by Yaminah Muhammad
NEWARK—In the 1960s, the number of violent crimes recorded in the City of Newark, New Jersey, began to skyrocket—quickly placing its annual average as a city over the national average. For decades to follow, Newark remained ranked as one of the top cities for violent crimes in the country. As a result, Brick City has since been dubbed as one of the most violently dangerous cities in America.
To combat the city’s violent record, city leaders, such as Mayor Ras J. Baraka, allocated numerous public safety programs and resources into Newark. Thus, setting forth an effort to reduce and prevent violence in the city. One of the mayor’s most recent efforts towards violence control and prevention included the appointment of Jessiah Paul Muhammad, 27, as executive director of the Brick City Peace Collective (BCPC).
In a press release from the mayor’s office announcing the promotion, Mayor Baraka stated, that Jessiah Paul Muhammad has “demonstrated the highest level of commitment to [the] city’s vision for peace, justice, safety and security, and [has] brought hope and healing to all Newark residents—especially those touched by violence and trauma.”
Mr. Muhammad demonstrates his commitment to Newark through community-based service. Working for the city, he played an essential role in establishing the Mayor’s Newark Office of Youth and College Affairs. He particularly focused on chronic school absenteeism through participatory action research. Additionally, Mr. Muhammad assists in leading the mayor’s monthly men’s meetings to usher in a new era of development in Newark.
As a result, his reputation as a community advocate and public safety expert continues to grow—awarding him placement in Newark’s leadership, including his new role as executive director of the BCPC.
The collective is a collaboration of community-based organizations working together to reduce violence and conflict in the city. Through the joint efforts of grassroot organizations, service providers and city departments, the BCPC forms a citywide public safety ecosystem.
Together, the network promotes an effective distribution of life-enhancing resources throughout the city by utilizing informed strategy development and implementation. This includes reimagining policing, crisis response, diversionary programs, and community programming.
Founded in 2019, the BCPC started with Mayor Baraka’s vision to target local-level conflict and a small team dedicated to bringing his vision to fruition. That team included Dawn Haynes, Crisis System Management, working as the project manager.
Just months into her work in the BCPC, Mr. Muhammad joined the team as a data analyst while studying to obtain his master’s degree in Global Affairs at Rutgers University-Newark.
Ms. Haynes describes Mr. Muhammad’s joining of the BCPC as “godsent” to the development of the organization and its impact on Newark.
“Jessiah came in and he just understood the assignment and executed the mission. I could not have asked for a better person to be in that role with,” Ms. Haynes told The Final Call, crediting Mr. Muhammad’s ability to execute the organization’s expectations to his diligent understanding of the mayor’s mission, the City of Newark and the importance of serving communities in dire need.
Since joining the BCPC in September 2020, Mr. Muhammad has played a pivotal role in rendering support to the organization’s key initiatives. Wearing multiple hats, the Newark-native served in numerous roles, ranging from data analyst and reporter to project organizer and manager.
Though he’s taken on numerous roles, all of them have shared a common goal to serve the faction of society who are most disregarded, yet simultaneously, most in need. His dedication to the mission of driving systematic change in violence prevention and trauma recovery throughout Newark leaves many excited to see him rise in the political ranks.
“I’m super excited to watch him flourish and be what we knew this organization needed. He’s coming from a godly place and so many corporate and political positions are missing that,” Ms. Haynes said. “This job is long nights and early mornings. This job doesn’t give you room to not give your best because that could be somebody’s life. And Jessiah understands that effortlessly. And I’m grateful that he’s in this space,” she continued.
Echoing Ms. Haynes’ excitement, Deputy Mayor of Public Safety Lakeesha Eure told The Final Call, “It’s great to be able to see young Black men at the forefront of this work that we’re doing. They are needed in order for us to win and succeed. So, it’s amazing to see the mayor give him this opportunity to work and grow through the ranks.”
Previously, Deputy Mayor Eure served as director of the Office of Violence Prevention and Trauma Recovery, which the BCPC functions as a collaboration and accountability wing. During that time, she worked to assist Mr. Muhammad with the growth and development of his leadership skills. Ms. Eure was appointed deputy mayor of Public Safety by Mayor Baraka on Jan. 17, 2024, alongside Mr. Muhammad.
Now as deputy mayor of Public Safety, she looks forward to seeing Mr. Muhammad step into his executive role as the leading visionary she knows him to be, a characteristic she credits to Mr. Muhammad’s membership in the Nation of Islam. “Him being in the Nation [of Islam] is a great thing because he has a discipline and training that ultimately helps him see things from a different lens than other people. He comes by way of influence already and from a wealth of knowledge that he’ll be able to apply to organizing and mobilizing Newark,” she said.
Student Minister Abdul Haqq Muhammad of Newark’s Mosque No. 25 agrees.
“Brother Jessiah is in a very peculiar position because of his background as a student of the Teachings of the Most Honorable Elijah Muhammad under the guidance of the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan. I have seen firsthand his tenacity, focus, and dedication to growth and development as he assists me in the Ministry at Muhammad Mosque No. 25. So, I am very proud to see him continue to grow professionally to help our city improve the quality of life for our people in Newark,” Student Minister Abdul Haqq Muhammad told The Final Call.
Jessiah Paul Muhammad’s role as executive director of the BCPC became effective immediately upon his appointment. Under the leadership of Kyleesha Wingfield-Hill, who was also appointed on Jan. 17 to director of the Office of Violence Prevention and Trauma Recovery (OVPTR), Mr. Muhammad is now responsible for maintaining and enhancing Newark’s public safety ecosystem, all of which he plans to do through the spirit of Allah (God).
“I thank Allah that I am a student and follower of the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan from the Most Honorable Elijah Muhammad backed by Allah in the Person of Master Fard Muhammad. And that through their word[s], I have a spirit that gives people comfort through the stressors of this world. In the spirit, they have an atmosphere that is unalike the negative pulls of this world. In me, they have someone who is very sincere, very genuine and strives to see a better community. And that’s through the spirit of Allah,” executive director Jessiah Paul Muhammad said.