Newark sit-in students to meet with New Jersey Department of Education commissioner today

Pictured above: Newark Students Union members sit in at Newark Public Schools headquarters. Source: Newark Students Union Facebook page.

Following last week's overnight sit-in by Newark Students Union leaders at Newark Public Schools headquarters, New Jersey Department of Education commissioner David Hespe has agreed to the students' demand for a meeting.

The meeting will take place at 4:30 p.m. today at the offices of NJ Communities United (30 Clinton Street), the host organization for the Newark Students Union. The students will be joined by other community leaders at a press conference immediately following the meeting.

The students are demanding adoption of the just-released "Newark Promise" plan in lieu of the "One Newark" public school reorganization plan, and are also calling for the resignation of superintendent Cami Anderson, according to Newark Students Union president Kristin Towkaniuk.

The One Newark plan has been met with community dissatisfaction since it was announced. reported that parents of Newark public school students will gather this afternoon to protest their children not getting matched with their first choice schools following the plan's first open enrollment. The school district reported that two-thirds of students were matched to a school within their top five choices, without breaking out the distribution of placements from the first to the fifth choice.

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Forest Hill Community Association to host garden tour in North Newark


The city just announced a North Ward garden tour, to be hosted by the Forest Hill Community Association, on NextDoor, the private social network the city has adopted in part for updates like this. Their notice in full:

A garden tour of the Forest Hill Historic District will be held on Sunday, June 8, 2014 from 11:00 AM to 3:00 PM. This is a self-guided tour. Attendees will be given a map of the participating homes when they purchase their tickets on the day of the event.

Tickets ($20 each) will be sold at the Ballantine Gates from 10AM to noon. There will be fresh produce available for purchase at this location that is being provided by the Greater Newark Conservancy/Newark Youth Leadership Project. The Ballantine Gates are located at the intersection of Lake Street and Ballantine Parkway.

All of the gardens will be made available for viewing at 11:00 AM. This is a rain or shine event.
Please contact Forest Hill Community Association with questions:

Image credit: Wikipedia

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Local artist Salaam Muhammad to unveil work tonight at Newark’s Center Stage Cuts & Culture


Elizabeth-born artist Salaam Muhammad is set to unveil his work at Center Stage Cuts & Culture, the innovative barber shop and event space just north of Newark Broad Street station.

Salaam Muhammad was reared in Elizabeth, and said he saw the panoply of the world's problems from the fifth floor window if his Elizabeth apartment. He exhibited artistic talent early, and used it to comment on poverty and oppression from his worldview at the time.

Muhammad started to fuse the varieties of his experience into his work: real life, comic book charaters, and cartoons influenced his form; religion, spirituality, music and social realities influenced his themes; and a shift from pencils and markers to acrylic oil paints changed the tone of his renderings. Today, he says his paintings depict or comment on the things he most cares about: culture, style, and strong relationships and families.

An event commemorating his run at Center Stage will take place tonight, Friday May 23rd. All artwork shown at the exhibit will also be availble online.


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Rising Tide Capital to open its pitch competition application in June

Pictured above: The three 2013 Start Something pitch competition winners

The Jersey City-based entrepreneurship assistance program Rising Tide Capital will launch its third annual Start Something Challenge business pitch competition on June 16th, and will accept applications through July 3. The competition is free to enter.

Rising Tide will offer a total of $30,000 in funding for startup businesses. The two month competition, based here in New Jersey, also hopes to offer business owners networking opportunities and increased visibility for their ventures. In addition to the yearly competition, Rising Tide offers a 12-week business planning course, and one-on-one coaching to help entrepreneurs start their businesses.

Last year's competition saw applications from over 100 entrepreneurs throughout the state. Applying entails submitting a 30-second video pitch and brief business description. Last year's three winners, chosen out of 10 finalists who pitched their ventures live at St. Peter's University, were Coretta Owusu, Nicole Silva, and Elizabeth Migliore in first, second, and third place, respectively.

Owusu used her $10,000 in funding to continue building aSuiteStay, a corporate travel tool for booking African trips online. Silva, who owns organic skincare company DollyMoo, use the funds to redesign her packaging to meet FDA standards, enabling her to sell her products in large stores, starting with the Whole Foods in the Madison, NJ. And Migliore, who runs Jersey City Veggie Burgers, used her funds to rent more kitchen space and increase production. 

