Newark-based Independence: A Family of Services is taking on some of the toughest issues our city faces. Here’s how.

givenewarkIndependence: A Family of Services launched as Independence High School in 1971. Now the nonprofit works to create the pathways to success for at-risk and troubled youth and families through innovative programs and services in urban New Jersey. CEO Margaret Woods walks us through the organizations overall mission, plus its specific objectives over the next few years. Independence is one of five Newark nonprofits participating in the GAIN collective.

Andaiye Taylor: What is the primary objective of Independence: A Family of Services?

Margaret Woods: Since 1971, Independence: A Family of Services (IFS) has been at the forefront of working with youth struggling with educational and behavioral issues caused by poverty and unstable homes. Almost all of the youth and families population we serve are from single-parent households, and in foster care or residential programs. They are predominately between the ages of 16 and 18 and over 85% reside in Newark.

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

Woods: IFS provide the social services component for the Newark Violence Reduction Initiative aims to reduce Newark’s gang-related shootings by 25 to 30 percent, laying the groundwork for further positive change. Using an innovative approach that has cut urban crime rates across the country, this program is in partnership with IFS, the City of Newark, Newark Police Department, and Rutgers–Newark’s School of Criminal Justice (with support from the Schumann Foundation) is designed to “reconfigure” the street norms.

Specifically, at IFS works with gang members who have been convicted, charged, arrested, or identified as individuals who have committed a crime involving the use of a firearm, are associated with those who have committed these crimes, or are deemed as having the potential of committing these crimes.

The initiative requires all of the participating partners — IFS, police and prosecutors — to focus on the small number of lawbreakers responsible for some of the most violent crimes. In Newark, that’s 1,470 people, less than 1 percent of the city’s 277,000 residents.

Data collected for the project show that, in 2009–10, this tiny fraction of Newark’s population was behind the violence in 73 crime hot spots that cover less than 9 percent of the city’s square mileage—but account for half its shootings.

To reach this group, police and prosecutors summon gang members to a neighborhood meeting and deliver a firm message: the violence must stop, or the whole group—not just the individuals involved in the latest encounter—will face intense scrutiny. Then community members speak, condemning violence and encouraging gang members to choose using a variety of social services to access education, job training, and drug treatment.


Taylor: Ensuring that such social services are readily available to these gang members or anyone who wants them is a key element of the initiative and IFS is the lead partner providing these critical services.

Woods: Focused policing ensures that the cost of violence outweighs its perceived benefits; community pressure makes positive alternatives more attractive and appeals to gang members’ moral sense that it’s inherently wrong to be picking up guns and shooting people. This carrot-and-stick approach reduces crime without filling prisons. By targeting lawbreakers, the model also avoids antagonizing law-abiding citizens with heavy-handed police tactics that treat everyone as a suspect.

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

Woods: IFS uses best practices providing tools and services for gang members to recover from past emotional and psychological trauma related to living in stigmatizing environments (abusive families, underachieving schools or lack of access to productive activities). IFS works hard to create the right course of action for each gang member by breaking the generational cycle of dependency on government assistance, teaching them to be self-sufficient, and live productive lives.

The road to this goal is complex, but achievable, given the right resources and dedication by adults who care (IFS staff). The IFS outreach team coordinates services, and provides case management and supervision of each youth. Although a portion of the team’s time is used to connect with the communities and residents where the youth reside, they also work one-on-one with each youth to ensure progress is made with their plans for a better life.

In addition, IFS coordinates alternative activities to keep youth focused on the life-changing goals such as job training and placement, housing assistance, and participating in sports or recreational activities. In addition, each youth receives referrals for additional resources as needed.

Because of its successful work with NVRI, IFS was selected by PSEG Foundation to provide these services to youth 16 and younger who are involved in violent activities in Newark.

Taylor: If someone supports Independence’s mission but doesn’t have a lot of money to give, what are some meaningful ways they can contribute?

Woods: IFS has many opportunities for volunteering (after passing a background check since they would work with minors) but one of the best ways to support IFS is to spread the word about our organization. Volunteers may help organize clothing (for young adults and teens) and book drives (for children ages 0-11 years old). They can contact Celeste Moore to discuss volunteer opportunities, at 973-372-5601.

