Newark creative entrepreneur D’TaRelle Tullis among graduates of Rising Tide Capital’s latest Community Business Academy

Late last week, 146 entrepreneurs — including 56 from Essex County — graduated from Rising Tide Capital’s (RTC) nationally recognized 12-week Community Business Academy (CBA) with a newly-acquired business education, an expanded network, and access to the support and resources they need to start or grow a successful business. In a historic moment in the organization’s 10-year history, the 1,000th entrepreneur graduated from the program, as part of the largest CBA class to-date.

The new RTC entrepreneurs joined an alumni network of 968 CBA graduates across Northern New Jersey in a graduation ceremony held at Saint Peter’s University. Featured speakers included Virginia Bender of Saint Peter’s University, Rising Tide Capital’s Chairman of the Board of Trustees Doug Forrester, cofounders Alex Forrester and Alfa Demmellash as well as representatives from the eight sessions of the CBA. During the ceremony, graduates received a Community Business Academy completion certificate and free membership into the Statewide Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of New Jersey.

Among the graduating class was Newark native D’TaRelle Tullis, who is making a difference in her local community. With a mission to fight childhood obesity and provide affordable dance classes to surrounding communities, Tullis started her mobile dance studio Pitter Patter Feet in 1993. Starting with schools in urban cities like Newark, Maplewood and Irvington—she teaches ballet, hip hop, jazz and tap to youth combining dance with classroom instruction.

“Most families in my hometown lack the funds to offer their children professional dance classes; my business allows me to provide that opportunity. While my parents were unable to afford dance classes while I was growing up, I hope to infuse physical activity into the everyday curriculum to ensure the optimal development of youth,” she said.

With clients ranging from childcare facilities to public schools, Tullis uses her expertise as a New Jersey State approved consultant and trainer in early childhood development to create classes that provide physical and social development. While she started her business 22 years ago, Tullis took the Community Business Academy to gain the business and financial management acumen to sustain her business.

“I been in business for a really long time, however while I enjoyed the artistic side of teaching the dance classes I needed help with actually running the business. The CBA was extremely valuable. I learned that I needed to create a system to my everyday work to ensure I deliver excellent quality services. I also learned a lot about myself and built lasting relationships with my classmates and instructors.”

Since taking the Community Business Academy, Tulis has won $3,000 for Pitter Patter Feet after pitching her business in the Newark Innovation Acceleration Challenge.  She says her participation in the CBA gave her the additional boost of confidence needed to present her business and talk about pricing and book keeping. Tullis plans to explore options for creating online classes to expand her reach to more students.

The CBA, offered in locations throughout Hudson and Essex Counties, teaches entrepreneurs business fundamentals including budgeting, marketing, bookkeeping and financing.  Each CBA student receives a full-tuition waiver—covered by Rising Tide Capital’s funding partners—and continued business support through the Business Acceleration Services Program.

With Indian-infused burger joint, Newark economic development pro builds the type of business he once tried to attract

Check out our Halsey Street story map for more articles and previews in this series, and stay tuned to Facebook, Twitter, and our homepage for updates on new stories.

It’s mid-November in Newark, and Kai Campbell is getting ready to realize a dream: the opening of his and his wife Tamara’s new burger joint on his beloved Halsey Street.

That makes Campbell, a third generation Newarker, just the latest small business owner to launch a venture on Halsey Street, a corridor that, thanks in part to its prime location sandwiched just east of University Heights and west of Broad Street, has become a hub of downtown redevelopment.

“It was always my intent to save where I’m from,” said Campbell in an interview conducted in late October, as he oversaw construction at Burger Walla, the Campbells’ unique burger spot. Burger Walla opened its doors to the public with a soft launch on December 2.

Campbell, 33, is a University of Virginia graduate who has spent much of his post-collegiate life trying to bring big businesses to his hometown. He’s held several economic development jobs with the city, and was also was the former Senior Associate of Real Estate for Brick City Development Corporation. “I’ve met with every major retailer you can think of,” he said of his quest to bring business to the city.

Now he’s bringing business in a different way — by launching one himself. Along with his wife, Campbell also runs NewarkPulse.com, a local website that mainly focuses on positive news stories in and around Newark. They’re a true family about Newark: in addition to publishing about the city and launching a business here, Campbell, his wife, and their toddler and newborn live in town, as well.

One factor that can make it tough to attract businesses to Halsey Street and downtown Newark, Campbell said, is that they see Rutgers and NJIT as commuter schools, and consequently assume the coveted student population does not venture past Washington Street. But Campbell thinks Halsey Street is a good investment, and that he can get students to consistently cross that invisible border. “This is the epicenter of where development can take off,” Campbell said.


Social media users review Burger Walla



Thus Burger Walla, an Indian-influenced burger joint that serves everything from beef burgers and flat grilled hot dogs to shrimp and chicken burgers infused with Indian spices. The restaurant also offers an Indian drink called a “lassi,” akin to a traditional milkshake. “Instead of using ice cream, we’re going to use yogurt,” said Campbell.

Why Indian-inspired fare?

For one, Campbell loves Indian food, and he believes others who haven’t yet tried it will love it too if they give it a chance. “People don’t know that they like Indian food,” he mused. “I think by me putting a twist on burgers, which everybody can recognize, I think they’ll be more receptive to Indian food,” he added.

Campbell said the restaurant’s Indian elements are authentic. “I’ve flown halfway around the world to go to a single Indian restaurant before,” he said. In addition, his wife Tamara Campbell is of Indian descent.

