he drove, my name to which I gave him none….my birthdate to which I responded by asking him for his ID number…my purpose for walking the street to which I asserted “walking to my aunt’s house.” Shoulder hurting and spirit broken, I sat in the back terrified for my life, and, for a second, the life of every black male in an America that still images us as terrorist..an America where black men see each other as enemies.

Sam finally caught up with us on Atlantic Avenue, which is about seven minutes away-by car-from where I was initially picked up. I am certain that the black cop would have rather me walk back home (or worse, limp) if he had his choice. Sam commenced his appeal: he’s a good kid, an “A” student, don’t mess with anybody, ain’t never sold drugs, going places. I sat in the back of the locked police car pissed as hell and sad to the point of tears. He eventually let me go, but his hands are still felt on my arm and the pain is still very real in my shoulder. Even as I write this I feel the need to cry: for the brother who couldn’t see me…or himself in me and for those who are innocent victims of police brutality whether they are guilty of committing crimes or not.

This is for Jordan Miles! And, while my tears might have been the result of a broken spirit then, I cry tears of righteous indignation in solidarity with those who stand against the machinations of a police state today.


A Review of Manning Marable’s “Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention”

Manning’s Invention, or, Malcolm’s Reinvention?

Manning Marable’s “Malcolm X” is an adroit craftsperson: an artisan who is skilled at undergoing perpetual “reinventions.” Marable’s thesis, in his now widely discussed and contested Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention, is grounded in the proposition that “self-invention was an effective way for [Malcolm] to reach the most marginalized sectors of the black community giving justification to their hopes.” According to Marable, Malcolm’s travels (between his pasts and futures) and travails (to define his self and his politics) in a raced, classed, irreligious (read, anti-Islamic) and imperialist American (and, later, international) context were driven largely by his desire to engage in the process of relentless reinvention: a process of continual, purposeful becomings, not necessarily for himself, but for the “black community” that would eventually claim him as its “Prince.”

Marable’s biography, flowing from this idea, recreates the sometimes tragic, and, mostly gallant, life and death of a martyr who dies for a cause—for others—but also a radical (and complicated) freedom fighter who dies also to his “self” and volition. Malcolm, via Marable, is caricatured as a “social being”—only imagined within the context of his beingness-in-relation-to the larger societal context where there exists a need for a salvific protagonist of the burgeoning black radical tradition and villainous antithesis to the very ideas of the presumed democratic tradition of white racist (and liberalist) America. But, as Baldwin illumines when writing about Richard Wright’s Native Son in his essay “Many Thousand Gone”: “the reality of a man as a social being is not his only reality and that artist is strangled who is forced to deal with human beings solely in social terms” (emphasis added). Marable, who was committed to the task of a historian as opposed to fiction writer, develops a narrative that refuses to allow space for Malcolm X the “human being” who exists without the ostensible proclivity towards “self-reinventions” that benefit others while only tangentially benefiting the human actor himself.

One must, then, interrogate the argument that is weaved into the narrative arc that directs Marable’s historical analysis of Malcolm X the “social being.” If the argument goes that Malcolm’s life “narrative is a brilliant series of reinventions,” as Marable suggests, then it would follow that Malcolm Little/Detroit Red/Big Red/Malcolm X/Malik Shabazz/El-Hajj Malik Shabazz were merely iterations along a continuum of perpetual and purposeful becomings, which were driven by external forces only, rather than the living-into, or, rather, states of beings that emerge and re-emerge as a result of the contextual life spaces and experiences that propel any human being toward self-motivated (and sometimes unmethodical) change. The former is a sign of a tragic life while the latter opens up the possibility for life’s complex beauty.

So, was the life of Malcolm X one defined by reinventions (for the sake of everyone but himself) or was Malcolm X delimited by Marable’s drive to invent a Malcolm X whose propensity manifested towards such desires? And, did such a desire impact the Malcolm X that the reader is left to grapple with? Even if one is not sure of that answer, s/he should read Marable’s work with that question in mind or otherwise s/he might find him/herself guilty of submitting to a politicized historiography of a sociopolitical Malcolm X that fails to fully capture the human being who just happened to be, like all of us, social and political.