What Newark’s Aljira gallery is doing to continue incubating artist careers in town, 30 years after its grassroots founding

givenewarkAljira, A Center for Contemporary Art was founded more than 30 years ago by a group of young artists here in Newark. Since that time, the gallery has helped dozens of artists form their careers by exhibiting their work and, through their Emerge program, has provided artist business training as well. Aljira has also turned itself into a bona fide cultural space by hosting events in the performing arts.

Executive Director Victor Davson discusses what’s at stake for Newark in Aljira’s continued success, and why community-based support is necessary now than ever before. Aljira is a member of the GAIN collective, and will be hosting a free kickoff party at the gallery on #GivingTuesday, December 1st. (RSVP)

Andaiye Taylor: What is Aljira’s primary objective, and what is distinctive about Aljira’s approach to art and arts programming in Newark?

Something in the Way of Things by Michael Paul Britto

Something in the Way of Things by Michael Paul Britto

Victor Davson: Aljira is a nonprofit organization, co-founded over 30 years ago by a group of young artists in search of inexpensive work space. It evolved as an alternative space in the 80’s presenting memorable, innovative exhibitions, educational programs and artists’ talks by both celebrated and under-recognized artists. The Aljira Fine Art Auction attracts patrons and art collectors whose purchases of cutting-edge paintings, sculpture, drawings and prints by artists from diverse backgrounds provide earned revenues to support our programs for the public.

As many as 150 to 200 artists benefit from opportunities to present their work in solo and group exhibitions throughout the year. Aljira also fulfills its public mission by bringing to Newark exhibitions and programs that the community would not otherwise have access to, and draws a network of supporters and donors from the surrounding communities into Newark’s downtown arts district.

The New Jersey State Council on the Arts has designated Aljira a Major Arts Institution for nine consecutive years since 2006. Also, Aljira is the only organization in the state of New Jersey invited to participate in the national Warhol Foundation Initiative during the initiative’s history.

Our current exhibitions, curated by visiting curator Dexter Wimberly, feature insightful works by artists Michael Paul Britto and Tom Nussbaum. Aljira regards its work as a modest but solid contribution to Newark as the city gathers its strength to accomplish the profound rejuvenation already underway.

Taylor: What is at stake in Aljira fulfilling its mission?

Davson: Small to mid-size non-profit institutions like Aljira, which give Newark a distinctive profile, are experiencing a decline in funding from stakeholder grantmakers such as Prudential — grantmakers who support excellence in their community — who have announced they will only fund major art institutions and programs like the Newark Museum, New Jersey Symphony Orchestra, and the New Jersey Performing Arts Center. As a result, smaller institutions like ours, already woefully underfunded, must work creatively and collectively to use opportunities like #GivingTuesday to advocate for the arts.

Aljira’s professional development programs have supported the work and careers of artists, helping them to thrive and become successful by teaching them to be entrepreneurial and develop clear financial objectives and goals.

As a destination in Newark’s downtown arts district, Aljira welcomes over three thousand visitors locally and throughout the tri-state area each year.

aljira events wembly

Taylor: What are some initiatives that Aljira has been involved in through its long history that have made a difference in Newark?

Davson: One of the most successful Aljira programs has been Emerge, a career development and exhibition program started in 1999 for emerging artists. Graduates of the program include some of the best and brightest artists, curators, and art professionals working in the field today. Under the tutelage of experienced professionals, Emerge fellows learn how to manage their careers and develop a personal multi-year plan.

Over the years, the program has provided artists with the resources to overcome obstacles, focus on goals, and move forward in their creative practice. Emerge addresses practical areas of concern to artists, such as legal and financial issues, gallery representation, exhibition and public art opportunities, and marketing. The program has positively impacted the careers of over 240 fellows since its inception.

Last year, Aljira also had a major survey exhibition, “Aljira at 30: Dream and Reality” at the New Jersey State Museum curated by Margaret O’Reilly, Director of Fine Arts. The exhibition was a lively historical overview which celebrated Aljira’s 30th anniversary and included work by a representative selection of artists from the hundreds who have passed through and made Aljira the vital, far-reaching enterprise it has become. It included ephemera which told the story of the Aljira’s evolution decade by decade, and artworks by 41 of the roughly 1,800 artists and cultural workers affiliated with Aljira over the years, all of whose names were featured on a special wall of names.