The menu is also infused with a couple tastes of New Jersey and the couple’s beloved Brick City: Best hot dogs, Boylan sodas (Best Provision recently celebrated its 75th anniversary in Newark; Boylan Bottling Company was born in New Jersey over a century ago.)

In addition to offering unique food, the Campbells are also looking to infuse their restaurant with a distinct culture fit for a popular neighborhood hangout spot. Campbell said he hopes Burger Walla’s ambiance will keep college students and other community members coming back. “Every Monday night we’re going to be showing independent films,” he said.  Along with the movie nights, they also plan to offer viewings of sports events, outdoor dining — weather permitting — and live music.


Find Burger Walla on Facebook and Twitter for updates on events, and check their website for the restaurant’s menu and blog.

 

Newark in Verse: A city of poets, past and present. Take a tour of Newark’s poetry scene

Kalita Cox, a 30-year-old poet who goes by the stage name Se’lah, is holding court at the Coffee Cave, an artsy café on Halsey Street that has become a hub of sorts for Newark’s vibrant poetry scene. She’s tonight’s featured artist, and after blessing the stage with a mash-up prayer adapted for poets (“Give us this day my feature pay/and forgive us our misuse use of the English language/as we forgive those who give us a 6.4 in a slam. . . ‘’), she leans into the mike and launches into her first poem, a lyrical journey  that pays homage to Sojourner Truth, Harriet Tubman, Coretta Scott King and other women in African- American history.

I come from a broken history/A long line of a stolen legacy/Where my people’s greatness/Was hidden by hatred/And chained and shackled by bitter cold faces/But still I rise on. . .

Nor is Se’lah the only one to share her work. Members of the audience step up and perform as the host, Dave “Ghost” Rogers, whose show “Living Room Wednesdays” is held every week at The Coffee Cave, keeps things moving. There are love poems; a social justice poem by Ormar Lucas, a barber at Center Stage Cuts who writes of Newark as “a place where sunny days swiftly turn to blood baths’’; and a gripping poem by Sean Battle, an adjunct professor of English at Essex County Community College, who turned the trauma of being mugged on Halsey Street by a pack of “boys walking from Burger King who robbed me as if I were a choice off the menu’’ into verse:

  . . . one tug would’ve given them/three 20s out of my back pocket/But an iPhone and wallet with state ID/And debit cards were enough to flee/No younger than 13 this pack/had enough experience in decadence/To stain my bliss with darkness shaded between their skin and mine . . .

The audience nods in recognition when truths strike close to the bone, then hoots and hollers when one regular deviates from her usual fare and shares an erotic poem, deconstructing, detail by detail, the “pulsation and vibration dancing in my mouth.’’ This is, in a nutshell, “the scene,’’ and the format of choice is an open mic.

Open mics take place in coffee houses and church basements, parks and barber shops all over Brick City. And now, as poets from all over the country descend on Newark this week for the Dodge Poetry Festival, the largest poetry event in North America, local poets here hope the festival will shine a spotlight on what regulars already know: the poetry scene in Newark is thriving.

“Any night a week you can find a show,’’ said Rogers, 33, a manager of a fabric store in Passaic who has also hosted a cypher – or impromptu rap session – at the corner of Broad and Market Streets every Friday night for the last five summers.

The scene, he added, has grown noticeably in the last two years. ”It wasn’t like this before. You don’t just see three or four people.  You’ll see a crowd.’’

Added Se’lah: “There was a time when it was very cliquish. Now I feel like everything’s coming together. I attribute the unification of poets of our generation to just growing up.’’

 

Poetry in Newark

You can’t mention Newark and poetry in a sentence without invoking the name of the late Newark poet Amiri Baraka, who saw poetry as a way to give voice to the voiceless. Baraka was at the center of Newark poetry starting with the Black Arts movement in the 1960s and 70s and continuing through to his death earlier this year. In fact, his legacy is being honored at this year’s poetry festival, and was also honored at this year’s Open Doors City-Wide Arts Festival. (Baraka’s legacy is also embodied by his son, mayor Ras Baraka,  who is himself a longtime poet.)

“He’s all of our grandfathers,’’ said Se’lah, who organized last May’s first-ever Montclair Poetry Festival and has her own production company, Mylk ‘n Honee Publishing. ”All of us owe our pens to him. The fact that we can all say we’re from a city where a legend lived  [makes me] very proud to say I’m a Newark poet.’’

Poetry, Rogers said, is a way for people to “rebel’’ in a positive way in response to the hurt that comes from a society that seeks to keep people – especially black people – in a box.  “I think it’s the hurt,’’ he said, explaining the profusion of local poets. “It’s definitely expression.’’

That view was echoed by Tehsuan Glover, 34, a Newark native known by his stage name “Starski.’’ Glover, a poet himself, organized a poetry show at the Newark Symphony Hall earlier this month that featured readings by local poets drew 125 people.

“Newark has a great deal of beauty and Newark has a great deal of ugly, which at the very least is fodder for artists and poetry,’’ said Glover, who earns his living running a marketing and branding company known as Gentleman Culture.

 

Growth 
Glover, a graduate of Clifford J. Scott High School in East Orange, said he got serious about poetry after seeing the 1997 film Love Jones, a love story set in the world of Chicago’s African American creative class.  His interest lead him to Bogies’s, a nightclub in East Orange, and an important center for slam poetry throughout the 90s that helped nurture an older generation of local poets like Rob Hylton, Helena D. Lewis and Lamar Hill.

“Newark demands that you’re good,’’ said Glover, who counts the poet Lucille Clifton as an important influence. “Sympathy is not one of Newark’s character traits, particularly in terms of entertainment.’’

