Dreams Deferred, a Filmmaker Explores 2003 Hate-Crime

Filmmaker Charles B. Brack has produced a documentary to remember and examine the hate-crime killing of Sakia Gunn, a lesbian high school student: Film Examines a Newark Hate Crime. The crime took place in Newark in 2003 on the corner of Market and Broad streets.
The film, “<a href=“http://www.sakiagunnfilmproject.com/&#8221; Dreams Deferred: The Sakia Gunn Film Project,” highlights the lack of media coverage of Gunn’s tragic slaying, which was largely ignored by the national media, despite its exposure of a deep and ugly bias against the LGBT community.

A documentary recounts the 2003 killing of Sakia Gunn, 15, a lesbian high school student in Newark.

In 2003, Sakia Gunn, a 15-year-old lesbian high school student, was fatally stabbed in downtown Newark by a man who had approached her in the street and made sexual advances to her and her friends, which they declined.

The case, which was prosecuted as a hate crime, drew widespread attention in gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender communities, though considerably less news coverage than that of Matthew Shepard, the 21-year-old gay college student who was abducted, beaten, tied to a pole and left to freeze to death in Laramie, Wyo., in 1998.

Branch Brook Park to Hold Community Forum – Thurs, Feb 19

UPDATE: this meeting has been cancelled. Sorry for the late notice.

The Branch Brook Park Alliance will be hosting a public forum Thursday at 7pm to discuss development efforts in the city’s greatest park. See details after the jump.

“We are excited to share with the community news of the capital improvements made to the park and demonstrate how these improvements have increased the park’s usage and activity,” said Ms. Coleman. “The park belongs to all of us, so we want to keep our neighbors informed of what we have done, what we have planned, and how they can help preserve this community treasure.”

Continue reading “Branch Brook Park to Hold Community Forum – Thurs, Feb 19”

Ledger Overview of the State of the City

Ralph Ortega outlines many of the city’s development challenges with a preview of Mayor Booker’s State of the City speech last week: Mayor Cory Booker to focus on Newark economic development, empowerment.

Newark Mayor Cory Booker’s third state-of-the-city address tonight envisions a 24-hour downtown with 700 additional housing units in two high-rises and an added Seton Hall Law School dorm, the city’s first recreational boat dock in half a century, and the state’s first community court for low-level offenders.

Last year’s address touched on similar issues, including downtown development plans, which will be expanded upon in tonight’s address. But this year, there will be caveats because of the worsening economy. Newark’s unemployment rate has risen to 10 percent since Booker became mayor in 2006, and the city had the 35th-highest number of foreclosures out of 100 U.S. cities in 2008, according to RealtyTrac, a California firm tracking the market. Several hotel chains have already scrapped plans this year to build in the city.

Ironbound Walking Tour, March 15th

Hello, I’m going to be leading yet another Newarkology walking tour this March. Join Newarkology on March 15th as we tour the fascinating ethnic and industrial history of the old “Down Neck.”
There is no better way to learn about the many cultures that have called the Ironbound home, from Dutch, to German, to Italian, Jewish, Polish, African-American and, of course, Portuguese than by slowly walking the neighborhood, spotting the many artifacts of ethnic groups long past. Additionally, we will see a few of the Ironbound’s most interesting remaining industrial sites, including a chocolate factory, a varnish plant, and a brewery or two.

The tour will begin at 2:00 and will last two and a half hours (so we’ll be ending just in time for dinner). If there is inclement weather please check the main page of my website, http://www.newarkhistory.com on the day of the tour to check for a notice of cancellation. If the weather is bad I will reschedule the tour for some point in April or May.

The meeting place is the intersection of Ferry and McWhorter Streets, by the Dutch Reformed Church.

More information is available at:

City to Offer Free Lifeguard Training

City Hall: Newark Offers Lifeguard Training to City Residents
Sounds like a great opportunity for kids who are looking for a summer job. While employment isn’t guaranteed, this class could certainly help kids who might like to work at a recreation center, public pool, or camp.

Mayor Cory A. Booker and Director of Neighborhood and Recreational Services Melvin Waldrop announced today that the City of Newark is offering a two-week Lifeguard Training class, beginning on February 23, 2009, continuing through March 7, 2009, at the John F. Kennedy Aquatic Center, for Newark residents.

While the class itself is free, students must pay $50 for the manual, American Red Cross lifeguard certification card, and CPR Face Shield. The $50 is due on the first day of class. The classes will take place on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. and on Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. for two weeks. The minimum age to take the class is 16.

