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Run-off heating up in Trenton

Nayaba Arinde | 4/12/2011, 5:30 p.m.

It's coming down to the wire now. Trentonians are getting ready to mark their figurative X in a surprise City Council seat run-off pitting a social services veteran--one Marge Caldwell-Wilson, against New Black Panther Party Youth Minister Divine Allah.

Hollywood couldn't have scripted this.

Speak it, and they'll come, declares Allah, a born-and-raised North Ward resident, citing his years of activism, food and clothing drives, conflict resolution, block parties, free school supply giveaways and down-home activism. It gives him the edge, Allah insists.

"The people know me. I am from here. This is me. I've been working with my people for years," said the 37-year-old father of three. "My platform addresses: the issue of housing, the gross mis-education of our children, public safety, and community and youth development."

Recent retiree Caldwell-Wilson proudly details her 40-years-plus of work experience, much of that time in social services, eight of those years with the New Jersey Department of Children and Families.

The former president of CWA, Local-1087 and one-time delegate to the New Jersey AFL-CIO Central Labor Council of Mercer/Monmouth/Ocean County noted, "Although a position on City Council is considered a part-time position by some, I could not in good conscience run for office and only provide part-time attention to a city with full-time issues."

She cited her involvement with dozens of charitable organizations and events over the years and having served as a member of the Mercer County Board of Elections for nine years.

Wilson-Caldwell told the AmNews, "In late December when I began knocking on doors, I came across many residents who I have not had the pleasure of speaking with in my 27 years in Trenton. To date, I have knocked on 7,000 doors, and I have found that Trenton residents are fed up. From broken streetlights to garbage piled high on the curb, people want to see improvement. From unemployment and poverty to the political corruption that thrives upon the status quo, people are ready for change. From decaying neighborhood properties to the chronic unemployment rate, stronger neighborhoods, safer streets and a successful school system that truly educates our children, residents want a new direction. I have heard their concerns, and I have established a platform that residents embrace. During the first election, I won the majority of the votes split between five candidates. Why? Because I have real solutions to real problems facing the community of Trenton."

Allah said that his strength lies in the connection he has with the community, "People will vote their interest and connect with the candidate who they see is genuinely try to reach out to them."

The campaigns of both candidates were moving at a steady pace--then two weeks ago, came The Trentonian front-page headline calling Allah the "flag-burning candidate," referring to a 2008 protest on Harlem's 125th Street. The debate raged on for days.

Allah questioned the timing of the controversy. "In an effort to stir up the already-heightened racial tensions in the United States surrounding the election of President Barack Obama, National Geographic documented the New Black Panther Party at a community 'Rally Against Government Oppression' in Harlem."