The Struggle To Create Peace In the Streets Under Newark NJ’s Mayor Ras Baraka

June 13, 2021

By Bashir Muhammad Akinyele

Last week while I was vacationing in Virginia Beach, Virginia from a long and challenging school year with my wife and kids, I was informed through my comrades in the Newark Anti-Violence Coalition (NAVC) that multiple people were shot and killed in the city’s Black community. I said to myself that when I get back to Jersey, I will spend some time in the neighborhoods where the senseless violence took place. Therefore, I did just that family. Last night, before I went to hear legendary Newark DJ Punch spin house and club music at club Eclipse in Irvington, NJ, I spent some time around the Black community’s shooting and murder sites.

My first stop was Pennsylvania Avenue and Lincoln Park. At this site was where young brother named Darnell Holmes, his friends and family affectionately called him DJ, lost his life before the age of 21.

I left there to visit the site on Dr. Martin Luther King, BLVD and Spruce Street where  several people were shot, but survived. While I stood there assessing the damage done by senseless violence, a  Blackwoman  recognized me as a teacher at Weequahic High School, a community activist and a member of the Newark Anti-Violence Coalition (NAVC). The sister introduced me to the Newark Police officer standing on post on the block. She told me that the police officer was her blood sister. After all the introductions, they begin to discuss the problems facing the Black community, these two Blackwoman told me that some of the biggest problems plaguing our people were drugs, the lack of good Black parenting, the lack of valuing an education, Black lives do not matter anymore, and the disconnection of Black people have with our own Black history. After receiving a spoonful of Black despair, I told them we must still find a way to organize against these issues to help empower our people. I said my good byes, and proceeded on to the next shooting site.

I then went up to the infamous Bedrock neighborhood of Stratford Avenue and Clinton Avenue. There was a such a heavy police presence in the community, no one wanted to talk about the shootings.

But I did not stop there family, I went over  to Muhammad Ali Avenue and Quitman Street to speak with DJ’s family and friends. There I learned that three of his sisters knew me from teaching at Weequahic High School. They all told me that they attended Weequahic High School. But his sisters also told me that their brother was excited about turning 21. They told me that he was beginning to change his life around for the better before he was killed. Unfortunately, now he will never reach the age of 21, and never have a life. Before they left me, they told me that all the victims of violence were innocent by-standers, including their brother.

While I stood there talking with his sisters about DJ, his friends came up to me to  strike up a conversation about how racism, classism, drugs, Black self-hatred, dysfunctional families, Black disunity, the lack of resources, poverty, joblessness, and rap music are destroying the Black community. And by the way, his friends were all members of a particular street organization called the Bloods. But although they were members of the Bloods, their political analysis was right on point. I said to them that the conditions that they were talking about are the reasons why abnormal levels of violence plague the Black Community in Newark and throughout America.

After I left them, I went over to 6th Avenue and Roseville where a young woman was shot. Unfortunately, the woman died in the hospital from her wounds.

Although, I never got a chance to talk to the people in the neighborhood about what happened to this woman, I began to think about the Osman Shabazzes, the Eric Dawsons, and all the people blaming all of Newark’s violence in the Black community on Mayor  Ras J. Baraka, Larry Hamm, the state Chairman of the Peoples Organization for Progress, the NAVC, Newark’s activists, and myself. Here is the problem. These people have no intentions of unifying with anyone to help solve the problem of senseless violence in the Black community. Why? This is simple. They do not have any organizations, plans or strategies of their own to help solve the problems of crime and violence in the Black community.  I do not know if they are even connected to the Black community because they come off to Black people, like  myself, as political opportunists. People can argue that they, the Osman Shabazzes and the  Eric Dawsons have a right to criticize Mayor Baraka, Larry Hamm, the NAVC, and myself, and they do, but when do you start working to fix the problem instead of just criticizing for criticizing sake. Yes crime and violence is still happening in Newark, and we must continue to hold Mayor Baraka accountable to fixing the problem, but Mayor Baraka’s work is having some results. Overall, he has dramatically reduce crime and violence in Newark. And here is the reason why people. I think what separates Mayor Baraka from all the Black Mayors Newark has ever had is the fact he is an activist Mayor. What do I mean by that folks, because Mayor Baraka comes from the grassroots civil rights and revolutionary struggle of oppressed Black people, he understands that he beat the democratic machine, and the power structure, to win a very contentious election in 2014. Now, he is using his new found political power, and the unity of the people, to help truly empower the city, particularly, the Black community. If he was not doing that, I would be the first on the front lines, as well as many other activists, would be working night and day to get rid of the  Mayor Ras J. Baraka!

The great civil rights activist and Black revolutionary nationalist, Kwame Ture’ (Stokely Carmichael), taught us that “if you are not part of the solution, then you are part of the problem.” Unfortunately, in Newark there are some people that are part of the problem. They have no solutions.

Senseless violence is real in the Black Community. It is costing too many Black lives to be lost in the Black community.  We do not have time for political games!!!!

Stop the Violence! Black Power! All Power to the People! Hotep! Peace in the Streets! As Salaamu Alaykum!!!

Bashir Muhammad Akinyele
-Community Activist
-Member of the Newark Anti-Violence Coalition

PS: Special Thanks to my brother, my comrade, and long time Newark activist Tayari Simba for rolling with last night. He is equally concerned about the violence in the Black community. Brother DJ was his friend. They are both from the same neighborhood of Muhammad Ali and Quitman.

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