Rutgers University Remembers Student Protests, Celebrates Black History Month

Rutgers-Newark: Remembering a 1969 Protest by a Few that Opened Doors for Many at Rutgers University

Forty years ago, a single act of courage by a group of committed students forever changed Rutgers University.  On Feb. 24, 1969, young men and women from the Black Organization of Students, along with some supporters, occupied Conklin Hall at Rutgers University in Newark, protesting the scarcity of black students, black faculty and minority-oriented academic programs on campus.  The event lasted only 72 hours – but the new programs and policies that it triggered are responsible for transforming the whole of Rutgers University into a multicultural institution, with the campus in Newark cited as the most diverse national university in the United States (U.S. News & World Report, July 2008). 

Rutgers in Newark will pause to reflect on those 72 hours, and publicly recognize and thank the people who braved expulsion and arrest to stand up for their beliefs.

The University will be celebrating Black History Month with a number of programs that are free and open to the public

  • Feb. 21, 8:30 a.m. – 3:30 p.m., 29th annual Marion Thompson Wright Lecture Series, New Jersey’s largest and oldest Black History Month observance. Paul Robeson Campus Center, 350 Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd., Essex Room East and West, Newark NJ. Info: Marisa Pierson, 973/353-1871, ext. 11, mpierson@newark.rutgers.edu, http://ethnicity.rutgers.edu
  • Feb. 25, 6 – 9 p.m., “Repatriation of African Art,” a panel discussion. Rutgers Center for Law and Justice, 1st floor, Baker Trial Courtroom, 123 Washington St., Newark. Co-sponsored by the Art Law Society. Free and open to the public (non-Rutgers visitors must check in at front desk.) Information: Rebecca Esmi, resmi4mail@yahoo.com
  • A Celebration of Diversity: The 40th Anniversary of the Conklin Hall Takeover (contact: Gerard Drinkard, 973/353-3824, or drinkard@andromeda.rutgers.edu)
    • Feb. 5, 5-7 p.m., “We Only Know What We Can Remember” Exhibit, Robeson Gallery, Paul Robeson Campus Center,.  Opening reception for Conklin Takeover exhibit in Robeson Gallery featuring photos and documents from the John Cotton Dana Library Archives Digital Preservation Initiative. Exhibit will be displayed in Orbit II Gallery through July 2009.
    • Feb. 12, 4 – 6 p.m., “Inside the Conklin Hall Takeover,” a DVD Screening, Reception & Discussion with Special Performance by Unity Theatre. Bradley Hall Theatre. A brief documentary of interviews and reflections with Chancellor Steven Diner, Dr. Clement A. Price, Dr. Norman Samuels, Junius Williams, current Rutgers students, Black Organization of Students (BOS) alumni including Richard Roper (1st president of BOS), George Hampton (participant in the 1969 takeover) and other noted faculty.
    • Feb. 23, 11:30 a.m. – 12:50 p.m., JUKE JOINT POETRY JAM Essex Room, Paul Robeson Campus Center. Celebration of diversity in verse and rhyme featuring students and alumni from various cultures. Multi-cultural refreshments will be served.
    • Feb. 24, 1-5 p.m., “A Look Back, A Leap Forward,” hosted by Dr. Clement A. Price, with performance by Unity Theater,., Essex Room, Paul Robeson Campus Center.  This program commemorates the 40th anniversary of the protest actions of Feb. 24, 1969, by BOS and other students which opened the doors to forever change the cultural makeup of Rutgers-Newark, today the most diverse university in America. Special guests include: President Richard McCormick, Chancellor Steven Diner, ‘69 Liberators.
    • Feb. 27, 6-10 p.m., 40 Years: Liberation of Conklin Hall Reunion, Essex Room, Paul Robeson Campus Center. Closing ceremonies of the celebration of the historic 1969 Conklin Hall Takeover. Awards honoring the ‘69 liberators with special guest speakers Dr. Clement A. Price and the Rev. Dr. Howard, Chair, Rutgers Board of Governors.

City Seeks to Fund Infrastructure Improvements

Star Ledger: Newark council looks to create utility authority
Booker has gone on record in the past noting that the city’s infrastructure is aged and crumbling. Having been a student and a resident here for many years, it’s easy to see how a modest snowstorm or rainfall can overwhelm the city’s sewer system.

The details on the financing are a bit troubling, with the city essentially admitting that there is no other way to fund improvements to the system without creating a utility authority which can issue bonds.

