Cornel West Talks Newark, Cory Booker, & Youth Engagement [VIDEO]

1 Oct

Cornel West (Image:

Cornel West (Image:

This week in NYC is like Woodstock for activists, educators, and politicians.  There’s so much going on from a domestic violence workshop to a film screening on Rethink Afghanistan.

Starting things off, last night had the opportunity to attend Cornel West’s Barnes & Noble event in Midtown.  Brother West was there to introduced his latest book Living and Loving Out Loud, a Memoir and rap a bit with the folks.

In true form, Dr. West offered his insights on topics ranging from politics, religion, academia, and music.  He also got personal addressing his family life and his recent battle with prostate cancer. (West admitted that he still smokes his pipe, though noting that he doesn’t in any way condone or promote smoking post-cancer, but “it is what it is.”)

In his provocatively preachy eloquence, brother West offered up some compelling words of wisdom to a diverse standing-room-only crowd.  (I’ll be posting a series blogs tomorrow and Friday about the rest of the event.)

Part one of my series on Dr. West highlights his thoughts about Newark, New Jersey, its fine mayor Cory Booker, and youth engagement.

In the clip below, a sixteen-year-old girl from Newark acknowledges Dr. West for his work to combat social injustice while offering up her opinions about the current state of Newark.  She expresses an honest concern that Newark might end up becoming just another gentrified urban city.

I thought this young girl’s perspective was illuminating especially considering how Newark has been in the national spot light with the recent premiere of the Sundance documentary Brick City.  Even I’ve been mesmerized by the story behind the city, including mayor Cory Booker’s fascinating rise above corrupted politics.  Brick City also sparked my interested in Street Fight, a film about then-mayoral candidate Cory Booker’s fight against incumbent mayor, Sharp James.  Admittedly, though, I am an impassioned observer of political theater and drawn to gut-wrenching stories.  So when the young woman implied the possibility that her city might be in danger of becoming gentrified, I immediately thought about my neighborhood next door, Harlem.

All this talk sparked a few questions in my mind:

In the midst of all the fan fare about Newark and its mayor, what do we think about the possibility of Newark becoming another gentrified Harlem (or even New Orleans, for that matter)?  Is that a fair question?

What responsibility do our most gifted and brightest politicians have to its citizens that are rightfully concerned about being displaced due to property and business development?

Dr. West had some thoughts:

About Newark

“For so long Newark has been almost eluded by corrupt politicians of all colors.”

About Cory Booker

“He’s fresh enough where he can keep an arms length from corruption. We just have to make sure he’s not too mesmerized by some of the neoliberal policies; [the] same kind of policies Obama often is mesmerized by.”

To our youth:

“Pace yourself.  Make sure you run with somebody. [You] can’t do it by yourself.  Gotta be organized; an unorganized Freedom Fighter is a contradiction in terms.  Gotta be organized. Gotta be mobilized. Gotta be connected in some way.”

For the rest of Dr. West’s thoughts on Newark, Cory Booker, and youth engagement, see clip below.

Tomorrow, I’ll be posting more of Dr. West’s talk, including video clips of him addressing the Skip Gates controversy, youth violence, and the war in Afghanistan. Stay tuned!


3 Responses to “Cornel West Talks Newark, Cory Booker, & Youth Engagement [VIDEO]”

  1. Aisha October 1, 2009 at 5:42 am #

    Cory Booker can’t do it alone. Let’s hope he manages to find the support he needs to get the work done. Unfortunately, many leaders start out with good intentions and then morph into self-preservationists. Cory Booker seems to be doing it right – connecting, discussing, strategizing, planning, implementing, taking action. Kudos Mr. Mayor!

    Now as for gentrification… Despite NY’s aggressively pro-tenant rent stabilization laws, landlords are quite successful at pushing people out. Having these laws on the books that “protect” tenants and “reprimand” slumlords mean nothing when they have no bite. So Newark and it’s lax tenant laws (as compared to NY) seems to be ripe for the picking to yuppies. I think the best way to preserve the rich fabric of culture among Newark’s current population is to make room for new people (since they’re coming anyway) while still creating tax incentives for current building owners not to flee & dump their tenants. Same goes for businesses. Harlem might not have had a plethora of fine dining options during my childhood, but we definitely had good food options! Unfortunately, with the appeal of buy outs, what incentives do the small business owners have (those who own their space) to stick around?

    What was Dr. West discussing? Or should I come back tomorrow? thanks for sharing!

  2. tara l. conley October 1, 2009 at 1:23 pm #

    Thanks for responding, Aisha!

    You seem to have a critical understanding about the ins and outs of urban gentrification. I’ve only experienced it from an outsider looking in. More specifically, when I was filming residence that were displaced to Houston from NOLA, the same sentiments about gentrification were shared by NOLA citizens. There are still a large number of NOLA residence living in Houston, partly as a result of circumstance, partly as a result of choice (they just don’t want to go back to NOLA). Unfortunate.

    You mentioned tax incentives for building owners, that makes sense. I wonder how likely it is for areas like Harlem and Newark.

    Mayor Cory Booker, if you’re out there; care to weigh in??? 🙂

    Dr. West was there to talk about his new book and answer questions from the audience. He talked about a lot of issues, Obama, Skip Gates, Afghanistan, other current events, etc. I plan on posting more today and throughout the weekend. He covered a lot!

    Thanks again for stopping by!


  3. Dee January 28, 2010 at 7:56 am #

    gentrification is coming to Newark….Trust and believe… I watch it hit hard in DC
    Some people get brave when they get priced out of the better areas. The only difference is DC has jobs in the goverment , thats why gentrification happen so fast. In 1998, a rowhouse cost $50,000. People took those homes and strip them to the bones and put another $50,000 into the house.

    Today , they are selling those same home for up to $400,000. a $300,000 profit.
    But Newark is Different. There are no Jobs. Once Big companies start coming to Newark, The bidding wars will began. Cory Booker is holding seminars for Big Companies now. Just look at his Documentary. I was born and raised in Newark and plan on buying a home there in the next year. I live in DC. I plan on investing in Newark because I have grandchildren there. If I buy now they will not be displaced. And plus I cant afford to buy in DC. I am out priced.

    gentrification will come to Newark oneday, so prepare. It will hit like a storm. Newark is not immune

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