Victor Davson poses in front of an Aljira 30th anniversary banner.

Victor Davson poses in front of an Aljira 30th anniversary banner.

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

Davson: Our public programming has recently expanded to include free performances by dance companies, such as Nai-Ni Chen and Carolyn Dorfman. In 2015 and 2016, master musician Oliver Lake is curating a jazz series at Aljira, and founding director of The Dodge Poetry Festival, Jim Haba, is organizing readings and workshops by a roster of emerging and renowned poets. In partnership with organizations such as La Casa de Don Pedro, #GivingTuesday contributions to Aljira will also help support upcoming arts enrichment initiatives we are planning for Newark youth.

Taylor: If someone supports Aljira’s mission but doesn’t have a lot of money to give, what are some meaningful ways they can contribute?

Davson: There’s always a way to support Aljira, even for those who don’t have money to give. Attend Aljira’s exhibitions and programs with a young person to expose them to the arts, sign up to become an Aljira ambassador, or volunteer your time or services. We also offer internships to college and university students who acquire a range of practical arts and management skills. You can also support us through sharing our information with your networks and friends.

No amount is too small. Donations to Aljira can be made at the GAIN-Newark #GivingTuesday kick-off celebration at Aljira on December 1st from 6 to 8 p.m., or online at (RSVP for the free celebration on Eventbrite.)

Newark Business Hub Program introduces itself with slick introductory video and issues a call for applicants (video)

Read to apply? Applications are due Friday, December 18th.

opportunities cardIn a new two-and-a-half minute video, the soon-to-launch Newark Business Hub, to run out of Rutgers Business School’s Center for Urban Entrepreneurship & Economic Development (CUEED), makes its formal pitch to prospective program fellows for why they should join the program for early-stage businesses. The video features a dozen Newark entrepreneurs and creatives.

The Hub program, a brainchild of Femworks CEO Kimberlee Williams, is meant to help upstart creative entrepreneurs in Newark and the surrounding area strengthen and expand their ventures, position themselves to take advantage of local, national, and international markets and, in the process, eventually become economic engines in their own right. (CUEED is lead by Lyneir Richardson, former CEO of Brick City Development Corporation, which has since been renamed the Newark Community Economic Development Corporation).

The core thesis of the Hub program: that while talent and scrappiness are keys to starting up for creative business, it takes business acumen, planning, resources, and networks in order for those businesses to grow and sustain themselves. Another core principle is that while grassroots entrepreneurial energy and activity is bubbling up in the city on its own, creative entrepreneurs would be well-served to leverage Newark’s current strategic position to get scale for themselves and create an ecosystem of independent ventures that generate jobs and help develop the local economy.

jeff billingsly

Cobblestone Multimedia CEO Jeff Billingsly in a screengrab from Newark Media Hub’s introductory video.

The video itself was produced by LeRon Lee for Cobblestone Multimedia, a Newark-based production company founded by Jeff Billingsly, who is also one of the program’s four entrepreneurs-in-residence (EIRs). The clip features both aerial and on-the-ground shots of downtown Newark; longer-form biographies of Williams, Billingsly, photographer and Femworks Chief Operating Officer Tamara Fleming, and musician and The Honors Program creative director Peter Winstead, Jr., all EIRs; plus footage of a handful of other Newark-based entrepreneurs and artists (including the author).

Appropriately, the saxophone riff from Queen Latifah’s song U.N.I.T.Y. loops in the background as city entrepreneurs and creatives pose in various locations downtown: in Lincoln Park; on Broad, Market and Halsey Streets; at Military Park and Riverfront Parks; at The Gateway Project; and at Skylab rooftop lounge.

Newark Business Hub graphic featuring the program's four Entrepreneurs-in-Residence. Fellowship applications are open through December 19th.

Newark Business Hub graphic featuring the program’s four Entrepreneurs-in-Residence. Fellowship applications are open through December 18th.

The program is open to early-stage entrepreneurs in creative fields — namely music, film, news, fine arts, and creative services — whose businesses have been formally registered and operating for at least one year.  Up to 20 entrepreneurs will eventually be accepted into the program after completing a written application, due Friday, December 18th, and completing a telephone interview if invited to do so.

