West Ward Diary #7: Water main break

neighborhoods cardOnce, a water main broke in our neighborhood. This made us feel like we lived in Nevada near the Sky Geyser: water spewing up five feet high, 24-7. It was all well and good until our basements started to flood. I called the water authority and got nowhere.

Then I called my neighbor, Jay. Civil rights activists and grassroots consortia have nothing on Jay. He got us all together, crammed us into his kitchen and he laid out the plan: Jay got me to research the water company phone numbers, the name of who is in charge, and the name of that person’s boss. Jay called out instructions while I passed out pieces of paper with this information.


Jay explained our plan: make phone calls, over and over, until the water company came and fixed it. We all called all those numbers, over and over, every day. We called like we were trying to win a radio contest. I called, Ali called. Ada called. Jay called. Jay’s wife Olga called. Jay’s three sons called.

We gave the numbers to whoever else we knew in the neighborhood. Jay has rallied us all together using this technique during other times when other service providers need a helpful…nudge. Marcel was not involved in this particular campaign because this was before we all knew him. But Marcel was quite involved when we…motivated…the city of Irvington to clean up an abandoned home where so much illegal dumping was happening it caused the place to actually stink up the neighborhood. But that was about seven years after the water main incident.

In the end, we got satisfaction. Ali flagged me down as I zipped around the corner in my beloved gray Hyundai. I pulled over and met him in one of his yards, under one of his pear trees.

“The water company boss called me,” Ali grinned. “The guy said they will send someone today as long as we all stop calling his boss!”

Revolution ’67 documentary detailing seminal days in Newark’s history will re-air Tuesday, March 1

Local filmmaking couple Marylou and Jerome Bongiorno’s documentary Revolution ’67 will air Tuesday, March 1, 2016, at 8 p.m. on World Channel, as part of the fourth season of America Reframed, a public media series hosted on the channel by Natasha Del Toro.

Starting Wednesday March 2nd, the film will be available for free streaming on www.worldchannel.org.

The documentary offers first-person accounts that detail and analyze the social climate that led to the conflagration here in Newark, which sparked on July 12, 1967 after word spread through town that taxi driver John Smith had been fatally beaten by police. National Guard and New Jersey State Troopers were summoned to reinforce local police to contain the rebellion.


The climate within Newark leading up to the rebellion gets detailed treatment in the film. Commentators highlight inequalities in policies concerning mortgage lending and redlining, urban renewal efforts, and the expansion of highways that mowed over neighborhoods and upended stability in the places that were left. These conditions, which were replicated in municipalities all over the country, resulted in massive concentrations of poverty that continue to leave their mark on Newark today.

The film reveals how a spontaneous revolt against poverty and police brutality ended as a fateful milestone in urban America’s struggles over race and economic justice – one that still leaves its mark in the present day.

Find World Channel on Comcast channel 209 and FIOS channel 473. The film will also stream online at www.worldchannel.org starting March 2nd.


Newark Enrolls application deadline if February 29 for families that want to apply to new schools

education cardFamilies interested in exploring school options for the 2016-2017 school year must complete the Newark Enrolls application online or in person at any district or participating charter school or at the Newark Public School’s (NPS) Family Support Center located at 301 W. Kinney Street prior to the Monday, February 29 deadline. The online application will close at11:59pm on the 29th, and the Family Support Center will have extended hours on Monday from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. to assist those who need last minute support.



If families are interested in applying to these community schools, there are several options available:

  1. If families have not yet submitted an application online, they can simply rank a community school as their first preference when they do.
  2. If families have already submitted and want to change their enrollment selection based on this new information, they are able to do so by accessing their account online up until the deadline.
  3. If a family in the South Ward community decides after the deadline that they would like to attend a community school, they can visit the family support center located at 301 W. Kinney Street to get more information about next steps.

As a reminder, parents should complete a Newark Enrolls application if:

  • Their child is in the last grade in their current school, including those:
    • In grade 8 of all K through 8 schools
    • In grade 6 of Harriet Tubman School
    • In grade 4 of Benjamin Franklin, Branch Book, Fourteenth Avenue, Newark Educators’ Community Charter, Roberto Clemente, Roseville Community
    • In Pre-K4 of the Early Childhood Schools (Berliner, Gladys Hillman Jones, South, West) and all community-based Pre-K4 providers
  • Their child will be enrolling in public school for the first time in fall 2016, including:
    • New Pre-K students
    • New Kindergarten students
  • Their child wants to attend a new school for fall 2016 that better fits their needs

If children would like to remain in their current school next fall, parents do not need to submit an application.

