Best of the Fest: Real-time updates from the Dodge Poetry Festival downtown Newark

It’s the largest poetry festival in North America. It’s here in Newark. It’s this weekend (October 23 – 26). And tickets are still up for grabs (and half off if you’re a Newark resident). Real-time social media updates from the fest. Follow @DodgePoetryFest on Twitter. If you use their hashtags (#dodgepoetry and #dpf14), you just might see your update here!

The Takeover: Dodge Poetry Festival descends on downtown Newark

It’s about that time! From October 23 through 26, the Dodge Poetry Festival will take place at sites throughout downtown Newark. The largest poetry festival in North America will feature both internationally renowned and homegrown poets, a tribute to the late Amiri Baraka, plus workshops, panels, and music. Passes are still available; Newark residents can purchase tickets at half price!

You can drop into the festival virtually throughout the weekend by heading over to our real-time updates, from the point of view of festivalgoers. See

The high-level schedule and festival map are below. The full schedule and ticket information/sales are on the Dodge Poetry website. Be sure to follow them on Twitter @DodgePoetryFest, and use hashtags #dodgepoetry and dpf14 to report from the festival and the vicinity:

Thursday, October 24

  • 9:30 – 11:00 AM – Welcome and Poetry Sampler, featuring over a dozen poets
  • 11:15 – 12:30 PM – Open Reading, Assorted Q&A, Assorted Panels, Poets for Teachers
  • 12:45 – 2:00 PM – Open Reading, Assorted Q&A, Assorted Panels, Poets for teachers
  • 1:30 – 3:30 PM – New Jersey Symphony Orchestra
  • 2:15 – 3:30 PM – Open Reading, Assorted Q&A, Assorted Panels, Poets for teachers
  • 3:45 – 5:00 PM – Open Reading, Assorted Q&A, Assorted Panels, Young Poets for teachers
  • 5:00 – 7:00 PM – Open Reading, Dinner Break
  • 7:00 – 10:00 PM – Music and Poetry sampler

Friday, October 24

  • 9:00 – 9:30 AM – Music
  • 9:30 – 10:30 AM – Poets on Poetry sessions, Assorted Q&A, Panel
  • 10:50 – 11:50 AM – Poets on Poetry sessions, Assorted Q&A, Assorted Panels, Open Readings
  • 12:10 – 1:10 PM – Poets on Poetry sessions, Assorted Q&A, Open Reading, Poetry and Song
  • 12:10 – 1:10 PM – Poets on Poetry sessions, Assorted Q&A, Assorted Panels
  • 1:30 – 2:30 PM – Poets on Poetry sessions, Assorted Q&A, Assorted Panels, National Student Poets and NJCTE Poets Reading
  • 2:50 – 3:50 PM – Poetry and Music, Poets on Poetry, Assorted Q&A, Assorted Panels
  • 3:50 – 5:00 PM – Open Reading
  • 3:50 – 6:00 PM – Dinner Break
  • 6:00 – 9:45 PM – Music & Main Stage Readings: Kevin Young, Eavan Boland, Mark Doty, Tracy K. Smith, Richard Blanco, Sharon Olds

Saturday, October 25

  • 9:00 – 10:10 AM – In Praise: Music and Poetry featuring Newark Boys Chorus, Festival Poets Readings, Open Reading
  • 10:30 – 11:40 AM – Poem Jazz: Poetry and Music, Festival Poets Readings, Kundiman: A Ten-Year Anniversary Reading, Assorted Panels, Open Reading
  • 12:00 – 1:10 PMGiving Voice: to Amiri Baraka, Poetry and Song: Performance and DiscussionAssorted Panels, Festival Poets Readings, Open Reading
  • 1:30 – 2:40 PMBrick City Voices (Marina Carreira, Hugo dos Santos, Robert Hylton, Leah Jackson, Paula Neves), Poetry & Music, Festival Poets Readings, Assorted Panels, Open Reading
  • 3:00 – 5:00 PM – Main Stage Readings: Jan Beatty, Aja Monet, Claudia Emerson, Alice Oswald
  • 3:00 – 4:10 PM – Assorted Panels, Brick City Voices: (Sean Battle, Ysabel Gonzalez, Jorge Sanchez, Starski, Mia X), Open Reading
  • 4:10 – 6:00 PM – Dinner Break
  • 5:00 – 6:00 PM – Open Reading
  • 6:00 – 8:00 PM – Music & Main Stage Readings: Brian Turner, Marilyn Nelson, Yusef Komunyakaa
  • 8:15 – 9:45 PM – Another Kind of Courage: Jehanne Dubrow, Elyse Fenton, Charles H. Johnson, Yusef Komunyakaa, Gardner McFall, Marilyn Nelson, Brian Turner and poets from the Warrior Writers and Combat Paper workshops

Sunday, October 26

  • 9:30 – 10:10 AM – Festival Poet Readings, Assorted Panels, Rutgers/Newark MFA Program Reading: Olga Botea, Andres Cerpa, Anthony Cirilo, Caitlin Ferguson, Dinah Fay, Anna B. Wilkes
  • 10:30 – 11:40 AM – Assorted Panels, Festival Poet Readings, Open Reading
  • 12:00 – 1:10 PM – Tribute to Amiri Baraka, Festival Poet Readings, Assorted Panels, Open Reading
  • 1:10 – 1:30 PM – Music
  • 1:30 – 4:45 PM – Main Stage Reading: Marie Howe, Alberto Ríos, Billy Collins, Rita Dove, Robert Pinsky, Gary Snyder


Newark in Verse: A city of poets, past and present. Take a tour of Newark’s poetry scene

Kalita Cox, a 30-year-old poet who goes by the stage name Se’lah, is holding court at the Coffee Cave, an artsy café on Halsey Street that has become a hub of sorts for Newark’s vibrant poetry scene. She’s tonight’s featured artist, and after blessing the stage with a mash-up prayer adapted for poets (“Give us this day my feature pay/and forgive us our misuse use of the English language/as we forgive those who give us a 6.4 in a slam. . . ‘’), she leans into the mike and launches into her first poem, a lyrical journey  that pays homage to Sojourner Truth, Harriet Tubman, Coretta Scott King and other women in African- American history.

