My Reflection On Why I #❤Newark

20170831_003935In the last few months, I have become a rather recognizable face in Newark. Some know my name, others do not, but follow me on any one or all of my social media pages. I did not intend for that to happen, but with some (okay a lot of) motivation by friends, the constant negative media reports and love for my adopted city–someone had to step up and advocate and showcase the Newark I like so many who live here, LOVE.
I began informally chronicling Newark for 8 years ago as a response to my New York friends thinking I was crazy visiting this city for what initially was Newark Bears baseball games. They, like I heard and read what the traditional news was reporting about what was happening here, but I never observed any of that on my excursions to and from Newark Penn Station. I would always pick different ways to walk whether it was up Market Street turning right on Broad Street or along McCarter Highway. After awhile, I became curious to see what else was happening in this city. I learned about Newark Riverfront Revival’s $5.00 boat tours along the Passaic River, The Newark Museum, NJPAC‘s Sounds of The City free summer concerts The Newark Public Library, and much more. That October weekend, I had read a listing about the Newark Arts Open Doors, I found myself inside the WBGO studios, The New Jersey Historical Society–where a quote from Frederick Douglass was posted in one of the exhibits, ” If there is no struggle, there is no progress.” A fitting quote for this city as it’s being redeveloped and in some instances developed. I was falling in love with this place and I owed it all to my love of baseball.
I eventually left New York and moved to Belleville, but spent a lot of time in and out of Newark by bus as I do not drive. I not only did I begin to learn about it’s history, but also the contributions Newarkers of past and present made and were making to this nation and the larger world. Eventually I would board random buses to view what I read about. Like the day, I took the #5 Bus to see for myself the streets that were named for The Newark Eagles, the team that won the 1946 Negro Leagues World Series. But enough about baseball, for now.
On March 20th of this year, I attended Mayor Baraka’s State of the City and found myself sitting amongst supporters of his who knew him when he was a principal. Some even claimed to know his mother, Amina  and father Amiri which I admit at the time had only heard of, but not knowing their legacy in Newark. I went there with an open mind, but also to hear from and eventually fully support Mayor Baraka who was now my mayor too. I had finally moved out of Belleville and that month marked my 11th month as a Newark resident. I had spent much of last year attending many events and activities as part of Newark’s 350th Anniversary Celebration chaired by by Junius Williams. I learned a great deal and continued to post photos and reflections of what to me was fascinating. I had the same friends who was thinking I was crazy tell me, “you should become Newark’s ambassador.” I laughed it off until I got home that night and viewed a FOX 5 reporter’s Facebook Live video of her short time here that evening.
Now mind you Ms. Evers was on the corner of Broad and Market Streets during her video and just a few blocks from NJPAC, she spoke with only three people in what looked like rush hour. Her report was negative and continued to cast this city’s torrid reputation as being truthful. I publicly invited her on a tour of not only what she missed during her short visit, but also the Mayor’s address. She dismissed my opinions and never took me up on the offer to return.
This inspired me to create Newark CentricCity By BrickCity Emigree on Facebook that launched on March 21st and this blog here with accompanying pages on InstagramTwitter, and Reddit to give Newark and Newarkers forums to shine brightly. It’s been a labor of love, as well as a real look inside the city from an outside perspective. Though I never feel like an outsider. Along the way, I have met some wonderful people from all walks of life and in all kinds of professions, learned about stories history books and news accounts forgotten about or twisted, discovered that there is really no need to leave Newark to find fun things to do. These activities include FREE if not low cost art exhibitions at any one of the city’s galleries and studios, concerts in the parks and the newly built Clinton Avenue Community Sound Stage, walking tours, talks, art making workshops, video production classes, 3D printing classes, film festivals like the upcoming Newark International Film Festival on September 8-10th, poetry readings, joining a kickball league, kayaking, dancing at the library, playing hockey with the New Jersey Devils, and so much more. These and more are on my pages so that way when folks look back on Newark they will note a much better reputation it has than the news has been giving this place. Slowly, I have been reading and hearing better, but they still have a long way to go.
If ever in doubt, I encourage to like and follow my pages as you will find a daily social calendar of the events I know happening before they happen, interviews with Newarkers–what they’re doing and how to get in touch with them, and reposts of NewarkCentric info and resources. Should you wish to be featured or want to reach me, my contact info is below.
Also, please stay tuned because I am not only working on bringing readers new blog posts, but also creating NewarkCentric Events.
A special thank you to Newark residents, Graphic Designer and Artist Sindy Snchz for creating and designing my business cards and Julia at StickEmUpInc for printing them.
Peace and Love,
Suzanne Joblonski