5 considerations by 2 writers: on collaboration in newark

Newark, not unlike other urban centers in our present moment, is in the midst of incessant change across many areas. However, education reform seems to be taking center stage. For example, some warn that the education reform agenda and community engagement initiative (PENewark) steered by Mayor Booker’s office will bring about a disastrous end, while others who support and applaud the efforts are fueled by the hope that a city-wide conversation will spark the construction of a world-class educational system in Newark. Indeed, there have been vitriolic disagreements between citizens…standoffs between organizers…finger pointing, blaming, debasing and public shaming all in the name of education reform. Visions are spoken of and strategies imagined, but how might they be actualized in the midst of snappish tension? Change is used as a rhetorical strategy, but how can change be made real unless the boundaries that turn friends into enemies are demolished? It seems, at least to us, that the ends (broader visions) often look the same (namely, the shaping of a stellar, cutting-edge public educational system in Newark that shapes every student into a globally-aware, socially responsible citizen of our tomorrow) but the means (the strategies) that Newark must engage such that our vision(s) can be actualized are often very different. Herein lies our issue: one can argue, quite persuasively for example, that a good reform strategy that may work, say, in New York City, might not be the best for, say, the South Ward of Newark. We get that! But, what are the rules of engagement that might make room for constructive collaboration, discussion and, even, debate that result in shared-work and vision? Moreover, how can we do the work of reform and activism with a shared sense of purpose, that is, a desire for the best for our youth, in ways that does not derail the aim of community-building and solidarity? Below, we offer five considerations that may useful guide posts for our journey.

1.  Know and name the “real” enemy. Too often we point the finger at the wrong people and not the institutions, ideologies, systems and particular leaders that support dangerous strategies. Each of us maintains a particular analysis, and even politic, regarding education reform. For example, charter schools may be seen by some as a neoliberal tool used to further privatization and others may see charter schools as experimental public school models that might serve as laboratories for testing innovative curriculum, pedagogical practices, extended day learning projects, etc.  If you believe charter schools to be more of a problem than a solution, it may be very easy to lump all charter school leaders or components into a singular category of “enemy” without regard for the particularities that shapes individuals’ commitments, politics or education philosophies. On the contrary, if you believe that all (or even most) traditional public schools in Newark fail our youth, it may be the case that you see traditional public school advocates as menaces as opposed to friends. Either way, the contentious stance maintained by both sides creates the opportunity for a certain (dis)solution of community rather than a space wherein all can come together, in a unified spirit of concern for our students, our youth. And, when that happens, we make ourselves the enemy of cooperation.

2. Transparency is our friend: Reform of public systems does not take root when practices include back door dealing, lack robust competitiveness and systems of accountability. In Newark, it can seem efficient to do business through the “traditional handshake”. Yet, projects desiring to create real transformation deserve the influence of method and due process. When business transactions have implications for the public-at-large, leaders must be proactive about 1) vetting potential ideas over a “significant” amount of time before stakeholders (both field experts and community members) 2) sharing the responsibility of implementation (i.e. the person with the idea need not solely control the resources or execution plan) 3) developing a system of accountability that is shared with the public (let the public know how you target goals, empower the public with tools to track/monitor evolution of projects and share conclusions to help provide lessons for  the future).

3. Realize that “parents” don’t always know best and that the “children” too have voices. Often, community members can be heard referring to the “elders” in our community or can be heard making references to “up and coming”, “emerging”, “new”, and “young” leaders.  And, we should note: there are lots to learn from the wise…from those with an array of life experiences…from our elders! But, it is also the case that one’s status as an elder should not predicate the ignoring of the voices of the “young”. In addition, if we are use to the same rhetorical line of thinking, might it also be said that parents can also be wrong? Now, is it the responsibility of emerging (or new?) leaders to attend to the advice of those who have come before? Yes! Emerging leaders should ensure that our elders are at various tables, if nothing else, and to ensure that they are sought out for their advice. The moment, however, when relationships are wrongly ordered based on ideas like “the young should listen while the elders talk” or “elders should move out of the way and allow the young to exercise their autonomy” is the moment when barriers are built that prevent collaboration. The best collaboration is fashioned when the table is set for equals and not hierarchized.