Rogers said he believes the current growth of the local poetry scene is being fueled by the feeling that Newark’s Downtown is changing as a result of developments like Teacher’s Village, the redevelopment of the Hahnes building to house a Whole Foods and new loft apartments, and the construction of the new Prudential office tower.

“A bunch of artists are saying, “’How can I position myself and my people to take advantage of this?’’’ he said.

 

Newark’s scene
Battle, 25, said it was precisely Newark’s reputation as a center for spoken word poetry that prompted him to come to Rutgers-Newark in 2011 as the place to do his graduate work in poetry. “Newark is to the Jersey scene as New York City or Harlem is to New York. If you want to make it as an artist, you have to make your name in Newark,’’ he said.

Battle said he counts Patricia Smith as an important influence, but he returns to Baraka’s poem, “Black Art,’’ a manifesto about black poetry often.

“It comes down to this: if you’re black and you’re writing poetry, you are black poetry because one way or another, your work will have a gaze that is in relation to the concerns of the black communities,’’ Battle said.

 

The Coffee Cave

By 10 p.m., “Living Room Wednesdays’’ is over. The lights are turned off and the customers are shooed out as employees wash the floors and lock up for the night.

Outside, Halsey Street is empty. The construction workers building the new Prudential Tower are long gone, the students and business people who come here to eat and shop a mere memory. Gregory Brown, a 26-year-old East Orange resident who had read the love poems he had written to his girlfriend Shanika Stevens, lingered on a bench to chat. “Poetry gives people a reason to exist and thrive and want to do more than what’s expected,’’ he said. “It lets you get things off your chest.’’

Brown said he has been writing poetry since he was eight years old. He has worked various jobs from teaching assistant to stage manager to security guard and is currently working as a volunteer as he prepares to go back to school.

Stevens, 42, whose performance this evening was an unmistakable reply to Brown’s, is sitting next to him. She, too, she said, is in an in-between stage, waiting to go back to school in a pharmacy technician program. She joked about the age difference between the two of them, but then turned serious. She hadn’t written anything since high school, she said, but Brown’s passion for poetry rubbed off on her. “He gave me a voice,’’ she said, adding yet another voice to the chorus of Brick City voices emerging from the Newark streets.

Dear adults, sit and listen awhile: the five-member Newark Youth Council represents their peers and presents their vision for Newark

The Newark Youth Council visits BET’s “106 and Park”. Pictured left to right: Kristin Towkaniuk, Aliyyah Torres, Jessiah Hall, Mahogany Laveu, Shakira McKnight. Photograph courtesy Linda Jumah

While mayor Ras Baraka and guests finished kicking off Newark Poetry Month at City Hall in early October, I was at the other end of Broad Street interviewing five dynamic and passionate Newark youngsters, who together constitute the Newark Youth Council.

They are Jessiah Hall, 17, who attends Seton Hall University; Mahogany Laveau, 17, a student at Newark Collegiate Academy; Shakira McKnight, 20, currently at Essex County College; and Kristin Towkaniuk and Aliyyah Torres, both 17, and both of Science Park High School.

We spoke about why they chose to apply for Newark Youth Mayor (the Youth Council was drawn from that applicant pool), and what they think the highest youth priorities are in Newark and how we should address them them.

The two college students in the group both attended Central High School. We discussed their reactions to the school’s portrayal during the mayoral election.

We discussed “disaster capitalism” and their thoughts on the current situation with Newark Public Schools and the One Newark plan.

They shared their feelings about the perception of Newark, from Conde Nast Traveler readers’ opinions to the notoriously ugly remarks about Newark that often appear in the comments section of NJ.com.

We also talked about their plans, including the citywide youth town hall they’ll be hosting on Tuesday, October 21, from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. at Central High School.

In an essay named “What about the shootings?” that I published just after Brick City Live launched, a little over a year ago, I wrote that “we must elevate hopeful things” in our coverage of Newark, even while we acknowledge the toughest of problems our city has. These five intelligent and engaged young Newarkers are a perfect example of the hope I was referring to. Here are the highlights from our conversation.


Andaiye Taylor: Why did you all decide to apply for youth mayor? What did you hope to achieve?

Jessiah: As soon as they said “youth mayor” I said, “Man, that sounds like me right there.”

I went to Central High School, so I knew Ras. I was on his campaign team, so I was helping him out and everything. And one day I happened to be going back [and forth] with people that were with [Shavar] Jeffries – I actually got into a small debate – and I was defending Ras’ points of view, and things he did. And somebody said to me that, “Aw man, to be honest, if you were running for mayor, I’d actually vote for you.”

And that really stuck in my head. And now that I know I have potential and other people see me as that, I feel like I should now attack it and try for something like this.

 

Andaiye: Mahogany, from a youth perspective, if you had to name two or three top priorities the city needs to address for your age group specifically, what would they be?

Mahogany: The top two I would say would be violence and education.

 

Andaiye: Do you have any prescriptions for how the city can approach both of those?

Mahogany: I feel like for education, I think that they should have more resources, and teachers with experience, but a diversity of experience. For example, they can go to different schools for arts that are doing well with their curriculum, and try to get some advice from them so they can see what they can put in their [own] schools’ [art programs] to help the students out.

And also for the violence situation, mostly putting more police enforcement within the streets, and making sure they’re being consistent with it, not like when they do it sometimes and then slack off. I think there should be more enforcement so people know that we’re focusing on violence and we’re trying to stop it.

 

Andaiye: Shakira did you also attend high school in Newark?

Shakira: I did. I went to Central High.