I come from a broken history/A long line of a stolen legacy/Where my people’s greatness/Was hidden by hatred/And chained and shackled by bitter cold faces/But still I rise on. . .

Nor is Se’lah the only one to share her work. Members of the audience step up and perform as the host, Dave “Ghost” Rogers, whose show “Living Room Wednesdays” is held every week at The Coffee Cave, keeps things moving. There are love poems; a social justice poem by Ormar Lucas, a barber at Center Stage Cuts who writes of Newark as “a place where sunny days swiftly turn to blood baths’’; and a gripping poem by Sean Battle, an adjunct professor of English at Essex County Community College, who turned the trauma of being mugged on Halsey Street by a pack of “boys walking from Burger King who robbed me as if I were a choice off the menu’’ into verse:

  . . . one tug would’ve given them/three 20s out of my back pocket/But an iPhone and wallet with state ID/And debit cards were enough to flee/No younger than 13 this pack/had enough experience in decadence/To stain my bliss with darkness shaded between their skin and mine . . .

The audience nods in recognition when truths strike close to the bone, then hoots and hollers when one regular deviates from her usual fare and shares an erotic poem, deconstructing, detail by detail, the “pulsation and vibration dancing in my mouth.’’ This is, in a nutshell, “the scene,’’ and the format of choice is an open mic.

Open mics take place in coffee houses and church basements, parks and barber shops all over Brick City. And now, as poets from all over the country descend on Newark this week for the Dodge Poetry Festival, the largest poetry event in North America, local poets here hope the festival will shine a spotlight on what regulars already know: the poetry scene in Newark is thriving.

“Any night a week you can find a show,’’ said Rogers, 33, a manager of a fabric store in Passaic who has also hosted a cypher – or impromptu rap session – at the corner of Broad and Market Streets every Friday night for the last five summers.

The scene, he added, has grown noticeably in the last two years. ”It wasn’t like this before. You don’t just see three or four people.  You’ll see a crowd.’’

Added Se’lah: “There was a time when it was very cliquish. Now I feel like everything’s coming together. I attribute the unification of poets of our generation to just growing up.’’


Poetry in Newark

You can’t mention Newark and poetry in a sentence without invoking the name of the late Newark poet Amiri Baraka, who saw poetry as a way to give voice to the voiceless. Baraka was at the center of Newark poetry starting with the Black Arts movement in the 1960s and 70s and continuing through to his death earlier this year. In fact, his legacy is being honored at this year’s poetry festival, and was also honored at this year’s Open Doors City-Wide Arts Festival. (Baraka’s legacy is also embodied by his son, mayor Ras Baraka,  who is himself a longtime poet.)

“He’s all of our grandfathers,’’ said Se’lah, who organized last May’s first-ever Montclair Poetry Festival and has her own production company, Mylk ‘n Honee Publishing. ”All of us owe our pens to him. The fact that we can all say we’re from a city where a legend lived  [makes me] very proud to say I’m a Newark poet.’’

Poetry, Rogers said, is a way for people to “rebel’’ in a positive way in response to the hurt that comes from a society that seeks to keep people – especially black people – in a box.  “I think it’s the hurt,’’ he said, explaining the profusion of local poets. “It’s definitely expression.’’

That view was echoed by Tehsuan Glover, 34, a Newark native known by his stage name “Starski.’’ Glover, a poet himself, organized a poetry show at the Newark Symphony Hall earlier this month that featured readings by local poets drew 125 people.

“Newark has a great deal of beauty and Newark has a great deal of ugly, which at the very least is fodder for artists and poetry,’’ said Glover, who earns his living running a marketing and branding company known as Gentleman Culture.


Glover, a graduate of Clifford J. Scott High School in East Orange, said he got serious about poetry after seeing the 1997 film Love Jones, a love story set in the world of Chicago’s African American creative class.  His interest lead him to Bogies’s, a nightclub in East Orange, and an important center for slam poetry throughout the 90s that helped nurture an older generation of local poets like Rob Hylton, Helena D. Lewis and Lamar Hill.

“Newark demands that you’re good,’’ said Glover, who counts the poet Lucille Clifton as an important influence. “Sympathy is not one of Newark’s character traits, particularly in terms of entertainment.’’

Rogers said he believes the current growth of the local poetry scene is being fueled by the feeling that Newark’s Downtown is changing as a result of developments like Teacher’s Village, the redevelopment of the Hahnes building to house a Whole Foods and new loft apartments, and the construction of the new Prudential office tower.

“A bunch of artists are saying, “’How can I position myself and my people to take advantage of this?’’’ he said.


Newark’s scene
Battle, 25, said it was precisely Newark’s reputation as a center for spoken word poetry that prompted him to come to Rutgers-Newark in 2011 as the place to do his graduate work in poetry. “Newark is to the Jersey scene as New York City or Harlem is to New York. If you want to make it as an artist, you have to make your name in Newark,’’ he said.