Program fellows will have access to a number of capacity-building services, including executive education, mentorship, access to state of the art facilities and equipment at the “Express Newark” space to launch in the Hahne’s building, networking, professional services, business planning, and student talent, among other resources.

Prospective fellows and others interested in the program can join a live video chat on Wednesday, November 25th at 4 p.m. The program will also host the invite-only Newark Business Hub Live Session at The Gateway Project on Thursday, December 3rd at 4 p.m.

Watch the full video below.

Learn more about the Newark Business Hub on its website, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

la casa ladies

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

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

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

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

la casa kids read

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

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

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

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

Why Invest In La Casa_111615_V2

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

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

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

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

Another way to contribute in a meaningful way is to establish an affinity group. If you have like-minded colleagues who want to contribute to a greater cause, together, a group of people can be so much more impactful. Contact us at or 973.482.8312, and we’d be happy to arrange a tour and discuss different ways to get involved. is GAIN’s media sponsor for #GivingTuesday. To attend GAIN’s free community event at Aljira on Tuesday, December 2nd, RSVP on Eventbrite

Learn more about La Casa at, and donate to La Casa or other members of the GAIN collaborative at


Newark non-profits band together to make local giving easier, and local businesses join in to help

givenewarkFive top-tier Newark non-profits representing a cross-section of causes have come together to make giving back to the city a lot easier for community members and local businesses.

Aljira, A Center for Community Art, Greater Newark Conservancy, Independence: A Family of Service, Inc., La Casa de Don Pedro, and Newark Gay Pride have formed GAIN, which stands for Giving And Inspiring Newark. The organizations will officially launch on Giving Tuesday, December 1st this year, with a free community celebration at Aljira’s art gallery, located at 591 Broad Street, from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m (RSVP for the free event here).

To kick off the partnership, the collective has enlisted help from three restaurants in Newark that are recognized as “Give and GAIN partners”: Chipotle Mexican Grill and Hotel Indigo’s Skylab lounge and Alva Tavern restaurant will donate proceeds from sales on Giving Tuesday to the GAIN organizations. Chipotle has committed half of all proceeds from sales rung up between 4:30 and 8 p.m. (patrons are asked to show this flyer, or simply tell their cashier that they’re supporting GAIN), and both Skylab and Alva Tavern will donate 10 percent of sales rung up between 9 p.m. and midnight, and ordered from a special GAIN menu.

The Hotel Indigo establishments will also be hosting an after party for the community celebration from 9 p.m. until midnight.

Taken together, the five GAIN non-profits touch more than a quarter of Newark residents, and represent more than 150 years of collective service to the community.

To learn more about GAIN, visit their website at is a GAIN media sponsor.

Highlights from NJPAC’s fourth annual TD James Moody Jazz Festival

Pictured above: Sharon Jones sings with The Dap-Kings in “Jazz, Soul & Funk.” (Photo by Laura DiMeo)

entertainment cardTo a certain extent, organizers of NJPAC’s fourth annual TD James Moody Jazz Festival know how show-stopping moments will play out, but have no way of predicting the impromptu encounters that crop up when longtime jazz colleagues, friends and fans cross paths on stage or along Sarah Vaughan Way in front of the building.

As President and CEO John Schreiber put it, in an homage to Duke Ellington, fortune smiles on “being at the right place at the right time, doing the right things with the right people.”

Schreiber himself was part of an unbilled quartet that was seen frequently and in all the right places from Nov. 4-15. His mates included jazz aficionado Nick Miceli, Market President of TD Bank, the festival’s title sponsor; Linda Moody, widow of the famed Newark saxophonist for whom the festival is named; and NJPAC Jazz Advisor and Grammy-winning bassist Christian McBride, whose duties took him on stage and behind the scenes. (Even busy NJPAC staffers will go out of their way to listen in when he conducts a master class at the free family event, Day of Swing, this year commemorating the Billie Holiday centennial.)

