The Women of Newark, New Jersey Are Loved

On May 12, 2017 the City of Newark opened The Shani Baraka Women’s Resource Center for women of every nationality, ethnicity, straight, LGBTQ residing in Newark and affected by domestic violence.

As a survivor, I felt fortunate to be at this event because when I went thorugh my own ordeal, Newark was where I received the most help while I was living in and after I moved out of a domestic violence shelter. When women who are experiencing this, there is often the feeling no one understands what I am going through. Society as a whole tends to treat domestic violence as a personal problem rather than the real epidemic that it is. For a city to open a center such as this one is a huge step in letting women know that the abuse not their fault, they are not alone and caring people are employed in positions to help.

We were welcomed by Amina Bey, Executive Director, Newark Workforce Development Board, followed by a moving prayer by Rev. Louise Roundtree, musical selections by Newark Boys Choir, and a poem by one of Newark’s well-known artists, Kween Moore who was accompanied by Bassist, Jamale D Deshon as she recited her piece.

It was an event, according to Mayor Ras Baraka both a “sad and happy occasion.” Sad because his beloved sister, the namesake of this center bears the name Shani Baraka. Shani lost her life because of a fatal domestic violence incident With family members, The Newark City Council, Newark dignitaries, community partners and organizations, and survivors residents in attendance, Mayor Baraka’s eyes welled up as he reflected on this once neglected lot he drives by daily.

The happiness comes from how that became a one-stop shop for all Newark women gay or straight and their children in crisis due to domestic violence. Typically, one affected by domestic violence would have to visit multiple agencies throughout the city in order to receive assistance for the services they required. Now they do not have to, as everything but the courts are located within the center. The services offered include counseling, mental health services, shelter, job placement and training as well assistance from the Newark Police Department‘s Special Victims Unit and the mandated Domestic Violence Response Team. As the mayor promised and said, “the most vulnerable amongst us will finally get help” noting that the majority of the 300,000 residents of Newark are women.

Once his acknowledgements concluded, family members participated in the ribbon cutting ceremony. Then guests were invited inside to tour the center and the staff of the programs housed within, watch a video by FilmMaker, LeRon Lee  and Cobblestone MultiMedia, and partake in the reception. The video featured women who openly spoke about their experiences being affected by domestic violence and praised the opening of the center. You can surmise that had this center been available to them, they would have definitely utilized it.

Continuing on the theme of how much Newark loves women, the unveiling of Yendor Productions latest mural, Every Mother is taking place on Saturday May 13th, 2017 at 545 Hawthorne Avenue, Rodney Gilbert, Executive Director, Yendor Productions explained, “The mural is dedicated to mothers who lost their children to violence or some other kind of loss.” His mission is “to serve underserved populations while beautifying the city.”  He added, “Yendor and the city want to let the mothers know we love them and we are family.

After the unveiling, there will be a reception at the resource center beginning at 12pm. His hopes are for the mothers to learn about the services and take advantage of them as they begin to living without their deceased children. In a sense, let them know they are not alone as he said, “we are all family.”

Edit: Please note due to inclement weather the mural unveiling and reception that was to follow has been postponed for another date not yet scheduled.

The Shani Baraka Women’s Resource Center is located at 300 Clinton Avenue, Newark NJ         Monday-Friday 830am-500pm Tel. 973-757-7377
National Domestic Violence Hotline can be reached 24/7 at 1-800-799-7233 and 1-800-787-3224
In the event there is an emergency, call 911.

Newark History For Sale: One Man’s Treasures Can Now Be Your Treasures



M. Gosser, Curator of Art and Artifacts of Newark is located on the first floor of Index Art Center located at 233 Washington Street, Newark.  It will be holding it’s opening on April 1st from 12-5pm with an Opening Reception for Newark Artist, Anker West from 6-8pm. Open Thursdays-Saturdays 11am-6pm.

Do you, like M. Gosser have a love of and for history, specifically Newark history that you not only can read and hear about, or view in pictures or videos, but to hold in your hands, display, and even own? Beginning on April 1st, everyone will have the opportunity with the grand opening of Art and Artifacts of Newark. Gosser is the curator of this pop up store/pop up gallery which is a unique curatorial residency with Index Art Gallery. It is housed on the first floor of the gallery of an old storefront that was a former beauty salon turned furniture store that could easily be the stage for a video for Frankie Avalon’s song Beauty School Dropout.