4. Defamation won’t get us to the destination.  Let’s get right to the point: disagreeing with a person because of his/her positions is one thing, purposefully destroying the character of that same person is another. It is possible that folk can disagree without having to malign another, without having to smirk at another’s seeming downfall, without having to participate in the public shaming of another…to wish the worse for another. Social change requires a certain change in the change agent…that change typically tends toward justice and not the reverse.

5.  History is our best teacher. What didn’t you like about leaders from the past? What don’t you like about your peers? …don’t do those things, don’t be that person!  Create an environment that includes people and written policies that regulate your actions and the dealings of people on your team.

darnell moore and bryan epps

Op-Ed: Newark and the Politics of Fear

Written by: Taquan Williams, Newark Resident

A couple of weeks ago, I received an “IMPORTANT WARNING” from the Newark Firefighters and Fire Officers Unions. It read: “this warning goes out to all home-owners, residents, children, employees, students and anyone else who may enter the City of Newark for any reason.” It goes on to state that Mayor Booker’s proposed layoffs “will lead to death, injury and the unnecessary spread of fire!”

Then, while driving up Clinton Avenue for my weekly haircut, I noticed an ad commissioned by the Newark FOP (Fraternal Order of Police) that read: “Welcome to Newark. Stop Laying Off Cops.” The ad also used the city’s skyline as the backdrop with a strip of red crime scene tape to invoke images of crime and death.

Both public relations campaigns reminded me of the tragic, attention-seeking “Help Wanted Stop the Killings in Newark Now” signs that the Newark Teachers Union (NTU), another deep-pocketed union in Newark. The NUT strategically purchased ad space near all of the Newark’s major highways and high-traffic areas in 2007. The signs garnered national attention because they played into the perception that Newark is a city being overrun by thugs and criminals.

However, this is nothing new. For decades, we have seen this narrative play out over and over again, with little change to the playbook. From the late night Jay Leno jokes of the 80’s, to the movies like New Jersey Drive (1995) to Conan O’Brien’s recent faux-battle with Mayor Booker.

Long before the 1988 U.S. Presidential Election, we have seen the “Willie Horton-ization” of Newark.  The only thing new about this strategy, is that it is being adopted by the very groups that have taken an oath to “serve and protect.” As someone that takes great pride in Newark’s rich history and its promising future, the current actions of the Newark Police and Fire Unions only do harm to Newark’s already fragile reputation and economic recovery.

We are in tough economic times; the worst since the Great Depression. Let me repeat: the worst since the Great Depression. While I’ve disagreed with Mayor Booker on minor issues, I don’t think he is left with many options in order to close the current budget gap.

Instead of invoking and provoking fear in the hearts of “home-owners, residents, children, employees, students and anyone else who may enter the City of Newark for any reason,” we should collectively come together to try to the share the pain that this recession has caused us to endure.

While I do believe that both organizations are well within their First Amendment rights, these scare tactics are antithetical to the oaths that each officer and firefighter are sworn to uphold.  In sum, they only perpetuate the myth that Newark is a dangerous and unlivable city. To me, it seems as if both unions have lost confidence in their own abilities to fight crime and keep residents and visitors safe. Going forward, I hope Newarkers loudly reject these fear campaigns. They only do harm to our great city.

On Newark Public Libraries: From the mouths of 1 adult and 2 babes

This morning I decided to make a brief stop at City Hall in support of the Newark Public Library (NPL). With no fiscal relief in sight, Newark is poised to witness the closure of some branches and a decrease in operational hours at others. While I am no expert in municipal budgeting and am the first to admit that there’s much that I still don’t know about the severity of Newark’s budgetary woes, I am often alarmed when indispensable and critical services are sacrificed as a means of repair.

Newark is among many locales across the country where the budgets of public libraries are on the chopping block. Earlier this year the Boston Public Library closed 4 of its 26 branches, Los Angeles has critically reduced its hours of operations and Camden, New Jersey, was set to close its entire public library system before it was rescued by the county arm. In Newark, pundits may argue that reductions are consistent across all City of Newark departments and that NPL should proactively respond to cuts accordingly.  Yet, as a proponent of the NPL system in specific, and public libraries in general, I argue for an approach to budgeting that contextualizes reductions based on services rendered through various departments. In other words, should the administration force all departments to make reductions based on a fixed-percentage or should certain departments, based on services rendered, be asked to make provisional cuts set specifically for that department? I defer to the advice of fiscal experts in that regard…but, what I do know is this: I have personally benefited from the free internet access made available in public libraries…I have personally benefited from the access provided to books and other cataloged materials, including films and historical archives, made available in public libraries…research papers as a high school student were completed because of access to public libraries…resumes written as a college student and grad were completed because of access to public libraries…as a child growing up in Camden, NJ I found safety and enjoyment during out-of-school-time in the public library. Now, more than ever, our residents need the public library for some of the same reasons.