And not all of these reunions and special interactions among artists and their supporters occurred in front of audiences. Here are some instances of karma that could only happen at Moodyfest:

  • Following the festival’s opener of the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra, the orchestra’s trumpeter and Artistic Director, Wynton Marsalis, as well as most of his musicians, met backstage with a group of jazz students to talk about artistic values like camaraderie and work ethics. “He gave the kids a life lesson they’ll never forget,” says Miceli, who observed the session.
  • Two powerful vocalists, Dianne Reeves and Sharon Jones and The Dap-Kings, were booked together for a Jazz, Soul & Funk concert on Nov. 14, where the unstoppable Jones strutted around the Prudential Hall stage while belting “New Shoes.” Setting a wistful tone, Reeves sang “Beautiful” in solidarity with a stricken Paris, while audience members held up their phone torches.
  • Newark’s Bethany Baptist Church, where the Rev. Dr. M. William Howard, Jr. spreads the good word on jazz for NJPAC by hosting a free concert each year, welcomed the Oliver Lake Organ Quartet on Nov. 7. Lake, on alto saxophone, performed a selection of original compositions such as “Move Groove,” which incorporates his spoken word remembrance of the late Newark poet Amiri Baraka. The quartet’s appearance ended on a note of praise with the rousing “I Want Jesus to Walk with Me.”
  • The first of three special events at NJPAC this season to celebrate Frank Sinatra’s centennial, The Real Sinatra Songbook showcased tunes written or commissioned by the Chairman of the Board, sung masterly by Kevin Mahogany, Sue Raney and Tom Wopat. But three members of the sextet also lent their voices to the occasion: Music Director Ken Peplowski, trumpeter Bria Skonberg (with a sultry rendition of “Empty Tables”), and bassist Niki Parrott.
  • Speaking of Sinatra, the “voice of God” announcement for Tony Bennett’s back-to-back concerts on Nov. 12 and 13 was the voice of Frank, clipped from a years-ago stage introduction for the “greatest singer in the world.” (Bennett returned the favor by evoking Sinatra with Arlen-Mercer’s “One for My Baby (and One More for the Road).”) A couple of rarities: The 89-year-old jazz statesman sang the first number he ever recorded (Al Dubin and Harry Warren’s “Boulevard of Broken Dreams”) and pulled out a little soft-shoe for “Steppin’ Out with My Baby.” Of his recent Cheek to Cheek hit album of duets with Lady Gaga, Bennett encouraged the audience to pick one up because “she really needs the money.”
  • McBride’s conversation series, One on One with Christian McBride, began earlier this season at NJPAC in a sit-down with Pat Metheny. On Nov. 12, pianist and singer-songwriter Bruce Hornsby recounted his escapades with McBride (they met while opening for Bonnie Raitt at Radio City) and spoke about the influence of modern classicists like Anton Webern and Elliott Carter on his compositions. To illustrate, he performed “Preacher in the Ring,” “S**t’s Crazy Out Here,” and other examples in duets with McBride on bass.

Jazz: a man’s world? Not according to the women whose presence at the festival was felt mightily, beginning with the Judy Carmichael Trio on Nov. 8.

  • A surprise appearance by pianist Bill Charlap’s mom, acclaimed Songbook interpreter Sandy Stewart, had the audience buzzing at Charlap’s live re-creation of Miles Davis’ Birth of the Cool on Nov. 14. Charlap’s nonet performed tracks from the iconic album by the pioneering bebopper (“Jeru,” “Venus de Milo,” “Israel”), along with related material, while Stewart chose a 1939 song by Jimmy Van Heusen and Eddie DeLange, “Darn That Dream.”
  • Earlier that day, at the Newark Museum, some of the greatest jazz love stories ever told were shared by wives and widows at the panel Jazz Wives/Jazz Lives, moderated by Linda Moody. The sisterly, insider gab revealed just as much about the women’s careers as artists, attorneys, businesswomen, caregivers and road managers as it did about their spouses’ pursuit of the spotlight. “Newark First Lady of Jazz” Dorthaan Kirk of festival co-presenter WBGO Jazz 88.3FM, who was married to multi-instrumentalist Rahsaan “Roland” Kirk, joined Brenda Feliciano (saxophonist Paquito D’Rivera); Cecilia Foster (saxophonist-composer Frank Foster); Sandy Jackson (vibraphonist Milt Jackson); and Laurelyn Douglas (trumpet player Jon Faddis). The front row of the auditorium was occupied by a community of other “jazz wives” as special guests.
  • Newark’s Sarah Vaughan, “The Divine One,” probably would have said Arianna Neikrug had moxie. The 22-year-old gamine from Los Angeles took the grand prize in the Sarah Vaughan International Jazz Vocal Competition (The SASSY Awards) on the final day of the festival, besting more than a thousand applicants. Neikrug performed two Vaughan classics (“Devil May Care,” “My One and Only Love”) and the jazz standard “After You’ve Gone” in the final round. First runner-up was Angela Hagenbach and second runner-up was Nicole Zuraitis.