After selecting an initial set of businesses for the competiton, Rising Tide offers entrants individualized coaching and mentorship at sessions throughout Essex and Hudson counties, and connects participants with local business resources. The non-profit whittles down its initial group of entrants to just three grant winners through three rounds of "challenges" that include driving traffic to their pitch videos, getting online votes, and the final live pitch, which is judged by a group of panelists. The three winners are then honored at a "Champions Gala".

Rising Tide accepts applications from New Jersey residents who are 18 years or older, and who are either microbusiness owners (defined as those earning revenues $250,000 per year or less), or have a strong and well-conceived business idea. Application instructions are available on Rising Tide's website.

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Releases: NJIT Graduates Largest Class in Its History at 98th Commencement Ceremony

Photo credit: Romer Jed Medina. Used under Creative Commons.


New Jersey Institute of Technology awarded 2,649 bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees yesterday at the 98th Commencement exercises at the Prudential Center in Newark. The ceremony featured speakers who advised the Class of 2014 to give back to the community and to celebrate the impressive diversity that never could have been imagined years ago.

Clement Alexander Price, Board of Governors Distinguished Service Professor of History, Rutgers University-Newark, recalled his participation in the February 1968 civil rights march in support of students.

“On your watch, Newark continued to come back,” said Price, who was named the official city historian of Newark earlier this year.  “On your watch, Newark continued to become a city of destiny. You are the best; comport yourselves accordingly.”

Price, who also serves as Director of the Rutgers Institute on Ethnicity, Culture, and the Modern Experience, said that he has remained true to the values of his forebears.

“I hope a quest for social justice consumes your lives as well,” Price said.

Price also received an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters.  In 2012, NJIT awarded an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters to his wife, Mary Sue Sweeney Price, former Director and Chief Executive Officer of the Newark Museum. Honorary degrees were also awarded to John M. Dionisio, Executive Chairman of AECOM, and Robert S. Dow ‘69, who was Managing Partner at Lord Abbett & Co. before retiring in 2012.

NJIT President Joel S. Bloom, who presided over the ceremony, encouraged graduates to continue to give back to the community.

“It is my sincerest hope that as NJIT graduates, who have much to offer, you will give back in the measure demanded by the challenges of making life better in the years ahead,” Bloom said. “Going forward as graduates, give back in the workplace by contributing your professional expertise to positive technological, social and economic change. Give back in your community by volunteering for activities that help people in need.  The paradox of the electronic media always at our fingertips these days is that it both connects us to other people 24/7 while at the same time making our interaction less personal, and in too many instances less civil. Consider giving back through face-to-face connection.”

NJIT has a long tradition of commitment to fostering opportunities for students to share their skills, talents and enthusiasm through community service. For the fifth year, NJIT was named to the President’s Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll, one of the highest recognitions a university can receive for its commitment to volunteering, service-learning and civic engagement.  NJIT students helped New Jersey recover from the devastation of Hurricane Sandy, provided the people of Haiti with safe drinking water, and helped build housing and improve health in the Dominican Republic.

“NJIT has no one ideal place, no typical student,” said Johnathan A. Weiss ‘14, who addressed the Class of 2014 and received a BS degree in chemical engineering. “The thing that is common to all of us is determination. We had the determination to get through classes much harder than other universities, it was determination that brought us to NJIT, and it will be determination that will help us to make an impact on our society.”

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Live feed: Newark Students Union takes over NPS headquarters


The Newark Students Union shut down a school board meeting last night. Here's our live feed of their updates and commentary from the wider community.

Update: 5/21/2014 @ 9:49 AM EST

Newark Students Union responds via their Facebook page: "Official statement from Cami is all lies! They did not respect us when they refused to hear our demands & waited until the media was crazy to give us food… Also, she had her assistant read the statement to us… She didn't have the nerve to talk to us herself. Plus adults didn't force us to do this. It was a STUDENT MOVEMENT!"

