Yesterday, October 22nd the Newark public library, The Ex-Mayor releases his memoirs entitled, “Political Prisoner, You Can Be Arrested, Convicted, and Sent to Prison without Committing a Crime. A local independent African American publisher Nutany publishes the book.
The timing of the release was most interesting, in the last several days, Newark has seen its last Mayor transcend to becoming the New Jersey next Senator. This book will be perceived by some as a sort of homecoming for Mr. James back into the public realm, as the ex-officio of New Jersey largest city. The Mayor’s sons were also present, and many politically aspired members preparing for the new political cycle. What was interesting to note was the absence of all the other candidates aspiring for the job of mayor with the exception of Shavar Jefferies.
The event was two-fold to sell the book and reintroduce the Mayor’s story and equally important raise money for the library, whose state and local funding has been, slashed considerable over the last several years. Mr. James donated some of his historical items in a silent auction, with all proceeds going to the Newark public library.
The moderator, Newark and Rutgers University historian Dr. Clement Price introduce Luis Quintana as the new Mayor of the city of Newark. The official change in title of City Council President Luis Quintana, once a deputy mayor under Sharpe James, will becomes acting mayor when Booker officially resigns. Mayor-elect Quintana talked about not always agreeing with Mr. James on all positions, but sort the objective of unifying the city and it various wards. ”We are one city.”
Dr. Clement A Price was the moderator for the evening in a one-on-one discussion with the mayor about his book and the political assessment of the city history and its future. Dr. Price, A recipient of numerous awards and honors, chaired President Obama’s transition team for the National Endowment for the Humanities and currently is vice chair of the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation, and a member Board of Governors Distinguished Service Professor at Rutgers, one of the highest faculty honors at the university. Opened the discussion, the following is part of that
Dr. Price: It takes a special kind of person to write a memoir. It involves the bearing of one sole, more so then a biography. Youare putting yourself on the page, could you talk about the challenges, the ups and downs of writing your memoirs?
Mr. James: I would wake up in the middle of the night, and write about events that happened during the day. During my life, people were always trying to define Sharpe James. I could do a better job writing about myself. They would tell me who Sharpe James was. So I thought maybe, I should define myself. I know myself better then others. I didn’t even recognize myself in the words of these individuals that wrote about me. Imagine for a moment someone writing about you that didn’t know you, had never met you, telling not a true story about you. So I would write about things and put these thought in a box. And one day Councilwomen Mamie Bridgeforth came to the council she said to me, “you need to write a book, before you die”. That got me nervous, I didn’t to leave this earth without telling my story. She mentioned to me, I could buy a typewriter that could type itself. I recalled. “Where could I get one of those”? But I really got serious about writing when I was incarcerated. That was the moment when you really know who your friends are. In jail is when I truly realized; I needed to write down my life story. God came critically important to me. When you are at your lowest point you can see who’s there to support you. I started reading the bible, and began reading Matthews. In Matthews it made me revisits Dr. King’s speech, “I will visit you in prison”. At that point, I then realized it wasn’t about me it was about others that had suffered before me. With the understanding of redemption we rise, we fall and we rise up again. The book was also a healing process for me. You have to rid yourself of hatred and negativity. The way out of the darkness is through love not hate. So I began to type, and in the process learn more about Sharpe James, and learn to appreciate people more. The news is always taking about me. Just two weeks ago the news stated that I was guilty of tax ovation. These continued untruths compiled me to write. Writing was therapy. I wrote almost everyday. When I came home I had fifty boxes of material, there I had the framework to set the record straight.
Dr. Price: Some of the things in the book strike me that would be tough to write. Because some of the issues were so stark and in your ascent had to be explained against the backdrop of history. How did you get through?
Mr. James: Well, on commitments I made to myself in writing the book, was I would only discuss the truth. Only factual content and take the consequences for those actions. When I was in prison, I would send portion of the book out to friends, and have them read it. They would reply some would send it back and say to me, I needed to embellish it more make it more exciting. I don’t what to change it and make it a “T-Bone” story. I wanted to write what I really know, remembered and participated in, if anyone wants to come after me then. Well it’s the truth, and I don’t have to apologize for that. There is nothing in this book that I is created. The challenge was only to write what you experienced.
Dr. Price: Let me ask one last question. You endorse Cory Booker for US Senator. That must have been have been challenging for you.
Mr. James: The road to god is a forgiving instrument. Well when you know God, you must forgive. If a person,done me word and/or cause me harm, and offers any sincere apology, you are Christian, you must accept it. And going beyond that, if I really learn anything in prison, you have to forgive those that done you wrong. I personally think he was never really happy being the Major of Newark. He had the credentials and pedigree to be a United States Senator more so then being a mayor. A mayor is hands-on, and two mayors really spoiled the citizen of Newark. And that was Kenneth Gibson and Sharpe James. We had picnics, baseball games, and fashion show for the residents of Newark. I think he never had a personal relationship with the residence of Newark. But between Lonegan he was hand-down and shoulders a better choice for US Senator. And I think there is something that many had missed in his acceptance speech. He gave a statement of humility, when he won 54 percent to 44 percent, he said. I will have to prove worthy to the remaining 44 percent. So I believe he will be a better US Senator, and it will benefit to Newark and the State of New Jersey overall. So the only reason for going against him would have been hatred. I could not do that.
The audience was packed with politicians, community activist, Newark’s education elite, and loyal residents that continue to love the flamboyant and sometime over the top chief executive.