Former NFLer Bart Scott honored by mentoring program that serves Newark boys

people cardFormer NFL Pro-Bowler Bart Scott recently appeared at a fundraising event for a local mentoring program that helps young men from disadvantaged communities. Platinum Minds, a New Jersey based non-profit, honored Scott for his work in the community at their “Empowering Leaders” dinner at the Old Mille Inn in Basking Ridge, New Jersey. His former NY Jets team mate, Brandon Moore, presented the award.

“We are answering the prayers of families to provide needed support for their sons,” says Yvette Long, mother of two daughters, and the organizations founder.

She launched the New Jersey-based non-profit in 2006, after reading an article about the daily pressure and intimidation inner-city children face as they cross dangerous gang territories en route to school.

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“Too many boys are dying on the streets and too many children are allowed to fail in the educational system,” said Long.

Platinum Minds mentors boys, many from lower-income neighborhoods in Newark and Asbury Park, from middle school through high school, providing them with academic support and enrichment programs that prepare them for college and career. Since it’s inception, 98% of Platinum Mind’s participants have graduated from high school and enrolled in college.

At this year’s dinner, two graduating seniors announced plans to attend the University of Maryland and New York University, both on nearly full scholarships.

Alumna Christian Brown-Singleton, now a senior at Rutgers University, announced that he will graduate Summa Cum Laude, and soon after, begin work with JP Morgan. He told the audience that Platinum Minds “changed his life”, diverting him from the gang violence that that plagued his neighborhood.


To learn more about the organization visit www.platinumminds.org.

Two Newark native young women will broadcast youth-oriented talk show starting in June

people cardUrban Youth United, a youth-focused talk show created and co-hosted by Newark natives Ronnie Brumant, age 19, and Makeba Green, age 21, will begin airing on June 20th on local access channels (Channel 30 on Comcast Cable, and Channel 45 on Verizon FiOS), according to Green.

The show’s hosts will conduct interviews, discuss “hot topics,” and field questions from their social media followers.

Brumant and Green met through an internship program the summer of 2015. As their acquaintanceship grew, they lamented the small amount of positive representation youth from Newark and other urban communities, and endeavored to create the type of programming they wanted to see, they said.

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“Hearing the term ‘urban youth,’ people automatically have a negative connotation of the phrase, associating it with other terms such as ‘unsuccessful,’ ‘uneducated,’ [and thinking of] stagnate minority people,” said Green, according to a statement about the show. “Urban Youth United dares to be different by not showing what is expected of the urban youth, but what the urban youth [are] actually thinking [about], engaging in, and actually producing,” she added.

The talk show will highlight youth involved in a cross-section of fields, including entertainment, politics, entrepreneurship, and the sciences. The pair will use the media facilities at Princeton Community TV and Digital Media Center to film their talk show and broadcast it locally via Comcast and Verizon FiOS. In addition to airing in ten New Jersey cities, the show will also be available on YouTube and other social media platforms, the pair said.

In addition to changing perceptions, Brumant and Green hope their show can garner real-world results in the lives of its viewers. “Showcasing positivity from ourselves and featured guests will not only educate our viewers on what real urban youth are like, but inspire them to continue on with their journey of success as well,” Brumant said.

Hear from former Newark mayors Kenneth Gibson and Sharpe James at Newark Public Library

On Thursday, May 12 from 6:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m., the Newark Public Library will host local author, historian and former Star Ledger reporter Guy Sterling in conversation with notable Newarkers Kenneth Gibson and Sharpe James as part of its continuing series, “Newark Lifetimes: Recollections and Reflections.”

In 1970, Gibson defeated incumbent Hugh Addonizio to become the first African-American mayor of Newark. He served until 1986.  During his tenure, Gibson won the U.S. Senator John Heinz Award for Greatest Public Service by an Elected or Appointed Official, awarded by the American Institute for Public Service. Gibson was also the first African American to serve as President of the U.S. Conference of Mayors.

Sharpe James served as South Ward city councilman from 1970 to 1982, and councilman-at0large from 1982 to 1986. In 1986, he became the first former city councilman and second African-American to be elected mayor of Newark, serving until 2006. In 1999, James was also elected State Senator for the 29th District, serving until 2007.

The exhibit Newark at 350: Settlement, Growth, Renewal will be on view before and after the program in the library’s third floor gallery. The exhibit takes viewers on a journey through Newark’s history from its founding by the Puritans in 1666 to the present day, and chronicles events that have occurred here and shaped the city, the state, and the nation. Curated by librarian Thomas Ankner, the exhibit cases are filled with images from the library’s Charles F. Cummings New Jersey Information Center and the Special Collections Division.


The program will be held in Centennial Hall on the second floor of the Main Library at 5 Washington Street in Newark. The program and exhibit are free and open to the public. For more information and to RSVP, call 973-733-7793.

Rashawn Davis to deliver youth empowerment message in commencement address to University High School graduates

after the run cardIn just over two months, a high school commencement speaker will be able to look a group of 18-year-old Newarkers in the eyes and tell them to do well in college, to consider bringing their talents back home and contributing to critical initiatives and, heck, perhaps run for local office while they’re young.

