Grappling with the ‘God forsaken city’

BY NAKIA WHITE I’ve lived in Newark for the last 12 years or so.  When I initially moved here family and friends warned that Newark was dangerous and I should reconsider.  Cautionary tales in tow-I threw them to the wind and moved to what my Aunt had labeled  “a God Forsaken city.”  

My experiences over the last years have been a mixed bag-mostly good, I will admit. I’ve heard the stories-been a part of a few- wouldn’t change any of it. Newark may not be a lot of “NOTS” but on the other side of the nots are lots of goods.  My first year in Newark I joined an amazing professional organization and met some amazing folks: Leadership Newark, which held all day-monthly sessions, many of which focused on the heavily debated, live wire topic of politics.  It just so happened that my class was filled with a bunch of then-politicians and soon-to-be politicians, includng Anton Wheeler, who in 2000 was an aide to than Mayor Sharpe James; and Pueblo Francesco, who in 2000 was in a heavily contentious fight with Mayor James for his support of rising star Cory Booker. Pueblo later became a senior aide and Chief of Staff for Booker, until fellow LN classmate Modia Butler assumed the role and Angela Garretson, now councilwoman in Hillside. 

Former Mayor Kenneth Gibson, who proclaimed that “Wherever American cities are going, Newark will get there first,” hosted one of those sessions where tempers again flared. One side promised that Sharpe was the greatest while the other side insisted that Booker was a better shot for Newark. 

Time jump November 27, 2012.

At the Newark City Council Pre-Thanksgiving meeting, former school board member Shanique Davis Speight received four council votes and Mayor Booker was the fifth that broke the deadlock. Perhaps game theory at play or something more pervasive set the wheels of this vote in motion, nonetheless the fallout was sudden, vivid and alarming. Speight was assaulted; derogatories hurled from one council member to another, bedlam ensued. The court-ordered council meeting that followed was to be much more subdued, yet again perjoratives filled the chamber. Racial epithets tumbled out of mouths rushing to ears in disbelief. Affability replaced with impertinence. All distressing display of incivility. All extremely embarrassing!

Watching both meetings, recounting Mayor Gibson’s statement “Wherever American cities are going, Newark will get there first” got me to thinking, if that’s true, then Newark is in a heap of trouble but American cities brace yourselves.  Slick talking politicians, back door deals, disrespect especially against women and incivility will be universal city charters. 

SMDH for so many things and so disappointed in so many folks.  As much as I respect the legacy of Mayor Gibson, I sincerely hope that Newark is NOT where American cities go, visit or stay!

Nakia White is a former member of the Newark Schools Advisory Board.

"I don't think what he's doing tonight, the method by which he's doing it helps to build a trustful relationship."
—Gov. Chris Christie reacting to President Barack Obama's speech on immigration reform.