Families who submit applications by February 29 for a new school will receive their match letters in mid-April. The match letter will inform families of their school placement for the fall and provide families with next steps to register and confirm their placement with their school.

For more information, please visit www.newarkenrolls.org.

New Elliot Street School facility ready to accept students for the coming academic year

education cardThe new Elliot Street School in Newark enjoyed its official grand opening on Wednesday, February 24th. Newark’s School Development Authority invested more than $41 million to build the state-of-the-art facility, which is the first newly constructed facility in the school district since the completion of the new Speedway Avenue Elementary School in 2010.

The original school building was destroyed in 2006 after it was struck by lightning and burned down. Its students have been diverted to various schools in nearby neighborhoods ever since.

The new building, located at 721 Summer Avenue, features specialized instruction classrooms, labs, a multi-purpose room with a stage, and media centers. The 138,000 square foot facility has a total of 42 classrooms and can serve about 900 students. Starting this coming school year, students in grades prekindergarten through fifth grade class will be enrolled at the school.


On the heels of this Elliot Street School ribbon cutting, a brand new Oliver Street school is scheduled to open in spring of this year. Construction planning for South Street School is currently under way; that school is scheduled for completion by the fall of 2018.

In 2007, the New Jersey Department of Education approved Newark Public Schools’ Long Range Facilities Plan, which called for the construction, expansion, or renovation of 58 school buildings in Newark. Speedway, Elliot Street, Oliver Street, and South Street represent four of those schools.

How to enter the 2016 Congressional Art Competition for high school students in our district

opportunity cardToday, Congressman Donald M. Payne, Jr. (NJ-10) announced that New Jersey’s 10th Congressional District is participating in the 2016 Congressional Art Competition.

 “I am pleased to announce that high school students from New Jersey’s 10th Congressional District will once again have the opportunity to showcase their artistic talents in the Congressional Art Competition,” said Congressman Payne, Jr. “Every year, I am impressed by the creative pieces our local students submit and look forwarding to sharing them with our community and the entire country. I wish all participants the best of luck, and I eagerly await their artwork.”

The competition is open to all high school students in New Jersey’s 10th Congressional District. (Exceptions may be made for schools that have 7th through 12th grades on one campus.) Participating students must work with their school’s art teacher to participate.


 The final winner will be determined by a panel of local experts, and the winning student’s work will be displayed for one year at the U.S. Capitol for members of Congress, staff, and visitors to see. The winner will also travel to Washington, D.C. to participate in a national ceremony with other winners from around the country. An awards reception will also be held on Monday, May 2, 2016, beginning at 3 p.m. at the Newark Museum.

Each submission must be two-dimensional, no larger than 28” X 28” X 4,” no more than 15 pounds, original in design, and prepared for hanging. Each student may submit only one piece of artwork. To learn more about the competition and to see the official guidelines, visit the Congressional Art Competition’s website.  A release form and submission checklist are also available online.

The Student Release Forms are due to Congressman Payne, Jr.’s Newark office by March 30. All artwork must be submitted to Newark office by April 6. Those with questions regarding the 2016 Congressional Art Competition may contact Samantha Washington at (973)-645-3213.

At the second annual KHEM Comic Fest in Newark, discussing the role of diversity in comics

culture cardComics have historically provided an avenue for readers to immerse themselves in a fictional world, but on Saturday, February 21st, fans and friends alike didn’t need to go too far to celebrate and fraternize about their favorite comic characters.

The second annual KHEM Comic Fest, hosted by P.B. S. Media, provided Newark residents comics that went well beyond the cache of mainstream titles, plus screenings, interactive panel discussions and performances from local artists.

The daylong festival, hosted at Newark’s Central High school, included a variety of panel discussions that explored the multifaceted nature of comics in educating youth. Panel discussions included a look at the use of comics to teach STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) as well as its ability to promote literacy in youth.

The discussion also highlighted the responsibility of animators who create comics that reflect the world around them. In two panel discussions — “Full Spectrum: Why Color in Comics Matter” and “A Brief History of Black Creators and Characters in Comics,” Darrell Goza, founder of ScriptGraphics, Kim Gaines of Grub Machine and Naseed Gift and Dilettante Bass of P. B. S. Media (and creators of the P. B. Soldier comic book) debated the importance of diversity and representation in comic books.