Newark is considering creating a municipal utilities authority to take over the city’s ailing water and sewer utilities, making it easier for officials to begin $700 million in repairs to its long-neglected systems.

Highlights of the plan, referenced in an application filed with the Local Finance Board of the state’s Division of Local Government Services, mention that the city needs to make more than $50 million in short-term capital improvements alone.

The utility could issue bonds to address more than $700 million in needed improvements, “an amount equivalent to the value of the entire system,” according to the application to the local finance board. The proposal states, “all future capital needs would be met” by bonding, “to fulfill the requirements of upgrading and efficiently operating the system at an adequate cost to the city’s taxpayers.”

With Newark’s own bonding capacity nearly tapped, city officials said they have no other funding source to otherwise commission the work.

“It won’t drag the city down, and be caught up in the competitive demands on our bonding capacity,” said Booker, who also sits on the watershed’s board of trustees. “Now, you (can) create a way to capitalize that system, and keep it so much more flush with cash.”

City Hall Launches ‘Girlfriends’ Mentoring Program

This in from City Hall about a new effort by the  Division of Recreation and Cultural Affairs  to mentor young girls and encourage healthy, positive outlooks and lifestyles.



Biweekly afternoon sessions will mentor girls with sessions on positive imaging and lifestyle choices

Newark, NJ – February 3, 2009 – Mayor Cory A. Booker and Director of Neighborhood and Recreational Services Melvin Waldrop announced today that the City of Newark is offering a mentoring program called “Girlfriends,” aimed at girls aged 10-17, to help them become strong, smart, positive, and successful women. The program is free and will commence on Wednesday, February 4, 2009, at St. Peter’s Recreation Center at 378 Lyons Avenue, at 4 p.m., and continue on the first and third Wednesdays of every month thereafter.

The “Girlfriends” program will mentor female Newark youth, with sessions to help them identify and avoid risky behavior, making wise life choices, coping with stress, anger management, and how to cope with physical, mental, intellectual, and emotional challenges. The class is open to 25 girls, and is free.

“Newark’s youth face enormous challenges in their daily lives which is why it’s even more important to provide them with the guidance and inspiration they need to enable them to live productive and successful lives,” Mayor Booker said, “Ultimately we want to empower the young women of our city who participate in this program, with the knowledge they need, so they can manifest their own excellence as Newark residents and American citizens.”

Instructors in the program are all positive role models from within the Division of Recreation/Cultural Affairs. Volunteers are also being sought to conduct sessions and must be at least 18 years old, sincere about assisting Newark females to succeed, and knowledgeable about fields like etiquette, hygiene, personal finance, higher education, and nutrition.

The program is being run as a pilot at the St. Peter’s Center, and will expand to other recreation centers by year’s end, and become a year-round offering.

The class is sponsored by the Department of Neighborhood and Recreational Services’ Division of Recreation/Cultural Affairs.

“Participants in this class will know their value and potential as a result of this class, and be prepared to lead successful, independent, and fulfilling lives,” Director Waldrop said. “Our mentors will help them learn about decision-making and the consequences of good and bad decisions. I urge all Newark families with girls aged 10-17 to take advantage of this course.

Felicia Jones, the Recreation Aide who created and is overseeing the program, said, “We hope that the girls enjoy the program so much that after graduation from high school they return as mentors themselves.”

For more information on the class, contact the Division of Recreation and Cultural Affairs at (973) 733-6454 or (973) 733-8006.

Paradise Lost: Newark Poetry

All hell broke loose.
John Milton, Paradise Lost

In June 1667, Puritans under Robert Treat signed the first city charter for the religiously exclusive Newark governance. A month later, these white men struck a good deal with the Lenape Indians for the paradisiacal land from the Passaic River to the Watchung Mountains. That was the year when the immortal Milton first published his Paradise Lost.

In November 1915, Newark at its pinnacle organized the Newark Poetry Competition as a part of the city’s 250th anniversary celebration. In the official publication, The Newarker, the organizers wrote:

Newark is not all industries, smoke, rush and din. It is a great center of production and in its special field of work is alert and progressive. But it has also beautiful homes, fine parks, admirable schools, and a useful library. Its thousands of shade trees are the envy of many cities. The cleanliness of its highways surprises even the Newarker himself. It has a good government, churches in plenty and many worthy clubs and societies. Art and science even are not altogether neglected here… Newark, with 400,000 people… (is) known to all the world as a producer of honest goods.

