The third annual Unity Day Festival on Avon Avenue is on September 6. And they’ll attempt a Guinness World Record

In just over a week, the third annual Power Of One Unity Day Festival will kick off on Saturday, September 6, at 10 a.m. on Avon Avenue between Treacy Avenue and 14th Street.

The Unity Day festival was originally organized in 2012 by a group of ministers, including Minister Marvin Cratch, after a bullet pierced a window of the Good Samaritan Church. The festival was a plea to change the community and end the violence on Avon Avenue, even for just one day. The organizers say 4,000 people attended that first Unity Day festival.

Since then, the event has grown to feature numerous artists and performers. Liz Black, a popular radio personality at New York’s 107.5 WBLS, is now hosting the event. And the festival spurred the creation of the Power of One 3C Foundation, which aims to further enhance the relationship between the church, the community, and the city.

“The goal is to entertain, educate, and enhance,” said Minister Cratch. “We believe that when everyone works together within the community, we can address problems and deliver outcomes that are not easily or effectively achieved by working alone.”

The organizers say the objective of bringing the community together through the annual Unity Day Festival is made possible by the effort, donations, and support of individuals and the community. The event itself is comprised of live entertainment, music, comedy, vendors, food, dancing, prayer, and a scavenger hunt, all at no charge. Volunteer registration for the event is still open on its website.

And this year’s Unity Day could go down in the record books, literally. One of the events scheduled for Unity Day 2014 is an attempt to make the Guinness World Records by organizing the world’s largest praise dance.  The praise dance being attempted is the "Christian Walk", a dance performed to gospel musician Darren “Deac” Edwards’ song by the same name. (If you’re not familiar with the dance and would like to “get walking”, check out the video below, or see it here.)

Civic journalism boot camp in Asbury Park announced, and the rolling application period is underway

The Citizens Campaign will host their two-day “City Storytellers Boot Camp” citizen journalism training program on October 25 and 26 in Asbury Park.

The boot camp, which is supported in part by the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation, will train 20 city-based New Jerseyans who want to learn how to harness journalism and online media to tell the story of both their city and the citizen leaders who are winning results on their city's behalf. The Citizens Campaign is accepting applications on a rolling basis until Sunday, September 21. Those interested in learning more and participating can apply at TheCitizensCampaign.org.

“We are seeking dedicated individuals who are passionate about their community and willing to make a one-year commitment to tell the story of civic innovation in their city,” said The Citizens Campaign’s communications director Heather Taylor.

Further, the Citizens Campaign’s organizers say their goal is help fix our democracy by empowering citizens to change the political climate of their locales.

The non-profit, non-partisan boot camp will include skills training provided by professional journalists and media experts from the state's leading newspapers and media outlets. Training will include newsgathering and news reporting, writing for community impact, blogging and social media, photojournalism, and video and audio production. BrickCityLive.com founder Andaiye Taylor will speak on the bootcamp's "Meet the Press" panel.

Selected participants will have all meals, travel and accommodations in Asbury Park provided by The Citizens Campaign. Boot camp participants will also receive a certificate of completion and a City Storyteller Toolkit that includes a high-definition flip video camera, a City Storyteller tote bag, a personalized USB drive, a notebook, and a copy of Shining Light in Dark Spaces, a manual for citizen journalists on how to cover municipal government in New Jersey.

Boot camp participants that successfully complete one year as a City Storyteller will also receive a pre-paid membership for the New Jersey chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists.


Connect with The Citizens Campaign on Facebook and Twitter, and at their website.

Hycide Magazine to launch its Newark issue with a one-night exhibit at the Newark Museum

Hycide magazine, the photojournalism and arts magazine founded by photographer and filmmaker Akintola Hanif, will celebrate its latest issue with a launch party and one-night exhibit at the Newark Museum on September 6.

The seventh issue of the magazine will feature stories and images of Newark, by Newarkers. The concept for the issue was born when Nick Kline, a Rutgers-Newark assistant professor in the Department of Art, Culture and Media, invited Hanif to co-teach his advanced photography class. Together with photography and journalism students, they created vibrant portraits of people in the city whose authentic voices and images rarely appear in mainstream media.

