One of the nostalgic views of the Black community in many cities is that of an engaged population that discussed concerns openly and developed solutions with input from a variety of stakeholders. It is that nostalgic view that many people reminiscence and lament over its absence today. In some places residents are not simply content at longing for the past but are taking affirmative steps to reinvigorate civic dialogue to spur collaboration to address issues recognized as affecting the quality of life in the community. One such place is Newark New Jersey, the state’s largest city with a history of community activism.
The Black History Month Committee of Weequahic High School is sponsoring a weekly forum, Real Talk Thursdays, a throwback to an era of community engagement. The forum is supported by three community-based organizations, the Newark Anti-Violence Coalition (N.A.V.C.), New Jersey Communities United and the Pan-Afrikan Muslim Association. The weekly event is free and open to the public, with youth and adults encouraged to attend, and is held in the high school auditorium from 7:00 pm until 8:00 pm.
This week on Thursday February 23, Real Talk Thursdays will focus on the importance of Malcolm X to the Black liberation movement. February 21 marks the 52nd anniversary of the assassination of el-Hajj Malik el-Shabazz (Malcolm X) in the Audubon Ballroom in northern Manhattan, New York City. The dynamic Imam and human rights activist was only 40 at the time of his death. His stature steadily rose in the decades after his killing and he is now widely revered as a Pan-Africanist, intellectual and visionary.
Bashir Akinyele, chairperson of the Black History Month Committee and a history teacher at Weequahic High School, says “This program is an opportunity to discuss solutions to the problems affecting African Americans, Latino Americans, people of color, women, the youth, and humanity.”
Newark has a history of community engagement and in the past, has been the epicenter of dialogues focused on the uplift and liberation of the Black community in America. Community opposition to the construction of a state medical school in the heart of the city’s central ward and a controversy over an appointment to the Board of Education led to a six-day rebellion in the summer of 1967 that resulted in the deaths of 26 people. The city was also the site of the Black Power Conference in 1967 and was the intellectual center of the Black Arts Movement, inspired by the late poet, author and activist Amiri Baraka. Newark elected the first Black to lead a major northeastern city when Ken Gibson became mayor in 1970. Last fall the city hosted the State of the Black World Conference. Its history is filled with community-based activism to address issues in education, housing, economic empowerment and local government control and accountability. Real Talk Thursdays is an extension of that history as the city is now faced with many of the same issues it confronted in the 1960s and 1970s but in the context of a metropolis in the 21st century.
For further information on Real Talk Thursdays the public can call (908) 956-3523 or (973) 705-3795.