Note to reporters: your Newark clichés are officially played out

There is plenty to report about Newark that is positive and exciting and hopeful. I know because I’ve been personally doing it for four years and counting.

But Newark is also confronted with some of the toughest and most intractable problems a city can face. This has long been a fact of life in our town. Journalists who seek to tell stories about a downtrodden Newark can bring lots of true facts and scores of real and relevant examples to bear on this type of project.

And this is what makes it that much more irritating when reporters pile on by writing off-kilter stories based on their narrow assumptions, or that leverage haphazard reporting. In piece after piece I’ve read about Newark over the years, the same old worn out clichés abound.

As a native and current resident, this habit is at turns amusing, annoying, and maddening. In fact, my frustration with many reporters’ uninformed and dismissive treatment of Newark is one of the primary reasons I founded this site.

The latest illustration of this tendency comes courtesy of a Bloomberg BusinessWeek article about Newark entitled “Baraka Faces Newark’s Challenges in Post-Booker Era.” Embedded in the story is a photograph that depicts the north side of Market Street between Mulberry Street and Broad Street downtown.

market street_bloomberg

The caption: “Downtown, dollar stores and small businesses dominate commercial corridors. Along Market Street vacant storefronts and ‘for lease’ signs are commonplace.” (Emphasis added.)  The photograph and caption are embedded adjacent to a section of the story entitled “Impoverished Community.”

Well it turns out that if the reporter had simply made a quarter turn to the left to get the shot, we would have seen a very different view of that drag of Market Street:

market street development

What’s pictured above are the fruits of a surge in Market Street development that is unfolding directly across the street from the published photograph. In the photo above are the popular restaurant Dinosaur Barbecue; The Columbian, a 22-unit luxury loft apartment building that once sported a lengthy waiting list; The Madison, a second, 48-unit luxury loft apartment building that recently enjoyed its ribbon-cutting; a brand new Chipotle; and the soon-to-open Krauszer’s convenience store, Novelty Burger, Redd’s beer garden (which will be a bilevel, 7,000 square foot space), and brick oven pizza restaurant Mercato Tomato Pie.

It is the construction and “coming soon” signs dotting the block – not “for lease” signs and dollar stores – that have the momentum and are the story on that drag of Market Street. I’ll venture that even a mildly discerning eye could see that.

Reporters: I know it’s not your job to promote Newark. But this city is complicated, fascinating, and textured, and we deserve reporting that doesn’t sand that down.



Open Doors 2014: Panel of women artists and curators to offer insights about making a successful art career

A panel of women artists and curators will offer their experience, insights and tips about how to make a successful career in the art world during this year's Open Doors art festival here in Newark. The panel, which will take place on Friday, October 10, at Seed Gallery, will feature Kristin Sancken of House of Nobleman, Lorna Williams of Dodge Gallery, Suzi Analogue of Never Normal Records, and Jahnia Holterhoff of Staple Design. 

Peter Hadar, whose multimedia marketing and branding agency the Honors Program is producing the event, will be performing at its after party along with Suzi Analogue, Cachabacha, and Asha. The event is one of a plethora the Honors Program has brought to Newark recently, including a summer music festival at Military Park and an upcoming music series at Taste Venue.

BrickCityLive publisher Andaiye Taylor will be moderating the panel.

Brush: Women in Arts panel | Seed Gallery | 210 Market Street, Newark, NJ | Panel: 6 p.m. – 8 p.m. | After Party: 8 p.m. – 11 p.m. | $10 General Admission

brush art panel

Live from the Prudential Center: Highlights from Oprah’s Life You Want Weekend in Newark

The eight-city “Oprah’s The Life You Want” arena tour made its two-day stop at Newark's Prudential Center yesterday, and thousands of people streamed in from the tri-state area and points further to spend two hours with Oprah Winfrey on Friday night, and eight hours with her team of "Trailblazers" – Iyanla Vanzant, life coach and star of OWN’s hit series “Iyanla Fix My Life"; Elizabeth Gilbert, best-selling author of Eat Pray Love; Paster Rob Bell, who was named one of Time 100’s Most Influential people; Mark Nepo, spiritual writer and philosopher – on Saturday.

