Walking in Newark
By Damaris Chanza
I grew up in Essex County. I moved in and out of Newark a lot. I go to school in Newark. I go to the doctor and the dentist in downtown Newark. My first date was at Branch Brook Park. My entire life, the city of Newark, has been prominent. So when people tell me they’re scared to walk through Newark, it frustrates me. Newark is a beautiful combination of diverse working people, students and families alongside gorgeously detailed historical buildings and exquisite plant life.
Strolling through Newark is something I do daily, and I have never felt unsafe. Yes, there are some things to be wary of at certain times in the day, but Newark is just like any other city only with a worse reputation. Oddly enough, Newark’s reputation only relies on a history of riots and selective media coverage – these are not specific to Newark, and yet they somehow prompt a level of unsafety that is not as prevalent in other cities.
About two weeks ago, my class decided to take a stroll through downtown Newark, near University Heights. Although I am always in this area, I tend to be in a rush to get places and rarely walk without a destination anymore, so it was a nice change of pace. Some students seemed mildly concerned about where we would be going or the places we might pass. Although potentially valid, the concern seemed unnecessary to me. It’s that type of concern that makes people forget the mixture of art, culture, business, and education that thrives in such a small portion of a large city.
When class was over, and I was waiting for my boyfriend to pick me up, I sat on a bench outside of a Rutgers building. I began to watch people hurry by and appreciate the busy sounds of a Monday evening. When my boyfriend arrived, rather than getting in the car, I asked him to park and walk with me. And we did – with my hand resting in the crook of his elbow we just walked.
We were silent for a while until we started walking past a few places where we each had a memory we wished to share. I showed him the restaurant where I interviewed the owner for an assignment, and he gave me my first falafel to try. When we passed Newark Tech, he reminisced about the high school summer program we attended there about three years ago.
We didn’t walk very far or for very long but not once did I feel unsafe. Level of safety didn’t even cross my mind. I only reminisced, admired and enjoyed.