Mayor Ras Baraka posted a message to neighborhood social network NextDoor this morning, addressing violence in the city and asking Newarkers – and specifically men – to help take back the city. It reads in full:
Good morning. I hope that everyone has begun their day in great spirits and even better thoughts. There are tens and thousands of people that depend on our productivity daily. I am writing this morning because for the past few evenings it has been difficult for me to sleep given the amount of chaos that is taking place in our streets. My heart goes out to the families that have lost loved ones in these senseless and depraved acts of violence. We are strategizing and working around the clock to find remedy for this spike in violence. Our police department has been working feverishly and in the first quarter has brought the homicide rate down 40 percent and overall crime down significantly as well, but one life lost is too many and any victim is one victim too much. As many of you already know that as I am writing this we have over 50 new Police recruits in the Academy, and we are going to put 100 more in before the year is out. We have just received 1.5 million dollars to add over 1,000 more jobs for young people this summer. We will continue with a full Summer Fun schedule in our most difficult neighborhoods. We just brought on 15 members of our new Community Street Team that will be working in the South and West wards to mitigate conflict, mentor youth, engage our young people and drive the violence down. We are working with President Obama with My Brother’s Keeper and are recruiting hundreds of young men and boys in our city to begin transforming their lives by providing them better pathways to education, employment, and self-esteem. Director Venable will also begin his community walks this Friday and with the help of the Clergy and anyone that is interested will be walking in neighborhoods talking to residents and abating issues. These walks were highly successful last summer and will begin again on Friday. We need you to get involved wherever you can and will. We had scheduled most of these things to really begin around memorial day but we can’t afford to wait lives depend on our acting now!
Weeks ago before these recent shootings I thought about “Occupy the Hood” that was being done in many cities around the country and I thought how would that look in Newark. Last night it came to me and I am bringing it to you this morning. I am going to take at least three days a week to implement Occupy the Block in Newark. I will pick the blocks and the days everyMonday and will call on every able bodied and willing Man in this city to come with me to a specific block. We will hold court on this block. We will have an open discussion about our city, young people and violence. We will also bring out our folding chairs and tables and play chess and cards outside on the blocks where they usually hang out and get in to trouble. We will take those blocks for a few hours. We will shut down the illegal trade at that time, and transform that block while we are there. I am asking every man that can to stand up and get involved. This does not mean that the ladies cannot and should not get involved, but this challenge is for the men. Every event we have is mostly populated, worked on and made successful by the women and I am more than confident that they will be present. It’s time for the men to get in these streets. This Thursday (tomorrow) at 4:30pm we will occupy Clinton Ave and Chadwick. Saturday at the same time 430pm we will Occupy Chancellor and Schley. Let’s show up and show out. Bring your chairs and tables. I know some of us are better at complaining or wallowing in pessimism and hopelessness. But I don’t have the luxury of defeat or cynicism. My heart is driven by hope and my action by faith. I know that all we need to do is take that extra step forward and choose to be a part of the solution and not perpetuate the problem. I need you to invite as many people as you can. Put this call out on social media. Allow this to be what trends and not gossip and celebrities and negativity. Let’s get our city up and make Newark Rise! This movement begins with you.
As you can imagine that last few days have been stressful for me to say the least and has made me reflect on many things from the encouragement of friends, the determination of supporters, and even the vitriolic words of haters. I am rightly prepared to carry this burden and am not shying away from it. This moment belongs to me the good and bad. I know there will be people that will use these difficult moments to try to divide and destroy what we are building but I am confident that this wall will go up and we will stand on it together! Newark is our home. We can’t give it away to naysayers or those that wish to watch it crumble, or even the misguided that think destroying our city and its families is what makes them Newark. WE are Newark all of us. Newark 3.0- A new Newark- A city we must believe in! I need your help. Thursday is the day it begins. Godspeed to all of you.