The death, and spirit, of Amiri Baraka drove this work.
JULY 17th UPDATE: Here’s the press release:
NEW AUDIOBOOK PUBLISHED ONLINE ON 2014 NEWARK, N.J. ELECTION
‘Son-Shine on Cracked Sidewalks’ Tells The Story of Mayoral Election of Famed Poet AmiriBaraka’s Son
COLLEGE PARK, Md.—The mayoral election of Ras Baraka this past spring carried significant resonance in Newark, N.J. because of the death this past Jan. 9 of his father, famed playwright-activist Amiri Baraka.
Baraka, a city councilor and city school principal, handily beat Shavar Jeffries, a civil rights attorney and professor at Seton Hall University Law School, on May 13. He was inaugurated on July 1.
The Newark election was mostly under-covered in the mainstream media, with most national outlets focusing on the recently departed mayor and rising Democratic Party star, Cory Booker, now a U.S. Senator representing New Jersey. New York media, sadly, covered the race sparingly.
Todd Steven Burroughs, a Black press veteran who is an independent researcher and writer based in Hyattsville, Md., returned to his hometown earlier this year with the idea of writing a small book on the race. He wound up also covering it for Black newspapers nationwide and The Root, a Black-oriented news and commentary website that is operated by The Slate Group (the publisher of the white online magazine Slate) and owned by The Washington Post.
That small book is now available in audio form, online and for free. The link is http://imixwhatilike.org/2014/06/30/sonshineoncrackedsidewalks/ .
“Son-Shine on Cracked Sidewalks” is narrated by Burroughs himself. It is produced and edited by Dr. Jared Ball, a Washington, D.C.-based independent journalist, radio broadcaster, activist and scholar who runs www.imixwhatilike.org . The multimedia portal, filled with “emancipatory journalism and broadcasting,” has become a major independent voice of Black radical news, historical perspectives and current-affairs commentary in recent years. Ball is also associate professor in the Department of Multiplatform Production in the School of Global Journalism & Communication at Morgan State University, one of the nation’s notable HBCUs.
The 90-minute audiobook, the first created by and for imixwhatilike, was recorded by Ball and Burroughs at Morgan State in Baltimore.
“It was important to me that the Black perspective was represented in the coverage of the race,” Burroughs, 46, said. “I was glad to return home, re-trace my old steps, and keep my eyes and ears open on the Newark streets to see what would happen.”
“Son-Shine” is a book-length essay that discusses the history and current state of Newark in the context of the election, which pitted school unions against the charter school movement and its undisclosed funders. It’s the tale of how a largely Black and Brown city decided who was going to take it into the future almost 47 years after the 1967 civil disturbances tore it apart.
“The projects have gone the way of the Walkman, but that still doesn’t obscure the fact that Newark been crumbling for 70 to 100 years,” stated an excerpt from the book. “Everything is quite extreme, either shiny or decayed: no middle class, no middle ground. Each block is its own report card.”
It’s also the story of the history and development of Amiri Baraka and his role in pioneering Black Power in Newark.
Said Burroughs of his work: “It’s the story of how grassroots Black politics is done in a mostly non-white city, with virtually no bourgeois population of color. How do working-class Black people act when they are not worried about measuring up to the white gaze? That’s what Newark is all about to me.”
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