Battle said he counts Patricia Smith as an important influence, but he returns to Baraka’s poem, “Black Art,’’ a manifesto about black poetry often.

“It comes down to this: if you’re black and you’re writing poetry, you are black poetry because one way or another, your work will have a gaze that is in relation to the concerns of the black communities,’’ Battle said.


The Coffee Cave

By 10 p.m., “Living Room Wednesdays’’ is over. The lights are turned off and the customers are shooed out as employees wash the floors and lock up for the night.

Outside, Halsey Street is empty. The construction workers building the new Prudential Tower are long gone, the students and business people who come here to eat and shop a mere memory. Gregory Brown, a 26-year-old East Orange resident who had read the love poems he had written to his girlfriend Shanika Stevens, lingered on a bench to chat. “Poetry gives people a reason to exist and thrive and want to do more than what’s expected,’’ he said. “It lets you get things off your chest.’’

Brown said he has been writing poetry since he was eight years old. He has worked various jobs from teaching assistant to stage manager to security guard and is currently working as a volunteer as he prepares to go back to school.

Stevens, 42, whose performance this evening was an unmistakable reply to Brown’s, is sitting next to him. She, too, she said, is in an in-between stage, waiting to go back to school in a pharmacy technician program. She joked about the age difference between the two of them, but then turned serious. She hadn’t written anything since high school, she said, but Brown’s passion for poetry rubbed off on her. “He gave me a voice,’’ she said, adding yet another voice to the chorus of Brick City voices emerging from the Newark streets.

State to convene public hearing on violence this Thursday in Newark

Public notice today from the Office of the Mayor:

The New Jersey Study Commission on Violence is hosting public hearings across the state to receive testimony and ideas from community, law enforcement and social services organizations to come up with solutions to address violence in New Jersey communities. 

The next New Jersey Study Commission on Violence Public Hearing is set for Thursday, October 23rd, from 6 to 8pm, at St.James AME Church, 588 Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd, Newark. 

Members of the public may also submit ideas or comments via

public hearing notice

Dear adults, sit and listen awhile: the five-member Newark Youth Council represents their peers and presents their vision for Newark

The Newark Youth Council visits BET’s “106 and Park”. Pictured left to right: Kristin Towkaniuk, Aliyyah Torres, Jessiah Hall, Mahogany Laveu, Shakira McKnight. Photograph courtesy Linda Jumah

While mayor Ras Baraka and guests finished kicking off Newark Poetry Month at City Hall in early October, I was at the other end of Broad Street interviewing five dynamic and passionate Newark youngsters, who together constitute the Newark Youth Council.

They are Jessiah Hall, 17, who attends Seton Hall University; Mahogany Laveau, 17, a student at Newark Collegiate Academy; Shakira McKnight, 20, currently at Essex County College; and Kristin Towkaniuk and Aliyyah Torres, both 17, and both of Science Park High School.

We spoke about why they chose to apply for Newark Youth Mayor (the Youth Council was drawn from that applicant pool), and what they think the highest youth priorities are in Newark and how we should address them them.

The two college students in the group both attended Central High School. We discussed their reactions to the school’s portrayal during the mayoral election.

We discussed “disaster capitalism” and their thoughts on the current situation with Newark Public Schools and the One Newark plan.

They shared their feelings about the perception of Newark, from Conde Nast Traveler readers’ opinions to the notoriously ugly remarks about Newark that often appear in the comments section of

We also talked about their plans, including the citywide youth town hall they’ll be hosting on Tuesday, October 21, from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. at Central High School.

In an essay named “What about the shootings?” that I published just after Brick City Live launched, a little over a year ago, I wrote that “we must elevate hopeful things” in our coverage of Newark, even while we acknowledge the toughest of problems our city has. These five intelligent and engaged young Newarkers are a perfect example of the hope I was referring to. Here are the highlights from our conversation.

Andaiye Taylor: Why did you all decide to apply for youth mayor? What did you hope to achieve?

Jessiah: As soon as they said “youth mayor” I said, “Man, that sounds like me right there.”

I went to Central High School, so I knew Ras. I was on his campaign team, so I was helping him out and everything. And one day I happened to be going back [and forth] with people that were with [Shavar] Jeffries – I actually got into a small debate – and I was defending Ras’ points of view, and things he did. And somebody said to me that, “Aw man, to be honest, if you were running for mayor, I’d actually vote for you.”

And that really stuck in my head. And now that I know I have potential and other people see me as that, I feel like I should now attack it and try for something like this.


Andaiye: Mahogany, from a youth perspective, if you had to name two or three top priorities the city needs to address for your age group specifically, what would they be?

Mahogany: The top two I would say would be violence and education.


Andaiye: Do you have any prescriptions for how the city can approach both of those?

Mahogany: I feel like for education, I think that they should have more resources, and teachers with experience, but a diversity of experience. For example, they can go to different schools for arts that are doing well with their curriculum, and try to get some advice from them so they can see what they can put in their [own] schools’ [art programs] to help the students out.

And also for the violence situation, mostly putting more police enforcement within the streets, and making sure they’re being consistent with it, not like when they do it sometimes and then slack off. I think there should be more enforcement so people know that we’re focusing on violence and we’re trying to stop it.


Andaiye: Shakira did you also attend high school in Newark?

Shakira: I did. I went to Central High.


Andaiye: During the election, Central High School’s track record was called into question. Can you tell me what your experience was like going to Central and being educated in Newark?

Shakira: Going to Central was beautiful. I felt like there was a [special] culture within the school. I don’t know why they would attack such a school, you know? It went through such a beautiful transformation from what it was to the way it is now when you look at it. I believe it was a beautiful school.

