Celebrate the life and legacy of Amiri Baraka at Newark Symphony Hall

things to do cardOctober 7 would have been the 80th birthday of the late Amiri Baraka, and his beloved city of Newark will soon commemorate it. On October 10, Newark Symphony Hall will host an evening of poetry, music and dramatic performances to honor Baraka.

Newark born and raised, Baraka was a dramatist, novelist and poet who used his work as weapons against racism, becoming an influential activist for the rights of African Americans throughout a career that spanned several decades.

“Celebrate Amiri” is sponsored by the City of Newark and Mayor Ras J. Baraka, the son of Amiri Baraka. Other committee members of the event include the host Richard Wesley, Iqua Colson, Adegoke Steve Colson, Leon Denmark and Woodie King Jr.

An excerpt of Baraka’s “The Most Dangerous Man in America” will be performed by Art McFarland, a former ABC news personality, in addition to several other musical and poetic performances.

Some of the featured musicians and poets will include Felipe Luciano, who is also the city’s Communications Director, Jasmine Mans, Jessica Care Moore, James Mtume, Ntozake Shange, Quincy Troupe, the Arts High School Jazz Band, Pheeroan AkLaff, Adegoke, Steve Colson, Iqua Colson, Craig Harris, Oliver Lake, and Rene McLean.

“Celebrate Amiri” will begin at 8 p.m. at the Terrace Ballroom in Newark Symphony Hall, located at 1020 Broad Street. There will be a $5 admission fee.

Featured image courtesy of the City of Newark

Newark Celebration 350 community meetings continues in the West Ward

Rain pelted the colorful stained glass of the United Vailsburg Service Organization as citizens and city officials alike filed into the church like structure to discuss the impending Newark Celebration 350. This was the second stop of the ward-by-ward community tour geared to not only promote the upcoming yearlong celebration of Newark’s 350th anniversary, but to also gather ideas on what type of festivities the west ward could offer.

As with the East Ward meeting, this one, hosted by Celebration Director John Johnson Jr., illustrated the committee’s plan to envelope Newark’s five wards in a yearlong celebration that will commence in January and host upwards of 100 festivals and events. NJPAC President and Celebration Vice Chair John Schreiber explained this would start with the previously announced family oriented pre-anniversary event in Military Park on October 17th which would act as a preview of sorts for what was to come.

Chair Julius Williams proceeded to open the floor meeting attendees — there were about 40 in all at this one — and many of which voiced their belief the West Ward’s rich history should be the key focus of the events they showcased. “The West Ward’s significance extends beyond just Vailsburg,” Dr. Gloria Harris, a local minister, expressed exuberantly. “Many people don’t know about things like the underground rail road house or the significant black churches in the area.” She suggested this history be displayed on a mural.

The annual International Food Festival that has been held in the west for the past 20 years was a key proposal as well; a consensus arose that the ward should leverage this existing event and expand it to commemorate Newark’s 350th anniversary. Johnson also called out the history of Ivy Hill, which was previously part of South Orange before being incorporated into the West Ward. “It broke off and was eventually annexed by Newark,” he said, underscoring how coveted an area it was.

Later, Williams grabbed the brochure for Newark Celebration 350 and gestured first to a picture of Mayor Ras Baraka, and then to one of a young boy playing a trumpet. “Here, we have the old and we have the new,” he said pointing first to the mayor, and then to the boy. “See the question is, ‘What the future holds for this little boy and the others coming up along with him?’”

The committee representatives said they’re determined to use the high-profile platform of the anniversary celebration to convey a history passed that can act as a foundation for one yet to be realized.

Upcoming community meetings

  • 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)

NJPAC Spotlight Gala co-chairs look to add their startup spirit to the institution’s largest funding arm

The New Jersey Performing Arts Center’s Women’s Association will hold their annual Spotlight Gala tomorrow evening. The event will honor the much-awarded composer Stephen Sondheim, and will feature performances by Tony Award winners and nominees including Judy Kuhn, James Monroe Iglehart, Vanessa Williams and Tony Yazbeck.