The Newark issue includes a project by Kline, who is also the issue's guest editor, which uses old municipal public relations images from City of Newark Archives and Records to reflect upon the city’s history, self-image, and relationship to the present.

The issue seeks to present an alternative narrative of the city from the first-person perspective of gang members, public housing residents, the LGBT community, homeless residents, and others. But it also includes stories on other topics: Newark’s thriving cultural scene; the Broad and Market commercial district, once considered the busiest intersection in the world; and other people and organizations who seek to make the city a better place.

The issue looks to document a city on the cusp of potential transformation as redevelopment plans are realized, and many see signs of impending gentrification.

In addition to work from Newark writers, students and photographers, it includes a foreword by Christa Clarke, the Newark Museum's Senior Curator of the Arts of Global Africa, and an introduction by Mark Krasovic, associate director of Rutgers’ Institute on Ethnicity, Culture and the Modern Experience.

Rutgers-Newark Chancellor Nancy Cantor praised the collaboration between Hycide and Rutgers-Newark. “It should be no surprise that it is our artists and scholars at the vanguard of the search for understanding and a way forward,'' she said. "It is precisely at the intersection of such diverse perspectives—from faculty, students, community members, artists, and professionals such as our friends from The Newark Museum—that we find our best hope to heal.”

The free, public museum event will feature an installation of photographs made around the city: a mixture of street photography, documentary portraiture, and photo-based art. It includes a selection of critically acclaimed work by artist Manuel Acevedo, plus a photo booth for guests, created from an entrance door from the former Baxter Terrace housing projects. The issue launch will also help close out the museum’s summerlong “New Jersey Arts Annual in Fine Art, Ready or Not” show, which runs through September 7.


Hycide Magazine's Newark issue launch will take place at the Newark Museum, 49 Washington St. Newark, NJ, from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. In addition to the exhibit, the event will feature live music and refreshments. Event guests are encouraged to register with Eventbrite, but the event is still free and open to those who don't register.

Image: Hycide.com

Group of Newark parents to announce boycott of public school system under “One Newark” plan

Today, a group of Newark parents will announce that they are escalating their protest of the "One Newark" public school reorganization plan. In a press conference at 12 p.m. at Newark Vocational High School (301 W. Kinney St.), they will share details of their boycott of Newark Public Schools at the start of the new school year.

"The parents and community members of Newark can no longer allow these practices that are not only lacking research and democratic ideals, but will potentially harm our children and community," said Sharon Smith, co-founder of Parents Unified for Local School Education (PULSE), a parent-led grassroots group that organizes in the Newark community. "This boycott is a statement that the people of Newark demand the right to run and operate the school district through a democratically elected and empowered school board – in other words, local control of schools."

Wednesday's press conference is one of 11 actions across the country this week coordinated by the Journey for Justice Alliance – a national coalition of grassroots education organizations that includes PULSE. As part of Journey for Justice's national week of action, partner groups nationwide are also calling on the U.S. Department of Education to ensure that new federal School Improvement Grants can be used towards community-based, community-informed models of improving school quality. Participating cities include Newark; Jersey City; Camden; Paterson; Chicago; Detroit, New York City; Philadelphia; Baltimore; New Orleans; and Kilmichael, Mississipi.

 

The Newark Youth Leadership Project is now accepting applications for paid internships

The Newark Youth Leadership Project is run by the Greater Newark Conservancy. Here are the full details on the program and application process:

NYLP is a job training and leadership program of Greater Newark Conservancy​ that ​will focus on environmental issues including green jobs, the environment, healthy living, education and career exploration.​ 

Students will be pushed to try new things, experience outdoor activities and lead a healthier lifestyle. Requirements for the program are as follows: Must be a Newark resident (but can be attending any high school); ​Must maintain a 2.5 or better GPA (most recent report card must be submit​t​ed with application); ​Must have a recommendation of a guidance counselor or teacher; Must have completed freshman year of High School​; If the student has participated in NYLP previously, a resume is required with the application! Please click here to view the application.