Going to school in Newark is not a problem. At all. I believe that, like [Mahogany] said, the teachers should have expertise in diverse subjects, and it should be a true relationship between the teacher and the student.


Andaiye: What was then-principal Baraka like?

Shakira: Principal Baraka. I didn’t go to Central my ninth grade year, but when I came tenth grade year, we were entering the new building. This was the new year of the new building. It was very rowdy in the beginning, and then towards my twelfth grade year – we were the first class to be there four years – there was a big celebration because the school did go through a transformation.

It was a calmer environment, there was a lot more going on within the school, and the principal was actually worried about the safety of the children in the school. He would walk us all the way down the street – two corners down – just to make sure all of the students were good in the school. So I don’t know why Central was attacked because it was a beautiful school and it went through a beautiful transformation with the principal.

Jessiah: She was there during the beginning, so her culture was somewhat different from mine, because when I was there like right before Ras was about to run in the election for mayor, our school was getting attacked because they wanted Central.

Central has a nice building. I got used to it, but when other people see it, it’s like, “Oh my god this is an amazing building.” That’s why it made it hard on my class, because the previous seniors had a certain HSPA (High School Proficiency Assessment) average, and we had to raise the test scores basically. So it made it extremely hard for us because they said, “If you don’t raise these scores, we’re going to take your school.”


Andaiye: Who’s “we”?

Jessiah: Cami Anderson. So like, that’s why it made the principal preach to us, “You gotta do this.” They made us do workshops. Saturdays we’d go back to school to work on HSPA practice and reviews.


Andaiye: Did you feel like that was a good use of your time as a student?

Jessiah: Well me personally, I would’ve passed the score with or without the help. But for certain people it was very useful.


Andaiye: Kristin, I’ve actually seen your name a lot just from writing about the Newark Students Union. Can you talk about why you got involved and what your experience has been?

Kristin: I got involved my sophomore year. Originally the thing that got me in it was the fact that it was really cool to do. The environment that the founders made around the Newark Students Union was a great thing. They made it something where, literally, the first meeting was packed with over 100 students.

Then once I got to know the issues, I was really concerned, and I realized that if we don’t stand up for ourselves, no one will. And we really have to just continue pushing for change, because without change, where would we be now?


Andaiye: What was it that made it seem cool, that got all those students to check it out in the first place?

Kristin: As a sophomore there’s a lot of different things going on. There’s pressure to get involved in organizations. Also, a big social media aspect was involved in it. There were flyers literally everywhere in the school.


Andaiye: You mentioned the issues. What were the biggest issues that attracted you to the organization?

Kristin: There were two big issues for me. First was definitely the $56 million budget cut. Right when the NSU began was right when we got the budget for the year. The schools were left with bad options, like [either] cutting extracurricular activities or cutting teachers, and either way, that leaves students in a really bad position.

Another big issue for me was always the privatization push. Now that I’ve been involved with the Newark Students Union for so long, it’s really clear that this is about money. There’s no doubt in my mind that nothing in the world isn’t about money.

So the fact that New Orleans has zero public schools open at the moment — that’s disaster capitalism. Arne Duncan, the Secretary of Education, once said the best thing to ever happen to New Orleans was Hurricane Katrina. The fact that people died, and people’s houses were lost, and now there’s for-profit charter schools in the region — it’s sad. It makes me angry, and it should make me angry. And I think the biggest part of getting people involved is making them angry, because if you’re mad, you’re not gonna just sit back and let something happen, especially when it’s gonna happen to us some day.


Andaiye: Aliyyah let’s talk about tactics. How do approach the problems and get solutions? What actions do you take?

Aliyyah: We hand out flyers, try to get more students involved. A bunch of students in the city don’t know about what’s going on. They’re just oblivious, and they’re accepting the fact that Cami Anderson is trying to close their schools, but they don’t know why it’s happening, and they don’t know what they need to do to stop it.

So we just hype it up; we try to get them involved. Last year we had two walkouts.


Andaiye: What is the council working on at the moment?

Aliyyah: We’re working on a youth summit and a youth town hall meeting. For the youth town hall, we’re trying to get students to come so they can voice out what they need to voice out, because the adults are the main ones talking. The adults are the main ones creating the rules that they expect the kids to follow. The kids don’t really have a voice within the community, so I became a part of the youth council so I can voice those opinions, because I am a youth myself working for a better city.

Kristin: The youth town hall is about surveying the youth and finding out what we have to do. There’s a difference between organizing for someone and organizing with someone. We can’t assume that we know all the issues in Newark. We have to really get out there and get the most diverse crowd possible and find out all of the issues that are going on. And the youth town hall is really just a starting point.

And then for our term, the ending point would be – the goal – is to have a youth summit. I guess the main goal for us is to get as many people involved in the youth summit as possible. We also plan on having a film festival. We’re really trying to engage students on multiple levels.

newark youth council 2

Newark youth council members out in the community. Photograph courtesy Linda Jumah.

Andaiye: How do you also engage adults and policymakers? How do take your recommendations and make something of them?

Shakira: We’re making them become resources. We want them to become major resources for youth. We want them to become more engaged with youth. We don’t want to say that they’re not engaged [now], but we want them more engaged as far as putting opportunities out there for youth.

I say this many times: we need mentoring programs for students who want to be firefighters, or youth that want to be policemen, hairdressers. Any type of profession that you can think of, we’re putting resources toward engaging those professionals.

