Newark Creates A Vibrant Art City

In yesterday’s blogpost, I mentioned that Mayor Baraka was scheduled to make an announcement of Newark’s Cultural Plan known as Newark Creates under the Arts and Economic Prosperity 5 (AEP5) in City Hall. And he did to a packed room.

Continuing with the introduction of Newark Arts staff, please allow me to introduce to you Susan Schear, Deputy Director.

Schear explained to me as a Deputy Director she “wears many hats” but this post will be about Newark Creates. Many meetings were held throughout Newark, where the staff listened and collected community input on what they want for their city. She says, “we focused tremendously on the neighborhoods” as every neighborhood in Newark has different wants and needs. These conversations engaged the community to “design neighborhood community conversations to gather insight on access (needs, barriers, goals, visions) to arts and culture for stakeholder groups.”

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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.
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