Mayor Ras Baraka opens 2nd community center geared toward young women

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NEWARK — Newark officials celebrated today the opening of a new community center geared toward young women.

The center, located at 179 Boyd Street, will provide mentorship, recreational activities and career counseling for city girls.

The programming will be run by Newark GALS Inc., a nonprofit organization that supports girls in the city from age 12 through college.

“We need to be working hard to get young people to be in this building,” said Newark Mayor Ras Baraka during a press conference this afternoon. “We are going to need to open many more throughout the city.”

The Center is one of the nine rec centers, the Baraka administration has dubbed “Centers of Hope.” Some will occupy empty city- or county-owned buildings, while others will occupy existing open recreation centers, according to the mayor.

The programming includes referrals to health services, performing arts programming, mentoring, computer programming classes among other programs. There will also be computers and free WiFi available.

The center will be open on weekdays from 3 p.m. until 8p.m.. On Saturday, it will be open from 11 a.m. until 3p.m., according to Newark GALS Inc. founder Genique Hamilton.

Shooting in Newark’s West Ward leaves a victim laying on the street

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Wednesday, April 1, 2015 – 5:20am
Shooting South Orange Ave., 17th Street, Newark, New Jersey

Newark Police found (one victim) laying in the street shot multiple times, police are investigating a shooting that left a male victim seriously injured in the city’s West Ward.

Residents in the area said the loud sound of about 3-5 popping noises then screams from several woman broke the silence of the night on South Orange Ave. and South 17th Street shortly before 1 a.m. forcing them out of bed to the windows where they saw a male victim laying on the ground apparently injured from gunfire.

Police and EMS rushed to the scene a short time later where they found the victim unconscious at that location.. The victim was taken to University Hospital where he suffered gunshot wounds to the abdomen. His condition has not been released.

An investigation is underway by Newark Police.

Attempted Armed Robbery Leads to Shooting in Newark

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Tuesday, March 31, 2015 – 9:53pm
Shooting South Orange Ave., Sanford Ave., Newark, New Jersey

Newark Police are investigating a shooting that occurred in the city’s West Ward this evening.

Authorities responded to reports of shots fired in the area of South Orange Ave. and Sanford Ave. shortly before 9:30 p.m. where they found a male victim around the age of 50-years-old suffering a gunshot wound to the leg in an apartment in the 300 block of Sanford Ave.

The man was taken to University Hospital where he is expected to survive his injury.

Police are looking for two light-skinned black males (one about 6’2″ and the other about 5’8″ tall) who were wearing hoodies when they fled eastbound on South Orange Avenue after reportedly attempting to rob the victim.

Police have a crime scene in the area where they are checking for evidence.

Newark man convicted of murder

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RLS Metro

Newark – Acting Essex County Prosecutor Carolyn A. Murray announced today that an Essex County jury has convicted Marquise Hawkins, 20, of Newark of murder, felony murder, robbery, conspiracy and weapons offenses in connection with the murder of 16-year-old Khalil Williams of Irvington.

Following a trial before the Honorable Alfonse J. Cifelli, Judge of the Superior Court, the jury found Hawkins, guilty of 10 of the 11 counts he faced. He was acquitted of one weapons offense. Sentencing for Hawkins is scheduled for May 8.

According to Assistant Prosecutor Justin Edwab, who tried the case, on Feb. 17, 2012, Hawkins and three other men were driving around Irvington with two loaded handguns robbing people. When they approached the intersection of Orange Avenue and Orange Place in Irvington they spotted Williams and three other teenagers walking home.

Hawkins and his accomplices circled the block and came back and robbed the victims at gunpoint. Hawkins remained in the car but ordered his codefendants to shoot. Williams sustained fatal injuries.

“Robbery is bad enough but this case turned into a homicide when Hawkins told the two accomplices, who jumped out of the car, to shoot,’’ said Edwab. “These were innocent kids who were just walking home.’’

Two of the co-defendants, Haroon Perry, 23, of Irvington and Azim Brogsdale, 19, of Newark are awaiting trial.