 

Andaiye: During the election, Central High School’s track record was called into question. Can you tell me what your experience was like going to Central and being educated in Newark?

Shakira: Going to Central was beautiful. I felt like there was a [special] culture within the school. I don’t know why they would attack such a school, you know? It went through such a beautiful transformation from what it was to the way it is now when you look at it. I believe it was a beautiful school.

Going to school in Newark is not a problem. At all. I believe that, like [Mahogany] said, the teachers should have expertise in diverse subjects, and it should be a true relationship between the teacher and the student.

 

Andaiye: What was then-principal Baraka like?

Shakira: Principal Baraka. I didn’t go to Central my ninth grade year, but when I came tenth grade year, we were entering the new building. This was the new year of the new building. It was very rowdy in the beginning, and then towards my twelfth grade year – we were the first class to be there four years – there was a big celebration because the school did go through a transformation.

It was a calmer environment, there was a lot more going on within the school, and the principal was actually worried about the safety of the children in the school. He would walk us all the way down the street – two corners down – just to make sure all of the students were good in the school. So I don’t know why Central was attacked because it was a beautiful school and it went through a beautiful transformation with the principal.

Jessiah: She was there during the beginning, so her culture was somewhat different from mine, because when I was there like right before Ras was about to run in the election for mayor, our school was getting attacked because they wanted Central.

Central has a nice building. I got used to it, but when other people see it, it’s like, “Oh my god this is an amazing building.” That’s why it made it hard on my class, because the previous seniors had a certain HSPA (High School Proficiency Assessment) average, and we had to raise the test scores basically. So it made it extremely hard for us because they said, “If you don’t raise these scores, we’re going to take your school.”

 

Andaiye: Who’s “we”?

Jessiah: Cami Anderson. So like, that’s why it made the principal preach to us, “You gotta do this.” They made us do workshops. Saturdays we’d go back to school to work on HSPA practice and reviews.

 

Andaiye: Did you feel like that was a good use of your time as a student?

Jessiah: Well me personally, I would’ve passed the score with or without the help. But for certain people it was very useful.

 

Andaiye: Kristin, I’ve actually seen your name a lot just from writing about the Newark Students Union. Can you talk about why you got involved and what your experience has been?

Kristin: I got involved my sophomore year. Originally the thing that got me in it was the fact that it was really cool to do. The environment that the founders made around the Newark Students Union was a great thing. They made it something where, literally, the first meeting was packed with over 100 students.

Then once I got to know the issues, I was really concerned, and I realized that if we don’t stand up for ourselves, no one will. And we really have to just continue pushing for change, because without change, where would we be now?

 

Andaiye: What was it that made it seem cool, that got all those students to check it out in the first place?

Kristin: As a sophomore there’s a lot of different things going on. There’s pressure to get involved in organizations. Also, a big social media aspect was involved in it. There were flyers literally everywhere in the school.

 

Andaiye: You mentioned the issues. What were the biggest issues that attracted you to the organization?

Kristin: There were two big issues for me. First was definitely the $56 million budget cut. Right when the NSU began was right when we got the budget for the year. The schools were left with bad options, like [either] cutting extracurricular activities or cutting teachers, and either way, that leaves students in a really bad position.

Another big issue for me was always the privatization push. Now that I’ve been involved with the Newark Students Union for so long, it’s really clear that this is about money. There’s no doubt in my mind that nothing in the world isn’t about money.

So the fact that New Orleans has zero public schools open at the moment — that’s disaster capitalism. Arne Duncan, the Secretary of Education, once said the best thing to ever happen to New Orleans was Hurricane Katrina. The fact that people died, and people’s houses were lost, and now there’s for-profit charter schools in the region — it’s sad. It makes me angry, and it should make me angry. And I think the biggest part of getting people involved is making them angry, because if you’re mad, you’re not gonna just sit back and let something happen, especially when it’s gonna happen to us some day.

 

Andaiye: Aliyyah let’s talk about tactics. How do approach the problems and get solutions? What actions do you take?

Aliyyah: We hand out flyers, try to get more students involved. A bunch of students in the city don’t know about what’s going on. They’re just oblivious, and they’re accepting the fact that Cami Anderson is trying to close their schools, but they don’t know why it’s happening, and they don’t know what they need to do to stop it.

So we just hype it up; we try to get them involved. Last year we had two walkouts.

 

Andaiye: What is the council working on at the moment?

Aliyyah: We’re working on a youth summit and a youth town hall meeting. For the youth town hall, we’re trying to get students to come so they can voice out what they need to voice out, because the adults are the main ones talking. The adults are the main ones creating the rules that they expect the kids to follow. The kids don’t really have a voice within the community, so I became a part of the youth council so I can voice those opinions, because I am a youth myself working for a better city.

Kristin: The youth town hall is about surveying the youth and finding out what we have to do. There’s a difference between organizing for someone and organizing with someone. We can’t assume that we know all the issues in Newark. We have to really get out there and get the most diverse crowd possible and find out all of the issues that are going on. And the youth town hall is really just a starting point.

And then for our term, the ending point would be – the goal – is to have a youth summit. I guess the main goal for us is to get as many people involved in the youth summit as possible. We also plan on having a film festival. We’re really trying to engage students on multiple levels.

newark youth council 2

Newark youth council members out in the community. Photograph courtesy Linda Jumah.

Andaiye: How do you also engage adults and policymakers? How do take your recommendations and make something of them?

Shakira: We’re making them become resources. We want them to become major resources for youth. We want them to become more engaged with youth. We don’t want to say that they’re not engaged [now], but we want them more engaged as far as putting opportunities out there for youth.

