Brick City, Night 3: The challenge is, How does the village raise a child when it too needs help?

One of the emerging themes in Forest Whitaker’s 5-night documentary film on Newark, Brick City, is that some of Newark’s youngest can’t always count on what they need. Can’t count on a job, their own safety, their school to be ready, a future waiting for them to grow up into. Newark Councilman Ron Rice has been writing a chronicle of these episodes as they unspool every night, and the murders of 3 college students last night’s film deals with happened in the West Ward. His ward. Here’s Blue Jersey’s coverage of that awful day. In this episode, young people are in struggle. And in this diary, a Councilman supports his Mayor, but disagrees on a few key points. – – – promoted by Rosi

Tonight you see the stark real choices we have to make with a major budget crisis and competing demands to keep the level of services up, expand on policing resources (new police recruits, technology, overtime, etc.), new community initiatives, etc.  In 2008, we cut every departments’ budget by 15% across the board, except the Newark Police Department.

You see the father of two victims of the horrible tragedy that befell our three college students in 2007 at Mt. Vernon School at a support group for fathers of murdered children where Ali Muslim is also a member with King Sau.  Those murders still haunt me every day as they occurred in my ward in the back of the school playground that I routinely to this day jog by at 10 and 11 PM @ night.  Those murders of our babies violated what was best about our city in the most racially and culturally diverse area of the city.  It was also, in my opinion, what ignited the city to fight back collectively against the scourge of crime and drugs in our community.  Ali Muslim says it best when talking about the pain and desire to seek revenge against those that killed his child:

It is a struggle…but I am trying, trying to be a better man.

You also see a charge of police harassment and brutality.  You also see the Police Director’s staff not doing what was necessary to react or correct the alleged abuse of power.  Here is a major difference of opinion that I have with the Mayor and his Administration.  I believe that there are strong and very real inequities in how community policing is carried out in our city.  Police and community relations particularly with regards to the Black and Latino community has always been contentious.  The rebellions of ’67 were created as a direct result of a police brutality incident.  And inevitably, as New York City has shown us under Mayor Giuliani, when crackdowns start to fight crime and quality of life enforcements, charges and actual incidents of police brutality and harassment go up.  To be fair, this did not start with Mayor Booker and Police Director McCarthy, but I do think it is up to them, me and my colleagues to do more to fight it within the NPD and its external manifestations against average citizens.  I and many of my colleagues support the continued crackdown on crime, but we support safeguards such as a citizen complaint review board with an Independent Monitor (and subpeona power) as well an increase of our oversight of NPD disciplinary procedures and practices of police officiers via Faulkner Act revisions (statutory).  We are still working on the Mayor to support all three initiatives.  We think crackdowns without these safeguards will doom the chances of real community policing because the community must have faith that the NPD will be policed.

Jayda starts her new non profit and during that same time a friend of the original 9 starting members of 9 Strong Women is murdered in the streets. Again, this is a documentary, but this is literally an everyday reality for the entire city.  That’s a reality I think most in the suburbs do not get.  

And the new Central High School is completed in time for September 2008!!!! And for those that say new school construction has nothing to do with educational achievement, Central High School’s test scores went up last year, my Republican friends. And this year, the Mayor raised millions of dollars and built Nat Turner Park across the street in 2009 with a football field, 8 lane all-weather track, water play locations and fieldhouse.  And Governor Jon Corzine played a role in helping to finance all of those projects and in getting the high school open in time. Now, that is leadership (quick plug, but earned).

Lastly, my friend and school principal Ras Baraka, organized an all boys freshman overnight to mentor, around the same time as Jayda overnights with her girls. The most striking moment is when Todd Warren, my friend and Vice Principal for Discipline at Central, asks how many of the boys were being raised by women and 97% of them raised their hands.  The dearth of fathers in the home to teach these boys how to be men is a problem that must be met head on in exactly these ways. Street Doctor and Todd Warren said it differently, but with the same diagnosis: it does take a village to raise a child, but what does the village do when it is sick and dysfunctional itself?  Stay tuned…

The 4th episode of Brick City is on Sundance Channel 10 pm tonight, with a 1am replay.

Comments (2)

  1. Hopeful

    to hear that the new school is already successful.

  2. Jason Springer

    the school opened on time and is seeing success.  The series is very well done.  I’m glad you pointed out the police lack of investigation as that jumped out at me.


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