What makes Newark Special?

What makes Newark stand out from place you grew up?

Coming from the quaint, picturesque town of Elmwood Park, New Jersey to the booming urban jungle that is Newark, New Jersey was quite the transition. Elmwood Park is full of white picket fences and energetic soccer moms. Newark is full of blaring traffic lights and ten story buildings; bright graffiti adorns nearly every inch of concrete in the city.  In spite of any flaws that Newark may have, it most certainly stands out from the mundane, yet pleasant cluster of suburbia that is New Jersey. 

For instance, no city in the state can boast the plentiful street art and after school involvement in the arts that Newark can. Recently, I had the pleasure of attending the ‘Willie Cole exhibit’ at the Newark Open Doors Festival on the NJIT campus.

The Newark Open Doors Festival is an event which takes place over a few days, allowing artists the opportunity to display their work to a larger range of audience. It serves as a means for artists to support each other and depict their avant-garde creations to an open-minded audience. It was truly inspiring to see such meaningful art depicting racial prejudice being promoted and displayed in Newark.

At the exhibit, I interviewed Terrance Grimsley, a Newark based artist, working on creating art to bridge the gap between the 1% and the 99%. He commended Newark’s afterschool arts program. Furthermore, Grimsley conveyed his pride in being a part of the blossoming city of Newark.

When asked about the role he has played in Newark’s growth, Grimsley stated, “I spread culture you know? It’s unfair that kids grow up with no culture. They  don’t grow with the knowledge of themselves. We in an identity crisis. So like me, I spread culture. The name of my movement is “Poor Kings.” So, I let them know they kings and queens and are royal people. You know what I’m saying?”

Grimsley was blunt and candid when expressing his thoughts, which I appreciated greatly. In addition, when asked if the city was moving in a positive direction, Grimsley stated, “There’s a lot of things that has been unsettled. You know what I’m saying. You can’t just forget these things and the people that really make up the city! The people that were born and raised here.” The people of Newark take care of their own.

What I see as the most significant part of Newark are the people that make up this city. The people of Newark come of all different shapes, colors and sizes. What ties these very different individuals together is the role they play to uplift and empower their city. The diverse group of individuals that make up Newark is the best part of this city.

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