Update: 5/21/2014 @ 9:34 AM EST

Cami Anderson released a statement per the Newark Students Union Twitter feed:

cami anderson statement

Here's the transcription:

"I am unequivocally supportive of our students expressing their opinions and positions on issues – and at every point last evening and this morning our team treated them with the utmost of respect. I, and many members of the board, are also adamant that the district must conduct business in a professional and respectful manner including when we disagree. The young people who were coached by adults to stage a sit-in last night disrupted the meeting where they would have had the opportunity to speak, shouted at members who tried to bring the meeting to order and refused my offer to meet with them because of other plans on their schedules. As adults, we must set high expectations for our young people and support them in expressing their views in a productive fashion. The politically orchestrated event that happened last night certainly does not model excellence for students."


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Releases: Major rally planned at Newark Public Schools today at 5pm

Newark, NJ – Students, parents and teachers will rally during the business meeting of the Newark Public Schools to deliver a new plan for public schools created by the Newark community. The new plan, called the “Newark Promise” was released at a rally in Lincoln Park this weekend. 

“Not only did we elect Ras Baraka to lead our city and our fight against the attack on public schools, but we developed an alternative plan that will better serve the needs of students, parents, teachers and the future of Newark,” said Kristin Towcaniuk, president of the Newark Students Union. “This rally will be an escalation of what we’ve seen in the past.”

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Brazilian immigrants in Newark wait for economic conditions to improve before returning home

The restaurant Boi na Brasa sits on the corner of Clover and Merchant Streets in Newark's Ironbound district. About a 10-minute walk east of Newark Penn Station, the two-story Brazilian restaurant, whose name translates from Portuguese as “braised ox,” occupies almost the entire block.

On a Tuesday afternoon last month, all five flat screen TVs inside the restaurant were tuned to the European Champions League game between Barcelona and Atletico Madrid, two professional soccer teams in Spain. There were only three empty seats at the bar, and Vanessa Matos, who loves to both watch and play soccer, hardly had a chance to glance at the screen between smiling and serving customers.

The 22-year-old dark hair beauty moved from Brazil to Newark three years ago to make extra money. Like many other Brazilians in the area, she believes economic conditions are right to return home. She cited the discovery of the Libra oil fields as a possible boon to the economy.

Brazil, South America’s leading economic power, is ranked 8th in the world in terms of its Gross Domestic Product (GDP), according to the CIA World Factbook.  Helped by its well-developed agricultural, mining, manufacturing and service sectors, Brazil was one of the first emerging markets to rebound after the global financial crisis in 2008. But despite the country’s positive turnaround, there are signs that Matos’ optimism should be curbed.

James Green, a professor of history and Brazilian culture at Brown University, believes that the country’s economy is starting to weaken again. “The expansion of that economy over the first decade of the 2000’s was built largely two factors: increased export of raw goods and the creation of social programs within the country,” Green said. Since the worldwide recession of 2008, the need for iron ore and other natural resources by China (a major importer) has slowly turned down due to China’s slowing economy.

And internally, Brazil’s social programs, which provided minimum increases in the standard of living, have been eclipsed by the amount of money the government has been spending on the World Cup. “It’s stadiums, not factories," said Green.

"What do you do after you build a stadium? You play soccer in it but you don’t produce anything. Internally, there’s a lot of dissatisfaction and it’s very complex right now," Green added

Two of Matos’ customers, Helio Evangelista and Adrian De Andrade, moved from Brazil to the states 10 years ago to help a friend with a hardwood flooring business. Like her, they’re both waiting for the right time to move back.

They're both part of a much broader trend. By far, the United States is the world’s leader as a destination for immigrants, according to the Pew Research Center. Seeking better economic conditions is one of the main reasons foreigners move here, and this was particularly true of Brazilians emigrants to the United States starting in the 1980s.

During the last two decades of the 20th century, Brazil’s economy shrank dramatically as a result of the oil crisis, double- and triple-digit inflation, high interest rates, increasing foreign debt and withdrawal of foreign investments, the Washington Post reported. Hundreds of thousands of Brazilians immigrated to the U.S. looking for a better life. Between 1982 and 2001, the number of U.S. permanent resident visas given to Brazilians rose 650 percent, according to research from Franklin Goza, professor of sociology at the University of Wisconsin.

At the start of the immigration wave, most Brazilians moved to California and New York. But by 1990, New Jersey accounted for over 10 percent of the total Brazilian American population, Goza reported. In 2010, Newark had the largest Brazilian population in the state, with approximately 9,000 Brazilian citizens, or 3 percent of the city’s total population, according to American Community Survey data.