Mahogany: And also for the youth town hall meetings, we’ll take suggestions from the youth in the crowd about what they want in the community. And like Shakira said, those adults are a part of our panel of resources. It’s not like we’re just discussing what we want the change, it’s [also] the actions for how we’re gonna get it to change.

When these panelists come, they will hear what the youth are saying, but they’re also jotting down, “What can I do? What can my job title – me as a person – do to help these kids?” I think that most of the time adults feel that for the youth, they’re not — I don’t think they take us that seriously if I’m gonna be honest. I feel that most of the adults feel like “[It’s nice] they’re doing the youth council thing,” but I feel like they think that it’s just a short term kind of thing. We want them to see it as a long-term project.

Jessiah: This is our first year establishing the youth council. We’re the people that are gonna set the rules and the outline for everybody else. With the youth town hall, it’s about getting ideas, because each event piggybacks off [of] the rest.


Andaiye: I’m curious about whether you pay attention to how Newark is portrayed and written about. What is your perspective on that?

Jessiah: Oh my god, you asked the perfect person.

I go to Seton Hall University. The first thing we are taught is not to go to Newark. I am so serious. I’m like – as soon as I went there we had a floor meeting, and they were saying, “There’s a lot of robberies going on.” And the funny thing is a robbery did happen, but that was in Orange. Yet the people that did it I guess were from Newark, and now it’s like, “Don’t make that right, go left. If you value your life, don’t go right.” I was like, “What?!”

Especially on the weekends, there’ll be parties on Thursdays and Fridays. I was with this bunch that wanted to go to this party, and this girl said to me, she was like, “The party’s going to be in Newark.” She honestly said. “I’m putting my life in your hands.”

I looked at her like, “Chill out.”

Mahogany: Also when we even went to 106 and Park to show the public what we’re about, there was a man that was outside who saw us coming out the van, and he saw that we were from Newark. When I first heard him talk about us I thought he was joking. But then afterwards, I thought he was kinda serious. He was like, “Oh ya’ll come from Newark. I gotta make sure we have security”.

Jessiah: Really. That’s what he said.

Mahogany: He was also talking about stereotypes that he heard and stuff like that. And women that he had dated from Newark and how they weren’t successful.

Most of the stuff that I hear from Newark is basically about the violence. And yeah, some parts of it is true – I’m going to be honest – but at the same time, we have a lot of other stuff that is really making the progress for Newark.

When he was talking, I was getting kinda angry because he kept on talking about Newark in a bad light. I’m like ok, you’re from New York, you’re right next to New Jersey, so you also have some crime that goes on in your community. It’s not like you’re perfect, because you’re not. In that moment I kind of felt like we as a youth council need to take the initiative. That we need to change Newark and change what everybody thinks Newark is.

Jessiah: Yeah. They said we’re the unfriendliest city.

Kristen: In the world apparently. I’ve definitely seen it firsthand. For the first walkout there was an article posted up on And people…it was the most disheartening thing I’ve ever read in my life I think.


Andaiye: The comments?

Kristen: The comments. Newark is a cesspool full of minorities who are scum. And that it’s just full of prostitutes, and all these negative things. And it really hurts because we try our best, and we’re really working to make Newark a better place, but we’re always gonna have to work against everything.

We have the potential to be great, as everyone in the city does. Collectively, we can do it, and it’s really about making it better not only for ourselves, but for future generations. Making Newark the international city that we know it can be.

We have so many resources in this city. We have the college campuses. There are high schools that are thriving. We have the port. We have to start using the resources that are around us.

Mahogany: Also to add to the resources, I feel like a lot of outsiders use our resources, so in a way they’re all saying stuff that they want to stay about Newark, but then you still come into the community.

Shakira: Yeah…

Kristin: Yeah…

Mahogany: I feel like people left during the time when people were going through a hardship, but now that Newark is coming up, they think it’s easy to come back again. But the people who stayed the entire time — they don’t get that recognition. They don’t get that acknowledgement. I feel that it should be spoken about, and I think that it’s not fair.

newark youth town hall



Brick City #Live: See the Making Strides Against Breast Cancer walk at Military Park in pictures

This morning starting at 8pm, breast cancer survivors, caretakers, and their supporters from the region will participate in the American Cancer Society’s Making Strides Against Breast Cancer walk. Proceeds from the non-competitive 5k walk will fund breast cancer research, preventative services, and information services. As of this morning, over 600 teams and nearly 4,000 participants had already raised almost $150,000.

And this year, many of the thousands of attendees will see the massively upgraded Military Park for the first time. Stay tuned below for up-to-date social media posts from the walk.


After heavy lifting to fund planned expansion, Gallery Aferro turns to community to get new arts hub over the finish line

Newark’s Gallery Aferro launched an Indiegogo campaign last week to raise the balance of the funds needed to complete the 90,000-square-foot artist hub they announced this spring.

Just over a week into the campaign, they’ve reached 15% of the $30,000 they say they need to complete the expansion, an impressive showing for week one, and almost exactly on pace toward their goal. The crowdfunding campaign closes on December 9. (Unlike Kickstarter, Indiegogo lets projects keep the funds they raise even if they don’t reach their goal.)

In both their fundraising video and on their Indiegogo campaign page, gallery co-founders Evonne Davis and Emma Wilcox tout the community-minded, experimental, collaborative, and DIY ethos they bring to the Newark arts ecosystem. In a testament to that collaborative ethos, their campaign video features a number of cameos and voiceovers from supporters and collaborators.

