‘What do we want? Reparations!’: Celebrating Juneteenth in Newark, N.J.

Over a hundred people rallied on Juneteenth in Newark, New Jersey, to demand reparations. The June 19 march and rally was organized by the People’s Organization for Progress.

People gathered at Market and Springfield avenues. Larry Hamm, POP’s chairperson, described the broken promise given to enslaved Africans during the U.S. Civil War.

Two hundred thousand Black soldiers and sailors fought in the Union Army and Navy. Over 40,000 were killed. In January 1865, General William Tecumseh Sherman issued field order No. 15, which turned over abandoned plantations to Black families. This order was later reversed by President Andrew Johnson, a former Tennessee slave master.

Hamm also reminded people that two days before, June 17, was the anniversary of the 2015 murder of nine Black people in Charleston, South Carolina, by neo-Nazi Dylann Roof. The massacre happened in the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church. One of the church’s founders was the slave revolt leader Denmark Vesey.

The day before these killings, Trump announced his presidential candidacy by denouncing Mexicans as “rapists.”

Another speaker at the Juneteenth rally was Newark Mayor Ras Baraka, whose father, the poet and activist Amiri Baraka, was brutalized by police during the 1967 Newark Rebellion. 

Baba Zayid demanded reparations and justice. Dayvus Leesa denounced the attempted frame-up of Omali Yeshitela and other members and supporters of the Uhuru Movement for opposing the U.S./NATO war against Russia.   

Dozens of drivers passing by the rally honked their horns in support. They could see the wonderfully large, banner-like signs that are a feature of POP’s activities.    

One of the signs read, “Stop the Ban & Attacks on Black History.”

Revenge for Newark Rebellion

People marched to the corners of Broad and Market, the center of Newark. They passed the site of the old Bamberger’s – later Macy’s – department store that closed 30 years ago. Larry Hamm has told of how Black shoppers weren’t allowed to use the fitting rooms there.

Department stores have been shut down In many Black-majority cities like Newark. The 2 million square foot Hudson’s department store in Detroit was closed in the 1970s.

Four department stores that were once at the corners of Lexington and Howard streets in Baltimore are no more. Black and poor people are forced to go to the suburbs to shop.

A Dollar General store now occupies part of the 11-story, 1.2 million square foot Bamberger’s site.

The billionaire class has never forgiven the 1967 Newark Rebellion against racism. The closing of factories, like the Westinghouse plants, has helped impoverish the city.

But the people of Newark are fighting back.

SLL photos: Stephen Millies

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