By Rashawn Davis For Newark, the month of October can be summed up very easily: tears, anger, and more tears. The recent surge in murders coupled with the gruesome nature of the crimes has tested the hearts of even the most hardened Newarkers.
From the senseless stabbing of 54-year-old Ruby Green to the exhausting news, night after night, that another African American 20 year old has been gunned down; Newarkers have reached a breaking point. Through Youtube videos, marches, and community prayers, our neighborhoods have been screaming for help to end the carnage that has overrun our streets. Unfortunately their voices, their fears, and their concerns have been drowned out by the Senatorial election of Mayor Cory Booker, the ensuing melee to replace him, and a host of other things that pale in comparison to the loss of life that is happening in our streets.
While October is a unique month for our city, it is not an exception. Like me, anyone who has spent their entire lives in Newark has been affected in some way by the violence that plagues our communities. As a resident of Georgia King Village in the early 90’s, I was accustomed to hearing gunshots outside my 10th floor window. As a student in the Newark Public Schools, it became commonplace on the first day of school to hear about a fallen friend, and as a student at Georgetown University it became normal for people, not from Newark or New Jersey to marvel and wonder about the high rates of violence in the city I call home. The reality is that Newark has an issue with violence, an issue with murder, and an issue with a culture that
allows it. Anyone who denies the existence of these problems is denying Newark an opportunity to move past them. The first step to solving anything is acknowledging and accepting its presence. For far to long our city’s elected officials have tried to cover up, distract from, and even outright deny the reality of Newark’s problems. In doing so, they deny the realities of thousands of Newarkers who fear for their own safety when the travel to work. They deny the realities of the children who fear assault on their way home from school, or fear being in certain places after sundown. For too long our elected officials have been self-regarding and pretended that these issues do not exist, while thousands of Newarkers mobilize, sacrifice, and
struggle to make change. Unfortunately we live in a city where elected officials are only concerned about the next election, the next paycheck, and the next “chicken
As a 21-year-old City Council candidate, and more importantly as a Newark resident, I refuse to allow the next generation to suffer under the same Newark I did. Newark, now more than ever needs young people to stand up if we’re ever going to move our city forward. Not only is more than 30% of our population under 30, but the main victims and perpetrators of gun violence in our city are young men 18-25. Moreover, the largest demographic of unemployed Newarkers are young people under the age of 30. I could continue to give statistics, but the
larger point is that our city’s most intimate and critical issues surround young people and the answers, must lie with them as well. Our nine-member council has tried and tried again, unsuccessfully for decades to solve these issues. They have failed because our council is full of people, who not only are at 10 or more years removed in age from the population most affected most by these issues, but many of them are not even from Newark. Others attended prestigious boarding schools and will never understand what it means to grow up in this city as a true child of Newark, with nothing more than hope as a legacy. This is not to diminish the efforts of our current councilmembers, and those of the past, rather it is to illuminate the
harsh truth that our city will not move forward unless young people step up and are allowed to become apart of the public service process that the existing power
structure has tried so hard to keep us out off.
The upcoming Newark City Council elections on November 5th, and next May 13th 2014 are a perfect opportunity for Newarkers to step up and end this cycle of failure. Those who have for years, screamed and shouted about the ridiculous crime in our neighborhoods, the sub-par education for our children, and the 14% unemployment rate have a prime opportunity to start a new chapter in our city. A chapter where women and young people are represented on a council, a chapter full of new people and innovative ideas, a chapter where we refuse to accept the Newark that is and work for a Newark that could be.
Rashawn Davis is a 2014 West Ward Councilperson Candidate