But the black tie affair isn’t just about the performances. The event ultimately helps to fund NJPAC’s operations, including its community priorities, most notably arts education. Here, we profile the two co-chairs of the Spotlight Gala about what they’ve learned throughout their careers, and how they hope to imbue the Women’s Association and the event with some of their startup spirit.

Tenagne Jeffries

tenagne jeffriesTenagne Jeffries is the chair of the Women’s Association in addition to being co-chair of the gala. Many Newarkers will recognize her name from the 2014 mayoral campaign: Tenagne and candidate Shavar Jeffries are married, and she played a critical role during his run.

She’s now the founder and CEO of Newark-based development firm The Cultivation Group, but Jeffries began her career in the marketing world, where she racked up experience at an impressive set of firms, including Ogilvy and Mather and Grey Worldwide. It was in the course of creating entrepreneurial initiatives at mainstay companies that Jeffries gleaned some wisdom about making an impact at an established institution, knowledge she ported over to her role at NJPAC, and with events like the gala.

“Learning is an ongoing practice,” she told me. “You can’t just think you’re going to graduate and not have to invest in yourself further, whether it’s going to graduate school, doing certificates, or just being intentional about your experiences. You have to be aggressive in order to stay on top of how your field is evolving.

“I think to myself, ‘Where is the white space where I can add value? You get hired for your mastery, but you take it to the next level by adding value. I had to embrace what made me unique,” she said.

It’s that ethos that she’s bringing to NJPAC’s Women’s Association, an organization whose goal is to support the broader mission of NJPAC through its fundraising and programming.  The Spotlight Gala is a marquee event organized by the association. “The question is what can we do to make sure it’s engaging to everybody, and how do we make it new?” said Jeffries of her approach to this year’s event. “We decided having a diverse group of performers is really great, so they can resonate with the [association’s] different audiences and constituencies.”

In addition to chairing the Women’s Association, Jeffries is busy building The Cultivation Group, a community-minded real estate development firm focused on building in Newark using homegrown resources, and thus circulating dollars many times over within the city. She sought a project in a historical area, used community-based financing and a construction partnership with YouthBuild Newark to develop it, and will be mindful about bringing community-enhancing commercial tenants into the development.

Back at the Women’s Association, her goal is to continue diversifying the ranks of women who care about the arts, arts education, and networking with each other. “The Women’s Association has so many different types of trustees and members, but they all share a similar value of caring about our objectives, and [for] New Jersey,” she said. “It’s a great opportunity for people to congregate around shared values. No matter what age you are, it’s a great way to connect.”

Robin Cruz

robin cruz mclearnJeffries is chairing the Spotlight Gala alongside Robin Cruz, an attorney and entrepreneur whose family has a history in Newark, and who came into the NJPAC fold when a friend invited her to a Women’s Association luncheon. The experience opened her up to a channel through which she could round out both her network and her non-work activities.

“I find myself being faced with all kinds of challenges having been working for 25 years, and thought I’d be settled into a routine,” said Cruz, who founded advisory firm East Avenue Advisors, LLC in 2013. “You always have to say ‘yes’ to opportunities when they’re presented to you. I always enjoy it when I take on something new, because one opportunity leads to the next.”

A key opportunity in that vein was to become involved with philanthropy, something she did by first joining the Women’s Association as a trustee back in 2008. “I wasn’t sure what to expect because I’m used to being in charge, but taking on something like chair of an event has led me to meet these wonderful people who are so appreciative and supportive,” she said.

Cruz said she particularly welcomes the opportunity to work with so many women, a demographic that is underrepresented in the legal world. “My female networks are so important, and I’d never give them up. They came from my philanthropy work,” she said.

Also like Jeffries, Cruz is a woman who launches things. Along with her father and brother, she started the Cruz Family Foundation, after the trio sold a previous company and saw an opportunity to “put some money to work and find a way to make an impact,” said Cruz.

The Cruz family launched the small foundation in order to create educational opportunities for children. They set up a special gift to the Trust for Public Land, which creates playgrounds and parks throughout Newark. The foundation has also created scholarships to help students attend Westover School in Connecticut — an effort to help level the playing field for deserving children and families who lack the resources to fully fund a private education. It’s the school that Cruz and her daughter have both attended.