Newark students are being trained on fundraising strategies while raising money for an organic garden. How to help.

education cardStudents and teachers in Newark are joining their counterparts in Freehold and Morristown on an ambitious set of crowdfunding campaigns to bankroll sustainability projects at their schools. At Newark’s Seek Academy, the project is an organic school garden in an abandoned lot in the South Ward.

The crowdfunding campaign represents the first of two rounds in a matching grant program. New Jersey Audubon, the National Wildlife Federation, and ioby, a crowd-resourcing platform for citizen led neighborhood projects, are teaming up to provide free training and support to participating schools while the PSEG Foundation is matching donations up to $2,000 per school.

The crowdfunding campaign is for students today what the bake sale was in years gone by: students will raise money through small gifts online from large amounts of people, and teachers will turn the drive into a learning opportunity while working with students to raise funds.

The students’ goal is to create a thriving school garden that will provide outdoor experiences and inexpensive organic food in a neighborhood where fresh food and green space is largely unavailable.  After volunteers cleared the lot of garbage including mattresses, liquor bottles and needles from the space, students helped to build raised garden beds where radishes, arugula and spinach are already starting to be harvested. With a budget of $5,185, Seek is hoping to purchase among other items including lumber, soil, seeds, and rain barrels, and to pay a part-time gardening instructor.  As of this publishing they are nearly halfway to their fundraising goal, and have until December 15 to raise the final $2,685.

“Instead of having children look out their classroom windows at old, burned out, abandoned homes, we are hoping they can look at gardens they planted themselves, where communities can come together to share fresh, real, cheap organic food and have pride in where they come from,” said teacher and project lead Uzma Chowdhury. “The children talk a lot about the Lorax,” she continued, referring to a Dr. Seuss character who speaks for trees, and was revived for a 2012 movie adaptation. “They say that by building this garden they hope to bring the Lorax back to Newark.”

Along with the Freehold and Morristown school, Seek Academy is participating in Eco-Schools USA in New Jersey, a partnership between National Wildlife Federation and New Jersey Audubon.  The international program recognizes and provides free resources to schools integrating sustainability into their curriculum and on school grounds while increasing student engagement with STEM academics. The program currently has more than 3,000 schools participating nationwide, including 182 schools registered in New Jersey.

National Wildlife Federation reports that in a recent survey of Eco-Schools, 42% of teachers cited lack of money as a leading impediment to success in sustainability initiatives.

“Kids have access to more information than ever before about the environment.  They want to do something with that information and have a positive impact on their world” says Dale Rosselet, vice president for education, New Jersey Audubon. “We don’t want to see a lack of funding get in the way of that, so New Jersey Audubon has created the PSEG school sustainable grant program with the National Wildlife Federation and ioby to empower teachers and students to raise the funds needed to create sustainability programs in their school.”

“In addition to the “on the ground” sustainability projects this program will result in, it will also train a new generation of students and teachers on fundraising and communication skills that will allow them to tackle even more projects,” Rosselet continued.

Through the PSEG Foundation’s sustainable schools grant program, participating schools have guidance and training from New Jersey Audubon staff and from ioby. New Jersey schools will have another opportunity to get on board in early 2016 when nine more schools will be invited to participate in the program.

For more information about the program and each school’s project visit ioby’s campaign page:

Newark Museum acquires large-scale abstract painting by Norman Lewis

art cardOn November 5, the Newark Museum Board of Trustees approved the acquisition of a major work by the Abstract Expressionist painter Norman Lewis (1909-79). Untitled, 1953 was acquired from Michael Rosenfeld Gallery in New York.

“This rare painting, previously in the collection of the artist’s Estate, features Lewis’s calligraphic brushwork in a series of sweeping vertical forms. It’s remarkable both for its scale and for its bold abstract composition. Untitled, 1953 reflects the confidence and virtuoso painting of an important figure in the New York School at the height of his career,” said Tricia Laughlin Bloom, Ph.D., the Newark Museum’s Curator of American Art. Untitled, 1953 measures approximately 4 x 7 feet; the medium is oil and gold metallic paint on linen.

