Newark's Living Mayors: Ras Baraka

Feb 1, 2017

The 40th Mayor of Newark, Ras J. Baraka
Credit ci.newark.nj.us

Like Sharpe James and Cory Booker before him, Ras Baraka became the third straight former city councilman turned mayor in 2014.  And like the mayors who preceded him, he knows how to fire up a crowd.

“We need a mayor who unapologetically loves this city and the people in it.  And most importantly, we need a mayor that believes in you and knows no fear. I am thankful to god that today you have chosen me to be this mayor,”  Baraka said during his inauguration speech in 2014.

The Baraka name is rooted deep in Newark history.  He’s the son of poets and civil rights activists Amina and Amiri Baraka.   A proud product and principal of Newark Public Schools, Ras Baraka has taken his passion for the districts best interests to city hall, in hopes the state will return the schools back to local control.

“We have to remain more vigilant, more focused on the goal which is to return the operation of the school district into the hands of the people.”

Ras Baraka became mayor-elect May 13, 2014
Credit Ang Santos / WBGO

Baraka’s administration has made great strides since his inauguration.  He believes schools will be under local control before the end of his term.

“We haven’t been in this place for twenty years and I think it’s a big victory for Newark families," said Baraka.

Baraka also saw the lowest crime rates in Newark’s modern era last year.  He points to the overhaul of the police division, creating a comprehensive public safety department.

“That coupled with a consent decree and the CCRB is a trifecta that we need to be able to create the image of a more transparent police department.  A police department that has a better relationship with the community and has nothing to hide,” Baraka told WBGO in 2016.

Technology has been a high priority on Mayor Baraka’s list of initiatives in Newark. The ambitious Triangle Park project, now Mulberry Commons is ready to break ground.

“Incredible, the amount of development that’s happening in this town.  We’re going to make sure that Newarkers are going to benefit,” Baraka said during December 2016’s edition of ‘Newark Today’.

Still a first term mayor, Ras J. Baraka finds himself in position to build on foundations put in place by the leaders who came before him.