In addition to midwifing her into philanthropy, Cruz touted the relationships engendered by her experience with NJPAC. “It is amazing to be a part of a community like this; we generally lose that ability as we get older. This is a community where everyone has this purpose and these interests, but all come from different experience levels and completely different perspectives. It’s different when it’s not your job and you don’t have to be here.”

Of the gala, which she has been working all year with Jeffries to organize, Cruz agreed that it will hit its objective if it brings younger people into the fold. “I’m hoping that this year has a fresh and young feeling to it. The choice of decor, the food, the colors, and everything else we chose deliberately has a fresh, new palette,” she said. “We have to make this popular for younger people. We have so many members who have been involved for 20 years and contributed so much. So we have to bring those younger members up, and that means making this a fun, exciting event for everyone.”

The Spotlight Gala takes place Saturday, October 3rd at 7 p.m. at the New Jersey Performing Arts Center. Find out more about the Women’s Association on their website, FacebookTwitter, and Pinterest.

The Ironbound offers its Newark Celebration 350 ideas in the first of a series of ward-by-ward meetings

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)

See here to view the RFP and submit a proposal for Newark Celebration 350 event. See here to view the RFP and submit a proposal for a Newark Celebration 350 public discussion.

Igor Alves contributed reporting for this story.

TEDX NJIT event focused on urban renewal using existing community resources

Newark Museum exhibition to showcase world-class holdings of Islamic art

Decorated Wall Hanging; Egypt, early 20th century; Cotton; Newark Museum Purchase, 1929

Decorated Wall Hanging; Egypt, early 20th century; Cotton; Newark Museum Purchase, 1929

Bringing together both historic and contemporary objects from its diverse collections — Asian, African, American and the decorative arts of Europe — the Newark Museum’s winter 2016 feature exhibition will showcase the history and breath of Islamic art.

More than 100 works on display in Wondrous Worlds: Art & Islam Through Time & Place reflect aspects of faith, culture and everyday life of Muslims across the world and throughout the ages. The exhibition, which is supported by the National Endowment for the Arts, opens February 12 and runs through May 15, 2016.

The Wondrous Worlds features works in nearly all media, including carpets, costumes, jewelry, ceramics, glassware, metalworks, prints, paintings and photographs. Contemporary works from artists such as Rachid Koraichi and Victor Ekpuk, and modern day calligraphy by Hassan Massoudy, will be shown with pieces dating back to the 9th century.

Highlights range from lustrewares of Iran and Spain to delicate prayer rugs from Turkey and India, as well as Harem #1 from the bi-national Moroccan-American photographer Lalla Essaydi, and a pair of early 20th century Egyptian applique tent hangings—measuring 10 feet high and 6 feet wide—that were acquired in Egypt in 1929 by John Cotton Dana, the Newark Museum’s founding director and museum education pioneer.

“John Cotton Dana focused on making relevant connections between objects and people’s lives, while providing inspiration to artists, artisans and makers across disciplines,” said Steven Kern, museum director and CEO. “Through this exhibition, our audiences will gain a more nuanced understanding and appreciation for Islamic art along with other multi-cultural art forms they may encounter in the future.”

The exhibition opens with a world map populated with select items that demonstrate the intercontinental reach of the Dar al-Islam, or Islamic World, which touches all continents except Antarctica.

“Most Islamic art exhibitions focus on works from the Middle East, North Africa or South Asia, but this exhibition includes a much larger scope. We will showcase works from Southeast Asia, the Americas as well as East and West Africa,” said Dr. Katherine Anne Paul, curator of the Arts of Asia and lead curator of the exhibition. Kimberli Gant, Arts of Global Africa Mellon Foundation Curatorial Fellow, an assistant curator on the exhibition, as well as curators from other departments have all worked together to expand the scope of the project geographically and materially.

Wondrous Worlds opens with an introduction to the Five Pillars of Islam — declaration of faith, daily prayers, charity, fasting for Ramadan and the Hajj pilgrimage — to provide both context and a distinctive view into the function, artistry and cultural histories of the objects. The exhibition then expands upon five themes.

Internationalisms—Then and Now highlights the long history of inter-continental trade and the role that the Hajj pilgrimage plays in promoting international interconnections. The trade of Turkish textiles to Morocco, English and Dutch textiles inspired by Indonesian prints that were exported to Africa, as well as a ceramics traded between China, Iran and Turkey are featured in this section.