Born and raised in Harlem, Lewis is central to both the development of American abstract art and to African-American art. Lewis’s life and work form a bridge between the art of the Harlem Renaissance, Abstract Expressionism, and activist art of the 1960s. A first-generation Abstract Expressionist, Lewis moved from a documentary, social realist style in the 1930s towards an increasingly abstract style in the 1940s and ’50s.  Continuing in a largely abstract style, in the 1960s Lewis painted a number of works dealing explicitly with issues of race and civil rights.

“Lewis has a rich history of being shown at the Newark Museum, and his body of work and subject matter are relevant to the Museum’s audiences and our ongoing commitment to collecting and exhibiting African-American art,” said CEO and Director Steven Kern.  Works by Lewis were included in the Newark Museum’s early exhibition American Negro Art (1944) as well as Black Artists: Two Generations (1971), all works lent by the artist. In 2004 the Museum acquired multiple works by Lewis as part of the Bequest of Irene Wheeler.

Untitled, 1953 is currently on view in the exhibition Processional: The Art of Norman Lewis, a major retrospective which opened November 13 at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts and will continue on a national tour.  When Untitled, 1953 returns in 2017, it will be installed in the Museum’s American Art gallery.

Lewis’ paintings are held in the permanent collections of many institutions, including the Museum of Modern Art, Whitney Museum of American Art, the Art Institute of Chicago, and the Smithsonian American Art Museum.

Lend your voice to the discussion about the further development of Newark’s Riverfront Park

participate cardFriends of Riverfront Park is inviting Newarkers to discuss the park’s development, the Passaic River cleanup project, and overall park stewardship at its annual public discussion on Thursday, November 19th at 6 p.m. The meeting will take place at in the Fieldhouse at Riverbank Park.

In addition to discussing Riverfront Park-related issues, attendees will also have opportunities to volunteer and become members of the Friends of Riverfront Park, which helps generate programming and promotion ideas and activity for the park. This past summer, the park hosted a packed calendar of activities including river tours, house music parties, movie screenings, chess, meetups, fitness activities, and performances.

Earlier this month, Newark voters approved a tax increase that will support the expansion of the park.

Greater Newark Conservancy earns 4-Star rating from Charity Navigator

For the third consecutive year, Greater Newark Conservancy has earned a 4-star rating for sound fiscal management from Charity Navigator, the premier charity evaluator on the U.S.

Glen Rock-based Charity Navigator has been celebrated by Time, Forbes, Business Week, Reader’s Digest and Kiplinger’s Financial Magazine for its data-driven analysis of the charitable sector, influencing billions of dollars in charitable gifts. Charity Navigator examines financial health plus accountability & transparency, with ratings that show givers how efficiently a charity will use their contributions, how well it has sustained its programs and services over time and their level of commitment to good governance, best practices and openness with information.

“The Conservancy’s 4-star rating puts it in a very select group of high-performing charities,” stated Michael Thatcher, President & CEO of Charity Navigator. “Only 14% of the charities we rate have received at least 3 consecutive 4-star evaluations, indicating that Greater Newark Conservancy outperforms most other charities in America. This ‘exceptional’ designation from Charity Navigator differentiates the Conservancy from its peers and demonstrates to the public it is worthy of their trust.”

Founded in 1987, the Conservancy’s mission is to promote environmental stewardship to improve the quality of life in New Jersey’s urban communities through environmental education, community gardening, urban farming, beautification of neighborhoods, job training opportunities and environmental justice.

“It’s important that donors trust that we are using funding wisely to accomplish our mission,” stated Robin Dougherty, the Conservancy’s Executive Director. “We are pleased to be recognized by Charity Navigator, and thank our professional staff, board of directors, volunteers and community members who have contributed to our efforts towards making Newark a cleaner, greener and healthier place to live, to learn and to work. At this giving time of year, we hope the high marks the Conservancy has earned will encourage people who are charitably inclined to support the programs and services we provide.”

For more information about programs, services and volunteer opportunities or to make a donation, contact Greater Newark Conservancy at 973-642-4646 or visit You can also follow news from the Conservancy through social media at, plus Twitter and Instagram @Citybloom87.