Interns are paid $8.25/hr and will work up to ten hours per week after school from October 2014 through May 2015.​ ​Before being hired, each applicant will be screened through an interview process. Be prepared for this interview—dress for success and don’t be late!​ ​ Application deadline is September 30th, 2014.

We’re always looking for ways to sustain our internship program. Please spread the word about what we’re doing for urban youth with friends and family. You can find photos and updates about Newark Youth Leadership Project on our Facebook page: www.facebook.com/GNCNYLP or visit our website atwww.citybloom.org.

Mayor Ras Baraka is holding budget and education town hall meetings this week

Mayor Ras Baraka will be holding a series of town hall meetings this week. The mayors office says on-site child care will be provided for parents with young children. This week's schedule is as follows:

  • Tuesday, August 26, 7 p.m.: Good Neighbor Baptist Church, 100 Chancellor Avenue
  • Wednesday, August 26, 7 p.m.: Abyssinian Baptist Church, 224 West Kinney Street
  • Thursday, August 26, 7 p.m.: Shiloh Baptist Church, 107 Davenport Street
  • Friday, August 26, 7 p.m.: St. Stephan's Church, 7 Wilson Avenue

Those interested in attending are asked to RSVP at townhalls@ci.newark.nj.us, or at (973) 733-6706.

 

Newark skate culture descends on Washington Park for Skate BBQ event

On a cloudy Saturday afternoon, skateboarders from Newark and other neighboring areas converged on Washington Park for a Skate BBQ event.

This was the first time such a skateboarding event has been held in Washington Park, and judging by the turnout, skateboarding enthusiasts jumped at the opportunity to display their moves and tricks on the five ramps the organizers set up on Washington Place directly across from the DJ station, and on the numerous ledges all around the park.

“This is the first year an event like this has been in Washington Park,” said Alfred Catalfumo II. “There’s also the Street League event on Sunday at the Prudential, so it really is perfect timing.” Catalfumo is part of Mental Limited Skates, and was at the event representing his skate team and promoting Street League by handing out vouchers for free tickets to Sunday evening’s event. “I’m just here trying to help and take care of some of these kids,” said Catalfumo about the free vouchers.

The ledges on the side of the Christopher Columbus statue were particularly popular, as skaters lined up to showcase their tricks. The Crook Shove It, Five-O Shove It Out, Hard Flip Backside 50-50, and the No Comply 50-50 were just some of the numerous tricks being performed or, in some cases, valiantly attempted. While some skaters were there to just partake in the environment and have some fun, some were actually signed athletes to different teams and brands.

Gilbert, a skateboarder sponsored by Newark-based Score BRX, was one of the skaters who showed up early to the park. He could be seen skating along the ledges near the light rail platform, using his handmade skateboard courtesy of his sponsor. The founder and designer of Score BRX, James Steven Wilson, could be found manning the grill located near the park's Seth Boyden statue. His company sponsors four skaters, and is all about showcasing the skater lifestyle.

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“I created [Score BRX] really as an extension of my artwork,” said Wilson, who is also an art handler, muralist, and tattoo artist, besides being a skater himself. “We provide a high-end skateboard brand that sells products and apparel.” Wilson looked at the Skate BBQ event as a clearly positive sign for the skateboarding community. “Every generation [of skaters] wants the next generation to skate,” he explained. “There’s more to it than people think, it’s about Visualizing and setting goals, overcoming obstacles, implementing mind over matter, being dedicated and willing to put in the time and effort, and just bending the universe to your will.”

One of the driving forces behind bringing the Skate BBQ event to Newark was Dilettante Bass and his comic-centric company, P.B. Soldier, which was originally based off a clothing line. Bass and his business partner Naseed Gifted, both NJIT graduates, said they'd always wanted to bring an event like this to downtown Newark, and that they were able to make it happen thanks to the help of others.

“We had so many partnerships,” said Bass. “People like the Life Lab, they’re here. Brick City Development Corporation helped with the food and water for the kids, and of course we worked with the city of Newark.”

