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Police: from Problem to Solution: The Newark, New Jersey Model


Newark, NJ Mayor Ras Baraka and Marvin X

When I was in Newark, New Jersey for the last rites of my friend and comrade, poet/activist Amiri Baraka, his son Ras then a city councilman but was running for mayor. He told me then, "Marvin we got Black brothers on the police force with legal guns who back us, i.e., the community." And I observed positive police/community relations. It is a different feeling when you know the police are on your side. As a matter of fact, during the time of the funeral the police were in and out of the Baraka's house socializing with and protecting Newark's "first family".  Police blocked off the block where the Baraka family lives in the hood.

I was informed some of the officers had grown up with the Baraka children or their parents had been part of the Newark black consciousness, cultural and political movement that was critical in the election of Newark's first Black mayor, Kenneth Gibson. In short, the police were an integral part of the community, as opposed to an occupying army.

Now let's be clear, Ras informed me there were police who supported the opposition, but he felt confident with the percentage of officers on his (the peoples) side. Ironically, I was at the Baraka house once on AB's  birthday (October 7) when the opposition sent officers with warrants to arrest his sons for failure to pay child support. This was done by his political enemies to rattle his cage on his birthday. They do play hard ball in Newark and the opposition is serious. There are former Newark mayors who went down in disgrace for their negrocities (AB term, not mine, he wanted me to let you know) but have sons that they want to be mayor.

Of course Ras won the election as mayor, guided by his brother Amiri, Jr.'s (Middy) strategic planning. Their mother, Mrs. Amina Baraka, has kept me informed of her son's progress as mayor. Even the New York Times gave him brownie points for his first 100 days in office.

Mrs. Baraka informed me there have been no police killings since Ras became Mayor, although brothers killing brothers has not stopped. Mayor Baraka has police walking through the hood, Black and White officers, smiling and greeting the people. Mrs. Baraka said she doesn't know, and many people don't know, what to think of the white officers smiling so much.

But clearly, community policing is working, thus Newark can be and should be a  model for cities trying to upgrade their police departments from acting like brute beasts in blue uniforms. Why should police take the life of the mostly poor, mentally ill and drug addicted? Why would you kill a man hustling single cigarettes, DVDs and CDs? Why would you kill a man for a broken tail light or failure to signal a lane change.? Why should a man suffer a broken spine from a ride in the paddy wagon?

Surely after all the hell the Black Panther Party suffered trying to combat police terror and brutality fifty years ago( and we celebrate their 50th anniversary for the sacrifice they made), we must try something new, unless we want to continue bumping our heads against a stone wall.

We don't have the power to defeat them because they have too much back up, e.g., the army, navy, air force, national guard, FBI, Homeland Security, etc. At some point we will need a reconciliation or things will go from bad to worse as happened in Dallas, Texas. The nature of the panther is to strike when it is backed up against the wall or corner.

After seeing with my own eyes that there can be at least a symbiotic relationship between the people and the police, I've concluded that we need to get brothers and sisters on the police force, especially in cities where we are in the majority, and the white officers must be socialized to understand they work for the people, the people don't work for them.  The people pay their salaries but not to be brutalized and killed under the color of law. We agree with Chief Brown in Dallas who called for people to be the solution rather than the problem, to become police officers. All they need do is community consciousness, similar to the police who arrested my in Belize, Central America, when I was being deported for entering the country illegally. While I was at the police station awaiting deportation, they surrounded me and when they had me in the center of a circle, they begged me to teach them about Black Power, the real reason I was being deported. Wouldn't it be nice if the American police would ask the Black Lives Matter people to teach them about Black Power rather than try to ridicule the BLM people out of existence because just as the police ain't going nowhere, we don't think Black Lives Matter is either. Stay Woke!

Meanwhile back in Oaktown fada git down!
Activist Cat Brooks, of Oakland, is photographed near Oakland City Hall in Oakland, Calif., on Wednesday, July 1, 2015. Brooks is the founder of the
Activist Cat Brooks, of Oakland, is photographed near Oakland City Hall in Oakland, Calif., on Wednesday, July 1, 2015. Brooks is the founder of the Anti-Police Terror Project, co-chair of the ONYX Organizing Committee, member of Black Lives Matter Bay Area and one of the Black Friday 14. Brooks has organized several Black Lives Matter and other protests in Oakland. (Jane Tyska/Bay Area News Group) ( JANE TYSKA )

Marvin X,  poet/activist, community planner of the Black Arts Movement Business District  and Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf who is suffering from a police prostitution scandal. She dismissed three police chiefs in nine days.  As per police/community relations, she claims the OPD has made improvements, but community activists are not satisfied with her ever since she began her tenure by meeting with the OPD rather than the community.  With the sex scandal, the OPD has obviously betrayed her faith and truth in them as protectors and servants of the community. Activist Cat Brooks of the Anti-Police Terror project, also associated with the Black Lives Matter is organizing a recall. We think Mayor Libby Schaaf might benefit with a call to Newark Mayor Ras Baraka.
--Marvin X

Ancestor Amiri Baraka called for the 27 city tour of the Black Arts Movement artists
to spread consciousness in the present era. In answer to ancestor AB, Marvin X is working on establishing the Black Arts Movement Business District in Oakland. Dr. Nathan Hare says, "Be careful, you're an elder then ancestor!" Marvin realizes this so he is passing the BAMBD baton to the Hip Hop generation who are the legitimate heirs of the Black Arts Movement.


Marvin X and Oakland City Council President Lynette McElhaney who pushed through legislation establishing the Black Arts Movement Business District in the 14th Street corridor, downtown Oakland. We thank Madam President for her effort but she was make BAMBD a priority for the mental, spiritual, cultural and economic health of Oakland.
photo Adam Turner, BAMBD

As a bold act of Kujichagulia, self-determination, what if representatives of the array of organizations and institutions in the Pan African world resolve to adopt the Red, Black and Green Flag that the Honorable Marcus Mosiah Garvey bequeathed to African people as a unifying symbol, as our Flag and proclaim August 17, Garvey’s birthday, Universal African Flag Day
--Ron Daniels, Institute of the Black World

The Black Arts Movement Business District calls upon the City of Oakland to display the above flag as a banner throughout the Black Arts Movement Business District immediately and without further delay, certainly, by Marcus Garvey's birthday, August 17. We further demand that the words LOVE LIFE be placed at the bottom of the banner as agreed upon by Donald Lacy, founder of the Love Live Foundation. The Oakland City Council has approved LOVE LIFE as the official motto of Oakland.

We call upon Mayor Libby Schaaf and President of the Oakland City Council, Lynette McElhaney to make this happen as a priority for the mental health of the North American African citizens of Oakland and all the citizens of Oakland. We call upon the City Council to resolve August 17 as Universal African Flag Day in Oakland. 

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Comment by Zhana on July 14, 2016 at 9:28am

This is very moving.  It is very positive that there are many police officers in Newark who are on the side of the community.  However, as you have said, there are others who back the opposition.  I'm not sure joining the police force is the way forward, although you have pointed out it can have beneficial effects.  I really do not think it would work here in London or in the UK, though, where we are such a small percentage of the population. 

One point:  it's not just brothas who are being killed for broken taillights.  Sistas are being killed as well.  Notably Sandra Bland - one of 75 sistas in the U.S. killed by the police last year. 

Thank you for posting this. 

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