The words won’t come from judge, a seasoned corporate executive, or another figure who is quite a bit of distance from them in age and experience, but from a young Newarker who sat where they did a mere five years ago, and will be able to speak with the credibility of experience when he asks them to build their talents and skills, and not “wait until they’re older” to invest them back into their communities.

In June, Rashawn Davis, the activist, organizer, and former candidate for local political office, will deliver the commencement speech to graduating University High School students.

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In 2014, Davis made history when he became the youngest person ever certified on a Newark municipal ballot ahead of his run for Newark’s West Ward city council seat. He was just 21 years old. Davis didn’t ultimately win, but the seriousness of his candidacy raised his profile, and the experience gave him firsthand insight into the pugilistic electoral process in Newark.

After the election, he doubled down on his organizing by selecting and working on needle-moving initiatives. Perhaps most prominently, he joined the ACLU, where he was a key figure in advocating and organizing for the creation of a Civilian Complaint Review Board (CCRB) and other police reforms, even before police reform flared up as headline-making national issue.

Newark’s CCRB has been hailed as one of the strongest in the country. When the board was created, Mayor Ras Baraka named Davis one of its nine appointees.

Davis also breathed new life into the Essex County Young Democrats, a county-wide organization where he now serves as president and can work across municipalities on youth-oriented issues, and directly influence youth participation in the civic and political processes.

Davis has noted in the past that while youth bear the brunt of a number of critical problems in Newark, including unemployment and crime victimization, they’re almost completely shut out of the governing process in Newark. It’s a chasm he’s said he is committed to closing, by participating himself and by inspiring his peers to do the same.

The commencement speech will give him a captive audience whose decisions over the next few years will shape the extent and tenor of their participation in Newark if and when they return to the city after college. According to a statement about the speech, University High School Principal Regina Sharpe is excited for Davis to deliver his message to her graduates.

“There is nothing better than our very own successful Georgetown graduate paying it forward as a political figure and role model for current University High School students,” she said.

Highly competitive debate program at Science Park High School featured in television segment (video)

Jonathan Alston once participated in the debate program at Science Park High School.

The experience was so formative that after earning a degree from Yale University, he came back to teach the skill to students who attend his alma mater. His program was recently featured on NJEA’s Classroom Close-up, NJ a television program that airs on NJTV. Throughout the video, a classroom of students can be seen debating the pros and cons of body cameras on police officers.

“Most kids want a voice. They want what they are saying to be heard, and debate provides a space where students can speak and no one else can speak,” Alston said, adding that learning debate skills gives students confidence and “ownership of intellect.”

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The debate program at Science Park High School is 35 years old, and has been competitive statewide and nationally. Alston, who is also an English teacher at the school, himself won two state championships as a student, and his students touted his prowess as a debater and a teacher in turn. “Every little intricacy that is found within the activity of debare, Alston knows about,” observed 12th grader Amit, who is also a member of the 2015-2016 USA Debate Team.

In 2015, Alston was named National Debate Coach Association Teacher of the Year.

Given the success of the high school debate program, it has now become part of the required curriculum for all 7th grade students at the school. Alston said he does a little more hand holding with the younger students, but that the core skills he teaches are the same.

They’re “high level skills” that enhance their prowess at more advanced humanities study, Alston explained. His students concurred. “Being able to learn debate allows them to view the world in a whole new way, not just in terms of the ideas that they get to receive, but also in terms of how they interact with each other,” said David, a Science Park High School junior.

Sophomore Brianna agreed: “I think that we’re gonna have a developing class that is smarter and that is…more progressive than before because people are actually gonna be thinkers,” she said.

To wit, Alston noted that debate does double duty as an engaging practice that also teaches students the skills so often drilled into them in preparation for standardized tests. “Everything that we’ve been talking about in terms of education reform, debaters have been doing for years,” Alston said. An alternative to doing more test prep and hiring more tutors? “Hire more debate coaches,” he said.

Marquise Walker: Head chef at Newark’s Taste Venue cooked up a fulfilling career

people cardMarquise Walker, 28, has been the head chef at downtown Newark’s Taste Venue for four-and-a-half years. But while the personable chef, who you can find mingling with coworkers and patrons after he closes the kitchen, has been cooking professionally now for six years, his mother started him off in the art of cooking at the tender age of 11.

“I wanted to feed myself and not depend on anybody else to make me anything. The first thing she taught me to cook was spaghetti,” said Walker. He added that although he had a brother and a sister, he was singled out as a chef-in-training among his siblings.

“I was willing to learn. They were just willing to eat,” he quipped.

A decade later, after not being able to settle into a career that had long-term prospects he liked, Walker decided to make a choice that was as bold as it was intuitive: follow his skill set. “I always knew I loved to cook, so I figured I might was well do it professionally.”

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Walker went all in by opting to apply to culinary school instead of going the on-the-job route. He said that experience greatly expanded his palette, his cooking techniques, and even his people skills. But it wasn’t a cakewalk.

