Journal on Anchor Institutions and Communities

Article Preview of Tackling “The Two Americas” with City-Wide Collaboration in Newark

Posted on May 7, 2019

by Nancy Cantor, Tai Cooper, Marcia Brown, and Peter Englot
Journal on Anchor Institutions and Communities

It has been just over 50 years since rebellions in Newark, Detroit, and more than 160 other cities became ingrained in the American psyche, framing clearly for all to see the urban inequality built on systematic, de facto and de jure discrimination that marginalized populations of color, and further solidified the “Two Americas” that Martin Luther King, Jr. proclaimed then as demanding immediate attention (King 1968). Whereas much activism and some real progress have filled those intervening years since 1967, the relevance and reality of this narrative remains eerily present, as Newark’s Mayor Ras J. Baraka and legal advocate Ryan Haygood marked in describing our city today (Baraka and Haygood, Cities Have the Power to Finally Bridge MLK’s “Two Americas” 2017).

As a recent report from Haygood’s New Jersey Institute for Social Justice declares: “Despite a period of substantial economic growth in its downtown, Newark also embodies the persistent race and class divisions of the Two Americas, as local residents—predominantly people of color—are largely excluded from the burgeoning economic opportunity in their own city. Incredibly, Newark residents hold only 18 percent of all jobs in the city” (The New Jersey Institute for Social Justice 2017). The report goes on to document a landscape of racialized inequality, in a city with Fortune 500 companies, major transportation hubs, performing arts center and museums, higher education institutions, hospitals, and substantial real estate development, the poverty rate (33%) is twice the national average, and 42% of Newark children live below the poverty line. The employment landscape is highly racialized, such that while the clear majority of Newark residents are people of color, 60% of the people employed in Newark are white.

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