We hear from Linda Street, owner of Pink Dragon Syndicate, who says Gallery Aferro adds value to the broader community by using art to create dialogue (Street was creative director of the Usual Suspects photo shoot this spring); Emily Manz, business attraction associate at Brick City Development Corporation and Aferro board member, who touted its “potential, through partnerships, to impact Newark’s downtown and the region in a tangible see it/feel it way;” and Malik Whitaker, a graduate of their residency program who discussed the importance of Aferro to young artists.

Manz also underscored the extensive work Davis and Wilcox have already done to procure resources for their expansion before launching this crowdfunding campaign. That work included securing $50,000 in individual donations and grants, in-kind labor valued at $100,000 to help execute the expansion; and the 70,000 square feet in additional donated space.

Davis enumerates some of the amenities planned for the hub: 60 artist studios, workshop space, a dark room and photo studio, audio studio, new media incubator, presentation spaces, all-purpose community space, and a gift shop featuring handmade local items.

“Right now we have the opportunity to keep the arts in downtown,” Davis said, “and therefore to keep it accessible to the whole city, and to the surrounding cities, and the surrounding suburbs and communities. And that’s exciting for us.”

Gallery Aferro’s Indiegogo campaign closes December 9.

Interested in other Newark-based crowdfunding campaigns? Visit our #GiveNewark page.

Acclaimed activist and writer Kevin Powell joins Newark-based organizations to help high school students create blueprint for postsecondary success

Internationally acclaimed writer and activist Kevin Powell will provide the keynote address at an inaugural high school student symposium expected to draw 200 students, parents, and stakeholders.  The event, a collaboration between the North Jersey Chapter of The Links, Incorporated, United Way of Essex and West Hudson, and Rutgers University-Newark, is scheduled for Saturday, October 25, 2014 at the Paul Robeson Student Center at Rutgers University-Newark. Themed “2014 Blueprint for Success: Preparing for College Work & Beyond”, the symposium is free and open to all high school students in grades 9-12 and parents.

Powell will address students and parents from greater Essex County as part of the ongoing work to demystify the college admission and financial aid processes, decrease the high school dropout rate, and expand post-secondary options. A Jersey City native, Powell is the author of 11 books and has also traveled the world speaking at academic institutions such as Stanford University, New York Institute of Technology, and American University in Nigeria.

“Going back to New Jersey to speak in front of students who are just like I was, is a great opportunity for me to empower them to create the life and career they want for themselves,” explained Powell.  “Too often, students underestimate the value of their own minds, while the adults and educators in their lives fail to stress the importance of being a lifelong learner, whether or not you’re in the formal education system.”

The schedule for the day also includes workshops led by Bowie State University professor, Dr. Granville M. Sawyer, Jr.; NJ LEEP Executive Director, Matthew Feinstein; New Jersey Author, Natasha Scott and others. Attendees will engage with a variety of education professionals, college recruiters, as well as representatives from the Armed Forces and technical schools.

“We have secured renowned experts and speakers to ensure students and parents who attend have an experience that is informational and inspirational,” explained Robyn Pitts, Program Director for 2014 Blueprint to Success. “Students need to know that whether they choose to go on to college, the military, or right to work they must obtain some form of post-secondary training or education to achieve success.”

According to a 2012 survey of 4,000 hiring managers, conducted by Achieve and the Society for Human Resource Management, 32% acknowledge that they “always” or “most of the time” hire employees with educational credentials above a high school diploma for jobs that — as posted — require only a high school diploma, with another 53% saying they do so “some of the time.”

Although the North Jersey Chapter of The Links, Inc., the United Way and Rutgers-Newark all work to further education initiatives throughout Essex county, this event marks the first time the three entities have collaborated to produce an event focused on providing comprehensive support for students and parents.

“Partnering with The Links and Rutgers made perfect sense because transforming the educational landscape in our community is a huge undertaking, one that can only be achieved through true collaboration and strategic partnerships,” said Catherine Wilson, Senior Director of Community Impact and Strategy at United Way of Essex and West Hudson. “Events like this move us closer to our 10-Year Education goal of cutting the number of high school dropouts in half and increasing the high school graduation rate to 87%.”

Research shows that nationally, high school graduates who do not obtain addition education or technical training face mostly dead-end career prospects. Regardless of the pathway students choose following their graduation from high school,  2014 Blueprint for Success will provide information, resources,  and tools so that they can begin to develop their plan for successfully transitioning to their next stage.


Newark high school students selected for London trip. Now, organizer looks to rally Newarkers to get the group across the pond

This summer, Newark native and travel consultant Madeline Boughton announced that she’d be launching an application for six Newark high school students to travel to London for an “immersive learning excursion”, a campaign she hopes will turn the students into global citizens and lifelong travelers. As part of her Newark-based Traveling Mad consultancy, Boughton extols the benefits of international travel to youth in and around Newark.

Boughton has now selected the six high school students and kicked off the fundraising phase of her initiative. On Tuesday, she hosted a benefit reception at Newark’s Studio58 in honor of the six students. But Boughton says the vast majority of the $25,000 needed to fund the trip will come from donations from Newarkers themselves, who she hopes to marshal through her recently launched Indiegogo crowdfunding campaign.

The six selected students are Amanda Dominguez and Karla Perez Estrella from Barringer STEAM, Adrian Morquecho and Joshua Skillern from Technology High School, Brianna Wilson from Shabazz High School, and Tamaj Nicholson from North 13th Street Tech. As a group, the students boast a litany of honors and recognition for academics and extracurricular activities. Among them is a National Honor Society member, Rutgers Future Scholar, NJIT Upward Bound student, a poet, an avid skateboarder and BMX biker, and a number of student government leaders and student-athletes.

