Newark finally got back control of its schools from the state of New Jersey on Feb. 1, and the way it looked in a city with only two employers for a majority of its working-class population (the city government and the schools), it was literally like a family got control of its house back.
Mayor Ras Baraka, appropriately, spoke well for both camps at Friday afternoon’s victory celebration at Newark Symphony Hall, since he is a former teacher and principal: “We need to bring it back to that place”—that feeling of family that the state took away 22 years ago.
With no arrogant white forces to fight—Chris Christie is lounging on a beach somewhere, and his handpicked overseer, Cami Anderson, is trying to rebuild her reputation after becoming a top YouTube local topic—Newark’s Blacks, Latinos, Portuguese and others are left to their own devices.
Several speakers at the rally said that they were happy to go back to the days where they could disagree with each other without being disagreeable. But with charter schools booming in the city, they knew that they had to take advantage of the “opportunity” to amazing to re-create the wheel in order to save the used car: “We may have some of the same problems we had then,” said Antoinette Baskerville Richardson, Baraka’s chief education officer and former president of the city’s board of education, “but now we have different conditions, and we must solve these problems together.”
But time is running out. The “G-word” is now a normal one around the refurbished downtown. And as Rev. Mamie Bridegforth, a city religious leader, correctly pointed out, the state gave back a school system that is “totally broken.” Will the state be replaced by the corporate powers of gentrification? In the comic world, the Black Panther may have permanently killed Tarzan, but more than one speaker talked about how, in the real world Newark faces without a Lex Luthor to yell at, many are waiting for the “natives” to fail.
Newark has Black, brown, Portuguese and Italian people who have fought for Newark my entire life. It’s in the water, the ground. It’s a big ghetto, but also a small town filled with people who don’t even understand a life that is not one of service. I hope they win, and I hope their victory is being replaced by the next group of fighters.