East Orange to Host First Ever MACfest music, art, culture celebration

The City of East Orange and The Arts Council of East Orange will present the First East Orange MACFest (Celebration of Music + Arts + Culture) on Saturday, June 13, 2015 between 1pm-6pm. The event is free and open to the public.

The festival, which will be held at 44 City Hall Plaza, East Orange, NJ across from the East Orange Train Station, will feature a live headline performance by Global Artist Sensation Vinx, and will be opened by New Jersey-based  FUSE with guest host Vinnie Brown, an East Orange native and member of Naughty By Nature. The live concert, which will kick off the Jazz at the Plaza Summer Concert Series, will begin at 4 p.m.

Attendees are encouraged to bring lawn chairs for the 4 p.m. show.

The festival will also feature a diverse array of local talent, including DJ Fauzi, who will spin between 1-4pm, a Sidewalk Catwalk Fashion Show hosted by Tyrone Chablis, and Student Showcases with the George Washington Carver Drill Team, Maurice Chestnut and Cicely Tyson Students, and East Orange YOPAT’s “Empire” Program.

Community activities will include:

  • Project with the Montclair Art Museum Art Truck featuring artist Dan Fenelon and special guest collaborator and renowned visual artist Willie Cole
  • Epic Chalk Art Battle
  • Community Mapping Project led by Newark-based Gallery Aferro and Pink Dragon Artist Syndicate to launch the Activate: East Orange public art initiative
  • Interactive Children’s Programming coordinated by the East Orange Public Library and the Department of Recreation & Cultural Affairs

Festival goers will also be treated to a photo station with the Red Carpet Lady, an eclectic arts marketplace, and a wide variety of Caribbean cuisine, soul food and specialty culinary treats from vendors throughout the area.

“My administration’s vision is to set the standard of urban excellence and become a destination city,” said Mayor Lester E. Taylor III. “Every city that has successfully experienced urban renewal has done so fueled by a thriving arts and culture scene. This festival is a wonderful combination of what East Orange is and what it has the potential to be.”

According to Valerie Jackson, Director of Policy, Planning and Development, MACFest is an evolution of the Summer Solstice Festival that was held last year in conjunction with the Urban Essex Coalition and the Cities of Newark and Orange Township.

“The Summer Solstice concept evolved into MACFest when we decided to create an all day festival that would highlight the rich music, art and culture of our community in a re-mixed setting. We’ve got something for everyone happening on June 13th and we can’t wait for people in and around the city to experience East Orange!”

Newark Black Film Festival and Youth Cinema summer series to begin in June

The Newark Black Film Festival will kick off its 41st season on June 24 at the Newark Museum with the film “Half of a Yellow Sun,” based on the novel by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.

Youth Cinema, the accompanying summer-long series of free children’s features and short films, debuts on July 6 at the Newark Public Library and July 8 at the museum.

The NBFF is the longest running festival of its kind in the country, providing a forum for emerging writers, directors, producers, performers and patrons of the black cinema since 1974.

The films that are shown reflect the diversity of black experience in America both past and present. Each film selection encompasses a wide range of cinematic forms from documentary to avant-garde.

“Organizations like the Newark Museum have a long history of uniting and strengthening our communities and contributing to New Jersey’s cultural vibrancy,” said NJ Bank of America President Bob Doherty, a NBFF sponsor.

Screenings are free, but seating is limited and available on a first-come, first-served basis. All NBFF screenings begin at 7 p.m at the museum. All Youth Cinema screenings will be held Mondays at the Newark Public Library at 10:30 a.m., and at the museum on Wednesdays at 1 p.m.

The schedule for the NBFF and Youth Cinema are as follows:

Newark Black Film Festival Schedule

June 24 – Half of a Yellow Sun
Twin sisters from a wealthy Nigerian family take wildly different paths in life, but both become swept up in the struggle to establish Biafra as a republic while preoccupied by their romantic entanglements and betrayals. Opening reception: 5:30 pm.
Speaker: Biyi Bandele, filmmaker. Host: Mary Sue Sweeney Price.

July 1 – Clipped Wings, They Do Fly
Billy Ray suffers from Multiple Personality Disorder, compounded with Schizophrenia, and finds himself on trial for murder, a crime which he does not remember committing.
Speaker: William Michael Barbee, writer. Host: Wilma Grey.