I say this many times: we need mentoring programs for students who want to be firefighters, or youth that want to be policemen, hairdressers. Any type of profession that you can think of, we’re putting resources toward engaging those professionals.

Mahogany: And also for the youth town hall meetings, we’ll take suggestions from the youth in the crowd about what they want in the community. And like Shakira said, those adults are a part of our panel of resources. It’s not like we’re just discussing what we want the change, it’s [also] the actions for how we’re gonna get it to change.

When these panelists come, they will hear what the youth are saying, but they’re also jotting down, “What can I do? What can my job title – me as a person – do to help these kids?” I think that most of the time adults feel that for the youth, they’re not — I don’t think they take us that seriously if I’m gonna be honest. I feel that most of the adults feel like “[It’s nice] they’re doing the youth council thing,” but I feel like they think that it’s just a short term kind of thing. We want them to see it as a long-term project.

Jessiah: This is our first year establishing the youth council. We’re the people that are gonna set the rules and the outline for everybody else. With the youth town hall, it’s about getting ideas, because each event piggybacks off [of] the rest.

 

Andaiye: I’m curious about whether you pay attention to how Newark is portrayed and written about. What is your perspective on that?

Jessiah: Oh my god, you asked the perfect person.

I go to Seton Hall University. The first thing we are taught is not to go to Newark. I am so serious. I’m like – as soon as I went there we had a floor meeting, and they were saying, “There’s a lot of robberies going on.” And the funny thing is a robbery did happen, but that was in Orange. Yet the people that did it I guess were from Newark, and now it’s like, “Don’t make that right, go left. If you value your life, don’t go right.” I was like, “What?!”

Especially on the weekends, there’ll be parties on Thursdays and Fridays. I was with this bunch that wanted to go to this party, and this girl said to me, she was like, “The party’s going to be in Newark.” She honestly said. “I’m putting my life in your hands.”

I looked at her like, “Chill out.”

Mahogany: Also when we even went to 106 and Park to show the public what we’re about, there was a man that was outside who saw us coming out the van, and he saw that we were from Newark. When I first heard him talk about us I thought he was joking. But then afterwards, I thought he was kinda serious. He was like, “Oh ya’ll come from Newark. I gotta make sure we have security”.

Jessiah: Really. That’s what he said.

Mahogany: He was also talking about stereotypes that he heard and stuff like that. And women that he had dated from Newark and how they weren’t successful.

Most of the stuff that I hear from Newark is basically about the violence. And yeah, some parts of it is true – I’m going to be honest – but at the same time, we have a lot of other stuff that is really making the progress for Newark.

When he was talking, I was getting kinda angry because he kept on talking about Newark in a bad light. I’m like ok, you’re from New York, you’re right next to New Jersey, so you also have some crime that goes on in your community. It’s not like you’re perfect, because you’re not. In that moment I kind of felt like we as a youth council need to take the initiative. That we need to change Newark and change what everybody thinks Newark is.

Jessiah: Yeah. They said we’re the unfriendliest city.

Kristen: In the world apparently. I’ve definitely seen it firsthand. For the first walkout there was an article posted up on NJ.com. And people…it was the most disheartening thing I’ve ever read in my life I think.

 

Andaiye: The comments?

Kristen: The comments. Newark is a cesspool full of minorities who are scum. And that it’s just full of prostitutes, and all these negative things. And it really hurts because we try our best, and we’re really working to make Newark a better place, but we’re always gonna have to work against everything.

We have the potential to be great, as everyone in the city does. Collectively, we can do it, and it’s really about making it better not only for ourselves, but for future generations. Making Newark the international city that we know it can be.

We have so many resources in this city. We have the college campuses. There are high schools that are thriving. We have the port. We have to start using the resources that are around us.

Mahogany: Also to add to the resources, I feel like a lot of outsiders use our resources, so in a way they’re all saying stuff that they want to stay about Newark, but then you still come into the community.

Shakira: Yeah…

Kristin: Yeah…

Mahogany: I feel like people left during the time when people were going through a hardship, but now that Newark is coming up, they think it’s easy to come back again. But the people who stayed the entire time — they don’t get that recognition. They don’t get that acknowledgement. I feel that it should be spoken about, and I think that it’s not fair.


newark youth town hall

 

 

Newark high school students selected for London trip. Now, organizer looks to rally Newarkers to get the group across the pond

This summer, Newark native and travel consultant Madeline Boughton announced that she’d be launching an application for six Newark high school students to travel to London for an “immersive learning excursion”, a campaign she hopes will turn the students into global citizens and lifelong travelers. As part of her Newark-based Traveling Mad consultancy, Boughton extols the benefits of international travel to youth in and around Newark.

Boughton has now selected the six high school students and kicked off the fundraising phase of her initiative. On Tuesday, she hosted a benefit reception at Newark’s Studio58 in honor of the six students. But Boughton says the vast majority of the $25,000 needed to fund the trip will come from donations from Newarkers themselves, who she hopes to marshal through her recently launched Indiegogo crowdfunding campaign.

The six selected students are Amanda Dominguez and Karla Perez Estrella from Barringer STEAM, Adrian Morquecho and Joshua Skillern from Technology High School, Brianna Wilson from Shabazz High School, and Tamaj Nicholson from North 13th Street Tech. As a group, the students boast a litany of honors and recognition for academics and extracurricular activities. Among them is a National Honor Society member, Rutgers Future Scholar, NJIT Upward Bound student, a poet, an avid skateboarder and BMX biker, and a number of student government leaders and student-athletes.

