Newark Celebration 350 kicked off its series of ward-by-ward community meetings yesterday at the Ironbound Community Corporation.
During the meeting, which was attended by about thirty people, Newark Celebration 350 chair Junius Williams laid out the celebration’s premise for attendees, and opened the floor for their input for 2016’s yearlong celebration. The celebration committee, he said, is also open to event and programming proposals, and will even help fund a select number of initiatives. Celebration director John Johnson, vice chair John Schrieber, who is also president of NJPAC, councilman Augusto Amadour, and several officials from the Ironbound Community Corporation were also in attendance.
Williams laid out some of the ideas already in the pipeline, including a “walk to the river” to underscore the importance of the Passaic River to the city’s founding, and a Newark Celebration 350-themed curriculum for Newark students.
By dint of its East Ward location, the community meeting saw significant representation from the city’s Brazilian, Ecuadorian, and Portuguese communities. One key consensus was that an emphasis on immigrant stories — and on Newark’s rich diversity — should be highlighted during the celebration. Another: that more intentional outreach will be needed to bring non-English speaking and undocumented community members into the fold. A third attendee suggested highlighting the Ecuadorian community as a newer immigrant group to the city, and exploring the factors that drew them to Newark.
Attendees also posited diverse event and programming ideas, from a 5 kilometer run to a citywide beautification project. Drew Curtis, Community Development and Environmental Justice Director at ICC, suggested throwing a series of “underpass parties” as way to “bridge the gap” between the East Ward and the rest of the city, which are cut off from each other by a long stretch of train tracks.
Frankie Adao, a lifelong Ironbound resident, was present at the meeting.
“I suggested a restaurant week,” said Adao, who is a chef. “They work well to bring in people from outside, as well as bring the community together. The Ironbound is known for its fantabulous restaurants, and we have other great restaurants and eateries all over the city.”
Adao also suggested an “Ironbound Cup,” an homage to the heavy soccer culture in the East Ward. “We have a bunch of soccer leagues. We have these great soccer fields. Just like the World Cup goes from stadium to stadium, that would be a great way for the community to go out and see the parks.”
As a follow up to the meeting, some members volunteered to serve on an East Ward Newark 350 Celebration committee, which would liase between the community and the umbrella organization. Adao said they expect to hold their inaugural meeting within the next two weeks.
In all, Adao said he thought the meeting succeeded at bringing the community into the fold. “To be able to be part of something like this is exciting. It’s a really big deal that the city is doing something of this magnitude,” he said. “It’s going to be interesting to see how the community bands together.”
Upcoming community meetings
- West Ward: Thursday, October 1, 6 p.m. – 8 p.m., U.V.S.O. Teen Center (40 Richelieu Terrace)
- Central Ward: Monday, October 5, 6 p.m. – 8 p.m., Abyssinian Baptist Church (224 West Kinney Street)
- South Ward: Tuesday, October 6, 6 p.m. – 8 p.m., Donald K. Tucker Center (27 Elizabeth Avenue)
- North Ward: Wednesday, October 7, 6 p.m. – 8 p.m., Third Presbyterian Church (395 Ridge Street)
Igor Alves contributed reporting for this story.