“Think of it as a museum, only no item is off limits.” said Gosser. Even the bike he rode in and around Newark is up for sale. He has amassed quite an eclectic collection of Newark Centric art, pictures, photos, sculptures, records, books, clothing, furniture, and fixtures from historic buildings that were demolished like the Queen of Angels church and an old firehouse now long gone in Newark’s little-known about Chinatown. Whatever is not on site are in storage at various locations, but he is in the process of digitizing the entire collection for perspective buyers to look through.

Gosser came to the city 25 years ago, when he enrolled in NJIT to study architecture.  He is now the curator of the school’s Center of Architecture and Design (COAD) Gallery. Gosser fondly recalled how “he fell in love with Newark, stayed and never left.” After hearing his extensive knowledge about the city’s past and looking around at the mostly one of kind items in his store, that love is very apparent.
With Newark experiencing a boon in development or as he said “seeing a turn it is creating a demand for Newark-centric items.” When he learns a historic structure is being slated for demolition and ” being destroyed for no good reason,” he is often given access to retrieve and save relics of the city’s past.  Or sometimes he finds them on his own when he is out exploring the city he loves, like so many of us. He also finds treasures at estate sales and thrift stores.

Not Just A Store

In addition to being a pop-up store, Gosser explained that Art and Artifacts of Newark will also serve as a gallery and feature artwork done by Newark based artists and outside artists whose subject matter is Newark in exhibits that will change every 2-3 months. The first artist to be featured will be Newark based Artist Anker West. There will be an opening reception for West in the evening of the opening from 6-8pm.
I do hope you get an opportunity to visit, view and consider purchasing these one of a kind or limited Art and Artifacts of Newark regularly to help keep pieces of the nation’s third oldest city alive.


















“An Amusement Park without the rides” at Barringer High School this Saturday

Early this month, I was attending a Women’s History Month event at NJPAC and greeted by a group of high school students who were also there. They, along with their leader Ms. Jones-Brown were distributing flyers for their first Art Bazaar.  It is not every day, one sees teens at history talks. I was curious to learn more about them and why they were there. I immediately arranged an interview Ms. Jones-Brown and her students for this blog.

April 1, 2017 Barringer High School Gymnasium, 90 Parker Street, Newark, NJ
When I arrived at the historic Barringer High School  with notable alumni such as Playwright and Activist, Amiri Baraka now houses two academies within the building. I was greeted by Vivian, a senior in the JAG program that prepares students for life after high school, the world of work, and postsecondary success. I learned that she was born and raised in the Dominican Republic and spent four years living in Brooklyn before she moved to Newark. When she first arrived, Vivian did not speak English and was placed in English as A Second Language (ESL) classes. She now ranks 1 in the program.
Ms. Jones-Brown, who is in her first year as a JAG Specialist, explained to me that in order for students to qualify for JAG, they must have one or more barriers that impacts their education. The barriers can range from language, teen parenting, truancy, homelessness to a number of others. According to their website, Newark is one of two cities to have this program available, the other is in Camden.
Twin sisters Seniors Stephany and Tiffany who are affectionately called “The Twins” “Twin 1 and Twin 2” also only spoke Spanish when they first arrived from Puerto Rico a year ago. They respectively rank 2 and 3 in the program.
Half of the students I met were born and/or raised in Newark while other students came from some place else such as Passaic, Guyana, Ghana and Jamaica.
J.A.G. Students l.-r. Christian, Blas, Dock, Princess, J.A.G Specialist, Ms. Jones-Brown, Maria, Tihi, and Priya at Barringer High School of the Humanities
Dock a senior who is in his first year in J.A.G. credits the program for helping him applying to local colleges and universities where he hopes to study music as well as career preparation. Dock says that the instruction he received on resume writing was useful when applying for jobs. He is now working at the Red Bull Arena.
Before entering the program, Ghana-born Princess, said she was, “really shy, I couldn’t do it and now I could do it better. It has helped me a lot in so many ways.”
Other students reported that JAG has them in prepared in ways as they lead up to the bazaar, as it encourages “working together as a team,” “group learning,”  “project based learning,” “money and budgeting skills,”  “hands on learning,” “preparing and dressing for interviews” and “leadership skills.”
I would encourage you to stop by their bazaar and support these students as they put into practice what they have learned. Proceeds of  the items sold by them will generate funds for their upcoming prom.