Tuesday in front of the New Jersey Performing Arts Center (NJPAC), on July 1st, in the sweltering heat, and in front of hundreds of spectators, Ras Baraka becomes the city of Newark’s 40th mayor. Mr. Baraka , “I want to thanked my Governor, Dick Codey for his leadership and support”. Mr. Codey had officially sworn, Mr. Baraka into office. Ras Baraka set a bold tone for his administrations the next four years.”Yeah, we need a mayor that’s radical,” said Baraka, 44, to sustained applause in front of a crowd of more than 500 people in front of the New Jersey Performing Arts Center (NJPAC).
In front of several prominent politicos that included former Governor and current state Senator Richard Codey (D-27), who swore Baraka in; Jersey City Mayor Steve Fulop; Essex County Executive Joe DiVincenzo; U.S. Rep. Donald Payne, Jr. (D-10); former Governor Jim McGreevey and former Newark Mayors Ken Gibson, Sharpe James , U.S. Senator Cory Booker, State Senator Ron Rice Sr, and David Dinkens, Mayor of NYC. Baraka made it plain that whatever comes in the next four years in Newark, his focus is solely on the problems facing New Jersey’s largest city.
He then thank the 263 members of his transition team, that volunteered their time, to make sure that Newark moves forward. The team chaired by both Ken Gibson, and Al Koppe were to assist the Mayor’s operation during the first hundred day. He then thank Prudential, Horizon, Panasonic, Verizon, PSE&G, Audible.com, for given Newark loaned executives, to help us in the area of finance, operations, fleet management, budgets, and becoming a partner with city hall.
Baraka energetic, passionate speech ignited the crowd. The first thing Mr. Baraka mentioned was the annual youth mayor competition. He mentioned 26 applicants applied with the winning candidate being Lucy Lopez, a Newark resident attending Essex County College. Eight other youth will be members of a youth council. The youth mayor, is a newly created position, she will represent the new administration regarding youth matters. This was important for Mr. Baraka as he was made Deputy Mayor under Sharpe James to be a voice for the youth.
“We need a mayor that marches, and a mayor that builds. We need a mayor that speaks, and a mayor that inspires,” Baraka said. “A mayor that creates, and a mayor that negotiates. But we also need a mayor that protects us, that protests when he needs to, and speaks up when he has to.”
“I was born here in Newark,” Baraka said. “This day was made for us. There were many who thought this day would never come. There was an army of cynics that thought we couldn’t see ourselves differently, that we didn’t have what it takes to stand on this stage today, who sowed the seeds of doubt and encouraged disbelief. But by God’s grace, I’ll be able to look back on this day and say that they were wrong.”
“To the Great People of Newark. Congratulation, YOU THE PEOPLE are the new mayors of the city of Newark . This is differently a day the lord has made. Today, I am humbled by the ideal that 39 other people occupied this space before me. Even more so, five decades ago, Kenneth Gibson along with the community choice team, outside of city hall, took office with similar challenges on what I face today. But inspiring hope throughout the city, and millions more around the world. There but for the grace of god, I have been chosen to lead the city of my birth. And I am appreciative that so many of you went to the polls, and gave us victory despite the odds, that YOU BELIEVED, when everything else, was the contrary. That you gave this boy from Newark, a boy from Clinton Avenue, to fulfill his dream, the dream of so many others, and I know you didn’t just do this for me. We are here because, WE BELIEVE in Newark. Because WE BELIEVE in hope and not fear. Because WE BELIEVE in unity rather than division. Because, WE BELIEVE that Newark belongs to all of us, not just a few of us. Because we were not content with the way the city is. That WE BELIEVE in the philosophy that we are all in this together. Not just everyman out for him self. WE BELIEVE that, no matter how difficult, thing get or how dark the sky gets, that we have the power to change our future. That something better awaits us. nust as we are sure that the sun will raise tomorrow, WE BELIEVE our city could change, would change, and today that change begins”.
“Thinking about my dad, and him not being here this day, was a lot for me,” said Baraka, 44, remembering his father, the famed poet and activist Amiri Baraka, who died in January.
“The first 100 days are completely dedicated to the people of this city – to make sure that all of the things that Newark has wanted, prayed for and fought for, that God gave me the ability to do today, happens,” added Baraka, pausing when his voice choked with emotion. “Whether it be safe streets, jobs, families that are struggling, and a city that everybody can be proud of again.”