By Gregg W. Morris
More Jobs for Black Youth
Herman Johnson’s typical day starts at six o’clock in the morning. The 84-year-old Jersey City resident heads out to take his great-grand nephew’s three kids to school and then returns home to help his wife who is recovering from a stroke. “We work together in the morning, just me and her getting ready,” said Johnson, a retired educator who has lived in Jersey City with his family since 1964. “She’s coming along pretty good with that. Three days a week, I used to take her for therapy. Now she’s down to therapy one day a week.”
When it comes to the next governor, Johnson says his main issue is jobs and job training for African American youth in the state.
“We need training in technology for young people,” he said. “We need training in carpentry and construction jobs. Trump is talking about a massive investment in infrastructure … and African Americans could be left out again because our young people are not trained.”
Johnson had been leaning toward Democratic candidate Jim Johnson, who is also African American. He lost in the primaries to Philip Murphy. Johnson said he has yet to make up his mind about which candidate will get his vote. In the meantime, he says he has a message for Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop.
“I see a lot of construction going on, a lot of houses being built, a lot of apartment buildings are being built,” he said. “With the jobs that are opening up in construction, put a percentage of minorities in it, at least in the beginning. We need young people to be employed.”
According to an August 16 story in the Hudson County View, the city council approved a new labor agreement that requires at least 20 percent of a new project’s workforce include women and minorities.
The decision came after “intense criticism” from the local chapter of the NAACP, which had been asking for at least a 23 percent increase.
“If you drive through Jersey City … you’ll see a lot of young African American men out on the street, with no direction whatsoever,” said Johnson. “They don’t see any future so most of them just hang out.”
The retired teacher added that job prospects go hand in hand with improved educational outcomes.
“We have a high dropout rate,” explained Johnson. “If they know they’re working towards something and they know there’s a reason for studying and developing skills … I think they’ll stay in the educational system a lot more.”
Gentrification and Displacement
The Fast and the Furious, wrote Rev. Willie J. Keaton, Jr., pastor of Claremont Lafayette United Presbyterian Church, is not just a billion dollar movie franchise. It is also, he noted in an opinion piece for NJ.com, an apt term for describing how “people of color are being pushed out of Jersey City.”
He quipped, “Gentrification and displacement is happening fast and we should be furious.”
In an interview, Rev. Kreston was even more passionate about his views on gentrification and its impact on local communities.
“People of color are being pushed out of neighborhoods,” he said. “So where are they going to live?” He described the desolation in areas such as Greenville in Ward F. Greenville is unincorporated territory in the southernmost section of the city.
“This is where they are now,” he said. “People have collected in this area because they’ve been either pushed out by pricing or they’ve had to leave the projects, such as Curries Woods, after they were torn down.”
Unemployment in Greenville is “over 30 percent” and the poverty, says Rev. Kreston, is driving people deeper into desperation. “There’s a lot of people selling bootleg stuff and knock off stuff and oils and different things like that because they can’t find work, they don’t have employment.”
Then there are the drugs, including heroin. Rev. Kreston calls it a “crisis,” and says people are coming from other places to Greenville to buy drugs. “So you have an open air market of drug zones, pockets of it.”
He said the one task for the next governor would be to focus on eliminating cronyism, which Rev. Kreston blames for the failure of programs intended to help underserved communities.
“All this funding that’s available for at risk adults and different things like that – I’m starting to notice that a lot of these programs are not real programs. A lot of them are, they’re crony driven,” he said.
Home Grown Media for New Jersey
Jersey City resident and citizen journalist Tamica Cody says if she had the next governor’s ear, she would persuade that person to improve media coverage of the state.
“What I’d like to see is New Jersey have its own news hub,” said Cody, 42. “All we get is news either from New York, or from Pennsylvania … Why don’t we have an Eyewitness News at 6? Why be dependent on the ABC, NBC, CBS affiliates,” she said.
Cody, 42, is a mother of two. She moved with her two kids and her partner from Montclair in 2015. The family previously lived in South and then North Carolina.
“One of my colleagues, who owned a business in Montclair, suggested Jersey City … she felt that it would suit me,” said Cody. “So I did my research, I went to Jersey City every other weekend, for six months, just to see the demographics, the neighborhoods … and where I thought that my children would be safe.”
During her visits, Cody said she noticed how, in the downtown area, a lot of people – especially people of color – were “being pushed out because of the high cost of rent, and homes” and that local media wasn’t paying any attention.
Jersey City has bloggers, she said, “but you don’t see any bloggers of color representing Jersey City.”
Six months after settling in the city, Cody launched her own platform to fill that void. JCresident.com tells stories of local Jersey City residents with a focus on communities of color in the city.
“I want to do stories that I’m not seeing in the newspapers. I want to do stories that I’m not hearing about on public radio,” said Cody, who has years of experience working in media, including a stint with an NBC news affiliate in South Carolina and later at the Financial Times. “I want to do stories about the people who make up the inner fabric of Jersey City.”
The Voting Block Collaborative Effort was started to encourage political discussions among immigrant and ethnic voters in neighborhoods across New Jersey. The partners of this collaboration include five ethnic media: Sing Tao Daily, Reporte Hispano, Zaman Amerika, The AsianJournal, and The African Sun Times and mainstream media partners such as WNYC, WHYY, NJ Spotlight and The Record.