It is not easy being a resident of Newark, the largest city in New Jersey and one of the oldest cities in America. Affected by deindustrialization that resulted in the loss of tens of thousands of jobs over the last five decades, poverty, a perpetually troubled public school district, the state’s indifference to urban communities and now violent crime – existing in Newark requires a certain fortitude and strength that nonresidents have a hard time understanding. Despite coming under the leadership for the last almost 8 years with celebrity and a national profile, people on the ground in Newark are hurting and there is very little relief in sight. U.S. Census data indicate that 40,000 African-Americans are in poverty in Newark, a city with just a hair over a quarter million residents.
Responding to the daily onslaught of gang and drug related violence that has swept the city, a number of community groups have announced a rally for this Wednesday to call attention to the senseless violence that has claimed many young lives in the city. Students from the Alexander Street School, the Office of Guidance and Social Services and the Newark Anti-Violence Coalition will join other community groups at the intersection of Sunset and South Orange Avenue from 4 pm to 6pm.
The Newark Anti-Violence Coalition was founded in 2009 and consists of a broad coalition of churches, mosques, gang members of the Bloods and Crips, community based groups, clergy, teachers, business professionals and family members of victims of violence in the city. Leading the charge were community activist and now Newark City Council member Ras Baraka, Nation of Islam member David Muhammad and the founder of Black Cops against Police Brutality, De Lacy Davis. The coalition came into existence after a Newark resident, Nakeisha Allen, a mother of two children was killed in the crossfire of a man aiming for another man as she walked home from the store. In response to the incident the coalition was formed and held a massive rally to call for justice for Ms. Allen and an end to street violence. The coalition has been vocal in addressing the level of violence within the African-American community.
Recognizing the larger social dimension of violence, the coalition developed five demands or calls-to-action in the wake of the killing of Nakeisha Allen. They included: 1) The removal of Newark Police Director, Garry McCarthy and the restoration of the position of Chief of Police, 2) Mayor Cory Booker as the Chief Executive Officer of the City to call a mass meeting with grassroots community based organizations, law enforcement, social services providers for the City of Newark, UMDNJ (Violence Institute), Newark’s Business Community, Clergy, to declare violence as a public health issue, 3) Secure and Create employment opportunities for Newarkers, 4) Support the implementation and enforcement of the Amistad Bill (A1303) that will teach particularly African-Americans and Latin Americans the knowledge of themselves, and 5) Calling all street organizations (gangs) to lay down their guns and adopt non-violent conflict resolution strategies.
The coalition then set out and held anti-violence demonstrations for 155 consecutive weeks to keep attention focused on the violence that has beset Newark. Dawn Hayes, a member and organizer of the Newark Anti-Violence Coalition, reflects, “The violence that is plaguing Black and Brown communities in Newark and around the world reflects deeper and neglected underlining issues such as poverty, drugs, the crisis in the family, the high incarceration rates of Black men and Women, joblessness, colonialism, neo-colonialism, White supremacy, Black and Brown self-hatred, and the counter intelligence program (COINTELPRO).”
Among groups that have heeded the Newark Anti-Violence Coalition’s call to protect the city’s youth from the senseless violence that has gripped neighborhoods are Morticians that Care, the United Parent Network and 31 Days of Peace.
For more information about the NAVC, contact (908) 605-NAVC or firstname.lastname@example.org.