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What about the shootings?

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My name is Andaiye Taylor. I am a journalist and entrepreneur, and I created BrickCityLive.com, which I officially launched about three weeks ago. As of this today, I personally write the vast majority of the stories on this site. Given the recent spate of shootings in town that have gotten so much press, and given the ongoing violence and other tough problems that are a reality here in Newark, I think it makes sense for me to explain the content on this website. But before I start that discussion in earnest, let me tell you a little about myself.

I was born in Newark, and I've lived here longer than I've ever lived anywhere else. I've lived in the south ward, on Wainwright Street, and in the west ward, off of Orange Street. I spent a substantial part of my childhood and adolescence living in Hillside. I spent all of my teenage years living in Irvington. I've attended school in Newark, Hillside and, for high school, Livingston. I attended college in Philadelphia. I currently live downtown.

I learned to swim at the YMCA on Broad Street, at the base of Central Avenue. I learned to tap dance and play piano at Newark School of the Arts. I bought DJ Clue tapes at Broad and Market. I percolated at the Terrace Ballroom. I looked forward to Memorial Day weekend at Weequahic Park all year. I played up the hill. I played down the hill.

My family first migrated from Georgia to Newark in the 1950s. My grandmother graduated from South Side High School. My mother graduated from University. Five generations of my family live in the city of Newark today. Blood relatives of mine live in all five wards of this city.

I've been privileged to travel a lot, both in the U.S. and overseas. When I descend into Newark Airport on my way back home, I feel lucky that no matter where I go in the world, I truly have a sense of place and a feeling of homecoming when I come back here. I know that not everyone has such a place.

I explain all this for context: I've had a lived experience with Newark that goes back further than my memory can even reach. I love this city, in no small part because so many of the people I love most in this world were born in, bred in, and/or live within these 25 square miles. I have high expectations for this city that are rooted in my experiences here, and in my personal relationships with people here. When bad things happen in this city, I become disappointed in that profound way one does when someone you believe in falls short of their potential.

The violence in this city sickens me. That we're losing lives violently, that families are feeling the impact, that so many of these lives are young ones, that we're so used to hearing about it happening, and that our youth have such an eye-level view of it, is heart rending. I cannot overstate how much so.

But as a journalist, and as a result of my own habits of mind, I also have to pull back and remember a few things. I have to remember that violence is not the only thing that happens in Newark, and that it's not a contradiction to mourn our losses, wrap our arms around their families (and acknowledge that for a while, it'll feel like the only thing happening in their lives), continue to seek ways to quash it…and also acknowledge, applaud, and shine a light on the positive things that occur here.

I have to remember that the very act of acknowledging only the negative has its own destabilizing effect on our communities. Violence here, as in all places, has a terroristic effect. That effect works by asymmetry, which means that an act of violence will have a reach far outside of its already substantial real-world sphere of influence. Every time someone perpetrates a violent act, it affects even those of us who observe it from a "safe" distance: it reaches into our minds, makes us feel under siege, chokes out hope, and blinds us to the real opportunities around us.

We must know what's going on in our neighborhoods in order to reckon with those things. The violence here is a bona fide emergency, and we need to surround it and root it out. But if we only give voice to negative things, we'll amplify their impact that much more. We'll cede substantially more ground to them than even they deserve. We must elevate hopeful things even as we grapple with our gravest problems.

I started Brick City Live as a corrective. The story selection on this site is not balanced, but it is balancing. I seek to give voice and light to the hopeful people and hopeful stories that coexist with those events and stories that rightly disturb us. I want people both here and the world over to know that Newark is not a place without hope. I'm motivated to tell those stories not only because I'm a Newarker, but also because I'm a fact-seeking journalist. The hope that springs in this city is not a product of my wishfulness: it is an all-too-often unsung fact of our lives here.

That is not to say that I'll never report on violence in Newark, or any other tough subject, for that matter. In fact, the lengthiest story, by far, on this site to date is about gun violence in Newark. It's a story I've been sharing widely for the past few weeks. But when I do report on and write about it, it will be in a way that sheds more light on it, on the people involved, and on the context in which it occurred, just as I attempted to do with that story.

So as you read the content on the site – and I hope you'll make a habit of it – please know that it's attempting to present a more complete picture of the types of things that can and do occur in Newark. These are the other things that occur in our collective backyards. These are our other neighbors. This is the other context. These are the things that should be galvanizing in a positive way, and helping us make sense of what's possible right here. And highlighting them isn't an act of denial. While I do that work, know that I'm also thinking deeply about our most abiding problems, and thinking through ways to do them justice. That's a project that takes a little time to do properly.

But also know, above all, that I'm focusing daily on helping us all see a more complex and textured truth about our complicated city.

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About Andaiye Taylor

Andaiye is currently a fellow at the Tow-Knight Center for Entrepreneurial Journalism. She holds a master's degree from Columbia University Journalism School, was formerly the director of content marketing at Bitly, and was the 2012 recipient of the Erik Lars-Nelson prize for excellence in reporting and writing. Andaiye is a Newark native, Newark resident, and the show runner at BrickCityLive.com. Email her at andaiye@brickcitylive.com, and follow her on Twitter @andaiye.

4 Comments

  1. Realism Hargrave

    I absolutely Love this piece & I believe that you should also place it in the about section as it tells your story & explains the tone of this great resource… You know that I completely & absolutely understand where you are coming from & what you are doing!!! It was like Lauryn Hill’s “Killing me Softly” as you basically spelled out exactly why I started Newark Press & my efforts… However, I think this is going to take it to the next level & become an amazing resource for an even more amazing city!!! You have warmed my heart with this publication as my decision to leave Newark & relocate to ATL was not easy as I was worried abt the void of that type of content not being provided upon my absence but I prayed to God to rise someone up who will do what I did but in an even greater way & I think you & BCL was his answer… Ok, ok, not trying to make this abt me but this is my truth so I proudly will support this!!! I see grt things & I want to be like Medina & join the team because I believe in You, BCL & in Newark!!!! Signed Made in Newark’s Realism Hargrave

    • BCLGuest

      Thank you so much, @realismhargrave:disqus! And we’d love to collaborate with you – we’re making an effort to incorporate perspectives from “Newark expats”. Going to reach out offline. :-)

  2. jjcriggins

    Very honest writing, interested to see more

  3. Susan

    Love love love that you are going to highlight the POSITIVES!! I am a School Counselor at Weequahic HS, which is slated to be closed :( Although most of our kids are perceived negatively, the good does outweigh the bad. We do have students performing community service, going to 4 year colleges, earning scholarships and excelling athletically. Our State Championship Track and Field team consists of mostly honor roll students! We do have GOOD KIDS and GOOD teachers at Weequahic and would love to spread the word about its closing and ask for support and the resources to keep us going!!! I loved reading your piece and would love to work with you and possibly our Journalism students to bring more awareness of the POSITIVE!!! KEEP UP THE GREAT WORK!!!

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