Mayor Ras J. Baraka was first elected in 2014. Photos: City of Newark Press Office

by Yaminah Muhammad

NEWARK—Surrounded by thousands of community residents and leaders, Newark Mayor Ras J. Baraka took the stage in the New Jersey Performing Arts Center on March 12, to deliver his 10th annual State of the City address.

Opening his address with a stroll down memory lane, Mayor Baraka reminisced about the beginning of his 2014 run for Mayor of Newark—recalling it as his, “David Moment,” referring to the biblical prophet tasked with taking on the giant Goliath.

“A decade ago, I sat in the council chambers representing the South Ward. I remember clearly the evening that I announced … that I would be running for mayor of this great city. I wasn’t particularly sure why I announced there, and not even my family knew that this was going to happen.


I felt it was the right thing to do at the right time,” Mayor Baraka said. “… This was necessary, tugging at me even. I did this with a sense of clarity and urgency that I never had before. Against all odds, even my own self-doubt, but this was my ‘David moment,’” he added.

Detailing the odds then stacked against him, the mayor continued. “They said I would never be able to get out of the South Ward or get anyone else to vote for me. [They said] that we couldn’t raise the money and that I wasn’t prepared to be the mayor. [They said] in fact, if I won, the city would be overrun with crime and businesses would leave and development would suffer.”

Yet, despite the projections of his naysayers, Baraka, the son of the late activist and poet Amiri Baraka and Amina Baraka, declared his run for and service as mayor of Newark as evidence of their miscalculation. “But look at us now. Look at us now. They were so wrong—not because they underestimated me, because they underestimated you, and, more importantly, they underestimated God,” he said.

Showcasing just how much of an underestimation such statements were, Mayor Baraka went on to reflect on his administration’s achievements over the past decade. In doing so, he highlighted remarkable improvements and upgrades made to the quality of life in Newark under his administration.

His address detailed noteworthy advancements across various areas of development throughout the city in areas of public safety, economic development, health and wellness, housing and shelter, technology, transportation and arts, culture, recreation and senior services.

With Newark having faced tremendous challenges in these areas of development, the mayor quantified the millions of dollars and various community-oriented programs allocated throughout the city to combat such hardships.

To display the success, he recognized residents who have benefited from city initiatives and commended municipal employees for their dedication to the call of duty.

“We do real work to get in the way of real problems, not grandstand them,” Mayor Baraka continued. 

Some of that “real work” includes but is not limited to: allocating $3 million to community partners for provision of therapeutic and crisis intervention services, including mental health, emotional support, substance abuse counseling, the establishment of Newark’s Office of Violence Prevention and increasing the amount of first responders in the city.

All of which Mayor Baraka said was accomplished, “without violating people’s constitutional rights,” and plays a huge role in the 60-year low decline in the rate of crime throughout the city.

“We tripled the number of community engagement events across the city and increased our high-risk intervention capacity by investing in nine separate partners, and we are doing the same around domestic violence. While some still try to find ways to undermine or belittle this work, the federal government has opened their Office of Violence Prevention and so has the state following our achievements.

We are invited around the country to help other cities create what we are doing here. We are leading the way in Newark, and we have so much to be proud of.”

The mayor also highlighted the following advancements as just some of the many other top achievements of his administration:

• Reduced residents without addresses by 56.7 percent.

• Distributed over 2,000 affordable scooters and bicycles throughout Newark—providing transportation to nearly 75,000 riders for more than one million rides.

• Built over 12,000 housing units or submitted applications for construction.

• Created the Arts and Education District—providing residents and visitors with a central site for cultural programming and arts education.

• Increased children’s lead screening by 43 percent, families receiving food assistance by 36 percent and children receiving immunization services by 193 percent while decreasing lead related cases for children by 52 percent.

• Invested in the Office of Information Technology to expand internet access which resulted in more than 700 public housing units gaining access to Newark Fiber.

With each achievement, Mayor Baraka’s administration defies expectations and demonstrates the great protentional of the city of Newark.  

“What we do in Newark is a labor of love. We are the forgotten stone that has now become the corner stone,” Mayor Baraka said. “I believe in the best of us, and I believe that whatever we do together can never be impossible. I know as we reimagine this city, I know we can reimagine this state,” he added.

Mayor Baraka’s State of the City address comes just weeks after the 53-year old announced his intentions to join in the New Jersey gubernatorial race in the upcoming 2025 election.

“I know what vision and imagination can do. And I believe our collective imagination is robust enough and is durable enough to transform this city and transform this state. And who better to lead a broad-based coalition across this state of every race, every nationality, every religion, gay and straight, city and suburbs, but a pilot from Newark,

who has dedicated his life to flying through storms,” Mayor Baraka rhetorically asked. “This is why I’m throwing my hat in the race for governor of the state of New Jersey,” he continued, doubling down on his previous announcement and bringing the audience to a standing ovation.

Along with his address, the event also featured live performances and mono logues, as well as taped visual presentations from members of the community displaying their love, appreciation, and support for the mayor’s work.