Ironically, as I was walked to work after spending a few moments in front of City Hall marveling at folk who had staged a 24-hour reading I walked by two young sisters. As I hurried by, an older woman who apparently had a relationship with them asked, “…Where are y’all going?”

“To the library,” they replied gleefully.

I walked pondering the irony and decided to stop to talk with them for a bit.  Check out the video.

Listening to the two young people gave me pause for reflection. Hope it does the same for you!

peace, darnell

Reading Councilman Baraka’s Speech: Newark Politics and Self-Interest? or Interested in Newark?

Ras Baraka’s Inauguration Speech rendered on July 1, 2010 at New Jersey Performing Arts Center, Newark, NJ

To the Mayor of our great city, my council colleagues, my family that have stood by me without prejudice, to the mighty residents of the South Ward, I am honored to be here today on this auspicious and historical occasion to finally after some 16 long years begin to serve you as the Councilman of the South Ward!

It has truly been long and sometimes tumultuous years, but each time we were knocked down we had the strength to get back up. And I know even today (Joan Whitlow) that there are those that question my ability to make this happen to struggle daily with lives of our children and to struggle for greater democracy in our city -that there are many that would abdicate their responsibility or question my intenentions from the shadows of indifference and the crowded spaces of opportunism and cowardice I say differently that often time I sacrifice myself, my family, my time and sometimes my immediate happiness for a cause greater than myself  …but I truly believe that the fight for the safety and future of our children is the same as the fight for our families and our communities- I am also more than certain that History will absolve me- but more important than anything else –is that  the people of the South Ward understood that and showed it at the polls. So by the grace of GOD and the will of the people I stand before you today!

We know that these are important and grave times for working families, children, seniors and the most vulnerable sectors of our society.  We are living in a time where economic freedom and growing markets have become the chief organizing principle of govt.  Where in the so called Post Cold War- post racist society everything is for sale- even culture and race itself, where health care, education , prison, and now even our water has become commodities for continued public distribution but for private profit! Where more privatization is the answer for shrinking public resource and therefore shrinking public discussion and ultimately the shrinking of democracy as we have come to know it; Where the last market is the public market- Where even our ideas are not safe.

This is the atmosphere; the stage for some of the worst economic times that working people in this country have seen in decades. I say working people because while South Ward mothers, raising children on their own, are asked to take two days off a month of an already meager salary- or sanitation workers are threatened with privatization and reduction of benefits Port Authority is making record profits,  while we are threatening to lay off police officers in a city where dead black boys is quicker to come by than a decent supermarket – the Passaic Valley Sewage Company sits on our resource and our land and is woefully negligent in its responsibility to this city; while we use draconian measures to threaten obscene tax hikes for the few homeowners that have been loyal to this city for years we have not found the will to close the doors of the Prudential arena until they pay their debt to the families of this town. While our children’s schools are threatened with closure, overcrowded classrooms, destruction of after school programs and loss of guidance counselors Prudential  as of March 31rst 2010 has at least 693 billion dollars worth of assets,  their net income for the first quarter this year was 699 million dollars way up from 427 million this time last year.  Yes this is a recession for working families, service employees, and transportation workers, for public employees,  and small businesses, for everyone Gov Christie except those that make over 400,000 dollars a year. For those that live in Seth Boyden that risk their lives every night coming in from work or those of us watching homes and businesses disappear east and west of Bergen St. or Clinton Ave.  Not for Exxon Mobile that has more revenue than all but 22 nation states around the globe, or Wal-Mart that has the larger economy than 178 countries,  or those that participate in spending over two trillion dollars a day on speculation and hedge funds.