Quran, Calligraphy and Book Arts delves into the power of the written word, not only through the Quran, but also through histories and poetry written in diverse scripts representing different languages including Arabic, Farsi, Nsibidi, Turkish, and Urdu.

Hospitality: Fasting, Feasting and Fun, celebrates the domesticated arts. A mise-en-scene installation of a Moroccan feast will showcase a Rabat carpet, leather cushions, wooden screen and metal table settings. Ceramics, paintings and musical instruments from other regions will also be highlighted.

Architecture and Its’ Offspring, glories in architectural legacies displayed in carpets, printed textiles, furniture, tile-works, and historic and contemporary photographs of India and Morocco.

Body Beautiful: Costumes, Fashion and Faith positions silk, velvet and sequined costumes and textiles alongside fabulous jewelry fashioned from diamonds, pearls, emeralds, jade, gold and silver.

For additional information, follow the Newark Museum on Facebook at facebook.com/newark.museum or Twitter attwitter.com/newarkmuseum; or by visiting www.newarkmuseum.org.

Featured image: Decorated Wall Hanging; Egypt, early 20th century; Cotton; Newark Museum Purchase, 1929  29.1470

Selling a vision for the city along with space, real estate agent Melvin Sykes asks, ‘Why not Newark?’

3 ways to get involved with Newark’s 350th anniversary celebration

Newark is turning 350 next year — that makes the city more than 100 years older than the United States of America itself. The city’s 350th anniversary celebration, officially named Newark Celebration 350, is in the works, and planning committees for the celebration have already begun to convene.

We’ll be reporting and updating as much as possible about the event, but the planners have also provided ways to stay close to the process, and for community members to even get involved themselves. To that end, here are three ways to get involved with next year’s Newark Celebration 350.

Attend one of five upcoming planning and information sessions with organizers

newark350Celebration Chair Junius Williams, Celebration Executive Director John Johnson, and NJPAC President John Schreiber will be convening a series of five meetings in each of the five wards to give community members and potential partners a chance to offer ideas for events, partnerships, and other opportunities related to Newark Celebration 350. Community leaders and elected officials for each ward will also be present at each session.

The sessions will be held as follows:

  • East Ward: Tuesday, September 29, 6 p.m. – 8 p.m., Ironbound Early Learning Center (1 New York Avenue)
  • 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)


Submit a proposal for an event or public discussion

The programming committee has released a call for event and public discussion proposals for the celebration. Events and public discussions can run the gamut of types and target audiences, but are asked to achieve one or more of the following objectives:

  • Focus the attention of the city and nation on the rich history of Newark, NJ, as a way to engage people of all ages who live, work and play in the city in its continued rebirth and revitalization.
  • Inculcate pride in identity through celebration of Newark’s history in each ward and neighborhood of Newark.
  • Focus and direct the energy of Newark’s residents in continued rebirth and regeneration.
  • Use the historical evolution of neighborhoods in the context of immigration both old and new, to demonstrate how Newark has become one city with many voices.
  • Study and document periods of conflict, and derive lessons for growth and reconciliation to enable future generations to avoid the mistakes of the past.
  • Identify and celebrate the great musical, artistic, and intellectual contributions Newark has bestowed upon its people in town, throughout the nation, and around the world.
  • Enable the history of Newark to serve as a beacon of hope and a blueprint for change for cities similarly situated all over the nation.

See here to view the RFP and submit a proposal for an event.

See here to view the RFP and submit a proposal for a public discussion.

Follow Newark Celebration 350 on social media

NC350 recently set up its social media accounts, and will be sharing updates to the public through those channels. Follow along on Facebook at facebook.com/Newark350, and on Twitter and Instagram @Newark350.

BrickCityLive.com will also be publishing related events to our calendar. To find them, visit brickc.it/350eventlist.

Stay tuned to BrickCityLive.com for continuing coverage of Newark’s 350th anniversary celebration.

Featured image: Rutgers University and downtown Newark, copyright Arthur Paxton, via WikiMedia.org. Used under Creative Commons license.