In the campaign video, which features the selected students themselves, Boughton says, “When I was in high school, I wish I was given an opportunity such as this, but no one spoke to me about studying abroad,” and later adds that while she is “not the first Newarker who has traveled abroad,” the goal of the trip is to make sure more young Newarkers can do the same.

group selfie

Madeline Boughton poses with four of the six Newark high school students selected for the London trip.

Dean and Director of Operations at England’s Wroxton College, where the students will be staying for the first leg of their trip, voiced over a section of the video, saying, “I’m delighted [Boughton] created this trip to give such a great opportunity to high school students from Newark. I very much look forward to having Madeline and her group here at Wroxton.”

Boughton has partnered with the Mayor’s Office of International Relations and Diaspora Affairs (MOIRDA), the Believe in Newark Foundation, Newark Social, and EMQ Networks on the project. Deputy mayor of MOIRDA Ugo Nwaokoro said the trip “is in line with Mayor Ras J. Baraka’s vision of exposing Newark youth to other cultures and countries.”

A list of the activities included in the trip is below. The crowdfunding campaign to raise funds for the trip closes on December 1.

Total cost for 8 people, 1 week: $25,000

  • Airfare & baggage fees, EWR to LHR: $8,200
  • Hotel fees for 1 week: $6,843
  • Educational & tourist activities: $1,752
  • Transportation: $2,800
  • Meals: $2,400
  • Travel Insurance $500
  • Emergency and miscellaneous $1,000

 

 

A challenge from a teenaged son. Then a mission to educate and empower Newark youth

Al-Tariq Best is the founder of FP YouthOutCry, a non-profit organization that has been serving Newark's youth and families for more than eight years.

But working intently towards a better future for Newark wasn’t always in this lifelong Newarker's plans. “I was involved with the music business since I was nine years old,” said Best. “I even have an album, mixed and mastered.”

Only Best never released that album. Since 2006, his time has been occupied by his community work. And it all started with a question from his then-14-year-old son.

 

The Challenge

“I was driving down Bergen Street, me and my sons. I stopped at a light, when three guys started beating on this one guy,” recalled Best. “Then one guy pulls out a gun, and at that point I was just trying to get my sons out of harm’s way, pass the light, and get out of the way.”

Best said he saw a police officer at the next intersection and told him what was happening. The officer made a U-turn in the direction of the scene.

“Once I heard a loud bang, something inside me just exploded,” Best continued.

In the aftermath of that incident, Best said he warned his sons against ending up on the streets of the very city he had defended on multiple occasions.

“I was embarrassed, really. As an adult, as a parent, I was just embarrassed that they actually saw that,” said Best. It was then that Best’s oldest son asked him a question that would change the direction of the former Georgia King Village resident's life.

“He told me, ‘Dad you always talk about being part of the solution and not part of the problem. What are you doing about it?’ And I was stuck,” said Best.

That moment prompted Best to pivot away from music and toward the Newark-based mentoring and education he’s made his life’s work for the past eight years. When he first started, Best said he took everything he knew from the music business and applied it to starting a non-profit organization, despite “not entirely knowing” how to build one.

“I just wanted to help, and I just wanted to serve,” said Best.

He initially wanted to focus his brand new initiative on helping youth, hence the "FP" in its eventual name, which stands for “Future Potential”.

He dived in headfirst, quickly launching FP’s inaugural project. “My first program was MTOL,” said Best. "My Thoughts Out Loud" is a traveling program that provides a forum for youth to express their concerns and challenges. The program's first stop was the Seth Boyden public housing projects, which Best said were referred to as “Death Boyden” at the time because of a string of recent homicides that had taken place there.

Best said he wanted to operate where he could have a real impact. “If you take a light and put it in an already lit room, it doesn’t do much," Best explained. “But if you take that same light and put it in a dark room, it can mean the world. Seth Boyden was that dark room.”

But Best soon realized he couldn’t maximize his impact on youth without including families as well. “They can’t teach what they don’t know,” said Best. “We try to instill more involvement in the families and adults, and close the gaps between them and their kids.” Best created adult-focused programs, like FIST (Families Involved in Structured Transitions), in order to help adults deal with financial literacy, health and wellness, self-sufficiency, and career readiness.  

 

Brick-and-mortar

As the goals of his organization expanded, Best said his physical presence had to, as well.

It wasn’t easy. For about two years, Best worked out of a 600-square-foot corner property in a Prince Street apartment complex formerly known as the Willi T. Wright Apartments. One of the apartment complex’s board members had admired what Best was doing in the community, and offered the space as a show of help.

But the fate of Best’s rent-free arrangement was jeopardized when new ownership, Treetop Development, bought the property. “They wanted to know why I was here in this office for free,” said Best. “So they held a meeting with the community, and the community stood up for me.”

As FP YouthOutCry grew, Best wanted his vision to include a physical community empowerment center. When he was approved to acquire more space on the Treetop Development property a year ago, the plan was set to create the H.U.B.B. (Help Us Become Better) center, which will be located on the lower level of 135 Prince Street once the renovation is complete.

“We raised $50,000 dollars to build up the place,” said Best. “We’ve expanded from 600 square feet to 9,000.”

The H.U.B.B. complex will feature an educational wing, an entertainment multimedia center, an empowerment center, which is still under construction, a copy center, a conference room, and other amenities. Although H.U.B.B.’s grand opening isn’t until October, Best said he grants tours of the new headquarters occasionally.

Best said FP YouthOutCry has received offers to open similar spaces on other properties in Newark, and even in different states, but that he wants to first set up the right organizational structure so his center can be a real template for community development.