They are presumed innocent unless and until they enter a guilty plea or are found guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law. The judge set April 13 for a status conference for those defendants.

Prosecutors believe there was a fourth, unidentified co-conspirator who was also involved but never charged.

Car Jacking and Shots fired in the East Ward

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RLS Metro

Newark, NJ – A reported carjacking that occurred shortly before 1:30 p.m. has Newark authorities investigating.

Police responded to the area of East Kinney Street and Mulberry Street for a carjacking report where thieves made off with a vehicle at that location.

Authorities found a single shell casing at the scene. There were no injuries reported.

The description of the vehicle has not been released at this time.

Newark Police are searching for an escaped prisoner

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RLS Metro

Newark, NJ- Police are on the search for a prisoner that escaped a city hospital a short time ago.

The man believed to be around 46-years-old escaped, while being attended to as a patient at The University Hospital. He was last seen in the area wearing a black shirt, black pants and Timberland boots according to authorities.

The hospital is on a full divert.

BoE Chairman Hasan uses strategy when dealing with Cami Anderson

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NEWARK — A recent four-day student protest against state-appointed Newark Superintendent Cami Anderson was not lacking in city support.

The list of sit-in supporters was stacked with local heavyweights: grassroots organization New Jersey Communities United; rallying activists calling for local control, and even Mayor Ras Baraka and school advisory board members held press conferences to praise the students’ efforts.

But absent from the Newark political machine publicly supporting the Newark Students Union’s demonstration was one notable city leader — Newark Public Schools Advisory Board Chair Rashon Hasan.

As the school yard fight between Newark community activists and the district continues to boil, Hasan is taking a different road. While calling education a top priority, he says he has purposely stayed out of the public fight against Anderson and the district’s controversial ‘One Newark’ reorganization.

“We can sit at the table and argue all the time, but what happens in the meantime?” he asked. “Students fail. Facilities still crumble. Our community as a result suffers.”

The son of a technical assistant for Newark Public Schools, Hasan grew up in the city’s South Ward. He graduated from Newark Tech High School before earning a bachelor’s degree in political science from Clark Atlanta University in 2007. He went on to earn his MBA from Florida Institute of Technology in 2011.

In 2012, Hasan made a failed bid for the school board as an independent candidate. The next year he ran again, but this time with the backing of both Baraka, and the mayor’s opponent in the last election, Shavar Jeffries. He won and was elected school board chair last year.

The Newark Public Schools Advisory board is the only elected body that represents the city on education issues. But, the state has controlled the school district since 1995, and state-appointed superintendents can ignore the board’s decisions and requests.

Still, the board’s opinion carries political weight in Newark, and the body is often a stepping-stone to a higher office in the city.
Newark School Board President Rashon HasanNewark school board president Rashon Hasan poses in the district’s central office located at 2 Cedar Street. (Aristide Economopoulos | NJ Advance Media for Aris Economopoulos

Last summer, hundreds of parents waited in a gym and auditorium without air-conditioning for hours hoping to finalize their children’s’ school assignments. It was the first day of the district’s open enrollment center and many parents were told they could not be served and would need to return the next day.

Newark’s politicians pounced, arguing that the chaos was just another sign that the One Newark reorganization plan was not working. Baraka held a press conference to once again call for the superintendent’s resignation.

But days later, Hasan appeared beside Anderson when she touted the school system’s new transportation plan.

“It’s very difficult to have progress in a state takeover district when you don’t have a relationship between the board and the superintendent,” he said.

The board chair’s willingness to work with the superintendent has not equated to blind support for Anderson or her reforms. Like his colleagues on the board, he has voted against her initiatives. He even supported a measure to freeze her salary until she comes to a board meeting.

Hasan’s tenure has been marked by some significant changes in the school board structure. The state is transitioning control of the district’s fiscal operations back to the advisory board.