In the campaign video, which features the selected students themselves, Boughton says, “When I was in high school, I wish I was given an opportunity such as this, but no one spoke to me about studying abroad,” and later adds that while she is “not the first Newarker who has traveled abroad,” the goal of the trip is to make sure more young Newarkers can do the same.

group selfie

Madeline Boughton poses with four of the six Newark high school students selected for the London trip.

Dean and Director of Operations at England’s Wroxton College, where the students will be staying for the first leg of their trip, voiced over a section of the video, saying, “I’m delighted [Boughton] created this trip to give such a great opportunity to high school students from Newark. I very much look forward to having Madeline and her group here at Wroxton.”

Boughton has partnered with the Mayor’s Office of International Relations and Diaspora Affairs (MOIRDA), the Believe in Newark Foundation, Newark Social, and EMQ Networks on the project. Deputy mayor of MOIRDA Ugo Nwaokoro said the trip “is in line with Mayor Ras J. Baraka’s vision of exposing Newark youth to other cultures and countries.”

A list of the activities included in the trip is below. The crowdfunding campaign to raise funds for the trip closes on December 1.

Total cost for 8 people, 1 week: $25,000

  • Airfare & baggage fees, EWR to LHR: $8,200
  • Hotel fees for 1 week: $6,843
  • Educational & tourist activities: $1,752
  • Transportation: $2,800
  • Meals: $2,400
  • Travel Insurance $500
  • Emergency and miscellaneous $1,000



Open Doors 2014 preview: What to expect at the annual arts festival, and what it means for Newark’s arts community 

The annual citywide Open Doors art festival will be kicking off here in Newark tomorrow at The Gateway Project, located on the main concourse of 2 Gateway Center. I asked Jade Lien, Manager of Programs and Info Services at the Newark Arts Council, and Rebecca Jampol, founder and director of The Gateway Project, about what visitors can expect from this year’s Open Doors. Read on to learn more about some of this year’s programming, and what Lien says Open Doors has done for the Newark arts community.


Andaiye Taylor: Is there an organizing theme behind this year’s Open Doors? I saw the theme “Literary Greats” in some of the announcements about the festival.

Jade Lien: The Open Doors festival itself never has a theme. Our goal in hosting this event annually is multidimensional: to showcase the artists and art spaces in Newark; to expose Newark residents to art forms and displays they may not get a chance to see elsewhere; to attract art seekers and patrons to Newark that may be unfamiliar with the terrain here; and ultimately to unify our community.

In previous years, we’ve brought in a curator who will produce what we’ve referred to as the “big show.” After many years of both following that format and digesting the input of our arts partners, we switched gears and instead have begun to partner, each year, with a local gallery or organization to produce a blockbuster exhibition and subsequent series of public programs related to the event.

You may recall that last year, we had the Market Street Convergence project, produced in conjunction with Gallery Aferro. This year, we have partnered with The Gateway Project, the brainchild of curators Rebecca Jampol (Solo(s) Project House) and Jasmine Wahi (Project for Empty Space). It has been The Gateway Project’s overarching theme this past year to produce exhibitions with a literary theme.

[Solo(s) Project House’s exhibit] Prologue-Epilogue made sense for our partnership for two reasons: it still fell in line with The Gateway Project’s exhibition series this year, which has touched on novels like The Wizard of Oz and Alice in Wonderland, and it also connected on a deeper level with current conversations within the arts community about the new and the old. The exhibition’s focus and selected works resonate with the concept of a narrative, which was attractive to the Newark Arts Council because our work helps to tell the story of the arts in Newark. Open Doors seemed like a natural place to present such a program, because its history within the community is a long one.


ART: Rebecca, what can visitors can expect from Prologue-Epilogue?

Rebecca Jampol: Prologue – Epilogue speaks about the relationship of past to present, present to future. We have asked artists to create a narrative. Some directly focus on the Newark Art Scene while others are culturally specific or creating in a universal context.

Nick Kline’s storefront installation is from the series “Newark Will See it Through”, a larger, ongoing body of work from the Newark Municipal Archive, which itself is derived from the Archives & Records Management Center, City of Newark, NJ.  Many of the photographs were found with tracing paper hinged to them, hand-drawn pencil-lined crop marks, coded instructions and notes, or sometimes acetate film with red shapes (a pre-digital technique used to select or mask areas for offset printing).

These [vestiges] were created by an editor and used for reproducing images in a variety of governmental agency publications. These artifacts were not originally intended to be seen in this manner, so Kline’s photographs become a historical look at the process and intentions of the editor.



Monica Jahan Bose’s multimedia installation dually reflects the cultural parable of Bangladesh. It stems from an ongoing project she is doing with women on one the smaller islands, Katakhali, and is inspired by her grandmother, who was married at age seven.



Grace Graupe Pillard is exhibiting 22 large-scale portraits of artists and tri-state area figures created between 1984 and 1986. Contemporary life is chronicled through the creation of large cutout pieces, which are installed on multiple walls. The individuals portrayed in these murals feature diverse juxtapositions of age, sex, class, race, and vocation to produce a “human theater of types, gestures and emotions.”



ART: Jade, besides the number of attendees, what would you say is the mission of Open Doors? What can Open Doors bring to the city that makes it all worthwhile?

JL: As I mentioned earlier, Open Doors really is about highlighting the work of our amazing, multidisciplinary arts community and bringing everyone together—artists, curators, gallerists, performers, and others in the creative class—to do what we love: create.

