Many people undermine this place. When they hear its name, all thoughts turn judgmental. Looks become hostile, and their perspective changes about you. "How dare they assume the worst."
This city was once the land of Connecticut Puritans. These people were from a New Haven Colony led by Robert Treat, who migrated to avoid losing political power. In 1666, this place was discovered. The people of today will call this historic moment ironic as the founding of this city was motivated to establish purity as asserted by their church with strict laws. The NEW ARK OF THE COVENANT, they called it. Then eventually, it shortened to NEWARK. The founding Puritans would be appalled if they were alive to witness what their great establishment had become today. They will not recognize this modern civilization for its current technology and cultural and attitude conventions.
Let me make it clear. This city radiates evil—to those who are the least familiar with it.
The city is the largest in the state for a reason. It has five wards. The North Ward. The West Ward. The South Ward. The Central Ward. And the East Ward. These sections were coined with various visions from settles of many different backgrounds; despite its diversity, most people consider it segregated and divided. Everyone gabbed against one other. Violence arose with shootouts, jumping, slashing, you name it, turning your backyard into a designated battlefield.
What was once intended to be a sacred land grew to be the wild west itself. Every criminal had a reason to justify their illegality. Gangs were looking for control, respect, and security. Delinquents would slash and rob the innocent for fun and frolics. Then there were the ones that did it for survival. All of this cumulated into one place. Those who were elected and those designated to enforce attempted many times to regain control of the city. To no avail, corruption took over those in power, and the corrupt became untouchable. Of course, like any unscrupulous human being, the rulers portrayed themselves as the city's saviors, masking their unholy and unethical behavior with a couple of undersized good deeds. They create the illusion of helping the city's citizens when they are only trying to protect their assets. Unfortunately, these small handouts are not as impactful as we need them for the sake of the city's survival. As a result, crime continued to rise and, along with it, a sense of danger and fear that would scar the city's economy and reputation for years.
Anyone from the city can tell you they experienced or witnessed a crime at least once or twice within the year, frequently relating to their loved ones. It sounds like a broad statement if you ask me. Nevertheless, this kind of activity has been regularized. But where does it come from? Why did it turn out this way?
The secret, believe it or not, lies within the locked doors that are staring down at us this whole time. The dark truth is so obvious yet so oblivious at the same time.
Let's rewind a bit. After World War II, the city, which once was filled with opportunity and purity, faced many changes. Mainly due to the housing crisis. The FHA (Federal Housing Administration) had redlined (an unethical, discriminatory practice that withheld citizens from potential investments if they resided in the administration's map categorized as hazardous) the entire city of Newark with its objective to back up mortgages in the white suburbs. And as you should know by now, these areas marked as hazardous were owned by ethnic minorities. It doesn't end there. The highway construction of the New Jersey Turnpike, Interstate 78, and Interstate 280 harmed the city by displacing many residents from their homes and ultimately dividing neighborhoods back in the 1950s. What was sought to help the city survive its crisis after World War II has indirectly harmed it due to the new infrastructure that allowed middle-class workers to live in the suburbs and easily commute into the city. The FHA set the dominos in place and pushed the first piece.
These are junctures in the past that can't be unchanged. It happened. It's what it was. Now the outcome of these discriminatory practices is as clear as ever. It harmed many Newark natives up to the time of now. Every time I walk around the North Ward, I see abandoned houses, overgrown grass, rotten wood, and barred wires with a "DO NOT ENTER" sign. Only vacant remnants of a city filled with some sort of life exist nowadays—the few subtle reminders of what once was a Puritan haven in today's wasteland.
With a city looking this crippled, its image reflects upon the natives. Outsiders categorize us as misfit, lower-class menaces. We are often defined by our presumed low income and lack of higher education. Make no mistake, any hard-working individual in this city will receive the same respect as one involved in a life of crime. Despite the difference in lifestyles, we are bonded by their environment and misjudged by the world.
But the world is mistaken.
It doesn't realize these natives can prove to be worth more than what they're given credit for. I speak as a Newark native when I voice this, "we are survivors." Endurance is in our character. All the pain this place has brought us in our lives lifted our spirits and strengthened our strategy to prevail. Our drive is significant because of what this place does to one. The energy here radiates very powerfully that it attracts many others from nearby towns. They want to rep the city with their songs, artwork, and dedication. They do this because they respect a city that pushes them to the edge. They do this because they know what this city can do to any who lives within these five wards. They want to be a part of us. We welcome them. Only the strongest make out of here. There's a reason why they say, "if you can survive Newark, you can survive anywhere."
The city still has some growing up to do. A lot of work needs to be done: reduce street violence, control delinquency, and end the segregated mindset. If one is to fulfill a higher success in their lives from this city, they need its total support from its natives. Being envious and greedy won't do thy neighbor any good. You're from the same place. It's time to give back to the city for what it has taught you. Just like that, we will thrive.
Then again, without these iniquitous elements, this city wouldn't be what it was intended to be and develop the most assertive people from here today. Go figure.
Written By: George M.
Edited By: Jose F.