The board has started implementing a number of new initiatives aimed at improving the district’s QSAC scores, the grading system the state uses when deciding when to take over a school district. It reorganized its committee structure to match the areas measured by the QSAC. And, the board released a detailed report this month evaluating the district’s and Anderson’s performance.

But, the chair argues that more should be done. He said that further professionalizing the board and its meetings could help move the needle on a goal Newarkers’ sought long before Anderson’s arrival: local control of the school district.

“We haven’t been playing the same game that the state has been playing,” he said.
“We can sit at the table and argue all the time, but what happens in the meantime?”

“They have been playing chess and we’ve been playing checkers.”

President and CEO of Newark Trust for Education Ross Danis said that the state’s decision to return fiscal control to Newark and the changes to the board’s operations are a step in the right direction.

“It might reassure people in Trenton when you give control back that the people you are giving it back to have systems in place,” he said.

The Backlash

The thin line Hasan has been walking, however, has not been without pitfalls. He has faced political backlash from people both on and off the board. Some critics argue that he has been orchestrating a board reorganization by himself; while others wish he would use his position as chair to take a bigger role in the public fight against Anderson’s reforms.

Board member Marques Aquil Lewis said in an interview he would be uncomfortable working with the superintendent in the same way Hasan has.

“I can’t serve two masters. I can’t say I love God and then negotiate with the devil,” said Lewis, who is up for reelection.

Newarkers must force the state to return governance of the school system through political pressure, political insiders have argued.

“In the absence of a board of education that has formal authority I think people feel that the only thing that can make a difference is our collective voice,” said Danis.

Newark parent Lou Jones said at a recent board meeting that others have tried Hasan’s strategy and come up short.

“Shavar played the game,” he said referring to former Newark Public Schools Advisory board chair and mayoral candidate Shavar Jeffries. “At the end of the day we ended up in the same place fighting for local control.”

But, Hasan argues his open relationship with district officials has yielded positive results for students’ education.

Hasan said he was able to coordinate with district officials to help the school system apply for and win a $40,000 grant from Verizon, where he works as an operations manager, for STEM programming at two schools.

He also lobbied the superintendent to keep Hawthorne Avenue School open after the district announced it was one of four schools that were going to become charter schools, he said. The school district announced it would keep the South Ward school open in July of 2014, after months of protest from activists and parents.

But he may not have much more time as chair of the board. After the school board election in April, the board will have a reorganization meeting to vote for a new chair and vice chair.

Until then, Hasan said he staying on his course.

“I think the way you represent the community is to build up this board so that they can be proud of the work they do and say ‘you know what they represented us in all facets,'” he said.

“‘They didn’t go and argue and fight and not have a seat at the table to impact decisions that are being made that would impact our children.'”

Michelle Obama declares ‘Black Girls Rock!’

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NEWARK — Michelle Obama celebrated the beauty, power and tenacity of black women while spreading her own message of education for girls at Black Girls Rock!, an annual event honoring trailblazing women of color from all walks of life.

“No matter who you are, no matter where you come from, you are beautiful,” Obama told the crowd, which included many young black girls.

“I am so proud of you. My husband, your president, is so proud of you,” she added. “We have so much hope and dreams for you.”

Obama was not among the honorees at Saturday night’s festivities, held at the New Jersey Performing Arts Center. That distinction went to actress Jada Pinkett Smith, singer Erykah Badu, actress Cicely Tyson, “Selma” director Ava DuVernay, educator Nadia Lopez and Dr. Helene D. Gayle, president and CEO of CARE USA, a humanitarian organization.
“No matter who you are, no matter where you come from, you are beautiful.”

However, Obama was the most celebrated participant. Wearing a form-fitting white dress, she jammed to performances from the likes of Badu, Fantasia, Sheila E!, Estelle and others and applauded the honorees.

But Obama got among the night’s loudest ovations as she came on stage and declared “Black girls rock!” — the slogan and name of the organization founded by Beverly Bond, which is designed to uplift young black girls, a group that often has difficulty finding positive and reaffirming images of themselves in the world.

