Attend a community forum to share information about Newark’s Lower Broadway neighborhood on January 10th

On Tuesday, January 10 at 6:30pm, the Lower Broadway Neighborhood Association will host a free, open, community forum to share important information about developments in Newark’s Lower Broadway Neighborhood.

Newark’s 9th annual Festival de la Familia will soon come to Lower Broadway

neighborhoods cardLa Casa de Don Pedro will host the 9th annual Festival de la Familia on Sunday, July 24th. The free festival will take place from 12 p.m. to 5 p.m. on Broadway between Bloomfield Place and Broad Street.

The family-friendly festival is meant to celebrate Newark’s diverse community and rich history – and is this year being presented as part of Newark Celebration 350. Carnival games, water rides and street performers will be among the activities offered at the event.

Festival de la Familia will also feature a roster of music and dance performances, including DJ Francisco Morales, performances by Yahaya Kamate African Dance and Drums Group, Plena Dulce, a Peruvian dance group, NJPAC Hip Hop Dance Group and Ruben Figueroa’s Ritmo Tropical.

La Casa’s Youth Family & Health Services Division will also collaborate with Horizon NJ Health and the City of Newark’s Department of Health & Community Wellness to provide free health screenings and HIV testing. A community resource tent will provide a variety of relevant information and services as well.

“For the past nine years Festival de la Familia has celebrated Newark’s cultural diversity. Events like these are so important because they bring families together and foster community pride,” said Carrie Puglisi, La Casa’s Director of Program & Fund Development according to the organization’s press release about the event.

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For further information, visit www.festivaldelafamilia.weebly.com.

Lincoln Park Music Festival joins Newark Celebration 350 with an early kickoff and house music party tonight

Lincoln Park Music Festival is beginning “festival season” early this year with a kickoff event tonight at Diamondz N Da Ruff lounge, located at 71 Clay Street.

The three-day music festival, which is entering its eleventh year, will be joining forces with Newark Celebration 350, a commemoration of the city’s 350th anniversary, by extending its annual pre-festival series of music and dance-related events to include “Music Speaks,” a series of free lectures and a multimedia arts events “designed to increase Newark citizens’ appreciation for the African American musical genres of gospel, hip-hop, blues, jazz, rhythm and blues, rock and roll and house as well as empower and inform,” according to a recent email from festival organizers.

Tuesday’s free 21-and-over event, which will take place from 6:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m., will commemorate house music, and will feature sets by DJ Ironbound. . Those interested in attending are encouraged to RSVP at musicspeakskickoff.splashthat.com.

The Lincoln Park Music Festival itself will take place this summer from July 29th through July 31st.

Artfront Galleries activates vacant storefronts in Lower Broadway with fine art galleries

art cardThe concept for the Artfront Galleries pop-up gallery series is straight out of Jane Jacobs’ 1961 book, “The Death and Life of Great American Cities.” Jacobs proposed methods for revitalizing blocks where storefronts were closing and crime was rising. She focused on Lower Manhattan and the Village.

For Artfront Galleries, we combined her method with a model taught to us by Jeanine Alfieri, a NYC based sculptor, to bring fallow storefronts in Newark’s Lower Broadway neighborhood back to life.

Here’s how it works: find a long-vacant storefront, locate the owner, anexed convince them it would be to their benefit to let you borrow the space for 30 days for a not-for-profit pop-up fine art gallery.

The property owner benefits because the lights are on and there is foot traffic in his heretofore vacant space. The high-quality art not only makes the space attractive to potential tenants, it also benefits the adjacent businesses who enjoy the same foot traffic.

Meanwhile, the artists involved benefit by showing, and hopefully selling, their work.

Since October of 2014, Artfront Galleries has produced seven shows in venues from Grafton Avenue to Market Street. More than eight curators and 50 artists have found “wall space” to show work. Ideally, a show will host nine to ten artists showing five to seven pieces each.

Artfront 50 Broadway

While and emphasis is placed on local artists, we deliberately solicit 30 percent participation from surrounding areas. The idea: to bring artists and their clientele from outside of Newark in order to give the Newark arts community wider exposure and vice-versa. Art must not be incestuous, after all. Plans are already proceeding for four shows in May and June of this year.

This is a “steal this book” idea. We are hoping that other groups will replicate this project in the South Ward and all other parts of Newark. The underlying goal of this project is to make Newark an art destination on par with Lower Manhattan or Brooklyn in the next two election cycles.

There is a downside to this project if it is ultimately successful. Revitalized neighborhoods will attract developers, who will in turn attract new tenants and out-of-city immigration (hipsters and yuppies from northern counties of New Jersey and New York City). Prices will rise and available “maker space” will dwindle as has happened in Lower Manhattan, Hoboken, Jersey City and, of course, Brooklyn. The arts community, which helped mightily in reviving commercial corridors and housing stock, will be marginalized.

Progress is inevitable. Growth is inevitable. But sustainable growth requires government oversight and restraint. The city must plan for not just restrictive, but inclusive zoning requirements, and space must be reserved for public art and for art venues of a not completely commercial nature.

How La Casa de Don Pedro plans to continue a legacy of community-based organizing and transform a Newark neighborhood

La Casa de Don Pedro is one of five top-tier Newark non-profits that is a member organization in GAIN, a new collective of charitable organizations in the city. The grassroots organization has been a change agent in Newark for more than four decades.

Below, La Casa Executive Director Raymond Ocasio discusses his organization’s objectives, including getting underserved members of the area’s diverse immigrant community to self-sufficiency, and providing the comprehensive planning, services and capacity that will help transform Newark’s Lower Broadway neighborhood.

givenewarkAndaiye Taylor: What is the primary objective of La Casa de Don Pedro?