Here are highlights and takeaways from some of the events' thousands of participants.

Dear Ras Baraka: An open letter from a Baraka voter

by Halashon Sianipar

Dear Ras Baraka,

Congratulations on getting elected. I voted for you and I don't regret it — yet. I have high hopes for Newark with you as mayor.

Your administration has made a point of encouraging residents’ input and participation, and that has motivated me to respond with this open letter. I’ve had the opportunity to meet you several times, but have never introduced myself. (I’ve heard you're an introvert. I am too.) After those encounters where I've said nothing, I thought writing this letter would be a more fruitful approach.

I was pretty engrossed with this election; this was the most I’ve ever followed a political race. For years, I was apathetic when it came to politics, but as I've gotten older I've grown to understand how it affects so many aspects of my life: job, health, bills, housing, education – everything. I’ve been trying to pay attention, especially on the local level. For this race, I read all the policy papers and attended a few of the mayoral debates. I also followed it closely in the press. But the more I paid attention, the less I felt like I knew the candidates.

Voting is hard. Honestly, I wasn’t 100% sure who I was voting for until I stepped into the booth and pressed that button. Ultimately, my choice came down to presentation, and I was particularly drawn to your message of collectivism. On one occasion I heard you say, “Leadership is born of time, not ambition.” That really stuck with me.

Based on your post-election moves, I believe you're trying to back up your words of inclusion and collaboration with action. I was impressed with your comprehensive all-volunteer transition team. I even got to interact with a few of them at the community forum in my ward. At mine, we were grouped at tables, answered a set of questions individually, and then discussed our answers as a group. Each table then nominated a speaker to share our conclusions with the room. I can tell you're an educator.

During the campaign, I saw education as your strong suit. I’m convinced the community consensus on Cami Anderson is that she is an ineffective leader. No matter how good her intentions are (and I realize that is debatable as well), she’s failed to be open, transparent, or understanding. Your sustained opposition to One Newark drew me into your camp.

But in spite of my feelings about Anderson, I thought it was fair of Shavar Jeffries to meet with her. There is a sizeable population of Newarkers – several of my friends are among them – that support charter schools, and I didn’t think you sufficiently addressed them. What is your stance? Are you against charter schools? Are you for closing them? What are your thoughts on co-location?

You said we could strengthen our opposition to One Newark by presenting an alternative that included community input. On the 60th anniversary of Brown vs. Board of Education, you endorsed the Newark Promise education plan. Once I read it, I found myself agreeing with everything in it. I love the idea of neighborhood schools being “community hubs” where one can walk in with an issue, at any stage of life, at anytime of day, and explore solutions. That’s beautiful. The plan includes nutritional services, job training, childcare, health care, recreation, social services — the list goes on. Instead of a goal of “100 excellent schools”, Newark Promise aims for “excellent neighborhood schools for all.”

But in spite of my satisfaction with what was in the plan, I thought a proper discussion of charter schools was missing once again – the plan only said that they would be “assessed”. And there weren’t any specifics about how the plan would be funded. Perhaps that level of detail is for another paper, but it would have made the plan feel more tangible.

I also wasn’t as impressed with your crime prevention strategies. I applaud you for working to address violence as a public health issue, and for embracing the federal monitor of the police department, citing the need for reform. I read in the paper that you’re working to put more cops on the street, and have them engage with residents through community policing. Hopefully these kinds of changes can help improve community relations. I’m not very convinced, though.

In your crime plan, I was disappointed to see that you cited anti-loitering laws as among your successes. I think this is particularly baffling since you also want Newark to be an international destination. What would Times Square be without all the people milling around and taking pictures? What would Newark’s reinvented Military Park be without all the people playing and relaxing?