Obama acknowledged as much in her speech to celebrate three young honorees.

“I know there are voices that you are not good enough,” she said, acknowledging that she often lacked self-confidence growing up despite encouraging parents.

“Each of those doubts was like a test,” she said, “that I either shrink away from or rise to meet. And I decided to rise.”

Obama, who recently completed a trip to Japan and Cambodia as part of her worldwide push for better educational opportunities for girls, lauded the young honorees for excelling in their studies.

“There is nothing more important than being serious about your education,” the Ivy League-educated Obama said. “That’s why I am able to stand here tonight. … I want every one of our black girls do to the same, and our black boys.”
PLUS: Michelle Obama recounts difficult freshman year at Princeton in new video

Obama’s speech was just one of many highlights of the nearly four-hour event, which will be shown Sunday, April 5, on BET.

Will Smith gave an emotional tribute to his wife, Jada Pinkett, who received the Star Power award. Smith alluded to persistent rumors that the couple’s marriage was in trouble.

He said when one rumor got out of control, he had a chance of reflection.

“In that brief moment my heart jumped for a second and I started to imagine what my life would have been like without that woman,” he said as the couple’s daughter, Willow, beamed from the audience.

When Pinkett Smith accepted the honor, she alluded to recent slights of black girls and women — including a college baseball player’s slur against Little League pitcher Mo’ne Davis — as reasons why Black Girls Rock! is necessary.

She also implored black women to celebrate and be aware of their own strength.

“I need you to understand that we are the women who marched from cotton fields into fields of medicine … politics … entertainment,” she said. “We have found a way to march into a White House.”

Tyson also spoke to the resiliency of black women as she accepted her legacy award from hosts actresses Tracee Ellis Ross and Regina King.

“The moment anyone tries to demean or degrade you in any way, you have to know how great you are,” Tyson said. “Nobody would bother to beat you down if you were not a threat.”

DuVernay, whose civil rights drama “Selma” received an Academy Award nomination, making her the first black woman to notch such an achievement, name-checked a host of other black filmmakers in her speech as she accepted her Shot Caller award, and implored women to “figure out what you need to do to be the heroine of your own story.”

The show peppered songs from entertainers like Jill Scott, Estelle and others with inspiring stories from the award winners. One of the members of the group Sister Sledge sang the song “We Are Family,” with the refrain “I’ve got all my sisters with me,” as the audience grooved along.

And sisterhood was the spirit of the evening, evident when Obama came on stage to close the show with all the honorees. When an embarrassed King flubbed a line, Obama gave her a hug and then jokingly rubbed her back.

The actress and director then shouted with glee, “I’ve got Mrs. Obama pumping me up!”

Newark Schools increase graduation, but test scores lag

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Newark, NJ
The Newark Public Schools Advisory Board presented a report this week assessing the school district’s progress on a host of issues including personnel issues, budget constraints, student achievement and operations.

The 39-page report makes 20 findings and offers recommendations for improvement.

Newark Public Schools Advisory Board chairman Rashon Hasan said in a letter to Newark
Public Schools superintendent Cami Anderson that the report is part of an annual assessment the board is required to make of the district under state law.

“Our Board views this initial assessment as a starting point and a work in progress: each recommendation has been thoughtfully developed in the spirit of making the district a highly functioning and more capable organization,” Hasan wrote.

Newark man killed in Halsted street

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NEWARK — A 26-year-old city man died Sunday morning after a shooting on Halsted Street, officials said.

Police responding to the 100 block of Halsted Street just before 3 a.m. on reports of a shooting in the area found Tarad Tolliver lying in the street, according to acting Essex County Prosecutor Carolyn Murray and Newark Police Director Eugene Venable.

Tolliver was taken to University Hospital in Newark, where officials said he was pronounced dead at 3:23 a.m.

The investigation into the deadly incident is ongoing.

Anyone with information is asked to call detectives with the Essex County Prosecutor’s Major Crimes Task Force at (877) 847-7432 or (973) 621-4586.