Raymond Ocasio: Since its founding 43 years ago, La Casa de Don Pedro seeks to improve the quality of life for Greater Newark residents by providing a range of comprehensive programs and services that foster self-sufficiency and empowerment. These efforts are combined with our work in neighborhood revitalization in Newark’s Lower Broadway neighborhood.

Taylor: What are some initiatives that La Casa has been involved in within the past two or three years that have made a difference in Newark?

Ocasio: We offer so many programs and services – on any given day, more than 1,000 people participate in our 30 programs ranging from bilingual pre-kindergarten, counseling services for people living with HIV/AIDS, and foreclosure prevention support to job development and home energy conservation services.

We are especially proud of the work we have undertaken with the Lower Broadway Neighborhood Association (LBNA). The LBNA was formed after La Casa led a two year-long neighborhood planning effort that prioritized needs and created a roadmap to transform the Lower Broadway neighborhood into a cohesive and desirable community. Working with the LBNA, we are making the community a more desirable place to live, work, and play by addressing quality-of-life issues. Together, we partner with business and government to invest in the neighborhood and support the revitalization efforts.

la casa ladies

Taylor: In what specific ways does your organization do this type of community building?

Ocasio: Building community means fostering and supporting local leadership. We are pleased that we’ve been able to support the LBNA to advocate and take action on a number of priorities, such as improved tenant protection, parking, and transforming blighted vacant lots into vibrant community spaces, among other issues. We are grateful to the Wells Fargo Regional Foundation and LISC (Local Initiatives Support Corporation) for partnering on and supporting these efforts.

We have also been pleased about the impact of our nine-month long, intensive parenting program offered from 2012 to 2015, called the Parent-Child Academy (PCA), thanks to support from AVANCE, Inc. and The Kellogg Foundation. Children have a much better shot at success when their parents are informed, active, and educated, and for this reason this program was especially meaningful. We had 133 mothers and fathers learn how to be better parents by gaining a range of parenting knowledge and skills. With the end of PCA, we are thrilled to be able to say we have taken the lessons learned from [the program] and now offer the Legacy Program, a three-year long parenting program for expecting mothers and fathers.

Another proud achievement is our work with Greater Newark’s most recent immigrants. Last year we oriented and educated approximately two thousand people about legal immigration concerns, helped people apply and received temporary status under DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) and other benefits, complete their U.S. citizenship course, and study English. While La Casa was founded by Newark Puerto Ricans, our organization embraces all ethnic groups, and is known within the diverse immigrant community as a resource for orientation and support.

la casa kids read

Taylor: What initiatives in the next few years will Giving Day contributions help to facilitate?

Ocasio: We have a few initiatives that are just getting started that we’re really excited about.

We’ve been working closely with Newark Public Schools and other groups to offer a nine-month long alternative high school for youth who simply did not find Newark’s public high school system conducive for their needs. Newark’s high school graduation rate is just over 67 percent – that means one-third of high school seniors do not graduate, and our neighborhood has greatest number of dropouts in the city. Without a proper education, young people are simply ill-prepared for work, which doesn’t benefit anyone – not themselves, their families, their future, our community, or our economy. We are hopeful that our alternative program that couples education with counseling and job preparation will offer the supportive environment youth need in order to be successful.

We also continue our efforts to deal with foreclosure. On the front end, we provide foreclosure counseling. On the back end, we hope to renovate foreclosed buildings we acquired and provide attractive and affordable housing in Lower Broadway. Last year, the City of East Orange reached out to us to help them build affordable homes. The project, called Eaton Place Townhomes is slated to be completed in 2016. We’re excited to be working with East Orange to offer our expertise in building quality homes people can afford. (View La Casa’s full strategic plan here.)

Why Invest In La Casa_111615_V2

Taylor: Some people think they can’t help an organization if they have relatively little money to give. What do you say to that, and what are some meaningful ways people can contribute in addition to giving donations?

Ocasio: Every dollar donated to La Casa is meaningful. We value and appreciate any financial contribution, no matter the size. In fact, counting on people with humble means is testament to our grassroots identity. And, when we pool our resources together, so much more can be accomplished. When we depend on hundreds of donors, compared with just a few high-end donors, that only makes us more accountable to our constituents and partners.

Another simple, yet powerful way to support La Casa is helping to raise awareness of the work we do. We are active on Facebook (facebook.com/lacasadedonpedro) and Twitter (twitter.com/lacasanwk). People can also visit our website at www.lacasanwk.org, read up on us, and share information about us to people who could benefit from our services or those who may want to support us. Follow us, like us, and help us spread the word to others!

La Casa also counts on the generosity of people in so many other ways. This month we are holding a holiday food and toy drive to support our kids and families during the holidays. We occasionally offer volunteer opportunities, such as helping out at our annual Festival de la Familia as well.

Another way to contribute in a meaningful way is to establish an affinity group. If you have like-minded colleagues who want to contribute to a greater cause, together, a group of people can be so much more impactful. Contact us at info@lacasanwk.org or 973.482.8312, and we’d be happy to arrange a tour and discuss different ways to get involved.


BrickCityLive.com is GAIN’s media sponsor for #GivingTuesday. To attend GAIN’s free community event at Aljira on Tuesday, December 2nd, RSVP on Eventbrite

Learn more about La Casa at www.lacasanwk.org, and donate to La Casa or other members of the GAIN collaborative at networkforgood.org/newarkgives.