Newark Mayor Ras Baraka delivered his third annual State Of The City address earlier this week. Baraka focused his speech on changing perceptions about New Jersey’s largest city, as a city plagued by violence and poverty, to a place of growth and innovation.
Commanding the stage at the New Jersey Performing Arts Center and surrounded by residents of different cultures Mayor Baraka, in one of the first highlight’s of the night, took a jab at President Trump’s immigration policies, by proudly highlighting Newark’s status as a sanctuary city, promising to protect its undocumented residents.
“We are a sanctuary city, we believe, that the world together is safer than the world separated look how beautiful we are.”
After a crowd rousing visual of the city’s cultural diversity, Baraka outlined the ongoing progress that can be seen in the development of the city’s downtown district, from the new Whole Foods market, to the soon to be developed 22-acre Mulberry commons park project. While touting the millions of square feet of commercial and residential development, Baraka did acknowledge the decades old issues that many residents continue to struggle with.
“We try to sell the children a bright future while condemning their parents to a prison of poverty, then we discuss how terrible and violent thing’s have become and use that as a an old refrain for a tired excuse as to why you can’t take a chance on this incredible and beautiful city.”
Before a crowd of thousands Baraka unveiled a new partnership between the city’s business and technology communities, higher education institutions and workforce development to cut the unemployment gap among city residents in half by 2020. Hire, Buy, Live, Newark, is a strategy Baraka says will transform communities by transforming the lives of it’s people.
“You can not talk about safety crime families neighborhoods unless you are willing to talk about poverty and unemployment you can not say you are good neighbor in our city unless you are helping not only to develop building but also the people that live here.”
Baraka did not tread lightly on the issue of crime and public safety. While touting the city’s 13 percent decrease in overall crime, an increase in police manpower, and the continued focus on police community relations, Baraka stunned the audience with a display of the hundreds of firearms confiscated by the Newark Police Department last year alone.
“These are the guns that are being taken off the streets, these are the guns that are in our community, this is why we need national gun reform policy now in this country.”
When asked about the display of weapons Baraka says he wants people to see the kind of guns that exist on the streets and in the communities of Newark.
“We’re going to have to address it and we are affected by it daily and I just wanted people to see that to see how dramatic those guns were when I saw them I said holy smoke you know, you got this off of a kid in the city of Newark , I wanted to be able to let everybody feel what I felt.”
Many in attendance like Newark resident Asia Smith say they felt and understood Baraka’s message loud and clear.
“Here we are thinking that we’re at the lower end of the spectrum, that there are not a lot of resources in Newark and we are sitting on a gold mine literally and so you know again to see that that is going to be reinvested back into the community is going to be an awesome thing so soon all the wards will look like this.”
Bishop Rudy Carlton agrees.
“It showed the growth and the commitment that he has toward the city in terms of making it a better city, a city we can all be proud of.”
Pride in Newark seemed to be the theme of the night, as Mayor Baraka brought the crowd to their feet