I kept hearing that Shavar Jeffries was Leonard Jeffries’ nephew. So when I was leaving the Robert Treat Hotel Tuesday night after the election was called for Ras, I found Jeffries–a Newark native, by the way–holding court outside with Eugene Campbell, former Newark Superintendent of Schools and a beneficiary of Amiri Baraka’s Black Power leadership.
“I told my friends of mine who wanted to support Shavar (that this was) not the time for Shavar. He’s a good young man, and he should be running for the congressional seat later, but this is Amiri’s time, this is Ras’ time, this is our time.”
“Indeed,” Campbell interjected.
“Ras was not running for Ras. He was running for us. He was running for the people. He is making a statement to the world.
“So what am I going to be, on the wrong side of history?” he said, to the laughter around us.
“I would have told Shavar, ‘This is not your time.'”
“Precisely, precisely,” Campbell interjected.
“And the people who used him, I know what they do. They couldn’t come to me, because I stood against them and prevailed. I’m still here.”
“It’s a people’s struggle,” he said of Ras’ election. “He represents that. His father represented that. I represent that.”
He pointed to an area perpendicular to where we were standing. “That’s where we had the Black Power conference of 1967. That’s where Adam Clayton Powell and all of them were there, in the Black Power conference. Where Frances Cress-Wesling got up and said, ‘You Black men need to go down and get the people out of the jail.’
“I was scared to death because I grew up with these Italian youngsters. And they were now the police officers. And I said, ‘If we move out of the conference to go down to the jail, it would (be) bloodshed.'”
But Black people stayed the course, Jeffries recalled, and Kenneth Gibson was elected mayor, with Amiri Baraka’s help, in 1970.
“So no, this is a part of history, and Ras understands that history.”