And I see the only way up is more democracy not less not using local democratic organizations to vote only for your friends and immediate family and closing even the ability to nominate others, its not schemes designed to suppress the vote but educating more voters, its not in putting black against Latinos it was Blk and Latino unity that got us the first Black mayor.  Its not about empowering individual chieftains, and political landlords but seizing and protecting the peoples resources and the right to use them to feed and empower ourselves. Its not about using the church to lure the people in to a dark room but empowering our religious institutions to lead the people out of dark rooms, its not about using our education, multisyllabic words, and high minded quotes to trick the people in to giving away their goods or as a weapon to rob them of their dignity but bring them close to themselves to meet them halfway..To understand that to whom much is given much is required..Not to use your seat as means to gain privilege and wield power but use your seat as a means to diminish privilege and hand over power.

There is no more room for opportunism and opportunist  whose guiding principle has always been money, that bear no beliefs, take no stance, and hold no positions just gross nihilism and selfish individual consumption at all of our expense. Whose leader is whoever has the upper hand  at the time. Whose only drive is personal ambition.  We need leaders whose ambitions are so big so huge so outrageously vast that there will always be room for the least of us…

I say let this be the beginning the start of a time when all of us in every ward despite the language we speak the music we dance to or the food we eat come together, every worker no matter the nationality or street corner, the block or hood, begin to come together and unite around what we have in common. Every worker from bus drivers to ticket writers, clerks to sanitation workers security guards to teachers declare our undying love for this city simultaneously by vowing to take it back one street sign at a time to protect our resources, to secure our neighborhoods,  to surround our babies and forge our way forward together  to refuse to be victims to no longer be separated to shout against ignorance and mediocrity .. ( I am from Newark born and raised and am proud of it from madison ave school to university high school I succeeded in these public schools played and was reared on these streets and I am no fiend ,no bum, no junky , no drug dealer or gangbanger, Im not incompetent or lazy- I am in the tradition or willie the Lion smith and Sarah Vaughn of Amiri and Amna Baraka of hundreds and thousands of people that struggle everyday to maintain their dignity and hold their lives together)  and I just thank God and the people of this great city for giving me the privilege to be in the front lines of this fight. To take up this mantle to serve the people of the South Ward and the residents of the city of my birth I say thank you to all of you even those that didn’t want to see me here I say thank you to you too and that time will tell and victory will belong to the people God bless and God speed.

“If we are not serious representatives of the people we will wind up on the side of our enemies. And no matter the piles of glittering resources a society might have, remember the people are its most precious resource.”  -Amiri Baraka speech in Johannes burg South Africa 1995

(Published by permission of author.)

A Challenge to Councilman Baraka and the other Councilpersons: “Beyond Personal Ambition…will you be the change agent?”

The City of Newark’s 2010 Inauguration was muddled with diverse human responses ranging from esteem to dissatisfaction. In post review of the Booker Team’s first term, anyone could detail an array of achievements. There has been increased national awareness of Newark and its concerns, enhancement of parks, increased private investment, restoration of attention on the marginalized (be they undocumented immigrants or LGBT Youth), and the institution of innovative operations i.e. (the 4311 help line) to name a few. Yet, I don’t know anyone that believes the term was fully successful. The Mayor and his team would likely agree with this sentiment due to the fact that in 2005 city government was dismal and the administration would be governing in the midst of the worst recession in a century.

Logically, Newark’s voters “shook things up” by electing two new representatives to city government including you, Ras Baraka. You are an intelligent individual that is respected for your commitment to the city, its youth and development. And, your speech demonstrates a strong ability to connect with the people. I interpret a significant portion of your speech as discouraging personal ambition as sole motivation for political involvement. My reaction is that in Newark politics this is a rarity but hopefully you can change that.

The systems and practices of city government do little to change perceptions of personal interest, self dealing, lack of oversight and transparency. It seems that no one is willing to deal with these issues in a comprehensive manner…? Which councilmember will introduce legislation that either reduces the pay rate/benefits of council members or makes the job a full time position? Will there ever be a limit to the number of public positions a Newark councilmember can hold? Who will be the first council person to publically debate the pros/cons of term limits for elected officials? Who will be the first council person to ensure citizens can obtain a list of all city contracts with the dollar value along with the familial/professional relationships that city officials/employees have with city contractors? Who will be the first city council person to decline “the city car” and similar perks that unjustly burden city tax payers? Which councilmember will ensure that no elected official in Newark will ever have the opportunity to travel the road to indictment that Addonizio, Gibson and James took?

