The Star-Ledger’s NJVoices — the first attempt I know of to create a local group blog along the lines of HuffingtonPost or Comment is Free — brings together an impressive series of perspectives this week from outside and inside the newspaper on the brutal shooting of four young people in Newark last weekend.
After so many years languishing in drugs and poverty, many of the city’s deep wounds are finally showing signs of healing.
But when three college students were murdered at gunpoint against the wall of a West Ward elementary school, they were the latest in a death toll that is on pace to match last year’s — the highest in over 10 years. It points to a violent criminal element that still has a tight grip on our city . . .
I think it’s the contrast of this audacious lawlessness against the backdrop of Newark’s progress that makes these killings so shocking.
Violent crime is the single largest obstacle to any hope of the city’s recovery; promising crime statistics and development ring hollow to residents and outsiders alike who fear for their lives inside city limits.
Ryan Haygood, who heads a youth group in Newark with his wife, a school principal, writes:
Each of us, to some degree, has accepted a Newark that much of the country looks upon with disdain.
We have, each of us, agreed to silently and passively take Newark as it is: with an unacceptably high murder rate and unacceptably low graduation rate, where once beautiful streets and lots are littered with garbage, and where hope is often hard to find.
Clement Price, a professor who lives in Newark, said the crime “marks the nadir in Newark’s contemporary spasm of violence.”
I do not know of a tragedy in the city’s recent past that is analogous to it, especially with respect to the wrenching sadness that is sweeping the city. There has never been such a civic outcry, such a galvanizing of emotions against Newark’s all but ritualistic episodes of young people snuffing out the lives of other young people.
That the victims were exemplary citizens, college bound kids, may explain the depth of civic pain and outrage by a cross section of the public. Indeed, over the past few days more than a few people have told me of their exceptional anguish on hearing of these killings.
Bryan Miller, an anti-gun activist, used the platform to say:
No, my anger is toward the handgun industry and the gun lobby that enables and protects it. This dangerous duo deserves your anger, too.
Jim McQueeny, a former reporter, has much advice for Newark Mayor Cory Booker.
(Full disclosure: I advised the Ledger on NJ Voices. So I’m glad to see it working.)