That is what makes a space feel vibrant. Walking down a dark, empty street makes a city feel less safe. The key is to create more active spaces, not less. Society’s perception of loitering is largely, if not entirely, based on the race and/or class of the accused. I was confused that you celebrated policies that, to my mind, encourage profiling.

I also remember when you introduced an ordinance to require small businesses (that catered to fewer than 20 people) to either hire armed guards or close early. Again, this policy can result in one less active space on a street, one less reason to walk or bike home, one less reason to even leave the house. I understand that some of the businesses in our community may look run down or sell unhealthy goods, and that may not be the kind of active space we want to encourage. How about some alternatives? Instead of restrictions, create incentives for them to change their menus or upgrade their appearance. Offer training. Encourage the creation of cooperatives that add value to the community. That sounds more like the vision you have for Newark.

I read in the press about Newark partnering with neighboring cities, and I think it’s a great idea. One article said crime would be the initial focus of those partnerships, but also mentioned plans for other shared services and inter-city engagement between organizations, agencies, and residents. It made me think of the international alliance BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa), and the way they’re working collaboratively to counter Western dominance.

I think this initiative has the potential to similarly strengthen urban New Jersey’s political and economic position, and I look forward to seeing it develop. Much like the developing world, urban communities are often forced to look for quick fixes or take whatever aid or development they can get. They often end up fighting over the same investments, which weakens their ability to secure favorable deals. By pooling resources together in a model like BRICS, cities could support each other’s projects and work on more sustainable solutions.

Perhaps a regional master plan could be created to highlight and build upon the strengths of each city. I’ve heard you talk about land banks before. Maybe a multi-city land bank could be beneficial. You also mentioned inter-city basketball games. Maybe that engagement can be developed into multi-city campaigns and standards for affordable housing, living wages, public education, Ban the Box, and more.

I’m no political scientist. I’m no economist. I wasn’t born or raised in Newark. I’m just a resident that loves this city and felt like I should put this out in the atmosphere. I’m Jersey to the core, so I've always considered Newark “The City” — and my city. And I’m grateful for the opportunities I’ve been given, including writing this open letter to you in this forum, to deepen my engagement and investment here.

Maybe next time I'll introduce myself.


P.S. Are you really changing the name of Brick City Development Corporation? I think it's kind of corny that you don't like the name "Brick City." I'm all for cities having multiple nicknames, though.

P.P.S. I first read about you years ago on and he called you “Hip Hop’s First Mayor.” I was just starting to pay attention to politics and that convinced me to attend the National Hip Hop Political Convention here in 2004. Now you’re the “mayor” mayor, but I don't hear you talk about hip-hop anymore. In the article “5 Things You Might Not Know About Ras Baraka”, you spoke about jazz and soul music. What hip-hop do you still bump?

Do you want to pen a letter to the mayor, or sound off on other issues about Newark? Send your perspectives – short or long – to

Brick City Gladiators rejoice: Newark’s Taste Venue to host ‘Scandal’ premiere viewing party

After a summer of wondering just where Olivia Pope was headed on that plane, "Scandal" fans will get some answers tonight as the show premieres on ABC at 9 p.m. And now Newark-area fans can enjoy the drama – widely heralded for its ability to produce reams of social media chatter – in the company of other "Gladiators": Taste Venue will be hosting a watch party tonight in its Suite53 lounge, including a happy hour to start at 6 p.m.

Taste Venue | 47 Edison Place | Newark, NJ

Acclaimed nanotechnology expert and researcher Somenath Mitra to receive seventh annual NJIT Board of Overseers Excellence in Research prize and medal

NJIT Distinguished Professor Somenath Mitra, Ph.D., whose pioneering research has spanned a spectrum of applications for carbon nanotechnology that address critical quality-of-life issues, will receive the seventh annual Board of Overseers Excellence in Research Prize and Medal on October 2.

Dr. Mitra has been instrumental in developing technology for photovoltaic cells — solar cells — that can be output on home-based inkjet printers to provide household power when exposed to the sun. Through nanotube technology, he has also advanced the development of sensors that could be used for continuous real-time monitoring of organic contaminants in air and water.