“Culinary school was tougher than I thought. I was thinking it was going to be regular cooking, but it was really, really intense,” Walker said. “They taught us how to make world cuisines: Chinese, Italian, Thai, sushi,” he continued. “It was a great experience to try new cuisines so I could know I could actually make them.”

With his early childhood training and official instruction under his belt, Walker said his process for developing dishes entails a lot of experimentation. “I like just going in the kitchen and playing around with different food, making different sauces, and playing with spices and herbs. I don’t know where I’m going to start. I just play a lot,” he said. (His signature dish: macaroni and cheese alfredo with shrimp.)

Marquise chicken dish

In Taste Venue, Walker has found a place to grow his skills, both in terms of being a chef and managing a kitchen. But he’s also found a second family, he said.

“It’s a great place to work. I love my coworkers and the ownership. Tami and Glenn — they’re like parents to me,” he said, referring to the wife-and-husband team who own Taste Venue.

As happy as he is at Taste, Walker is also eyeing opportunities to expand into new ventures. One idea, a little further out, is to open a food truck. But his current side project involves creating great food experiences for people at a more intimate level.

“I want to get personal with people and teach them – or them and their significant other – how to make dishes from scratch. Give an intimate vibe and still have fun with it,” he said. The project already has a name – Soul Fusion – and Walker is betting that he can tap into today’s do-it-yourself ethos to create a memorable all-around experience for his patrons.

As for others who might enjoy cooking, Walker encourages them to take seriously the viability of a culinary career. His advice? “If your passion is cooking go for it, but definitely go to culinary school instead of trying to go on your own.”


Interested in trying a cooking class with Marquise Walker? Contact him directly to learn more. You can also enjoy his culinary skills by visiting Taste Venue, 47 Edison Place in Newark.

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.

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“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.

‘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.”

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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.  

Urban League Young Professionals talk strategy on area’s gravest issues in first general body meeting of the year

participate cardFor their first general body meeting of the New Year, the Urban League of Essex County Young Professionals (ULECYP) set out to cross-examine the current state of black New Jersey. After a day’s work, young professionals from the surrounding Newark area (under the leadership of Jason Grove, the chapter’s president) assembled at Newark’s First Presbyterian Church to appraise both the city and the current state of its black residents with a focus on education, employment, and criminal justice

“It’s just rich history, so much rich history,” said Reverend Glen Misick, the church’s first black pastor since its inception in 1666, about the church, which is often hailed as “the Church that founded Newark” given its role in the growth and development of the 350-year old city. More than 50 years after the Urban League of Essex County first hosted their meetings in the same location, Reverend Misick noted that the rousing activism of the young professionals demographic is one the historic church is keen on embracing.

The conversation of the night, which hinged on education, jobs, and justice, included a panel with Lawrence Hamm, founder and chairman of the People’s Organization for Progress; Vivian Cox Fraser, CEO of the Urban League of Essex County, and Rashawn Davis, president of Essex County Young Democrats. The conversation turned in part to the relevance of history and of civil rights organizations like the Urban League.

“You can’t really understand the present unless you understand the past, and the past is bearing down on us everyday,” said Hamm. “So when we talk about jobs, education, and justice now, it’s against the backdrop of all the things that occurred in the past,” he continued.

Cox Fraser added: “Today, the need for an Urban League is great if not greater that 100 years ago. It goes to show that although many things have changed, many things still remain the same.”

One of those issues is concentrated property, which affects many of the other issues that affect young professionals even if they don’t experience poverty itself firsthand. In response to a question about how young professionals can advocate for a decrease in crime in the city, Hamm explained that the high rate of crime in urban communities is not a singular issue, and should not be treated as such.

“Crime is the handmaiden of poverty, and I would submit to you that until we deal with the poverty, crime is going to remain with us,” Hamm explained.

A recurring theme in the discussion centered the need for action to improve the quality of life in New Jersey’s urban communities. “Today in New Jersey, over 60 percent of our incarcerated population is African-American. Cities like Newark have unemployment rates that are almost double the national employment rate. Children of color born today in urban cities have worse life chances than ever before. And I say all of this as a reminder that we have work to do,” said Davis.

The “work” — which panelists noted could begin with young professionals opting to live and work in the city as opposed to moving out and leaving it — is also vulnerable to gentrification, said Cox Fraser. “If you don’t own anything, you don’t control anything,” she said, before continuing: “Gentrification has occurred in many communities, and I believe that the only way you can stop it is to get in front of it. We need young professionals to come back and own their community.”

The Urban League of Essex County currently spearheads  a plan to revitalize the historic neighborhood of Fairmount Avenue in the city’s West Ward. According to a strategic plan for the project, the initiative will focus on creating the type of neighborhood that the people who live and work in the community want to see. The work is of a piece with the ULECYP’s urgent tone and sense of urgency around economic equity, public safety, and quality of life, and a slate of practical initiatives they’ve undertaken of late to chip away at those issues.


Learn more about ULECYP on their website and Facebook group. ULECYP are members of the Urban League between the ages of 21 and 40.