Mayor Ken Gibson created the slogan that characterizes Newark as a city of change now coined by Mayor Booker “Wherever American cities are going, Newark will get there first”. Will the city be last on the priority list of self-interested politicians or will our elected officials be the first to abandon their personal ambition in politics…?

-Bryan M-C Epps

Newark Letters

Dear Newark,

I know you are going through a lot right now. It almost feels like two parents who are getting a divorce. They are fighting over money and assets. Particularly, the MUA- Municipal Utilities Authority, or what I call the MUA-Mis Understanding of Assets. The citizens have become a product of the divorce gone bad. Originally you agreed to resolve this matter amicably, but somewhere along the line the agreement wasn’t kept. All too common in divorces one party somehow manages to get the children involved and begins to use them as a pawn. Guess who the children are? The citizens. Depending upon which parent you have more of an endearment to; and no doubt you love them both you become torn and must now choose between the two. So we have become a City divided, not into 2, but 3. Those who are for it, those who oppose it and those who don’t really know what’s going on or what to think because there is too much descension.

Do we not know that a house divided can not stand? When did we get here? How quickly have we forgotten all the wonderful things that has happened in our city over the past 4 years? When did we become so disrespectful to our Leadership? These are the same people who we have entrusted to make decisions for our city for the best interest of the people. We are supposed to pray for our Leaders, not ridicule and talk about them negatively.

As I sat in the community meetings last week my heart was being broken over the turmoil that our City is in. We wonder why there is so much violence in our City. People are hurting, our children have become products of our unhealed pain and we are passing it down from generation to generation. We don’t know how to resolve our issues in a civilized manner but we expect our children to. Their behavior is learned. We allow no grace for one another so where do you think our children get it from. Trust me they are watching us, they are listening and while they may not understand exactly what’s going on, they do understand emotions. What message are we sending? Let’s not let the MUA- Mis Understanding of Assets continue to divide our City. Let us make the best decisions for the people and allow those we have elected to their jobs. I pray they do it with conviction, humility, grace and courage.

May God Bless Us,

Towanda McEachern

Concerned Citizen

Newark Speaks. We are a conurbation of people. As a people anywhere would, we hardly ever share identical opinions or beliefs. All too often this fact creates crisis instead of opportunities. Too many of us feel aggravation, stress, pain and fear instead of appreciation of what is ordinary, our differences. We are peoples; Asian and white, transgendered and women, temporary inhabitants and long term residents. Our Mayor frequently states that “Newark is a city for everyone”. The problem is we habitually overlook that this requires us to connect with an unfamiliar person too which we have failed to value. Everyone contains us and them, Newark is we.

As challenging as this provision may be it appears that in one term our Mayor has forgotten to make this connection. Here is one example: during the 2010 election few people were provided the access to engage his administration on diverse issues in community forums, candidate’s debates, or even methodical campaign literature. If Newark is a city for everyone, and we believe it is, then shouldn’t everyone be privy to its political agenda? Congruently, Newark’s Council of representatives has for too long failed to adequately support the administration by providing critical analysis of its community based initiatives and financial plans. The four year relationship between this Administration and the City Council has failed to create a solution to the city’s budget woes. As a result a double digit tax hike may be imposed. This may be evidence that amalgamation is not always ideal. However, a city is not defined by buildings, a budget or its leaders but by its people. Is it possible that true to representative politics both the mayor and the city council have mirrored our values and behaviors?

Being a city for everyone does not require us to hoist token representatives but requires people to make connections to one another as unique individuals. Being a city for everyone does not require us to take part in assorted initiatives because we are neighbors or friends but to appreciate our distinctive missions and movements for their respective contributions and outcomes.

I respect the present divide between Newark’s Council and Administration and hope that their efforts to reconnect will produce vital political exchanges and meaningful legislation. Alas, successful policies will only take shape when they adequately put the concerns of people first and are respectfully presented to the public. Similarly, recent protest and forums around the MUA summon the best qualities of democracy and the ability for people to represent themselves. However, until the people can proactively collaborate unique persons with out bias for their neighbors they will never see the leaders and environment they hope for.

Bryan Epps