And Dr. Yeheskel Bar-Ness, Distinguished Professor Emeritus of Electrical and Computer Engineering, will receive the second annual Board of Overseers Excellence in Research Lifetime Achievement Award in recognition of his long and distinguished career and for his substantial and notable research contributions to industry and academia. A prominent expert in wireless communications and signal processing for more than four decades, Dr. Bar-Ness directs The Elisha Yegal Bar-Ness Center for Wireless Communications and Signal Processing Research at NJIT, which has long been in the forefront of wireless technology.

“The purpose of the Excellence in Research Prize and Medal is to elevate the image of research on campus and in the community,” said Philip Rinaldi, chief executive officer of Philadelphia Energy Solutions and chair of the NJIT Board of Overseers. “As an alumnus and chair of the NJIT Board of Overseers, I am deeply honored to share in special recognition of the talent and dedication that continues to build our university’s stature worldwide.”

The award ceremony and premiere of research video profiles of Dr. Mitra and Dr. Bar-Ness will be streamed live October 2nd at 5:30 p.m.

The NJIT Board of Overseers is comprised of prominent volunteer alumni and friends of the university, as well as key administrators, including President Joel S. Bloom. It is the governing body for the Foundation at NJIT – the university’s fundraising arm – and has a joint fiduciary responsibility with the Board of Trustees for stewarding and developing NJIT’s endowment. Additionally, the board has initiated activities and events that increase NJIT’s visibility and prestige. These initiatives include establishing the Overseers Excellence in Research Prize and Medal, which was first presented in 2008.

Newark in Verse: Corner Store Classic by Myk Dyaleks

Corner Store Classic

by Myk Dyaleks

Hey Papi!
Let me get a corner store classic
Hot pastrami & cheese, lettuce, onion, tomato, no mayo mustard please!
Hey where's Tony?
Where's the rows of low priced foods and products
Twenty-five cent chips chocked full of preservatives,
Fifty cent sodas, which are as advertised
"Cheap & Cold"
The sugar count is seven grams higher than it's name brand counterpart.
But it's still good with a corner store classic!
Hot pastrami & cheese, lettuce, onion, tomato, no mayo, mustard please!
See Shop Rite doesn't have seventy-five cent flavor-aid.
Now & Laters, Frunas, Mike & Ikes, or Rap Snacks.
They won't take five now and the rest later.
They don't know my middle name is Pablo at Pathmark.
I didn't have my first job there after being caught stealing quarter cakes,
The Walmart woulda called the police,
He called my mother!
I knew better,
Though I acted like we were not acquainted.
Tony taught me how to make
Corner Store Classic,
Hot pastrami & cheese, lettuce, onion, tomato, no mayo mustard please!
Why do I keep repeating the ingredients?
I want you to think about how simple happiness is.
How quickly a child's hard day can disappear into Big Business.
Listen gents, before you try to facilitate your fiction,
Placate me with your diction,
Understand that I am very aware of your plans,
Regardless of your change of it's moniker
Gentrification is the name we know it as.
I believe you call it "Progress".
I believe it's the perspective driven by the viewer,
Like 50 shots center mass to an unarmed man is reasonable fire.
Or the acquittal of barbarianism by a jury of one is due process.
No! Please don't disregard my lack of discipline towards the correct diet to mean I'm blind to the Cellophane mask you disguise your "enterprise" in.
I'm fully aware of the fact you want to change the face of my city from mulatto to pure blood caucazoid!
Trust me, I've studied your movements since Prince Street collapsed.
Black owned is becoming black foreclosed
Doors closed never to re-open
Cornerstones of our structure destroyed,
And you…you wait to clear the debris and turn our memories into franchise.
Disregarding our loyalty to our people and knowing we'd sell our brother's back into slavery for the right monetary standard.
Damn Devils!
Pirates, ravaging our fractured eco-structure,
To socially make a clean break between us and our zip code.
I see your ploys, I don't believe in action without motivation.
No, I will not trade my 108 for Foot Locker,
I will not trade my neighborhood library
For Barnes & Noble,
Your Borders do not contain the works of contemporary artists who are not on Amazon.
I will not trade my corner store classic
For Quiznos,
Not when the answers are yes.
Yes, we need to save our community
Yes, we need travel in packs like hungry wolves till these pigs take the beam off our backs.
Yes, send our children to public schools and demand they be taught to excel as opposed to survive.
So you go ahead chief…you and your brief case.
Three piece suit, wingtips, and slacked jaw at the fact that all of us are not asleep or mentally stripped raw like an open wound.
I'll still come through those doors screaming,
"Hey Papi,
Let me get a corner store classic,
Hot pastrami & cheese, lettuce, onion, tomato, no mayo mustard please!
And give them the finger when they ask me,
"Would you like a scone with that latte?"

