City of Newark Holds My Brother's Keeper Forum

Friday, 09 January 2015 Local Talk News Editor

 

 

Mayor Ras J. Baraka and other dignitaries hosted the City of Newark's first "Young Men of Color and Law Enforcement" forum as part of President Obama's nationwide "My Brother's Keeper Challenge," at Central High School, located at 246 18th Avenue, in Newark's Central Ward.

The forum was designed to address issues that damage the relationship between African-American and Latino youth and law enforcement. Among the subjects that were discussed were steps to improve education, reduce crime, enhance mentoring, and to engage youth in both their own lives and Newark's development.

"When we abuse people, we first dehumanize them," Mayor Baraka said, discussing issues of violence. "We usually think of people as living, breathing, and spiritual beings. Before we destroy them, we dehumanize them, to justify killing and murder. That way you can kill someone with justification and without feeling remorse, and not personalize it. Thirty to 40 years ago, when we thought of thugs and gangsters, we would think of Prohibition, bootleggers, and mobsters. Today when we think of thugs and gangsters, we think of young African-American and Latino men. We must change this dehumanizing image and perception as we did 30 years ago."

The Mayor also stressed the differences between Newark and the communities most affected by recent tensions between police and residents. "We are not Ferguson, Missouri, or Staten Island," said Mayor Baraka. "We will not let what's happening now there show its ugly head in Newark. We will have a Police Department that looks like the community it serves and understands it."

Panelists included Department of Justice Center for Faith Based and Neighborhood Partnerships Director Eugene Schneeberg, Police Director Eugene Venable, My Brother's Keeper Director Rev. David Jefferson, Jr., Ebony Magazine writer Keith Reed, YouthBuild Executive Director Rob Clark, Newark Central High School seniors Taj Atkinson and Atylgee Smith, and police officers. MSNBC and CNN reporter and commentator Dr. Jelani Cobbs served as moderator.

In addition, Eric Garner, Jr., the son of Eric Garner, the man who died in during a controversial police incident on Staten Island, was among the panelists.

The discussion covered a number of issues, including improving communications and understanding between law enforcement and youth, educating youth about their rights and responsibilities under the law, preventing violence, and police and law enforcement careers. The panelists took questions from the audience, which consisted of all male students at Central High School.

Mayor Baraka also took a question from a student about the issue of divided loyalties, on whether or not to give information to police when a friend or loved one commits a criminal act.

The Mayor was firm in his answer. "We know that people who go to jail for committing crimes, for the most part, do so, because someone has informed on the suspect. Now, if you see someone committing a criminal act, like breaking into your home or your neighbor's home, it is your duty and responsibility to your family, neighborhood, and City, that you take action to stop it. If your friends are not keeping you out of trouble, or getting you into trouble, these are not your friends, they are putting you in harm's way, and it's your duty to stop that. And you can be assured that our Police Department will care and protect you," he said.

Goals of the "My Brother's Keeper" program included preparing youth for first attending school, leadership retreats, involvement with community garden and beautification projects, and youth summits, engaging them as stakeholders in their future and that of Newark's.

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