July 8 – Through a Lens Darkly: Black Photographers and the Emergence of a People
A film that explores how African American communities have used the camera as a tool for social change from the invention of photography to the present.
Speakers: Thomas Allen Harris, director, producer and writer; and Deborah Willis, producer. Host: Richard Wesley.

July 15 – Love Always, Eartha
A frail little girl is hopelessly abandoned by her mother and thrown into a world of abuse is rescued by an aunt, moves away to New York City and becomes that talented woman known as Eartha Kitt.
Speaker: Dierdra McDowell, writer and producer. Host: Ralph Waller.

July 22 – Roots of My Heart
Gloria Rolando’s film about an AfroCuban woman who seeks her roots through her family history of old photos, newspaper clippings jealously guarded by her grandmother.
Speaker: : Yesenia Selier, performer, researcher and teacher; and Ben Jones, artist. Hosts: Gloria H. Buck and Ben Jones.

July 29 – Alice Walker: Beauty In Truth – New Jersey Institute of Technology
This documentary tells the compelling story of an extraordinary woman’s journey from her birth in a shack in the cotton fields of Georgia to her recognition as a key writer of the 20th Century.
Speaker: Pratibha Parmar, filmmaker; and Shaheen Haq, producer. Host: Lisa Payne.

NBFF Youth Cinema Schedule

July 6 and July 8: Ages 4-12

  • Not So Fast, Songololo
  • Elizabeti’s Doll
  • Garrett’s Gift
  • Obara & The Merchants

July 13 and July 15: Ages 4-12

  • Burkina Faso: The Tyrant and the Child
  • Cliques, Phonies & Other Baloney
  • Chato and the Party Animals

July 20 and July 22: Ages 4-13

  • Ellington is Not a Street
  • The Frog Prince
  • Koi & the Kola Nuts

July 27 and July 29: Rated G

  • Happy to Be Nappy & Other Stories of Me
  • Ruth Law Thrills a Nation

August 5: Ages 5-12

  • Robots

August 12: Ages 5-12

  • Kirikou and the Sorceress

Featured image courtesy of Newark Museum

Remember R&B group Surface? They’re now ReSurface. ‘Get closer to’ them at Suite53

There is a whole generation that grew up off love songs wafting from the smooth R&B vocals of 90’s groups such as Surface, whose memorable tracks include “Happy” (1987), “Closer Than Friends” (1988), “Shower Me With Your Love” (1989) among others. With an album aptly entitled “ReSurface, Where Have You Been?” the group, comprised of David “Pic” Conley and John Feva, are aimed at reasserting their vocals and rhythmic sounds among old fans, as well as a new generation of R&B lovers.

Now fans in the greater Newark area can see ReSurface live at Suite53 (53 Edison Place, Newark; $20 cover includes new CD) on Friday, June 5th starting at 9 pm as the group celebrates their album release with a live show, part of the full alum launch that kicked off on June 1st.

“Because of my past music I still wanted to keep things pretty much close to the Surface in doing this record. So that’s kind of what you should be expecting,” Conley said. “Not a lot is new under the sun but I just took the old and blended it with the new to bring you what we have.”

Released on June 1, the CD “ReSurface Where Have You Been?” is produced by David Pic Conley, who is now based in Aurora, Colorado. Fans of the old sound can expect that plus some freshly flavored stylings by the team which consists of Gene Lennon, Gene Lake, Jam Benton, Derrick “Derky” Culler and the newest talents to join the team, Martin Blockson and Mjestie Brooks. Both a part of the group and the production ensemble, Conley has remained at the helm by co-producing all of the songs in conjunction with the team. He also co-wrote all of the tracks alongside John Feva.

The first release, “We Can Fly,” produced by Conley with Gene Lake, has already started generating a buzz with its video on YouTube. Showing off his co-writing skills on the song is West Orange New Jersey based John Feva, who was formerly managed by Russell Simmons.

Having also produced and written for major artists such as Aretha Franklin, Stanley Jordon, George Benson, and other notables like Victoria Beckham and Damon Dash, Conley reenters the R&B world as an industry veteran ready to connect with fresh listeners worldwide.

Q&A with Isaiah Little: Imagining a better block on Bergen Street

Better Block Newark is inviting community volunteers to help complete its first public spaces project at Bergen Street and Lyons Avenue. The project entails imagining by doing: bringing the community together to build temporary public spaces called “parklets” that might become models for more permanent ones or, as the founders of Better Block state on their website, a “demonstration tool…so that communities can actively engage in the buildout process and provide feedback in real time.”

