Ras J. Baraka
South Ward Councilman
About Council Member
Ras J. Baraka
Contact: (973) 733-3794
Council Member Ras Baraka was elected to the Newark Municipal Council to represent the South Ward in May 2010. A native of Newark, New Jersey whose family has lived in the city for over 70 years, Baraka was educated in the Newark Public Schools and received a degree in Political Science and History from Howard University in Washington DC.
Current principal at Central High School in Newark, he taught elementary school for ten years and coached girl's basketball. Baraka's love for teaching and education is matched only by his passion for political equality. In 1994, at age 24, he ran for Mayor of Newark and in early 2002, he ran for Councilman-at-Large. In September 2002, he was victorious and became Deputy Mayor under former Mayor Sharpe James until 2005. In November 2005, Baraka was voted to complete the term vacated by the deceased Council Member Donald K. Tucker.
In his short time as Councilman-At-Large, he established Newark’s Committee on Violence, which consisted of elected officials, community organizations, social service providers, law enforcement, local business owners and the clergy. Baraka also called for a moratorium on housing development until the disparity between low and moderate-income and market-rate housing was equalized.
An advocate for gang intervention and prevention, Baraka served as one of the key organizers and mediators of the Newark Cease Fire/Peace Initiative that took place in May 2004. He was also a founding member and served as the chairman for the Historic 1st National Hip-Hop Political Convention held in Newark in 2004.
Baraka was heavily involved in student politics while at Howard, forming the Black Nia F.O.R.C.E. (Freedom Organization for Racial and Cultural Enlightenment) organization; serving as assistant youth coordinator for the Commission for Racial Justice; leading the 1989 historic student protest to remove Lee Atwater, chairman of the Republican National Committee from the University's Board of Trustees, and serving as the vice president of the Howard University Student Government in 1991. Baraka inherited his artistic excellence and community activism from his parents, revered poet-activists Amina and Amiri Baraka.