As the chair of what we’ve affectionately coined NC 350 —Newark Celebration 350—this yearlong spectacular has been an incredible honor and extraordinary personal journey that has come full circle for me. My life in politics and the law, and as a civil rights organizer urging people to take power, has lead me to this momentous opportunity to build bridges and make connections that will last beyond this celebratory year.
I have enjoyed my years on the front lines of struggle for justice and equality for all people—as an organizer, educator, and in public service in government and the non-profit community. The years of struggle have been worthwhile and shaped us in a positive way.
As I reflect on the experience of mounting this celebration—and all of the hard work that our partners, programmers, city leaders, NC 350 staff and supporters have put into this home-grown community effort—I am reminded once again that harnessing our talents and skills will make that vision of people power a great reality. I’ve witnessed something truly powerful and profound that’s been taking place these past months at the various NC 350 events all across the five wards: the citizens of our great city are coming together to tell their story of Newark.
And what a story we have to tell.
As the gateway to America with our record of manufacturing and commerce, to the tapestry of jazz, gospel, R&B music and spoken-word poetry; to the contributions of our international communities who have immigrated from all over the world to help paint Newark’s mosaic…we are all one Newark. It is the combination of these stories that document our history and provide the basis for our recollection of our city’s fervor, drama, complexity, upheavals and lessons learned from battles lost and won. Time and time again, Newark’s story of triumphs and transformation leaves me breathless.
The NC 350 staff and I have undertaken this tremendous task of programming events that have given a voice to communities that are not often heard in the media. Throughout my travels in life, I have held fast to the belief that the key to change and tolerance is to listen to people tell their stories, and to respect and accept their versions of who they are. The stories that are being told in this milestone year showcase the best of what the city and citizens have to offer and lay the foundation of Newark’s bright future and many more celebrations to come.
As we reach the halfway mark of this yearlong jubilee, we cheer for one another on this victory lap for the city and for the people of Newark. To be alive in this once-in-a-lifetime moment, in this time and history of Newark, is a poignant and powerful moment that is not lost on me.
I hope that the groundswell of powerful memories and connections we make this year will stay with you throughout your lifetime.