Longtime Newark Community Activist Anthony Diaz Announces Bid for Newark Mayor

A Newark native, Diaz graduated from Science High School and pursued his undergraduate education at Rutgers University. A co-founder of NWC, the organization was formed in response to the outbreak of the city’s water crisis and currently runs three water distributions, two community refrigerators, and a dry good pantry in the city.

As a longtime activist, Diaz’s recent bid for mayor isn’t the first time he has forayed into local politics. In 2020, Diaz ran unsuccessfully for an at-large seat on the Essex County Board of Chosen Freeholders where he lost in the Democratic primary. He received 5.16% of the vote, according to the Essex County election results.

In 2018, he ran unsuccessfully for City Council to represent the Central Ward where he received 2.6% of the vote, according to election results.

He was also a candidate as an at-large representative on the Newark Public Schools Board of Education for a three-year term. According to Diaz’s profile on Ballotpedia, he filed to run in the at-large general election on April 25, 2017, but his name did not appear in the election results.

When TAPinto Newark asked Diaz what made him more confident to pose a challenge to Baraka in this upcoming election, he said his prior experience as a candidate has better prepared him this time around. 

“I’ve been doing the work for the last three years,” he said. “I have gained a solid following and a platform where I can push out a lot of ideas and mobilize a lot of people.”

The mayoral candidate is no stranger to mobilizing his supporters through his work with NWC either, grabbing some news headlines along the way since the group's inception. 

In 2019, Diaz, megaphone in-hand, organized a protest at the MTV Video Music Awards, hosted at the Prudential Center. He led a march of about 100 people from Newark’s Penn Station to outside the arena, demanding the city do more for residents impacted by the city.

The protest was spurred by the city's lead water problem that was catapulted into the national spotlight in August 2019 when the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency recommended that some residents drink only bottled water after water from faucets equipped with Pur filters still tested positive for high levels of lead years after the city first discovered the problem.

“Where y’all from?” Diaz shouted at the event. “We need clean water because we live here.”

The following year during citywide protests of George Floyd’s killing, a group of NWC supporters organized a march in June in the South Ward tied to its mission of mutual aid. The supporters were soon confronted by a group of local residents who had other plans for the marchers’ path. Among the residents was Amiri “Middy” Baraka, Jr., Mayor Ras Baraka’s brother and chief of staff, who at one point appears in a video at University High School, arguing with the marchers after they were forced to turn back. 

Earlier during the confrontation, a man heckled the marchers and eventually ripped a bullhorn away from Diaz. 

“We’re doing this work to benefit the people of Newark, and if you’re going to show up, where are the resources you’re providing?” Diaz said following the incident. “You’re literally attacking people that had lettuce and diapers in their hands.”

Coming into May's elections, the candidate will have a monumental task in front of him to unseat the incumbent Baraka. 

In a Fairleigh Dickinson University poll of Newark released in August, residents were asked to give their opinions on a number of New Jersey and Essex County area elected officials, including Baraka

The mayor was among the list of officials to have received high marks with a 60% approval rating compared to a 17% disapproval rating.

Diaz is undeterred by those numbers. 

"When you're actually in the city, you understand what residents are saying and what the community is saying, and the community isn't happy," he said. 

By bringing community voices to the forefront paired with a plan to organize and stay true to himself, Diaz said he wants to run a campaign this election season his way. 

“I’m not doing it the politico’s way,” he said. “One, That’s not authentic to myself. Two, that’s not what I want people to get from this campaign.”

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published this page in News and Politics 2021-11-24 03:17:25 -0800