The Honorable Mayor Ras J. Baraka
His progressive approach to governing has won him accolades from grassroots organizations to the White House. He was listed in The Nation’s 2015 “Most Valuable Progressives” as “Most Valuable Mayor”, Ebony Magazine’s “Power 100” and on the front cover of the New York Times for “defying expectations” during his first year-and-half in office. President Barack Obama announced his sweeping plan for criminal justice reform with Mayor Baraka while visiting a Newark reentry center. Because of Mayor Baraka’s diplomatic skill and strong advocacy, Newark Public Schools can expect to be returned to the control of the City for the first time in more than two decades. Throughout the City’s five wards, he is beloved as an educator, former principal, basketball coach, neighbor, mentor and friend.
From the launch of a social impact venture fund to accelerate the development of technology and the opening of the nation’s largest vertical indoor farm, to the creation of the City’s first-ever police Civilian Complaint Review Board to mobilizing residents to combat violence in high-crime areas, Mayor Baraka’s leadership has married a profound vision with an unshakeable passion for the City where he has lived and worked for more than four decades.
Public safety is Mayor Ras Baraka’s highest priority. He has connected law enforcement agencies with the community, provided at risk youth with mentoring, education and job training and developed programs to help ex-offenders join the workforce, gain counseling and medical treatment, and reunite with their families.
At the close of 2015, Mayor Baraka unified the Police and Fire Departments under a single Department of Public Safety. This groundbreaking initiative streamlined the two departments, saved money, and put more police on the street. His other public safety initiative, “Occupy the Block,” brings the Mayor and senior staffers together with local residents to disrupt criminal activities on high crime blocks and often collaborates with the Newark Alliance of My Brother’s Keeper, the local coalition which is based on President Obama’s program to repair the disconnect that many young men of color have with law enforcement, education, and government.
In his first 100 days in office, Mayor Baraka closed the City’s budget gap without laying off employees. His perspective on economic development has won him favor with Fortune 500© leaders, small business owners and investors. His strong relationships with Newark’s clergy and higher education leaders has allowed him to foster new collaborations on downtown and neighborhood redevelopment, education initiatives and fighting crime.
A native of Newark, whose family has lived in the City for more than 70 years, Mayor Baraka was educated in the Newark Public Schools and received a Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science and History from Howard University in Washington, D.C. and a Master’s Degree in Education Supervision from St. Peter’s University in Jersey City. His father, the late Amiri Baraka, was a legendary poet and playwright. His mother, Amina Baraka, is herself a renowned poet.
The father of three daughters, Mayor Baraka is also a published author. His latest work, “Black Girls Learn Love Hard,” is dedicated to his late sister, Shani Baraka.
Amiri Baraka Jr.
Chief of Staff
When you are the namesake of one of America’s most prominent 20th century African-American writers and activists and your brother is the Mayor of the largest City in the State of New Jersey, your heritage speaks of legacy and your destiny is one of service. Amiri Baraka, Jr., a longstanding political strategist in New Jersey and the current Chief of Staff to Mayor Ras J. Baraka, is highly regarded among government operatives and elected officials for his operational acumen and his unmatched skills as a community organizer. Any observer to his ability to coordinate a town hall in Newark while overseeing the work habits of more than 3000 City employees would soundly agree.
But, these skills were not acquired through symbiosis. Amiri — “Middy” to his family and close associates — refined his management and leadership schools in boardrooms and classrooms and on basketball courts long before he began to design campaign strategies.
As an artistic control manager for music artists on labels such as So So Def, Middy secured deals and oversaw tours for positive hip-hop acts. Soon after, he founded Four Corners Entertainment, a Newark-based artist management firm, which facilitated recording deals for budding artists.
Yet, amid the world tours and record deals, Amiri’s heart remained close to the soul of his hometown of Newark: the people. For nearly two decades, he served as a world history educator and truancy officer for Weequahic High School in the City’s South Ward. In 1990, Baraka co-facilitated the United Students Organization, a movement which worked to incorporate a multicultural curriculum in Newark Public Schools. This would also eventually lead to classroom enhancements and facility improvements in some schools. Later, as a distinguished and admired alumnus of Newark’s University High School, he was invited to return to coach the girls’ basketball team — a passion that he still enjoys.
Currently, when he is not handling the daily operations of City Hall, Middy is the visionary energy behind Bottom Up Consulting, a political strategy firm with a focus on ground-level organizing and campaign management. The firm is busy preparing for the upcoming election season.
Amiri received his degree in Education and Afro-American studies from Howard University. His joy is his six-year-old daughter, Isis Shani, who was named for his beloved sister, Shani Isis.