I spoke with Isaiah Little, project manager in Newark’s Office of Information Technology, founder of GalleryRetail, and Brigade Captain of Code for Newark, about how the community can use this project to create a living vision for a better block in their neighborhood.

What is a parklet?

It’s a park that you create out of a parking space. Parking spaces make up about a 9-by-20-foot space. For a parklet, you remove the car and put in a mini public space instead. It can be made out of concrete and similar materials, or it can be made out of palettes. We’re going to do palettes for Better Block at Bergen Street. We’re essentially giving the community more shared space, more public space, more green space.


What’s the setup going to look like on Bergen Street?

We’re going to have three parklets. One is going to be children’s themed for activities like playing with legos, and I know the Newark Mommies group is going to meet there for a portion of the day. Then there’s a relaxation parklet with comfortable chairs and pillows. And then the mini tech park will have wifi so people can do work. The idea overall is to bring some of that Military Park vibe to Bergen Street.

How long will these last?

They’re going to be temporary. Our goal is to show the potential, and as we think more about development, we can encourage the community and decision-makers to revisit these types of ideas to make better use of the street and public spaces. But these will be disassembled by the end of the weekend.


What has community involvement looked like so far, and how can the community lobby for more permanent versions of these parklets?

We’ve had at least two official, large general community meetings. So the community has had the opportunity to chime in with what they’d like to see.

They’ve also been part of our build days and painting days, so they’ve been able to provide feedback and ideas of what they’d like to see then as well. Now, we want to show what the street could look like if we gave it that love. In addition to the parklets we’re going to have bike groups come out – kind of show what the experience of bike lanes would bring to Bergen Street south. There’s also going to be a bistro-style eating opportunity. So the community can decide what pieces they like.


Would you say this is almost like a lean startup approach to development and beautification?

I would agree – especially the part about getting out there and doing it. This is similar to lean [startup] where you get out there and do it, see how the community responds to the idea, and then adjust. We can conceive it in real life, and then innovate and evolve the original idea.

Code for Newark will be there taking surveys to gauge which ideas were the favorites and what people would like to see more permanently. We’ll be taking that information back to planning, housing and economic development, and information technology for deliberation.

Better Block Bergen takes place Saturday, June 6 from 12pm to 6pm at Bergen Street and Lyons Avenue. All are welcome to attend and volunteer. Email betterblock@ci.newark.nj.us for further inquiries about this project.

The Better Block Newark @ Bergen Street project will run from Lyons to Lehigh Avenues

Come celebrate the Newark riverfront with “River Day” and Boat Tours this summerf

The Newark riverfront will come alive this summer with many family activities, beginning with “River Day” at Riverfront Park on Saturday, June 20 at 11 a.m.

The event will include exhibits and activities for young and old, as well as guided tours and information about the waterfront park.

Newark residents can also cruise the Passaic River on guided “Newark Riverfront Revival 2015 Boat Tours” later this summer for only $5.

The schedule for the boat tours is as follows:

  • July 5: 12 p.m. and 4 p.m. (Port Tour)
  • July 25: 12 p.m. and 2 p.m.
  • August 22: 10 a.m. and 12 p.m. (Port Tour)
  • August 29: 11 a.m. and 1 p.m.
  • August 30: 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. (Port Tour)
  • September 12: 11 a.m. and 1 p.m.
  • September 27: 10 a.m. and 12 p.m.


Be sure to reserve your spot on a boat tour for the summer and early Fall by contacting newarkboattours@gmail.com or (201)-341-8311.

Riverbank Park combines natural beauty of the Passaic River with active recreational components such as sports fields, courts and a playground. The park was designed over 100 years ago as part of the country’s oldest park system, Essex County Parks.

The organization “SPARK,” will be holding activities and programs throughout the summer to help preserve the park, located at 27 Somme St. in Newark.

Featured image courtesy of Riverbank Park

Celebrate “National KiddiePreneur Day” with a night of rollerskating and fashion at Branch Brook Skating Rink

The KiddiePreneur Online Academy will be celebrating their “National KiddiePreneur Day” with a “Rock the Rink Glow Fashion and Skating Event” at the Branch Brook Skating Rink on June 18.

The academy is welcoming educators, schools, community programs and individuals to their event. Programs in attendance will have the opportunity for their children to participate in their free entrepreneurial training program, geared towards children 8 to 17-years-old.

The entire skating rink will be rented out for event participants. Ticket price includes admission, skates, pizza, soda, and entertainment such as a fashion showcase, music and vendors.

