'A Tale of Two Cities': Newark and New Orleans

Oct 11, 2017

The economic disparities in American urban communities was one of several topics discussed during 'A Tale of Two Cities' at Newark's Bethany Baptist Church.
Credit Ang Santos / WBGO

There’s a lot of common ground between Newark and New Orleans.  Both the largest metropolitan areas in their respective state’s.  Both majority minority communities with a history of poverty and crime.

“America since the 1950’s and 60’s underinvested in its cities primarily because of the issue of race.”

Marc Morial is the president of The National Urban League and two term mayor of New Orleans from 1994 to 2002.

“If you look at Europe.  It treats its cities like it’s crown jewels; as its most valuable assets.  In America we’re twisted and turned.  We’re confused over whether our cities are our best assets.  If you go across the globe, people will know Newark before they know New Jersey.  They certainly know New Orleans before they know Louisiana.”

City investment has been a cause for conversation in Newark.  With a constantly growing downtown district.

“I was born and raised in this city so I get sensitive around these issues.  We went 40 to 50 years with nothing.  We didn’t have ATM’s on our block, a bank, a grocery store, an eatery to sit down and eat.  We had nothing, zero." 

Newark Mayor Ras Baraka says, now he faces talk of gentrification from city residents, who are afraid development will push them out of their community.

“So our job is to make sure that people benefit from that.  We need to give people the jobs and wages they need to afford the growth that’s happening in this community, build housing so they can stay in it.  We never want to say that we don’t want the community to be developed.  We can’t not allow our city to grow because we are afraid of what’s going to happen.  We need to balance it out and make sure our kids benefit.  We want kids to say ‘I want to stay in Newark’, and we want other people getting priced out of Manhattan, Hoboken, and Jersey City to come to our town.”

As a former Mayor looking in, Morial says American cities won’t meet their potential without a good look in the mirror.

“We still do not, will not, cannot address the underlying issues of economic disparities that exist in this country; the racial economic disparities in the nation.  That’s the fight that’s much more dramatic ahead because of the changing demographic in the country.”