Weeks after activist Afrika Ibiang was arrested for terroristic threats against the city’s Mayor Ras Baraka, both are part of events that sculpt the contrasting political landscape of the city.
On Friday and Saturday, the City of Newark will host the annual 24 Hours of Peace, a multi-day, outdoor festival started by Mayor Baraka in 2012 when he was a councilman. His brother, Amiri “Middy” Baraka Jr. is co-founder of the event which encourages dialogue around important issues such as nonviolence and conflict resolution.
“Each year, this event fuses the power of hip-hop music and spoken word to lift, heal, and inspire peace in our city. We continue to confront a culture that tells us it’s okay to harm one another,” said Mayor Baraka in a statement.
This year, 24 Hours of Peace centers hip hop culture with performances by Ghostface Killah of the Wu-Tang Clan, Lil Mo, AZ and Newark-native, rapper Redman.
There is much to celebrate for the hip hop mayor who is famously known as the son of poet and Black Arts Movement founder, Amiri Baraka. At the same time, Mayor Baraka has carved his own path as a wordsmith and is famously known as being the teacher facilitating conversations on life and love on Lauryn Hill’s 1996 Grammy award-winning album, The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill.
Post-pandemic, Newark has enjoyed a noticeable dip in violent crime. “We have achieved a 60-year low for violent crime. It’s one more reason for us to shout: ‘Newark and proud of It,’” expressed Mayor Baraka.
According to the latest crime data and analytics from the Newark Public Safety Collaborative, robbery decreased by 15 percent and aggravated assault went down by 16 percent. As well, domestic burglaries lessened by 11 percent and theft from autos declined by 23 percent, but homicides increased 16 percent.
The event has come a long way from its beginnings as a block party in the South Ward. This year, included in the summer jam is a poetry session, town hall meeting, a forum pairing hip hop and mental health, and several sessions dedicated to wellness and fitness. Plus, there will be almost 200 retail and food vendors.
The event takes place on Springfield Avenue between Bergen Street and Littleton Avenue.
On the other side of activism
While there will be much revelry on Springfield Avenue, on Sunday and Monday, another type of community gathering rallies to save a grassroots organization’s meeting grounds. The Hasan Shakur Community Center run by the New Afrikan Black Panther Party (NABPP), might be kicked out by the City.
The Hasan Shakur Community Center is a house-turned-headquarter for the local activists. For the last several years, the NABPP has provided regular food pantries, political education workshops and medical services for free to community members. Also, they have carried out activities along with affiliate groups from their mutli-racial coalition.
In their 24-hour event, they will host a barbecue lunch and dinner along with a free breakfast the next day. As well, a political education class and speakers are scheduled. Overall, they want to bring light to a recent threat that their center might not be a hub for their community activities any longer.
Now, NABPP members allege that the city is attempting to take their center from them. “This was a city property that has been abandoned for years. NABPP took over this property about four years ago,” explained Patience Roberts in a press statement.
According to Roberts, they moved into the building after the organization’s chairman, Shaka Zulu, was given a certificate of occupancy from a city official. In that time, Roberts said they pooled their money and resources to purchase a new roof and clean out a residential property that had been abandoned for years. “We are still raising the funds to completely renovate the property. As you know, this takes time when you have limited resources,” she told Ark Republic.
Roberts is a member of the NABPP, and partner of Thomas “Afrika” Ibiang, a captain of the organization who was arrested for making terroristic threats against Mayor Baraka. A little over a week later, Roberts said the city issued a letter to Zulu.
For them the center “stands as a symbol of love for the community,” said Roberts. “It is the cornerstone of what Panthers have stood on for many years . . . [by] creating base areas in all communities that provide survival programs . . . and [tools] to fight for their own liberation.”
The irony of the NABPP eviction woes is the fight that Ibiang, Roberts and other activists have pointed out in the city: a grave housing crisis. In a report by the Economic Mobility Catalog, 80 percent of Newark residents are renters. At any given time, 20,000 are facing eviction. However, the organization plans to fight the ordinance.
The event takes place at 308 S. Orange Avenue.