Local Talk Contributor Carl Sharif (1942-2015)

Monday, 12 October 2015 14:11 Walter Elliott




 Carl D. Sharif, 72, a community activist and campaign manager who remained independent among Newark's political machines, died in his native Newark Sept. 30.

Sharif first came into wide media attention as the man with the bullhorn in front of the Fourth Precinct House July 12, 1967. He was trying to inform the gathering crowd outside on what was happening to taxi driver John Smith, who was pulled out of his cab, beaten and hauled to the police station by Newark officers.

Someone threw a Molotov cocktail at the station house, however, and the Newark Riots or Rebellion would be on for the next four days.

Sharif, who was born Carl Dawson in 1942, became a political appointee to Hugh Addonizio in City Hall. He learned the craft of political campaigning from the likes of council members Calvin West and wife Laurie.

Sharif was among the organizers of Newark engineer Ken Gibson's successful 1970 mayoral campaign, defeating Addonizio. Gibson rewarded Sharif's loyalty by first appointing him as administrative aide.

Gibson later appointed Sharif as a Newark Board of Education member; his board colleagues later promoted him to board president.

Sharif, however, left the Gibson Administration to work on then-Councilman Sharpe James' mayoral challenge in 1986; James defeated Gibson.

Sharif also engineered Cory A. Booker's 1998 Central Ward Council campaign against incumbent George Branch and 2006 and 2010 mayoral campaigns plus son Darrin's 2010 council bid - all successful.

"One of his first pieces of advice was that I had to knock on every door in the Central Ward," recalled now-U.S. Sen. Booker in a "New Yorker" interview. "I said, 'That's 60,000 doors.' He said, "Time's slipping.'"

His last major campaign was in 2014, guiding former NPS Board President Shavar Jeffries effort against then-South Ward Councilman Ras Baraka for mayor. Jeffries' full council candidate slate included a challenger to D. Sharif.

"Long before I declared my candidacy, my father was part of a larger group, evaluating each of the candidates, before I was on the radar," said D. Sharif when launching his run for mayor Jan. 4, 2014. "I've learned a lot from my father about political knowledge from an organizational standpoint. Over the last 25 years, my father has elected 80 percent of the people in office."

D. Sharif switched back to a council re-election bid mid-campaign. Former Central Ward Councilwoman Gayle Chaneyfield-Jenkins, on Baraka's platform, prevailed.

Sharif, along the way, surrendered his will to Allah and changed his name. He also became as much in demand as a commentator on the Newark scene as much as a political advisor.

Sharif wrote a weekly column for "Local Talk" for several years. He had his own "We don't Need Permission" blog which he updated through 2010.

"For someone who was so deeply involved in many campaigns, he was not political," said Muhammad Akil, Executive Director of the Patent Coalition for Excellent Education. "His greatest strength was his ability to listen and often be the last one to speak, incorporating different points of view into one overall vision."

Brother Clyde Dawson and sons Carl A. Sharif and Eric Dawson are also among his survivors.

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