Georgia King Village Gets In The Spirit Of Hope
A new management company and the addition of a children’s library have made Georgia King Village a site of hope for its long suffering residents. But some have been working to improve the quality of life in the noted apartment complex for quite some time. Councilman Joseph (Joe) McCallum is no stranger to the twin pillars that sit perched between Newark’s Littleton and West Market Streets. After a successful Thanksgiving event he returned to the complexes’ community center with some friends to spread holiday cheer with a toy drive and pizza party sponsored by the local McDonalds, IHOP. and the Brick City Lions.
“I’m here all the time at Georgia King Village” said McCallum “I used to come when I was an aid to the councilman when we had problems in the buildings with bed bugs and the heat, so I really have a personal relationship with this complex. I’ve always been looking out for them. I was here for Thanksgiving and now I’m back with my team for Christmas.”
At his side as he spoke was his young grandson to whom he stressed the importance of giving back as he gestured to all of the toys lined up on the tables. “It's important that they understand and learn gratitude so they can see the things that are so freely given to them, the other kids might not be so fortunate to have” said McCallum of his family.
“As a councilperson I’m surprised at how many families are not able to afford toys for Christmas, as a person and as a public servant this is my way of giving back.”
That spirit of giving back transcends political affiliations. McCallum‘s close friend Dupre Kelly was on the scene to contribute as well. The Newark native and former member of the rap group Lords of The Underground was passionate about working with his dear friend to help families place presents underneath their trees.
“Councilman Joe McCallum has been a friend before I decided to run” said Kelly who announced his intention to run for councilman-at-large this fall in front of his childhood home in the West Ward.
“If you've known somebody for years than that shouldn't stop you guys from doing something together great for your community…I’m born and raised in Newark so I’m a product of the city. I've seen what can happen when you don't invest in our youth like we should. When they have things like arts and culture and athletics and they have a community that cares for them I've seen what can happen.”
Kelly, who along with his group members was honored with an official Lords of the Underground Holiday by former Newark Mayor Sharpe James, has engaged in community service throughout his entire music career, (which spans nearly three decades ).
Being of service while “traveling to other countries, different cities, different states” as a recording artist made him want to bring the energy he was using to make other communities better home to Brick City. “It made me say if they can utilize my talents to galvanize their community, why can't I galvanize my own talents in my own city of Newark, New Jersey?”
What started as working with elected officials to make a change soon became a desire to become one. “Working with elected officials made me say ‘let me stop being the middleman’. Let me just become the source, let me get a seat at the table as someone who has new energy, who actually speaks the language that the residents speak. And it’s no disrespect to the incumbents I’m running at large, there's four seats on at large, I’m just asking for one of them just so we can get somebody who's actually speaking the language to the community.”
That language is informed by a perspective only a variety of experiences can provide “Traveling shows you how different sections of the country are living, how the world is living,...and so it definitely changes your mindset, you know of how things are where you are compared to where you have been.”
It can also make you value the untapped potential in where you’re from. “When you grow up in a city like Newark, New Jersey, and there's many cities like Newark, New Jersey in our country, I know I grew up with the mentality that I wanted to make it out. I think that we have to stop wanting to make it out and we have to start wanting to make where we are better. We have to be the change that we want to see, we have to wake up everyday and say I'm going to start doing the things that I should be doing.”
One of the things he thinks people should be doing is working together on community projects. He described the celebrated Vibes in the City platform as “really dope” but expressed reservations about copycats springing up.
“If there's a platform that's working and just needs a little more assistance and you’re doing the same thing don't create another thing. If I’m helping with literacy and we’re in the same city and we’re rocking with literacy you can do whatever you want, but why create another literacy program when you can join forces with that one?”
Councilman McCallum isn't the only one Kelly is open to joining forces with. As children filed in and out of the room dragging parents along by the sleeves to get their faces painted and pick out presents they were surprised by the arrival of hip-hop artist Rah Digga.
Also a Newark native the former Flipmode Squad MC and engineering student talked with the children about the importance of studying math and science while distributing learning toys like a crystal mineral set and a coveted slime kit.
“Working together undoubtedly makes us amazingly stronger” said Kelly “unity, communication, it makes us stronger and it doesn't just make us stronger as an organization."
"Once the organization is stronger, the community is stronger, once the community is stronger, the neighborhoods are stronger, once the neighborhoods are stronger, your city is stronger.”
For more information on how to help out in the West Ward contact the office of Councilman Joseph McCallum.
For more information on Dupre Kelly visit DoItAllForNewark.com