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Newark’s LGBTQ Community Past and Present Remembered

As you (hopefully) have read from my previous posts, I am very much into learning about and discovering Newark’s past and present as well as behind-the-scenes of my city and neighbors–all 282,000 of them.

One such discovery includes the free downtown walking tours offered as part of this summer’s activities at Military Park on Thursdays at 6pm. I have been on three already. Each of them offered me insight on what the future may look like downtown during an architectural tour by a recent NJIT architecture graduate, the historical significance of buildings that were once home to something else before what they are today, and 19th century mansions that were once home to early influential Newarkers and are still maintained as private residences today. Fortunately, they are preserved and their history is remembered while other facets of Newark’s history is not as easily so.

Case in point: this week’s tour by The Queer Newark Oral History Project (QNOHP). I had no idea such a project existed and was very curious to learn more ahead of the tour. After doing some research, I contacted them via Facebook asking for an interview.  I received a quick reply from Kristyn Scorsone, a staff member of the project who agreed to meet up with me.

I learned QNOHP is a community-based and community driven project that aims to collect and preserve the voices and history of Newark’s LGBTQ community based out of Rutgers-Newark. It was founded six years ago this summer by activist, writer, and the first chair of the City of Newark’s advisory Commission on LGBTQ Concerns, Darnell Moore and Rutgers-Newark colleagues, History Professor Beryl Satter, and Christina Strasburger, Department Administrator for the History and African-American and African Studies Departments.

This was in response to how queer history often only includes the contributions of white gay men and to a lesser extent, white lesbians in cities like New York or San Francisco. “Newark gets overshadowed, especially people of color. This project is trying to rectify this history,” says Scorsone.

The public archive is available to anyone with Internet access. By no means is it complete and want to continue to “capture people’s voices.”  They are also collecting physical items to add to their collection and “recently received a generous donation from James Credle, a former dean at Rutgers-Newark and highly decorated Vietnam veteran and leader in Newark’s LGBTQ community. If interested in participating, I have included several ways for you to contact them at the end of this post.

You can also meet them on one of their tours. On July 6th at 6pm and on July 13th to kick off Newark Pride Week at 630pm both begin outside of Burg inside Military Park.

These absolutely free tours, the first of its kind are for anyone who wants to know more about Newark’s queer history and led by four facilitator “to reflective nature of our team.”

Scorsone shares, “I would like to point out that although many of the queer spaces in Newark that we point out no longer exist, that this is not a tour about loss, but about potential and growth. The queer community, like other communities, shifts and changes, but it’s still here and it’s visible. You just have to know where to look! So on this tour we are asking folks to think about how has this community been expressed over time?”

Tour highlights include: the former location of Murphy’s Tavern that was located on Edison Place; Broad and Market Streets, where in 2007,  Sakia Gunn, a 15 year old teen was killed for rebuking a straight male’s advances as well as a discussion about the documentary Out in the Nightstops along Halsey Street that is home to a number of LGBTQ businesses, and end at the Newark LGBTQ Community Center.

Narrowing down the topics and stops were not easy because there are (were) many throughout the city. Scorsone, says of the ones they chose “we feel they give a good overview of Newark’s queer history and the various contributions queer people have made in Newark. We also wanted to highlight the community’s resiliency and how they have built a queer cultural landscape in Newark that existed in the past and still continues to flourish.”

How can you help make this possible? Queer Newark is always looking for volunteers with interviewing and transcribing as well as anyone who can help with website design. They are always looking for more people who would like to be interviewed for the project! If you are interested in being interviewed for the project you send message on Facebook or Twitter (@QueerNewark) or email at queernk@rutgers.edu.

Website: http://queer.newark.rutgers.edu

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/QueerNewark/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/QueerNewark