Category: People

Brenda Keith: A child lost in Newark

Brenda Keith
Brenda Keith

She could be trouble, but her teachers and other staff members at Newark’s West Side High School loved her and did what they could for her because, as one said, “She could be warm and loving.” She might run through the school’s halls spouting obscenities, but also was known to help out at a local church. Whoever Brenda Keith was, however anyone saw her,  no matter how she acted, the 17-year-old should not have died.
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Baraka “not satisfied” after meetings with Hespe, Anderson–and Christie disses him again

Ras Baraka--when he used to be angry
Ras Baraka–when he used to be angry

Newark Mayor Ras Baraka says he and state Education Commissioner David Hespe agreed to give the “One Newark” plan  ten days from the opening of school to  resolve its obvious flaws. Meanwhile, the mayor has demanded that state-imposed schools superintendent Cami Anderson provide him with extensive information about the inner workings of the plan that will close neighborhood public schools while opening up new charter schools.
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What a “free press”–pause here for laughter–means to Newark: Cowardice

NJTV--wimping out
NJTV–wimping out

For the first time in nearly two centuries, Newark–the largest city in the eighth largest state in America–will not be home to a daily newspaper. After Sept. 8, The Star-Ledger will move its operations to Woodbridge and Edison, leaving the city newspaperless for the first time since the Daily Advertiser opened in the city in  1832. That’s a big story but government-controlled media in New Jersey won’t allow a discussion of it. NJTV News–your public broadcast station–chickened out.
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Ras Baraka wins

 

Mayor-elect Ras Baraka
Mayor-elect Ras Baraka

                Ras Baraka, a high school principal and the son of a poet, yesterday easily defeated a Wall Street-backed promoter of school privatization to become the next mayor of Newark. Baraka’s victory repudiated the policies not just of his rival, Shavar Jeffries, but  those of Gov. Chris Christie,   former Mayor Cory Booker, and state-appointed superintendent Cami Anderson  who is trying to close neighborhood public schools and replace them with privately run charter schools.
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Newtown moments: Part 1–“A time out of time, for you and no one else.”

From The Telegraph, UK
From The Telegraph, UK

The Newtown massacre was the last major story I covered for The Star-Ledger.  I interrupted my vacation to drive there that Friday, chosen because I had experience with death.  The Unabomber.  Columbine.  The World Trade Center.  Airplane crashes. The Beltway snipers.  Nickel Mines.  Haiti. Now this.  Young children,  barely older than my grandson, slaughtered in a Connecticut classroom along with teachers who tried to save them.  The specter of the quick but bloody butchery of horrifyingly frightened little boys and girls generated, not universal revulsion for the easy ownership of guns,  but  just another voyeuristic and ephemeral media moment.
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I don’t want to see parades or sales on Veterans Day

  

Richard S. "Dickie" Riley
Richard S. “Dickie” Riley

Before New Jersey bought the property in Union as the site for Newark State Teachers College, the land was a farm owned by the Kean family. The Keans were from South Carolina but, in the 18th Century,  one of them married a Livingston– Livingston, as in Robert Livingston, the first governor of New Jersey.  All of that is unimportant except for this: I met Dickie Riley on what we called Kean’s Farm and he became my friend. He was my friend until he was killed in a helicopter crash in Vietnam  45 years ago.
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A story of betrayal

justices                Betrayal. That’s what it’s called when people or institutions on which we rely turn against us, deliberately or inadvertently.  One story today on the front page of The Star-Ledger illustrates two seamlessly interwoven examples—betrayal by the press, on which we rely for truth, skepticism and independent perspective, and betrayal by members of the judiciary, on which we rely for justice.
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To be old and walk the beach at Cape Cod

Henry and me
Henry and me

The old walk the beaches of Cape Cod in September.  This year, I was among them.  Some walked with determined steadiness.  Others could not but give in to age.  One man fell climbing a pathway through the dunes and I ran to him and offered help. He waved me off and got to his feet, unassisted and uninjured.
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The horror of Yan Ping Wang’s life, the beauty of the love she received

She lay strapped to a gurney, her face frozen in a soundless, endless scream. Yan Ping Wang was frightened  by what was happening to her but she was unable to give voice to  that fear. I sat next to her in the small, private jet as it headed southwest from New Jersey to Texas, trying to assure her she would be safe and, even more, she would be happy when she was reunited with her sister Yan Qing.
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Watching a child die in Haiti

I wrote this article for The Star-Ledger nearly a decade ago but the newspaper’s editors refused to print it because I went to Haiti on my own vacation time. I did that because I disagreed with the editors’ judgment that what was happening in Haiti at the time was unworthy of the newspaper’s attention. A modified version appeared in the now defunct New York Sun.  This article is dedicated to Maplewood’s Megan Coffee, a Star-Ledger Scholar–her twitter is #@doktecoffee— who, for no pay, has been operating a tuberculosis clinic in Port-au-Prince for more than three years. Her clinic needs your support. Please help her.
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