More from Myk Dyaleks:


It’s Sharpe James versus Joseph DiVincenzo on…the tennis court?

This Saturday, September 27, the Weequahic Park Sports Authority will host a "Tennis Family Fun Day" at the park near the Elizabeth Avenue and Lyons Avenue entrance. A flyer touting the event, which will run from 3pm to 6pm, also teases a "special contest" between former Newark mayor Sharpe James and Essex County Executive Joseph DiVincenzo, Jr.

tennis fun day

“Sanctuary” series to feature month-long event schedule celebrating the LGBT Newark club, ballroom, and party scenes

Rutgers University-Newark’s Queer Newark Oral History Project has partnered with Yendor Productions to present “Sanctuary:  A History of Queer Club Spaces in Newark,” a free series of art, literary and historical events this October.

The events will begin with an art exhibit on the theme of club space as sanctuary, opening on October 11, from 7:00 to 10:00 p.m., at 765 Broad Street, 7th floor.  

Next, Rutgers University-Newark’s Paul Robeson Center will host “Out in Newark!  Queer Club Spaces as Sanctuary,” on Thursday, October 16, from 7:00 to 9:00 p.m. Promoters, performers and participants from Club Zanzibar, the House of Jourdain, Bliss Entertainment, Ms. Theresa Productions, and other legendary and contemporary Newark-based LGBT and LGBT-influenced performance and party spaces will discuss the worlds they made inside their clubs, the care they took of one another during tragedies including the AIDS crisis, and the impact that their creativity had on larger national trends of music, fashion, dance, and generational self-expression.

On Friday, October 17, “Sanctuary” presents spoken word performers, including both youth and established poets, who will perform at the Broad Street exhibit space at 7:00 p.m.

Then on Sunday, October 19, “Sanctuary” will host a Tea Party, a special film screening and panel discussion, in conjunction with the GET DOWN Campaign’s No More Stigma Film Series, from 3:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. also at the Broad Street exhibit space. “Sanctuary” will culminate with “Fire and Ice: The FireBall Returns,” featuring lip-synching, dance, and live performance. The FireBall will be held at the Robert Treat Hotel on Saturday, Oct. 25, from 5:30 p.m. to 3:00 a.m., and will be a benefit for Newark’s LGBT Community Center.  

“’Sanctuary: A History of Queer Club Spaces in Newark’ exemplifies the Queer Newark Oral History Project’s ongoing efforts to enable public, intergenerational discussions of LGBT life in Newark,” said Prof. Beryl Satter of the Federated Department of History at Rutgers-Newark. “Our city’s clubs, bars, parties, discos, and ballroom houses have long been sites of LGBT solidarity and sustenance. ‘Sanctuary’ honors this history by using the story of queer club spaces to uncover and celebrate the remarkable resilience, caring and creativity of queer Newark residents.” 

According to Rodney Gilbert of Yendor Productions, “The Sanctuary events of October 2014 will be the beginning of an outreach to LGBT people and their supporters in every ward in Newark.  We are an integral part of this city’s cultural fabric and we always have been.  ‘Sanctuary’ gives proof of that fact.  We need to show the truth of our past in order to have an inclusive and enriching future for all people in Newark.”