Bass explained that having a skateboarding event in a place like Washington Park was about keeping the kids safe. He hopes that an event like this can help make more Newarkers aware of the growing skateboarding culture and community in the city. “We want to bring a skate park to the downtown area,” said Bass. “Hoboken has one on their waterfront, New York has a bunch of them, hopefully we’ll have one here.”  (City-operated Jesse Allen Park features a skateboarding facility, part of the park's renovation five years ago.)

While downtown Newark may have to wait to have its own skate park, it did have a major skateboarding event this past weekend. Street League Skateboarding's Super Crown World Championship was held at the Prudential Center for its fifth consecutive year. The Skate BBQ's organizers hope their event will get the wheels turning for a more permanent skateboarding facility downtown.

A challenge from a teenaged son. Then a mission to educate and empower Newark youth

Al-Tariq Best is the founder of FP YouthOutCry, a non-profit organization that has been serving Newark's youth and families for more than eight years.

But working intently towards a better future for Newark wasn’t always in this lifelong Newarker's plans. “I was involved with the music business since I was nine years old,” said Best. “I even have an album, mixed and mastered.”

Only Best never released that album. Since 2006, his time has been occupied by his community work. And it all started with a question from his then-14-year-old son.

 

The Challenge

“I was driving down Bergen Street, me and my sons. I stopped at a light, when three guys started beating on this one guy,” recalled Best. “Then one guy pulls out a gun, and at that point I was just trying to get my sons out of harm’s way, pass the light, and get out of the way.”

Best said he saw a police officer at the next intersection and told him what was happening. The officer made a U-turn in the direction of the scene.

“Once I heard a loud bang, something inside me just exploded,” Best continued.

In the aftermath of that incident, Best said he warned his sons against ending up on the streets of the very city he had defended on multiple occasions.

“I was embarrassed, really. As an adult, as a parent, I was just embarrassed that they actually saw that,” said Best. It was then that Best’s oldest son asked him a question that would change the direction of the former Georgia King Village resident's life.

“He told me, ‘Dad you always talk about being part of the solution and not part of the problem. What are you doing about it?’ And I was stuck,” said Best.

That moment prompted Best to pivot away from music and toward the Newark-based mentoring and education he’s made his life’s work for the past eight years. When he first started, Best said he took everything he knew from the music business and applied it to starting a non-profit organization, despite “not entirely knowing” how to build one.

“I just wanted to help, and I just wanted to serve,” said Best.

He initially wanted to focus his brand new initiative on helping youth, hence the "FP" in its eventual name, which stands for “Future Potential”.

He dived in headfirst, quickly launching FP’s inaugural project. “My first program was MTOL,” said Best. "My Thoughts Out Loud" is a traveling program that provides a forum for youth to express their concerns and challenges. The program's first stop was the Seth Boyden public housing projects, which Best said were referred to as “Death Boyden” at the time because of a string of recent homicides that had taken place there.

Best said he wanted to operate where he could have a real impact. “If you take a light and put it in an already lit room, it doesn’t do much," Best explained. “But if you take that same light and put it in a dark room, it can mean the world. Seth Boyden was that dark room.”

But Best soon realized he couldn’t maximize his impact on youth without including families as well. “They can’t teach what they don’t know,” said Best. “We try to instill more involvement in the families and adults, and close the gaps between them and their kids.” Best created adult-focused programs, like FIST (Families Involved in Structured Transitions), in order to help adults deal with financial literacy, health and wellness, self-sufficiency, and career readiness.  

 

Brick-and-mortar

As the goals of his organization expanded, Best said his physical presence had to, as well.

It wasn’t easy. For about two years, Best worked out of a 600-square-foot corner property in a Prince Street apartment complex formerly known as the Willi T. Wright Apartments. One of the apartment complex’s board members had admired what Best was doing in the community, and offered the space as a show of help.

But the fate of Best’s rent-free arrangement was jeopardized when new ownership, Treetop Development, bought the property. “They wanted to know why I was here in this office for free,” said Best. “So they held a meeting with the community, and the community stood up for me.”