In a question posed during the latter panel, a young audience member urged Goza to reveal what characteristics make the “perfect” black character. In response, Goza noted that “the perfect black characters are flawed, they’re human, and they have the same things going on as we do.”

“If you’re looking for the perfect black character, you might just have to create it,” he told the high school student who had asked the question.

Gaines reflected on the misconceptions of female consumerism in the comic book industry. “I really want to see the value of a female audience get to the same level of a male audience,” she said. “A common misconception is that there isn’t a female comic audience, but we’re were and we exist. We just need to be seen.”

To reinforce Gaines’ point, Goza noted that in a 2014 poll conducted by Facebook, women accounted for  46.67% of the general comic book fan population on the social network.

When asked if there was any particular way to increase the female viewership or galvanize it, Gaines declared that there isn’t. She encouraged animators to rely on the power of good story above all. “I’m a firm believer in the fact that it you have a good story, people will be interested. No matter who,” said Gaines.

In the race realm, the discussion demonstrated that the issue of diversity is also not a singular one. The lack of characters of color and nuanced female characters was immediately diagnosed as an issue that stemmed from a lack of female creators and creators of color. “You have to have women creating women. Until that happens, the way to create a multifaceted female character will not be known,” said Goza.

“I want to see more women characters in film and comics, but I want it to be more thought out. I just don’t want creators to just create women characters for creating sake,” responded Bass.

Independent comic book artists were among the audience member, including one who noted that as a man, he writes women characters that veer from the overtly sexual characters that are common in mainstream publications. “I don’t believe you have to be a female to write a good female character. I also don’t believe that you have to be black to write a good black character,” he said.

Gaines concurred: “Never would I want someone to look at me and say ‘You can’t write that character because you are a black woman.’”

“We are creative thinkers, and we find inspiration all over the place, and what’s unique for us and our kind is that we have the ability to empathize and to see the world from the eyes of others and write from that perspective,” Gaines continued.

Another audience member lamented that the most popular comics already have well-established fan bases and are dominating the market. Since his first appearance in 1939, Batman has been a comic book staple and has captured the attention of fans all over the world. In light of this, what does this mean for the range of emerging comic books, and will they be able to make a dent in the market?

“They’re fan-base driven. With Marvel and DC [Comics], I tried to include one of my characters into the mix and they basically told me if it’s not Batman or Superman, we don’t want it,” the audience member said.

“Clearly for the last 75 years, we’re still hearing about Batman, aren’t we? But for the life of me, I can’t understand how two companies who claim to be leading in the creative industry remain huddled in this box of what a superhero looks like, what they act like, what they wear. And they stay there and won’t move,” said Gaines.

“You’re a creative person, it’s your job to think outside the box,” she continued.

In closing, Gifted noted that the purpose of events like KHEM Comic Fest and companies like P. B. S. Media is to reflect the world in a manner that’s as inclusive as possible.

“We need to create the characters that reflect us and tell stories that reflect our experiences. The whole purpose of all of this is looking for a way to see yourself in the picture. That’s the key to all of this,” said Gifted.

To learn more about KHEM Fest and PBSoldier, visit their Facebook Page. To explore more comic books and comic book creators of color, visit the hashtag #ExploreBlackComics. View pictures and other information from the 2nd annual KHEM Fest by using the hashtag #KHEMFest

Newark tech pioneer Anthony Frasier will release a book about entrepreneurship in March

people cardAs cofounder of Brick City Tech Meetup, Newark native Anthony Frasier has been a leading light among the city’s technology and entrepreneur classes for years.

Frasier was the winner of a startup competition featured on CNN’s “Black in America: The New Promised Land – Silicon Valley” in 2011. He later merged his tech and entrepreneurship skills to cofound a successful venture — The Phat Startup — which started as a series of hip-hop inflected startup seminars and conversations with leading entrepreneurs; has been widely lauded and reported on by the mainstream business and tech press; and blossomed into a media company that produced a successful series of traveling entrepreneurship workshops named “Tech808.”

Frasier took the best of what he learned along the way and distilled it into a book that is aimed at young black entrepreneurs yet also relevant, he says, to all aspiring founders. The book, named Don’t Dumb Down Your Greatness, will be released on March 22.