Clement Wood, a graduate of Yale Law School, won the first prize with his poem, The Smithy of God.

Clang, and clang, and clang, and clang,
Till a hundred thousand tired feet
Drag-drag-drag down the evening street,
And gleaming the myriad street-lights hang;
The far night-noise dwindle and hush,
The city quiets its homing rush;
The stars blow forth with silent sweep,
As Hammer and hammered drowse asleep…
Softy I sing to heaven again,
I am Newark, forger of men,
Forger of men, forger of men.

Perhaps even with a nightingale’s singing, Wood’s nocturne might not be able to send 400,000 working men and women with blue eyes and children with above-average intelligence to their sweet American dreams every night. However, Newark indeed was a first-class city of manufacture and technological inventions. Poet Sayers Coe, a native Newarker and a graduate of Princeton, could even verify the most familiar sound of his time in his The Voice of the City:

Clang! Clang! Clang! Clang! Clang!
Hark to the music that the hammers beat!
List to the tramp of the marching feet!
See, where the forges redly glow!
This is the song that my children know –
Clang! Clang! Clang! Clang! Clang!
Hear me, cities of men….

Before becoming an editor of Puck Magazine, Berton Braley labored with his hands, passing coal on the Great Lakes, digging ditches, guarding prisons and an insane asylum, farming and mining. With Walt Whitman’s spirit, he testified, “The needs and wants of the world have spurred her, Newark – city that builds our dreams.” However, amazed by Newark’s vulgar Pollyannaish fever, the literature wizard Ezra Pound sent his advice from London, “If each Italian city is herself, Each with a form, light, character… Can you, Newark, be thus, setting a fashion, But little known in our land?”

On May 31, 1916, 40,000 citizens celebrated the city’s birth in a beautiful amphitheatre in Weequahic Park. On a natural stage separated from the crowds by a lagoon 300 feet long and 163 fee wide, 4,000 performers unfolded the city’s history in four movements, including Lenape “peace legend,” Robert Treat (of course), land rioters of 1746, and rebels against British tyranny in a 1776 town meeting. A live band of 92 pieces performed the pageant music composed by Henry Hadley for the event.

Was life so great then? Would the celebration last? Our poet Richard Cammarieri in his 1999 poem, Taking Sides, asked:

Celebrate what?
Ignorance deceit
Conquest slavery death
that is what you are about
and I know – we know –
what you are about.

In the next 50 years, through two World Wars, the Prohibitionist attack, the Great Depression, and Urban Renewal, two waves of Southern African-American migrant workers moved in with poverty and tens of thousands of whites moved out with wealth. In front of the eyes of a single generation, the once powerful city swiftly experienced a stunning metamorphosis, which has, in turn, generated a very different poetry. In 1967, a Newark court convicted Amiri Baraka with his poem, “We must take our own world, man, our own world, and we cannot do this unless the white man is dead. Let’s get together and kill him my man… Let’s make a world we want black children to grow and learn in.” In his Black People!, the “paradise-lost” scene was depicted:

What about that bad short you saw last week on Frelinhuysen, or those stoves and refrigerators, record players in Sears, Bamberger’s, Klein’s, Hahnes’, Chase, and smaller joosh enterprises? What about the bad jewelry, on Washington Street, and those couple of shops on Springfield? You know how to get it, you can get it, no money down, no money never, money don’t grow on trees no way, only whitey’s got it, makes it with a machine, to control you, you cant steal nothing from a white man.

Now, even those stores, Sears, Macy’s, Klein’s, Hahnes’ and whatever enterprises have long gone and might never come back. The “paradise” has nothing, but Baraka’s and my anger. A young poet Candy Killion cries in her Urban Renewal, Newark (2005):

They stand at sweet attention, now
Condos tight and scrubbed,
Manicured and fertilized
On the hot-tarred rise where there was never grass,
Not when we know it.

Over there, see the swing set?
through decades of exhaust from the 21 bus,
back, further still, see the hill then:
houses burning, National Guard boys…
white and black and yellow and red
barely nineteen, some of them
crawling sweaty and confused in the gutters,
rifle muzzles erect through tinted windows,
waving at them into dreams of rice paddies

Molotov air, broken glass and screams are there still
Under the flowerbeds, under the new-set sod
Just as we knew it.

We knew it? Do we know that, once lost, the paradise will never come back? Maybe the crazy Ezra Pound, who died in an asylum, was right after all: “Can you, Newark, be thus, setting a fashion, But little known in our land?” We don’t really need a paradise, do we?