“I definitely passed my initial expectations from the start, because it literally was just, ‘Let me help a little,’” sad Best. “I never knew that this would take my life on a whole new journey, and that I would find that my purpose in life is just serving people.”

 

Running lean

Best said although he’s benefited from significant support from Partnership for Children of Essex and the Newark Housing Authority, funding still remains his greatest obstacle, even after operating for eight years and earning numerous awards.

Despite having to operate on a conservative budget, Best said FP YouthOutCry is committed to consistently serving the community through its programming, which includes summer camps in all five wards, the annual Break Bread ceremony at Thanksgiving, and the fourth annual Citywide Healthy Olympics, which will take place at Nat Turner Park this Sunday.

“My whole thing with FP is to entertain, educate, and empower,” said Best, adding: “[I]f you teach them well enough, then they became empowered to do more for themselves and others, and that’s our goal.”

Tim Aumueller and MedPro wellness aim to improve Newark’s health

With the increasing amount of new, successful entrepreneurs popping up in the Newark area, one could be misled into thinking that starting your own business is an easy venture.

Tim Aumueller is one of the founders of MedPro Wellness, a mobile wellness solution that focuses on coming up with safe, effective, individualized programs for patients and employees of a company via nutrition, fitness, and education. He said learned firsthand that this is not the case.

Aumueller, originally from Wall Township, attended Messiah College in Pennsylvania before earning a master’s degree in Business Administration at Seton Hall University. Fresh out of college, Aumueller decided he wanted to be an entrepreneur.

“Whatever my fastest course was to being an entrepreneur, I was going after it,” said Aumueller.  This led him to trying a stint as an investment banker. Aumueller spent just two years in finance, but he described it as feeling like “20 years.”

While Aumueller said he did not have any complaints and would not change anything from his financial work experience, he didn’t view it as a success.

“It failed,” said Aumueller. “It just wasn’t something I was truly passionate about.”

This sparked a change of mindset in Aumueller. He decided to no longer follow a career path based on its availability, financial returns, or level of difficulty. From that point on, Aumueller’s approach was, “Let me find what I’m genuinely passionate about, and let me pursue that.” This led Aumueller to a 10-years-and-counting foray in the fitness and wellness arena, which gave him the opportunity to initiate and manage specific wellness centers at some of the top hospitals in the state of New Jersey.

Working in the industry reminded Aumueller that he and his childhood friend, Michael Mihalic, had always wanted to open a fitness center. They had always seen there was a need for them, but thought their current “cookie cutter” structure could be optimized. ”A majority were just sign-up, monthly membership, and after a couple of weeks they’re still taking money out of your account and you’re not even using it,” said Aumueller. While this model could make for a financially successful endeavor, Tim did not want to create a business solely for the purpose of making money.

“We strived to be different and to start some sort of program or center that we felt was going to actually allow people to be successful,” said Aumueller. This meant no longer pursuing the opening of a regular fitness center, but customizing a program based on the individual's needs, and that could coordinate with the customer's doctors, primary care physician, and employer with the goal of sustaining them through the program.

“What we wanted to do is really meet everyone at every level, and that’s how we came up with this mobile wellness situation.” 

After the vision of the initial two founders was set, things sped up for the duo as they eventually added Dr. Robert P. Caruso to the fold. But in order to truly work as a current, efficient mobile wellness solution, the three founders realized they needed technology expertise, and it was then that they connected with their fourth founder, Clark Lagemann.

Aumueller called the partnership a quick, effective union, and marvels at how everything aligned and how unified their approaches are. “All four of us wake up every day and say, 'How can we really help people effectively manage their health?'” said Aumueller. "That’s the only question we answer every day, and every step we take is towards answering that question.”

MedPro Wellness officially launched in February, and it didn’t take long for the startup business to not only grow in size – it currently has four partners, four health coaches, four advisory board members, and a programmer – but also have an effect on the Newark community. One of their very first programs started back in February where they provide a wellness program for all the employees of Newark.

“It is truly exciting working with all the employees,” said Aumueller, who is in charge of the operations aspect of MedPro Wellness. “The fire department, police department, business administration, every employee is offered this program in Newark, and they don’t have to pay a dime.”

MedPro Wellness offers these employees health assessments, where they define a need and ask them the necessary questions to gauge what approach they should take to the patient’s health situation. Whether it's dealing with chronic health issues, acute health problems, fitness planning, or even a little stress management, the founders of MedPro Wellness say help stop employees in Newark from hitting the "snooze button" on their health.

“We all need a little extra motivation,” says Aumueller. “This program allows them to be with a health coach on an ongoing basis, where they can work out a program that gets them fitness, nutrition, and education, and changes the way the individuals take care of themselves.”

Aumueller also hopes to one day expand the community education aspect of the program to provide opportunities for the residents of Newark, and has reached out to fitness centers in the area. MedPro Wellness’ founders hope to grow, and they're looking to develop further in Newark and surrounding municipalities. 

“We only want to find people who are passionate about this industry and understand what we’re trying to accomplish,” said Aumueller, adding that he's ready to there's constant change in the wellness industry.

“This is a process,” says Aumueller. “It works because it’s built off people, who we listen too, bounce ideas off of, who we make feel confident and successful by setting individualized goals to advance progress, and everyday we’re constantly evolving.” The individualized outlook Aumueller and his partners have on health really opens the door for anyone to take part in MedPro Wellness’s program. But such diversity has made it difficult for the young startup to solidify an identity because the program really is “for everyone” and can change to deal with different needs.

That constant change has served as a humbling experience for the 37-year old entrepreneur. 