“This book doesn’t have all the answers, but it has all the ones the young me needed,” Frasier wrote in a blog post announcing the book. Although his experience has been concentrated in the tech entrepreneurship space, Frasier said his book will still be useful for current and aspiring entrepreneurs whose interests lay far afield of technology. The book cites his own experience, the experiences of entrepreneurs he’s met, and is grounded in research data as well, he said.

Frasier said he has been approached by major publishers about authoring a book (which is no surprise — to date he’s already been featured in a commercial by one of the most well-known brands in the country), but he said those same publishers weren’t interested in publishing a book about this particular topic, so Frasier decided to go independent and publish the book himself. “It will be available in print, on Kindle, Nook, and as many stores I can get it on!” he said in his announcement. He told us the book will be “definitely just the first of many.”

Frasier said he’ll be holding engagements about the book around Newark, and that details are to be announced.

Stay tuned to BrickCityLive.com for updates on Anthony Frasier’s plans to discuss his new book in Newark. Follow Frasier on Twitter @anthonyfrasier and at AnthonyFrasier.com.

How do I get capital for my business? A new initiative from GNEC helps area businesses navigate the process.

opportunities cardLast month, Greater Newark Enterprises Corporation (GNEC) officially kicked off their Technology Business Support Initiative (TBSI). Partnering with the Enterprise Development Center at NJIT, and funded by grants from JPMorgan Chase and Synchrony, the first two-day session was led by certified financial trainer Ron Quintero and covered financial modeling essentials for raising capital.

The goal of the initiative is to equip CEOs, founders, and principals with the financial skills necessary to valuate their businesses, discuss financial details with investors, and negotiate with and utilize different capital sources. The roughly 25 businesses in attendance learned the key aspects of developing financial models defensible to all types of investors and lenders.  Over the next 6 months, TBSI will offer in-class trainings, one-on-one consultations, and online resources to aid participating companies in preparing for funding. Valuations, attracting the right talent, and negotiating term sheets and investor contracts are a few of the other workshops planned.


GNEC’s overall mission is to help put business owners in positions to make better decisions about funding sources. It has positioned itself as a major urban business resource due to its history of providing microloans, training, and technical assistance to greater Newark entrepreneurs and businesses. GNEC offically relocated to NJIT’s Enterprise Development Center at NJIT in January. GNEC’s collaborative partnership with the EDC is intended to support Newark-based businesses and helps strengthen the entrepreneur support ecosystem.

For more information about the EDC, contact Jerry Creighton at jerry.creighton@njit-edc.org. For more information about the Technology Business Support Initiative Workshop, contact Chike Uzoka at cuzoka@gnecorp.org.

‘Newark: The Comedy,’ a documentary featuring laughs and local insight on life in Brick City, to premiere at Burger Walla

entertainment cardYou probably won’t hear about Newark, New Jersey in a Bruce Springsteen song. And it’s not likely to be featured on Bravo’s Real Housewives of New Jersey. But in Newark: The Comedy, Brick City-based comedians, Justin Williams, Steve Serra and Gordon Baker-Bone say “stereotypes be damned…and laughed at!” as they introduce the world to the Newark they know and love.

Written and directed by Williams, Newark: The Comedy chronicles a candid conversation between the three local comedians who explain — with a healthy dose of humor — why New Jersey’s largest city is one of the most maligned and misunderstood places in America. The short movie, filmed and edited by Dan Hirshon with additional photography by Bill Scurry, uses footage from live stand-up shows at Newark’s Kilkenny Alehouse as well as casual and comical bantering around town.

“I’ve lived in Newark for three years and I was instantly struck by how much more complicated this city is than often presented,” said Williams. “I think this film will give people a more realistic view of the city I’ve grown to love, while poking fun at some of the old attitudes that contribute to the problems here.”


Williams is no stranger to comedic cinema. His last film “Justin Williams: Black and Comfortably Middle Class,” was screened at the Friar’s Club Comedy Film Festival, The Philadelphia Independent Film Festival and won the award of merit for Humor at the Best Shorts Competition in 2013.

“Even if you’re not a New Jersey native, the points we bring up—and subsequently mock—are relatable to most industrial communities facing gentrification,” he said.  “There’s definitely no shortage of under-appreciated great American cities — Newark just happens to be the one that stole my heart!”

The premier at Burger Walla (47 Halsey St. Newark, NJ 07102) on March 19, 2016 at 8 p.m. is free and open to the public.

To find out more about Newark: The Comedy or Williams, visit www.JustinWilliamsComedy.com or contact Williams directly at JustinWilliamsComedy@gmail.com.