Open Doors has been a real vehicle for change within the arts community in Newark. Many now-permanent spaces in Newark began as pop-up spaces in the early years of Open Doors. That part of the festival — temporary space — is really made possible through the relationships we’ve built with many developers here in the city, the Hanini Group and Berger Organization to name a couple. Getting the buy-in from the business community helps to legitimize the arts and attract new support for the community, which in turn enables us to expand our reach and scope of work, whether that means increasing our marketing, or producing larger public performances or projects (like the Quarter Mile Print projects and other collaborations).

Open Doors demonstrates the true economic impact of the arts, as it brings thousands of people into Newark who dine, shop, use transportation, and patronize local businesses.

Newark’s landscape is changing, both physically and metaphorically. Arts enthusiasts from all backgrounds and locales are excited about what’s happening here, for better or worse. Regardless of the temperature of their feelings about what’s happening in Newark, people are talking, and to me that’s always positive. Everything starts with a dialogue.

To me, Open Doors is like a big conversation, a way for Newarkers and others to engage around arts and culture, putting a vibrant spin on things. As the Newark Arts Council continues to grow the festival and work with the local community, we believe we’re helping the city open itself up to new possibilities and take a seat at the table in the New York metro area.


ART: What exhibits are you most excited about this year? What do you think will really get participants talking? 

JL: There is so much I’m excited about for this year!

Obviously, I’m excited about the collab with The Gateway Project. That space is so big and complex that it allows for anything to happen. Rebecca and Jasmine are such talented women, and I know that everyone will be delighted and surprised by what they experience.

I’m also looking forward to our partnership with Brick City Speaks, a collective of poets who perform monthly at Hell’s Kitchen in the Ironbound. They are working with visual artist Brendan Mahoney to produce two events at a pop-up location on Halsey Street. Their first program is a tribute to Amiri Baraka and Maya Angelou (happening Saturday, October 11, at 127 Halsey Street). The second program is called METADATA. It looks at poetry as data, and art as metadata, and brings together artists and poets for something that will be unusual, but hits a real sweet spot in terms of artistic mashups and new concepts and trends.

They’ve also got Dodge poet Catherine Doty in residence for that program, which is super exciting and a great prelude to the upcoming Dodge Poetry Festival (shout out!). I think Brick City Speaks is also a great tie-in to the City of Newark’s “Poetry Month” initiative.

I can’t wait to see the first Open Doors exhibit at Index Art Center’s new location. Their large space has enabled them to host multiple studios, main exhibitions, musical performances and really neat large installations. Seeing how the Market Street hub has come alive is exciting and heartwarming for me. The Newark Print Shop, Gallery Aferro, ECC’s Africana Institute, and SEED Gallery are doing so much to enliven that strip of downtown. I’m thinking about it right now, and realizing how there will be upwards of 100 artists – probably more – showing work and performing in that one area. The Newark Arts Council is so happy to see what started as almost grassroots exhibitors just explode into true anchors of the arts community.


ART: In what ways can people participate in Open Doors besides just attending gallery shows? Any special plans for social media or other ways the crowd can get involved?

JL: Yes! Here’s my shameless plug: we’re holding our first-ever Instagram photo competition. We’re looking for three types of photos: Best Shot of Newark, Best Shot of Artwork/Gallery Installation, and Best Group Shot. The full breakdown of categories and rules can be found here.

To participate, all you need to do is follow @nwkartscouncil on Instagram and tag your photo with #OpenDoorsPhotoContest. We’ll review and select winners once Open Doors is over. We think this is a great way to source photos of the event, see the event from other people’s perspectives, and engage in a visual dialogue with the community.

The best part? We’re giving away $100 to the winner in each category, so you have a chance of winning up to $300! The rules are easy: photos must be posted between October 9th to 19th, you can’t submit a PicStitch or photo collage, and you can’t submit a video. By submitting, you agree to the rules we’ve outlined (see the site).

Outside of that, there’s a public performance held at the Newark Museum at 4:15 on Friday, October 10, involving the work of Dahlia Elsayed. Anyone can participate, and you can find info about that here.

For poets, musicians, singers, and rappers, there’s an open mic night on Saturday, October 11 at Center Stage Cuts. Performers can sign up at the door, and will perform with an award-winning live band!


ART: Any tips on how to make the most out of Open Doors?

JL: First and foremost, I want to thank everyone who is participating, and everyone who’s helping to spread the word.

Definitely come out to the launch party this Thursday, October 9th. There will be live beats by Mello Mel, performances, food and drinks, and the best of the arts community. It’s a great place to get started if you’re not really familiar with Newark and the art scene. It starts at 6, so come after work or class and hang out Newark style!

There is so much to discover, but we’ve designed our maps and shuttle guides to help people feel comfortable and to experience the city as carefree as possible. Everything you need is on our website, and all maps and schedules are available for pick-up at Open Doors Headquarters (at The Gateway Project, 2 Gateway, Main Concourse) and at all participating galleries.

Look out for the orange flags, which mark participating locations, and door signs indicating venue and map number. Pick-up shuttles will be in front of 2 Gateway (Mulberry and Market Streets, across from TD Bank). Volunteers wear bright orange t-shirts that say OPEN DOORS VOLUNTEERS, so if you’re confused or need information, find a volunteer and ask for help, or go to any gallery, and they’ll be able to help you out. We’re a welcoming community doing what we love for the public’s enjoyment!


One stop shop for Open Doors information:

Get in touch with Jade via email:

Connect: On Facebook – | On Instagram – @nwkartscouncil | On Twitter – @newark_arts

Call the council: 973-643-1625