Nationwide Black and Brown communities are being affected by economic redevelopment. In Newark, New Jersey, Mayor Ras Baraka claims he has a plan that will improve cities without rapid gentrification.
The Newark native recently discussed the challenges he faces as a Black mayor whose goal is to ensure Black voices are heard in the process of the city's rapidly changing environment. He says a burdensome challenge Black city officials face is to reverse something that is systemic.
Mayor Baraka, has a few ideas of which other city officials may want to take note. The city of Newark has partnered with major local companies, colleges, and community groups.
Much of his solution plans involve fair housing. The community advocate has implemented plans for "inclusionary zoning," which means "if you're going to build in a city, a certain percentage of it must be set aside for low-income housing, whether renovated or brand new."
When it comes to developers and gentrifiers Mayor Baraka has a message for them, “If you want to be part of the benefit, you have to be willing to take part in the burden.” He encouraged black folks to let developers know that, “we should have the right as a city to determine if you get to push us out or not."
One of his recently developed initiatives includes Newark 2020, a campaign which hopes, “to cut the unemployment gap between Newark and New Jersey in half by connecting 2,020 unemployed residents to well-paying jobs by the year 2020.”
According to report conducted by the New Jersey Institute for Social Justice, current residents are employed by about 18 percent of jobs available in Newark, and Baraka is determined to lower that unemployment rate.
He says the city should not only hire Newark residents, but also invest in Newark businesses.