“We’re still babies, we’re still learning every day, and I don’t think that’s going to stop,” said Aumueller. “And quite frankly I don’t ever want it too.”

 

Brick City Makers: Crystal Rogers looks to turn passion into progress for Newark

Brick City Makers is a weekly look at people building businesses in Newark at coworking spaces, in incubators, and on their own.

Even as Newark contends with some of the gravest problems a city can face, the whiff of new development in Newark has caught the attention of many prospective entrepreneurs looking to take advantage of the opportunities that entrepreneurial energy can bring. One of those entrepreneurs is Crystal Rogers.

“My perception of the growth has really changed since I started my own business,” said Rogers, who created her own startup business back in March. “I see that there are a lot of resources and motives for the people of Newark to be involved in that growth.”

Originally from Monmouth county, Rogers made the move to Newark in 2004, and has worked in the downtown area ever since. Her new startup business is called Standard Property Investments, and is currently located at 550 Broad Street in downtown Newark. With her business, she offers multifamily homes for low-income families and provides property-managing services to perspective owners looking to invest in their own property.

“People need housing,” said Rogers. She cites that with the closing of “a lot” of project housing in Essex County, those rental clients will be looking for a new place to live. Standard Property Investment would reach out to these rental clients and gauge their interest in multifamily housing.

As of right now, Rogers’ business only owns one property, located on the border of East Orange and Newark, but plans to look into buying other properties once the initial one is completed and displays that “wow factor” to attract not only rental clients, but impress owners looking for property managerial services.

 “We’d be offering them a home where they can have a yard, driveway, be a part of a neighborhood,” said Rogers. “We want to bring those people into a community that they can care about, work in, and invest in.”

Community is a word constantly echoed by Rogers, who doesn’t use the word just for effect. She hired interns from colleges in the Newark area and sends them to training sessions, business classes, and workshops. Whenever she needs help renovating her multifamily housing property, she seeks out local contractors and carpenters, or asks other locals if they know someone who can perform the task needed.

“I try to use community resources and make connections,” says Rogers.” We’re for the community. If you’re for our community, we definitely should partner up and know what services and resources are available to us through the partnership.”

When we spoke, Rogers was also planning Standard Property Investments’ first workshop on financial empowerment. Using her training from the National Labor College, Rogers looks to educate the community on how to take control of their finances and move forward with financial goals.

“We don’t want to rent to our clients forever,” said Rogers. “We want to see them go on and purchase their own multifamily home, have an additional income for their family, have something of value to pass on to their children, and move forward to their next goal.”

Rogers also networks and attends multiple meetup groups as she tries to help other entrepreneurs reach the next level, just as others have helped support her business. Her appreciation of her previous teachings, experiences, and opportunities from organizations like Rising Tide Capital, the Institute for Entrepreneur Leadership (IFEL), and Newark Innovation acceleration challenge, is only rivaled by her passion of continuing to help the growth of the Newark.

Being very involved in the special needs community Rogers, is fully aware of certain stressful situations involving special needs children that are often overlooked in project housing properties. She fought back tears as she explained the particular situation of a single mother with a special needs child, who is trying to deal with neighbors and an owner who fail to understand what her challenges.

“If she could just be partnered with an owner that understood and took the extra step for her family, it would just offer so much more freedom for that family,” said Rogers, who clearly sympathized with the family’s situation. “Just bringing all those resources closer can get someone like her get to the next goal. That’s what I’m passionate about, that’s what I think about when I think about opening the next home.”  

 

Team behind Newark design firm Medina=Citi to launch new pop-up coworking space downtown

The team behind Medina=Citi, the Newark-based design firm that counts many Newark businesses and entrepreneurs among its client roster, will soon launch = Space (pronounced "Equal Space"), a pop-up coworking space geared towards technology companies, entrepreneurs, and creatives in and around Newark.

Citi Medina, co-founder and creative director of Medina=Citi, said he hopes to inject the productive energy and creative culture of his design firm into the new coworking space. “So much of my success has been due to an open dialogue within the walls of my design house. We are bringing that spirit into our sharespace," Medina said.

The coworking space will open on Monday, August 11th, at 89 Market Street, and be available for use from 9am to 6pm on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, and from 9am until late night hours on Tuesdays and Thursdays, to accommodate those entrepreneurs who work primarily during the day. = Space will offer daily, weekly, and monthly pricing plans, as detailed on their website.

Its founders say = Space will be outfitted with workstations and buzzing with programming, including coaching for technology companies, resources for entrepreneurs, and thought leadership talks from guest speakers. They also hope that working together in close quarters will empower entrepreneurs to learn from and collaborate with each other.

The space will cater to the other needs of its patrons, Medina said. Among some of the features of = Space will be wi-fi, conference space, an "honor-based cafe" that Medina envisions as "an open space to sit with a beverage, [and as a] school playground to sit and talk." There will also be "a small putting area in the back for a mini golf session," he added.

While much attention has been paid recently to the residential and commercial development boom in Newark – and the centralization of the lions share of that development within the downtown district – Newark has been enjoying a people-based renaissance over the past few years. Energetic entrepreneurs and artists, both homegrown and new to the city, investing themselves into the city and forming creative, social, and entrepreneurial communities with each other. Medina and his firm have been key players in all three aspects of that renaissance.

The team is also working on the launch of its permanent coworking space, which has been in the planning stages since the start of the year, and will be located in Newark's Lincoln Park neighborhood. Medina=Citi chief operating officer Rafael Roman said that while they're finishing the permanent space in the historical property in partnership with CAPC (Community Asset Preservation Corporation), "[our] intention is to provide our services immediately."