Mayor Ras Baraka and Raheem Devaughn Fight Domestic Violence With Love and Life
If you’re wondering what a three time Grammy nominated singer/songwriter and a no nonsense Newark politician have in common the answer is simple. A love and respect for women from all walks of life.
In honor of this year’s “National Wear Purple Day” recording artist Raheem DeVaughn and Mayor Ras J. Baraka co-hosted a luncheon to recognize domestic violence survivors and highlight resources that cater to women looking to escape the threat of intimate partner violence. One of those resources is the Shani Baraka Women’s Resource Center. The center has been a welcome addition to Newark's Clinton Ave.
It provides women with access to domestic violence and rape crisis response teams, HIV testing, child abuse and neglect programs and services, grief and loss counseling, mental health services, and more.
Domestic violence has long been a blight on the city, and our country and while stand alone shelters have done their best to extract women from violent living situations full service centers like these address the other issues that accompany domestic violence.
Mayor Baraka noted that society looks to “find ways to help them but we have to provide opportunities for them to help themselves, protect themselves and do something for themselves.” He also stated that it was “all about empowering them to have the hope, and the support and all of the resources that they need.”
He then handed over the reigns of the event to the center’s domestic violence liaison Asia Smith graciously introduced the day's speakers and floated around the room making sure that everyone was comfortable and well attended to in a lovely purple sheath.
The luncheon, which was held in Newark’s City Hall, began with the showing of video featuring local survivors including Tiffany Salas a Newark resident and local fashion designer who was able to fully commit to her creativity after leaving behind an abusive partner.
Mayor Baraka stated that he was glad the center was there to help “thousands of young women and older women throughout the state, through the county, and throughout the city of Newark.” He also expressed his gratitude to all of those who made the fight against intimate partner violence possible “I am so grateful and happy that all of the folks over there are working everyday...the police department, all of the civilians, all of the non-profits everyone that’s over there trying to make sure the women get through a very difficult and dangerous time in their life.” He reaffirmed the city’s commitment to “provide them outlets, bridges, support, encouragement and protection.”
While Devaughn, who is a Jersey native that speaks unabashedly about being conceived in Newark’s formidable Colonnade apartments, founded the Love Life Foundation to address several of the social issues that are “closest to his heart” bringing awareness to and fighting domestic violence remains one of the foundation’s top priorities. He informed attendees that this event would be one of many because “the places that grow are the places that we come back to.”
Attendees at the luncheon included community organizers, survivors, members of the special victims unit, and representatives of the other organizations involved including The Safe House, My Sister’s Keeper, and God’s Girls Matter.
Sponsors of the event included SheaMoisture, Miss Jessie’s, Kiss Cosmetics, NJ Hair Studio and Spa, and Essence Magazine.
Survivors were met with support and encouragement as they told their stories. While many believe that domestic violence only occurs in low income households the who spoke women came from all socioeconomic backgrounds. One woman had even overcome her experiences to become a special victims unit officer and help others in crisis. An attendee jokingly stated that “she wears stilettos but she kicks butt.
A offering resources to the women in the room a representative of the Essex County prosecutor's office stated that “Victims need to be heard and people need to be believed unconditionally. We stand with you. We stand for you and we believe you.”
My Sister’s Keeper's Alexis Trusty spoke directly to the survivors in the room saying that “I want you to know that the fact that you’re sitting here is amazing. We love you and we want you to keep shining.” She went on to extend a heartfelt invitation for survivors to share their stories with the young ladies involved in the program and “use that to empower somebody else because they definitely need us.
DeVaughn professed his affection for women stating that his history of uplifting them with songs like “Guess Who Loves You More” “Queen” and “You” is a result of intentional choices to celebrate rather than slander stating plainly “I don’t want to disrespect women.”
He went on to perform some of his hits and as his powerful voice echoed throughout City Hall he inspired some of the employees passing by on their way to lunch to check out the celebration.
Before performing his “Queen” he shouted out them out encouraging them to throw their hands up with the attendees saying into the mic “Employees I see you! Put your hands up!”
The event ended with the releasing of dozens of purple balloons to honor victims and survivors of domestic violence in the spirit of empowerment that Mayor Baraka spoke of.
To learn more about the Shani Baraka Women’s Resource Center click here.
To learn more about the Love Life Foundation's efforts click here.
To learn more about My Sister’s Keeper click here.