The fashion show element of the event is seeking child models between the ages of 3 and 16. No experience is required, and interested participants should email info@just4uexpo.com.

Educational institutions and programs in attendance will also receive a copy of the academy’s new book “The KiddiePreneur in You,” which encourages children to start their own businesses to become “leaders of tomorrow.”

The KiddiePreneur Online Academy is an online learning environment where children can learn the skills necessary to be successful in running their own business. The course curriculum includes idea development, marketing, finances, presentation and branding. It ultimately culminates with the participants showcasing their business to family, friends and the public.

The event will run from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. at the skating rink, located at 7th Avenue and Clifton Avenue in Newark. Tickets are $25 and can be purchased online.

Featured Image courtesy of the KiddiePreneur Online Academy

Military Park is bustling today, with “Super Tuesday” kicking off several classes and activities for the summer

Visitors can buy fresh produce in the park’s fresh air and buy some snacks for their lunch at the farmers market, which returns today.

Old market favorites will return, including Matarazzo’s produce, kettle corn, soaps and crafts. There are also new offerings such as Meredith County Breads, Santo Burrito, and Anthis Greek Food.

There will be several events at the market throughout the summer, such as a “Friends of the Newark Public Library” book sale on June 16. The book sale will then continue on the second and fourth Tuesday of the summer months.

Two park fitness classes also return today for the Tuesday summer line-up. “Mad Cool Cardio” will be held at 5 p.m. with Jennifer Turner, offering a healthy active workout.

The Newark Yoga Movement will also return to Tuesdays with a 6 p.m. class.

Other events and activities will also be held later in the week. On Wednesday, the ongoing “QBR/Newark Book Festival Author Reading Series” will begin at noon.

This week will feature Kathy Carter reading from and discussing her book “Summertime with Lizzie B. Hayes,” and Anasa Maat, author of books such as “A Little Bit of Honey.”

Later on Saturday, the Military Park Flea Market will be held from 10 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., featuring vintage items, art, crafts and cosmetics.

Visit MilitaryPark.com for a full calendar of summer events.

Featured image courtesy of Military Park

Gallery Aferro to hold 7th annual benefit art auction and party

Gallery Aferro will be holding their “LUCKY 7, 7th Annual Benefit Art Auction and Party”, featuring art auctions, live entertainment, activities and prizes, on June 13.

The event will include a silent auction of art works by more than 100 established and emerging artists. A large selection of 1990‘s Cuban artwork has recently been added to the auction.

“LUCKY 7” will feature live music by Emily and the Ideals, an “old jazz, flamenco pop, Brazilian bossa, and American soul” band. It will also include different activities such as an interactive art performance by Jackie Du, outdoor art selfie stations, food, and signature cocktails and craft beer from Hunterdon Brewery.

There will also be several prizes available to win, a three-night stay in Reno at the Atlantis Casino Resport and Spa for two, including airfare. Other prizes include a hot air balloon ride, dancing lessons, theater and sporting tickets, fine dining experiences and portraiture sessions.

The party will run after the VIP hour from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m., followed by an after-party for participants over 21-years-old, featuring DJ Deep Creep.

VIP tickets include advanced bidding options, such as ‘buy it now,’ on artworks prior to the main event from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m.

All proceeds from tickets and purchases will contribute to Gallery Aferro’s year-round exhibitions, artist residences, publications, public art, educational offerings, and its ongoing expansion as a downtown cultural hub.

Advance tickets are available for purchase online until June 12, and cost $25 for standard tickets and $100 for VIP. Tickets will be more expensive if purchased at the event. Gallery Aferro is located at 73 Market St. in Newark.

Featured Image courtesy of Gallery Aferro

Mayor Ras Baraka and Jesse Jackson to host economic June 2nd

Mayor Ras J. Baraka  and Rainbow PUSH Coalition President and Founder Reverend Jesse L. Jackson will host a summit about leveraging technology for economic success at Rutgers-Newark on June 2nd. Entitled “PUSHing Technology to Achieve Economic Success, ” the event will be held at the Paul Robeson Campus Center, located at 350 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard in downtown Newark.

The one day state-wide event will convene over 200 corporate executives, small business owners, entrepreneurs, academics, and community and faith leaders to discuss the role of technology in the economic development and growth of New Jersey. Its primary goal is to encourage tech education, training, programs and strategic partnerships to ensure New Jersey’s diverse communities are better prepared to take full advantage of tech-driven economic opportunities.