As FP YouthOutCry grew, Best wanted his vision to include a physical community empowerment center. When he was approved to acquire more space on the Treetop Development property a year ago, the plan was set to create the H.U.B.B. (Help Us Become Better) center, which will be located on the lower level of 135 Prince Street once the renovation is complete.

“We raised $50,000 dollars to build up the place,” said Best. “We’ve expanded from 600 square feet to 9,000.”

The H.U.B.B. complex will feature an educational wing, an entertainment multimedia center, an empowerment center, which is still under construction, a copy center, a conference room, and other amenities. Although H.U.B.B.’s grand opening isn’t until October, Best said he grants tours of the new headquarters occasionally.

Best said FP YouthOutCry has received offers to open similar spaces on other properties in Newark, and even in different states, but that he wants to first set up the right organizational structure so his center can be a real template for community development.

“I definitely passed my initial expectations from the start, because it literally was just, ‘Let me help a little,’” sad Best. “I never knew that this would take my life on a whole new journey, and that I would find that my purpose in life is just serving people.”

 

Running lean

Best said although he’s benefited from significant support from Partnership for Children of Essex and the Newark Housing Authority, funding still remains his greatest obstacle, even after operating for eight years and earning numerous awards.

Despite having to operate on a conservative budget, Best said FP YouthOutCry is committed to consistently serving the community through its programming, which includes summer camps in all five wards, the annual Break Bread ceremony at Thanksgiving, and the fourth annual Citywide Healthy Olympics, which will take place at Nat Turner Park this Sunday.

“My whole thing with FP is to entertain, educate, and empower,” said Best, adding: “[I]f you teach them well enough, then they became empowered to do more for themselves and others, and that’s our goal.”

Inside a Newark pop-up coworking space, a popup coffee house

=Space, the popup coworking space whose launch we previously reported on, features a multitude of amenities for entrepreneurs, but perhaps its most popular feature so far has been its test kitchen, which is named Socialisto.

The space's founders are actually using their coworking space to incubate a new business: Socialisto is yet another one of Medina=Citi’s latest business ventures.

“It’s our coffeehouse,” said Medina, co-founder and creative director of Medina=Citi. “Clients can come in, get a cup of coffee or tea, and really relax and decompress.”

Medina said that in his company’s past experiences, a structured setting isn’t always the best environment to think of ideas or plans.

“Some of my best ideas have come over a cup of coffee, and I’d have to write it down on a napkin,” he said.

Socialisto will have eventually two locations, one in the new permanent headquarters of Medina=Citi on 84 Clinton Avenue in Lincoln Park, and another inside Gallery Aferro, at 73 Market Street. The Socialisto in Lincoln Park will be specialized for the tech community and entrepreneurs, whereas the one in Gallery Aferro will be geared towards artists and creatives.

As of right now, the test kitchen for Socialisto is located at 89 Market Street, inside =Space, and is labeled by Medina as the “heart” of the "decompress" area of the pop-up co-working space. The staff prepares its beverages and food daily, and they’re constantly experimenting with new flavors of coffee or other drinks and nourishments.

“The menu changes every other day,” says Medina. “We test out recipes, and we let people vote on them so that when we open up the doors we have things that people love.”

Neither “Spacers” nor clients are charged for anything. The test kitchen is honor system-based.

“We want to hear what they like about the food,” explained Medina. “Any funding they can give just replenishes the test kitchen’s funding so we can keep experimenting.”

Items that the Socialisto test kitchen has experimented with so far include homemade brownies, chocolate chip cookies, muffins, Vietnamese coffee, Swiss coffee, and other varieties of coffees and teas.

“We define [Socialisto] as the art of conversation and having that moment of pause,” says Medina. “By the time our menu comes out, it's going to be something people love.” 

NJTV to air report about Newark parents’ struggles enrolling their children in schools under One Newark

The enrollment problems stemming from the One Newark plan are coming to a head, and are frustrating parents and causing uncertainty for Newark students soon before the school year is set to begin. NJTV will be airing a report about the issue on NJTV News with Mary Alice Williams tonight.

Airing 6pm, 7:30pm, and 11pm

  • Cablevision: Channel 8
  • Comcast: Channel 23