Evangelista, 31, and De Andrade, 29, live in Long Branch, another New Jersey town with a high concentration of Brazilians.  The two men stopped in at Boi na Brasa after finishing some business meetings in the neighborhood. The restaurant is one of their Newark favorites. 

Watching the game from a seat at the corner of the bar, Evangelista finished the last of his churrasco (barbecue) with a few sips of red Monte Velho – a budget Portuguese wine.

When asked when they would move back, they shook their heads and were less optimistic than their server, Vanessa Matos. “The government might spend all the money on those games and forget about everything else,” he said. “We’ll see.”

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Meeting of the minds: Baraka and Booker meet post-election

Photograph reposted with permission

It's a time-worn tradition: after the dust settles on an election, the previous and pending officeholder meet to compare notes and discuss the way forward. Above, Senator Cory Booker and mayor-elect Ras Baraka chat over a meal. reported last Wednesday that Senator Booker had called the mayor-elect to offer congratulations. "I look forward to fully supporting him as he steps up to lead Newark, deal with our city's challenges and continue to move our city into a brighter and better future," they reported he said in a statement.

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Mayor-elect Baraka unveils “The Newark Promise: Excellent Neighborhood Public Schools for All” plan


Today, mayor-elect Ras Baraka unveiled "The Newark Promise", an alternative vision to superintendent Cami Anderson's "One Newark" plan. The Newark chapter of the NAACP, the Newark Teacher's Union, NJ Communities United, and the Abbott Leadership Institute are among the groups listed as "Founding Members" of the plan. According to the document outlining Newark Promise, embedded in full below, its mission is to create "a high-quality system of neighborhood public schools that is able to serve all of Newark's children and youth."

As we reported yesteday, the unveiling of the plan is timed to coincide with the 60th anniversary – to the day – of the Supreme Court's landmark Brown vs. Board of Education decision, in which the court ruled that racially separate schools were inherently unequal, and violated the 14th amendment to the U.S. Constitution. The decision ended de jure school segregation.

From their view, One Newark reinforces educational inequality and destabilizes communities, because it removes an anchor institution – the community school – from Newark neighborhoods. The Newark Promise plan calls first for a moratiorium on implementation of the One Newark plan (the initial school placement and transportation plan was rolled out earlier this week), then calls for Newark to work towards building a strong network of community schools.

Its creators said they consulted with the community and embedded community input into the plan, in contrast to Anderson, whose plan they say solicited no community input and sought no community buy-in. According to the report, the group enaged the community through town hall meetings and community surveys.

The plan proposes a "comprehensive, multi-year strategy" for improving Newark schools along ten dimensions:

1. "Out of school challenges" that affect the context in which students attend school

2. Improving facilities, and in particular integrating more modernized tech and green space

3. Modernizing in-school resources, starting with replacing out-dated textbooks and other commonly used class materials

4. Creating a more comprehensive and individualized curriculum that emphasizes active learning, the arts, physical outlets, and apprenticeship programs in addition to college readiness

5. Providing teachers with state-of-the-art instruction methods and ongoing training, as well as leadership opportunities within the school system

6. Enabling holistic, meaningful assessment of schools that don't rely soley on testing to guage schools' performance

7. Creating a positive school climate that uses law enforcement as a last resort, prevents bullying, and employs a constructive, ameliorative response when conflicts do occur

8. Ensuring schools are accountable to the commmunity, and not solely to metrics defined from the top down

9. Enabling "democratic governance" through local control (Newark Public Schools have been state-run since 1995)

10. Securing funding to support those goals through more efficient use of resources, and adopting a "more appropriate policy" with regard to charter schools, which they say are siphoning funding from traditional public schools

The plan also envisions community schools that serve as learning and services hubs for the broader community. That would entail offering everything from childcare, early education, and before-and-after school activities to comprehensive health and social services, job placement, and continuing education options.

The plan envisions the mayor and city council taking the lead on strategic planning for the plan's details and implementation. It would also involve hiring more support staff to provide the diversified instruction, smaller class sizes, and services it recommends.

A full-text version of the document is embedded below.

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