New Jersey Mayor Reads Poetry To Comfort Residents
Ras Baraka is using art to encourage the residents of New Jersey. Poetry has become a staple in the mayor’s briefings. In an interview with People Magazine, he reflected on his process and purpose for using poetry. “It’s difficult to be happy in these difficult, depressing times,” he states. “But I love to share poetry that is encouraging, inspiring, that gives people a sense of a new day, new opportunity of how to persevere.”
He often begins the address with a briefing on the state as a result of the Coronavirus pandemic, and he concludes with a poem with titles ranging from Tupac Shakur to Toni Morris.
According to the interview, Baraka has an extensive history with poetry. His parents, the late Amiri Baraka and Amina Baraka are poets who are known for their activism and social justice. He says his house was filled with jazz music and poets from across the world.
The New Jersey community has grown accustomed to the poetry readings. He stated his constituents often submit poetry suggestions for him and residents will even submit their poetry to him to review.
“He knows poetry is not simply entertainment, but a part of the civil charge and consciousness of the people, his people,” Jasmine Mans, a poet, author and the creative director of artist initiative Embrace Newark, says of Baraka.
On Saturday, May 23rd, Mayor Baraka is extending his Coronavirus inititive by joining singer and actress Jill Scott by participating in the “Def Poetry Jam” livestream event to raise money for coronavirus relief among Newark’s vulnerable communities.