Coalition seeks voter support to help keep New Jersey green with “yes” vote on Question 2

Keep the Garden in the Garden State” was the message when the NJ Keep It Green Coalition kicked off its campaign to urge New Jersey voters to support Public Question 2 on the November 4 ballot with a "yes" vote at an event hosted by Greater Newark Conservancy at its Prudential Outdoor Learning Center in Newark. The Coalition includes more than 185 park and conservation organizations working to create a long-term, dedicated source of funding for the preservation and stewardship of New Jersey’s natural areas, waterways, parks, farmland and historic sites.

Senators Bob Smith and Christopher “Kip” Bateman and assemblyman John McKeon, bipartisan sponsors of the legislation, were joined by Senator Tom Kean, Jr., Essex County Executive Joe DiVincenzo, a long list of environmental organization representatives, Conservancy staff, student interns and Newark residents to urge voter support.

Public Question 2 asks voters to dedicate existing state funds to protect clean water and ensure that future generations continue to have access to parks, open spaces, farmland and historic treasures. The funding will replenish the now-depleted Green Acres, Blue Acres, farmland and historic preservation programs, and continue funding to improve water quality, remove and clean up underground storage tanks and clean up polluted sites.

“Through programs such as Green and Blue Acres, farmland preservation and historic preservation the state has been able to set aside hundreds of thousands of acres of land for the public’s well-being and enjoyment, but tremendous needs remain,” Senator Smith stated. “It is imperative to vote yes on November 4 to protect the state’s drinking water and last remaining open spaces for the health of our communities and future generations.”

Robin Dougherty, Greater Newark Conservancy’s Executive Director, pointed out that Public Question 2 is as important for urban cities like Newark as it is for suburban and rural communities statewide. “There is clearly a demand for more parks and open spaces in cities like Newark,” said Dougherty. “Since 2004 when we first opened the Prudential Outdoor Learning Center, more than 30,000 local schoolchildren have experienced the wonder of the natural world through educational field trips to our Center, which was made possible in part by Green Acres funding.”

Greater Newark Conservancy provides a range of programming at the Center throughout the year, and is a participant in the Newark Youth Leadership Program (NYLP), providing Newark high school and college youth with job training experience, leadership development, exposure to different career options in environmental and horticultural fields and opportunities for pursuing a college education. At the kickoff event, students in the NYLP program provided tours of the Center and staffed a farm stand with Newark Fresh produce for sale grown on urban farms the Conservancy manages in the City.

Supporters say Public Question 2 will ensure stable funding for the preservation and care of open space, parks, farmland, historic sites and flood-prone areas by reallocating 4 percent of existing corporate business tax revenues that are already dedicated to environmental programs through fiscal year 2019, and dedicating an additional 2 percent of existing corporate business tax revenues from fiscal year 2020 going forward.

Open space, farmland and historic preservation programs received an average of $200 million annually under the 1998 Garden State Preservation Trust. Under the ballot question, preservation programs would receive approximately $71 million annually for the first four years, and then $117 million annually thereafter, providing reduced but critical baseline funding without raising taxes. In addition, approximately $30 million annually will be provided for programs to improve water quality, remove underground storage tanks before they leak and clean up polluted sites.

Additionally, for the first time ever, a provision for stewardship is included that will require some funds to go toward helping take better care of the parks and natural areas New Jersey already has. It will fund repairs, restoration and improvements to parks, natural areas and lakes, rivers and streams across New Jersey, which the ballot question's supporters say will make it easier for the public to visit and enjoy them.

“I was proud to sponsor this measure and urge my fellow citizens to vote yes for Public Question 2 on November 4,” concluded Assemblyman McKeon. “This funding is a necessary investment in our quality of life as well as our economy, as studies show that every $1 invested in state preservation programs returns $10 in economic value.”