In a nod to the importance of preparing today’s youth to be competitive in the tech space, the summit will also host a youth seminar. That  session will feature discussion of career opportunities in technology, as well as a hands-on introduction to coding.

“Today’s business owners, entrepreneurs, and employees must be prepared to compete in a high tech global economy…As the largest city in New Jersey, Newark is transforming itself with groundbreaking initiatives in public safety, economic development, housing and community engagement. We are looking to lead the way in highlighting the importance technology is playing in our continued economic growth,” commented Mayor Baraka.

Rev. Jackson added, “[The Rainbow PUSH Wall Street Project] serves as a catalyst for aggressive change in the areas  of procurement, employment, corporate board diversity and access to capital. During our 18th annual Wall Street Project Economic Summit held this past January, we focused on innovative approaches that corporations and minority entrepreneurs are taking to improve economic diversity,
as well as a focus on the lack of diversity in the tech industry. We look to broaden this discussion at the summit in Newark.”

The summit will feature remarks from Rutgers University-Newark Chancellor Dr. Nancy Cantor and State Senator Ronald L. Rice, and will spotlight scholars from Rutgers University and the New Jersey Institute of Technology, who will present information on the most innovative practices for urban economic development, what manufacturing opportunities look like in New Jersey, and what the public and private sector should be doing to drive the growth of the state’s urban centers.

Author and Power Patterns of Innovation CEO Sarah Miller Caldicott, the great-grandniece of inventor Thomas Edison, will discuss her great uncle’s collaboration process as a means to re-skill workers for the digital age, leverage social networks, and propel innovation during the summit’s lunch program. That will be followed Reverend Jackson’s one-on-one conversation with Donald R. Katz, Founder & CEO of
Audible.com., and a panel of New Jersey mayors including Newark Mayor Ras Baraka, Hillside Mayor Angela R. Garretson, Clinton Mayor Janice Kovach, Plainfield Mayor Adrian O. Mapp, and Logan Township Mayor Frank Minor, moderated by Newark municipal council President Mildred Crump.

The summit will conclude with Rev. Jackson and Mayor Baraka presenting a wrap-up and next steps on how to continue the dialogue around technology, and create strategic partnerships that encourage diversity, building scalable solutions to address and reduce economic disparities, bridging the digital divide, and catalyzing community transformations.

Newark Developer’s Finance Forum keynote speakers announced

The Newark Community Economic Development Corporation and United Fund has announced the group of keynote speakers for their 2015 Developer’s Finance Forum on June 5.

The forum will discuss new trends in public and private finance and real estate development opportunities in Newark. The event welcomes developers, lenders, financial consultants, real-estate professionals, not-for-profits, community development entities and investors.

The keynote speakers are industry experts on “New Market Tax Credits,” EB5 funding options, and other incentives. They include the following:

Margaret Anadu – Vice President of the Urban Investment Group at Goldman Sachs
Julio Colon – Director of Real Estate and Housing for the City of Newark
Samer Hanini – Principal of the Hanini Group development firm, developer of the Hotel Indigo
Colin Rowan – Founding member of the United Fund Advisors and co-head of management and investment activities of UFA
Neil Faden – Partner at Manatt, Phelps & Phillips, LLP, whose practice represents community development entities, investors, lenders and borrowers
Jeff Monge – Managing Partner of Monge Capital Group, a Latino owned and operated firm focused on providing advisory services for real estate projects
Ommeed Sathe – Vice President and head of the Social Investment Program in the Community Resources Department at Prudential
Tom Oldenburg – originated and structured NMTC and HTC investments located in markets throughout the central United States
Ron Beit – founding partner and CEO of RBH Group, LLC, and president of RBH Management, LLC, asset and property management companies
Gina Nisbeth – Director in the Structured Lending and Investments Group and responsible for the management of Citi’s New Markets Tax Credit program
John Murray – Chief of Credit and Business Development for the NJHMFA.
Matthew Abraham – Senior Business Development Officer in the North working for the New Jersey Economic Development Authority

In partnership with the city’s Department of Economic and Housing Development, the forum’s goal is to improve the local and regional economy into one that revitalizes Newark into a city of dynamic neighborhoods.

The event will be held at The Newark Club at 1085 Raymond Blvd. from 10:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. The cost of admission is $50 and interested attendees can RSVP online.

Featured image courtesy of the Newark CEDC and United Fund