by: gaiyaiobi-xzandis zaevan
On July 15, 2017, I trekked to the city of Newark, New Jersey to see what the town had to offer. Being that it was the home of one of my favorite poets – living or deceased – Amiri Baraka, I wanted to know about the city that inspired much of his poetry and achieved a life long dedication from him and his family.
Upon arrival in the city, I could tell that it was a city unashamed of its history: formerly a bustling industrial town, strong political battles, and rich tales of success in academia and entertainment (Rutgers University seated in the center of the city and celebrities from Allen Ginsberg to Jason Alexander to Shaquille Oneal hailing from there).
One of my favorite urban fiction writers Niobia Bryant hails from the city as well and upon the advise of a fellow fan was told to take a trip to a restaurant (Dick & Judy’s) that she praises in many of her books as being some of the best soul food in America. After feasting on some yams, smothered chicken, potato salad, cornbread, and greens, I was impressed. Aside from some good cooking from some relatives and soul food joints in Chicago (formerly Glady’s & Metropole) and Houston (Mikki’s) I am a bit reluctant about trying people’s soul food cuisine.
My original reason for going to Newark was for the Afrobeat fest where the Afro-French soul group Les Nubians was performing as well as to see what was so special about the city. Redman raps about Brick city in his music all the time. Queen Latifah boasted about the city and the state. Amiri live, fought and died in the city. His son, Ras Baraka, is now the mayor. So many people had emerged from the city into greatness that my interest was definitely piqued.
Once I attended the fest, heard all the music, saw all of the dancers, stood in the midst of a crowd jam session, listened to the emcee-host and other organizers of the event speak and met some cool people, I realized that the statement by Langston Hughes was very much accurate: “I’d rather have rich experiences than being rich.” And indeed the visit to Newark, NJ (aka Brick City) was a rich experience filled with lively people, fun and entertainment.