Newark revisited

January 22, 2008

During the summer of 1967 I worked at a Fresh Air camp in the rural hills of New Jersey. Twenty miles to the east was rioting and rebelling in the streets of Newark.

I was asked to make an emergency trip into the Newark ghetto to return a camper whose mother or sister had been killed by gunfire.  I was to say nothing about it.  The Bonnie Brae camp truck would be our credential for safe passage I hoped.  On each corner were crowds of angry black men staring at each vehicle passing by.  Forty years later many corners are still the same.

I was living in Newark in 1968 when Doctor King was murdered. Five of us (all quite white) lived in a black neighborhood while attending Seton Hall.

Down the street from our apartment was Cookie’s Plain and Fancy.  We would stop in after class to play pool, shoot darts, and drink High Life. Cookie had a shotgun behind the bar and  James Brown on the jukebox.  On the day he bought us a round of beers we felt like honorary members of the neighborhood.

When Martin Luther King was assassinated – it all changed. We were told not to return by Cookie.  We moved to the white suburbs soon after.

Evil had its way – with all of us.

8 Responses to “Newark revisited”

  1. Sorrow Says:

    Anger draws such solid lines, Painful to see, often impossible to cross.

  2. fencer Says:

    Intriguing memories… you were in the thick of it.


  3. c Says:

    It’s unfortunate that happened- you being sent away, others pulling away.

    Trust is delicate, especially given the history of this nation. It seems easier not to trust than to trust and risk one of the deepest hurts. It’s not good to do that, but i understand it.


    Good sharing.

  4. qazse Says:

    Sorrow – well put. Anger draws lines.

    I like to think that Cookie told us to leave out of fear for our well being. Before we left Newark, a bullet did go through our apartment window when no one was home.

    fencer – yes. Later I became somewhat active in demonstrating against the white backlash which took place(Tony Imperiale and his henchmen). But soon thereafter I dropped out of school and was married. From there on my main focus was providing for a family. Working two jobs – funny how that goes.

  5. qazse Says:

    (oops, while I was responding to Sorrow and fencer, “c” slipped in a comment)

    Hi c – those were crazy times and I never faulted any of our black neighbors for their anger. Once MLK was killed hope seemed lost. It was as if many blacks saw his murder as the ultimate slap(spit) to the face of black progress by the ever oppressive white race. Rage seemed all that was left. Perhaps it is still so.

  6. qazse Says:

    clarification to my above comments:

    When I responded to fencer saying “I became somewhat active”, I meant it in the lesser more hesitant sense rather than in the larger more ironic sense.

    When I responded to c saying “and I never faulted any”,I did not think she was implying such.

    I usually proofread for clarity but tonight I did not until after posting – with dinner being the intervening event.

    It was delicious!

  7. c Says:

    You’re nice.

  8. qazse Says:

    and so are you

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