Special to the AmNews
When Hakim Green, educator, activist and half of the hip-hop duo Channel Live, was working with a youth organization in Newark, he and then City Councilman Ras Baraka wanted to come up with a way to fuse Baraka’s anti-violence initiative with hip-hop, 24 Hours of Peace was born. The event, now in its fourth year, brings the South Ward community together with artists, nonprofit organizations and community leaders to fight against violence in Newark.
Amiri “Middy” Baraka Jr., Councilman Baraka’s chief of staff, came up with the idea of the 24-hour nonstop concert in the hope that the socially conscious festival would invoke peace through artistic expression in a community seized by high crime numbers.
Dozens of vendors, DJs, singers, rappers, filmmakers and dancers displayed their talents and commodities for neighborhood residents, in a closed-off section of Clinton Avenue, days before the new school year.
“We felt that 24 Hours of Peace would be an important way to bring the younger generation together to give them a clear example of how to use creative arts in a positive way,” Green told the AmNews. “We also partnered with nonprofit organizations, making a connection, informing the community that there are services available to them.”
Green used the same concept that marketing executives use in hip-hop to target its fan base when he recruited nonprofit organizations to empower the community to participate in the festival. Organizations such as Parents Unified for Local School Education were on hand to pass out information educating parents about their campaign for school reform. The New Jersey Explorer Children’s Museum donated more than 3,000 books on behalf of the festival.
“We do this every year just to show the children that we can come together at least for one day to have 24 hours of peace,” said Young Guru, who was raised in Newark. “We come out so everybody can be seen as a community. Children can come out and play with each other safely. You can you can get to know your neighbor. Sometimes people live two blocks away from each other and never get to meet. This is the whole purpose of the event.”
The USC professor of hip-hop history and engineering told the AmNews that people have a negative perception of Newark because of its history of violence, but there are many successful people, like him, who return to Newark to give back. “There are hard working, honest people here in Newark who want to raise their kids,” said Young Guru. “We will not abandon our children and leave them victims to gang violence. Now that Mayor Baraka is in office, we are really trying to show our support by leading by example.”
Mayor Ras Baraka and his family attended the event. The radial mayor took a low profile, as he walked around shaking hands and hugged and embraced children, treating them as family.
Before the close of the event, members of the community had the opportunity to engage in social discourse during a panel discussion with local hip-hop artists and community activists on how the community could help against violence and gang activity.
A coalition of community-based organizations at the event included 211 Community Impact, Newark Anti-Violence Coalition, Fatherless to Fatherhood, Team Definition NJ Bartenders, TGE Films and Black Cops Against Police Brutality.