Ras J. Baraka has served as South Ward Councilman since May 2010 and is running for Mayor in the 2014 election. A native of Newark where his family has lived for over 70 years, Baraka was educated in the Newark Public Schools and went on to receive a BA in Political Science from Howard University in Washington, DC and an MA in Education Supervision from St. Peters University in Jersey City, NJ. In addition to his many accomplishments as the South Ward Councilman, Baraka is credited with transforming Central High School where he has served as principal since 2007. Baraka’s love for teaching and education is matched only by his passion for political equality. An accomplished legislator and administrator, Baraka has tackled issues affecting the current and future quality of life for Newark residents, including employment, public health and safety, development, and civic engagement.
As South Ward Councilman Baraka’s many accomplishments include; legislation recognizing violence as a public health issue, the Homestead/Abandoned Properties ordinance and an ordinance requiring early closures for retail stores and restaurants to curb loitering. Additionally, under his leadership the South Ward police substation was re-opened, the Bergen Lyons Clinton Special Improvement District was created, Key Foods Supermarket opened in the South Ward providing jobs for Newark residents, and over 1.2 million dollars has been awarded to non-profit organizations. Baraka has also supported initiatives geared towards youth development such as South Ward READS and the South Ward Youth Development Center and he created the Senior Citizen’s Committee, a group of committed residents addressing issues for seniors.
A community organizer for over 20 years, he energetically ran his first campaign for mayor in 1994, at the age of 24, after returning home from Howard University. On September 27, 2002 He was appointed Deputy Mayor where he served until 2005, when Newark Municipal Council voted for Baraka to fulfill the unexpired term of the late Councilman Donald Tucker as South Ward Councilman. Baraka established Newark’s Committee on Violence, served as a key organizer for the Newark Ceasefire Peace Initiative in 2004, and is a founding member and served as chairman of the historic 1st National Hip Hop Political Convention.
Ras Baraka is the son of renowned poets Amina and Amiri Baraka and the loving father of three daughters. A published author, his latest work Black Girls Learn Love Hard is dedicated to the life of his late sister, Shani Baraka.