The 1967 Newark Riots

by Joey George


I was 15 years old at the time, ready to go into my junior year of high school in the Fall. Life was peaceful and I got along with everyone. Sure, I knew that there were racial inequities in this country, especially in the South. I never really felt it in Newark. I was poor so there weren't any economic disparities between Black children my age and myself. Sheesh, the grammar school I went to was thoroughly integrated (Broadway Elem) as was Broadway Jr High and Barringer. The neighborhood I grew up in was also a melting pot. There was no discrimination, very little racial prejudice ...really we all got along and if we didn't it was because we were boys...not Black boys or White boys or Latino boys. Just boys and boys naturally fight sometimes. That's part of growing up.

Little did I realize from my safe haven in North Newark what tensions were brewing in other parts of the City. Hey, the Central Ward was the ghetto. And even as innocent as I was, I knew it wasn't a place to hang in, not even to visit. Trips to Weequahic, Hillside or Irvington always had the warning.."lock your car doors." The area was very poor and with high crime BUT, in not in my most far reaching imagination did I ever think what was about to happen could EVER happen.

How could anyone hate Newark so much? Most people I knew loved the City. The City went nuts overnight. I watched the TV news, read the papers, even walked up to City Stadium to see the National Guard. I cried and I am shedding a few tears right now while writing this. Will they come here? No way...we got this big Gumba, Imperiale, who will keep the rioters away from us. We had a baseball game to play at the PAL...went up to St Benedicts Field. Two of my good Black friends from the Central Ward weren't there but the game was cancelled anyhow..were these Dudes ok?

So many things went through my mind but it soon ended. But did it REALLY end? No....the City of Newark NJ had just been destroyed...not just the buildings in the Central Ward but the entire fabric of what made this city so wonderful lay in ruins. The Central Ward looked like Berlin in May of 1945. Political scandal and racial apathy by the city hall administrations, as well as severe poverty and hopelessness bred a new and angry citizenry. White Flight during the next six years transformed the City from a wonderful melting pot to a city characterized by high poverty, crime and CONTINUAL political scandal.

I left Newark 26 years ago. When I left I promised I would never go back.The city I loved was in ruins with no hope for the future. When I left I felt sorry for the good people who I left behind.

My own political views in 1977 when I left Newark had not yet been fully shaped. Even as a fairly recent college graduate, I could not understand why people would kill, rob and destroy. The riots destroyed Newark but as I became more worldly, I came to understand the futilely many Blacks felt then. And even though things have improved for Blacks, it is not an even world. No not by any means.

Sometimes things have to go through the floor before they will rise again. As to Newark. A once great City may still be great. The wounds take a long time to heal but the image is beginning to brighten. Someday, and hopefully it will be in my lifetime, the sun will again shine over the Great City of Newark. Just as Berlin rebuilt, so can we (and I want to be part of that "we.").


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