The author is the West Ward Councilman, City of Newark, and a member of the Blue Jersey community. More info on Forest Whitaker’s 5-part documentary series Brick City here. Part Two airs tonight on Sundance Channel at 10pm. Ron’s diary will bring you up to date on the people the film is following, including his mayor, Cory Booker. — Promoted from the diaries by Rosi
We were introduced to some of the main characters and initiatives of the city of Newark of 2008. Many of you may not know, but Newark led the nation in violent crime reduction for a major city, a point most news and media tended to gloss over in 2008. In fact, we had the least amount of murders last year since the late 1960s. But even as one murder or shooting is too much, we in government with the community, our police department and yes, average citizens started fighting back in ways that will mirror how we will win this battle in the long run. We are winning battles, but it is a war and this first night of Brick City shows how we have high highs in Newark and stark realities that bring us back to earth to fight yet again.
You met our phenomenal Mayor that personifies a public servant, not a politician. A man that lives his politics and embodies the need for changing mindsets and mentalities as much as the need to change the economic realities of our city. As the mayor celebrates another new affordable housing development deal, he gets news of a 10 year old being shot.
You met our Police Director Garry McCarthy, a tough cop from the NYPD who has been given the mission of changing a culture within the Newark Police department and to beat crime back, period. Easier said than done as you will see later in the series, but Director McCarthy is unrelenting and stays even keel, thank God for us in the city. He is singly focused to drive crime down to historic lows.
You met Jayda and Creep, two young people in Newark not unlike a lot of our young people. She is a member of the Blood gang and he is a Crip that met and fell in love and even they cannot explain how or why. Though “gang related,” they are both coming out of that negativity and trying to fight for a new life, but old charges might stop Jayda from realizing her dreams for her children and her new non profit she wants to start to help girls that were just like her so that they do not have to go through what she has to be the woman she has become.
More is coming and it is compelling and will make you think and rethink how you understand urban cities and the challenges we have. But what I hope you take away from the first night is how tough change is to make in our metropolis where over 30% of our population lives below the poverty line, but how committed so many of us are in making sure that happens and why we, the Mayor, our Police Director, Jayda and Creep, the Street Doctor Earl Best and, yes, even guys like me who work late into every evening at City Hall and in our community, because we know that change is hard, but the struggle to achieve it is in so many of us and it is worth it. We are the embodiment of the American Dream that says loudly as Langston Hughes said over 60 years ago “America was never America to me, but this I swear, America will be.”